October 24, 2016

31 Halloween Reads for October

31 Halloween Reads for October

It's October, Halloween is upon us, the weather is turning cold, and it's the perfect time of year to pick up a Gothic or mystery novel. I love it when it's dark and windy outside, you can hear the cold rain hitting against the window panes, and you're wrapped up in your favorite blanket lost in a good story. 

Last year at this time I came up with a list of "31 Halloween Movies (For Those Who Don't Like Horror)." This time, however, I thought I'd cut right to the chase and list some books full of ghosts, paranoid narrators, monsters, and more.

A warning: as many of these novels are Gothic, mystery, horror, or crime-related, some of the content is disturbing. That may mean that many of these books are not suited to all audiences. Do some preliminary research, read lengthier reviews, or ask around if you're worried about content. These stories really have it all and not all of it is "good." I've included a few innocuous children's books, but I've also included several popular Halloween reads that contain disturbing passages. You've been warned.

Keeping the list to 31 was difficult--there were so many titles to consider--but I think the final list is a decent representation of many Halloween favorites. Here they are in no particular order:

1. The Turn of the Screw

by Henry James

A governess cares for two orphans in the country and soon fears someone or something is out to attack her and the children. Highlight: Sometimes not seeing something can be scarier than seeing it.

2. Dracula

by Bram Stoker

The original account of blood-sucking monsters come to prey on men, women, and children. Highlight: Blood transfusions have never been so creepy.

3. The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

A group of strangers gathers at an old estate to test if it's haunted. Highlight: Holding hands with a ghost will freak you out.

4. We Have Always Lived in the Castle

by Shirley Jackson

A young girl and her sister are the only remaining survivors of arsenic poisoning. Worse than that? One of the sisters is guilty. Shunned by the town and trying to survive locked within the walls of this castle, they'll try to survive until murder strikes again. Highlight: Don't eat the sugar.

5. And Then There Were None

by Agatha Christie

The original tale of strangers lured to a cut-off location and how each dies one by one as predicted by a children's nursery rhyme until then there were none. Who's the murderer and why have these victims been called here? Highlight: Having no clue what's happening or who's doing it.

6. Hallowe'en Story

by Agatha Christie (full review here)

As children, neighbors, family, and friends gather to decorate and prepare for an upcoming Halloween party, thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds brags that she once witnessed a murder. Though many dismiss her outlandish claim as a cry for attention, at the end of the party her body is found murdered. Highlight: Scary children.

7. Frankenstein

by Mary Shelley

Viktor Frankenstein mourns the loss of his dear mother and after witnessing lightning striking a tree, wonders if a dead corpse can be reanimated. His creation--treated as a monster--is abandoned at birth and must teach itself to communicate while hunting the man who refused to be his father. Highlight: Feeling bad for a monster who speaks French and reads classic literature. 

8. Rebecca

by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca is the second Mrs. de Winter and is haunted by the memory of her husband's first wife as she tries to live in her shadows at the Manderley estate. How did the first Mrs. de Winter die? Rebecca has to find out. Highlight: The quiet, eerie calm that threatens to boil over page after page is sheer perfection. 

9. The Girl on the Train

by Paula Hawkins

A Londoner spies on a young married couple each day she passes them on the train until one day the wife goes missing and our train-rider's amnesia makes her worry she's somehow involved. Highlight: Wondering if the drunk, unreliable narrator is a victim or a villain. 

10. The Monk

by Matthew Lewis

A monk is tempted by one of the devil's demons. The Gothic background of haunted castles, ghosts, closed passageways, and mystery predates the nineteenth century yet demonstrates the horrors of a twenty-first century mind. Highlight: The entire second chapter is a long and delicious tale of fright and when you finally meet the devil's disciple, she looks like she raided David Bowie's wardrobe.

11. Lady Audley's Secret

by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The Victorian era's greatest sensation novel, a tale of deception, bigamy, and murder. Highlight: Upper-class ladies are not always what they claim to be and neither are their husbands. 

12. Death Comes to Pemberley

by P. D. James

Author P. D. James picks up Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice just a few years after its famous conclusion and adds a new twist: a death has occurred on the Pemberley estate and all of its men are suspects. Highlight: Revisiting a beloved Romantic-era tale with a mystery added in.

13. The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett

Hammett's novel is completely misogynistic, but his tale of a series of murders and thefts related to a priceless black statue is a defining moment in the creation of the hard-boiled detective crime genre. Highlight: Seeing the development of a genre. 

14. Misery

by Stephen King

When a reclusive author meets his number-one fan, his life will never be the same. Neither will his nightmares. Highlight: Unbelievably terrifying.

15. Carrie

by Stephen King

A bullied and abused teenage girl develops paranormal powers as she wreaks havoc and attempts mass vengeance on her small town. Highlight: Reasons never to bully someone nor attend a prom. 

16. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Though Dr. Jekyll is one of the most respected men in London, friends fear his association with a hideous man known as Mr. Hyde foretells great danger. Highlight: Your doppelganger will get you if you don't watch out.

17. Coraline

by Neil Gaiman

Young Coraline steps through a forbidden door in her house only to discover another family on the other side, eerily similar to her own. Highlight: A Stepford Wives eerily calm quality.

18. The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

Bod not only lives in a graveyard, he's the only human resident. Highlight: Cool setting.

19. The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Oscar Wilde

When Dorian Gray sits for a portrait, he fears he will never be able to maintain the health and beauty rendered in the painting. When he makes a supernatural vow to never lose his youth, he faces the consequences of eternal agelessness and a darkening portrait that threatens to betray the secrets of his sold soul. Highlight: When art attacks.

20. Assorted Short Stories

by Edgar Allan Poe

There are so many great ones to enjoy, but be sure to check out "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Cask of Amontiallado," and "The Purloined Letter." Highlight: You'll never look at ravens the same way.

21. The Woman in White

by Wilkie Collins

A blend of Victorian detective, mystery, and sensation novels, the story follows a sleuth trying to piece together the truth about a lost woman dressed all in white who has seemingly escaped from a mental asylum. Highlight: Great characters, including Count Fosco. You'll want to wax your mustache ends while reading his lines.

22. The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

It's the post-apocalypse and a father and son are doing their best to hide from blood-thirsty survivors. Highlight: A haunting mood that makes you check behind you to see if you're being followed.

23. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

by Alvin Schwartz

The scary stories kids used to read to each other during sleepovers in the 80's and 90's. Highlight: The creepiest drawings are found in the editions illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

24. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

While I admit I lost interest in book two of this series, the first installment is a wonderfully odd account of supernatural misfits drawn together to fight evil. Highlight: Riggs' inclusion of odd 19th- and 20th-century black and white photographs.

25. The Hound of the Baskervilles

by Arthur Conan Doyle

The story of a home on the English moors, the legend of a hell-hound, and death on a moonlit night. Highlight: The setting.

26. Assorted Sherlock Holmes Short Stories

by Arthur Conan Doyle

You can start with A Study in Scarlet, the first murder-solving case featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson at 221B Baker Street, or just bounce around titles at random. Be sure to check out The Speckled Band and The Red-Headed League. Highlight: Picturing Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

27. The War of the Worlds

by H. G. Wells

The turn-of-the-century tale of aliens invading our planet. Highlight: Victorian paranoia imagining when Mars attacks.

28. The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat

by Jan and Stan Berenstain

Perfect for young readers or old fans who'll enjoy a nice trip down memory lane remembering when trick-or-treating was simpler and safer than it is now. Highlight: Candy and living in a hollowed out tree.

29. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

by Charles M. Schwartz

Somehow I seem to miss this every year when it's shown on TV so it's to the bookshelf I go! Highlight: Linus.

30. Wuthering Heights

by Emily Bronte

The tale of Catherine and Heathcliff, their doomed and unnatural love, and the downward spiral of the adjoining generational tenets of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Highlight: Heathcliff digging up Catherine's body to find her body has been unaltered by death.

31. Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen

Catherine Morland thinks she's living in one of the Gothic novels she adores. Is she paranoid or are her suspicions on the money? Highlight: Romantic-era satire.

What do you like to read this time of year?


  1. October Sky, by Ray Bradbury. Brilliant. Recommend.


    1. Thank you! I'll add it to my to-read list right now.