The spooky season is just around the corner, so you’re probably looking for some suitably spooky Halloween book recommendations as the dark nights draw in.
For books featuring ghosts, vampires, witches, and all things supernatural – here are a selection of thirteen books to add to your Halloween TBR.
Halloween Book Recommendations
Let’s begin with one of the icons of the gothic horror genre – Edgar Allan Poe.
The Boston-born author lived a rackety life of alcoholism and poverty, and even the circumstances surrounding his own death remain a mystery.
A prolific short story writer of spooky, sinister tales, Poe penned classics such as The Raven, The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, and so many more. The Complete Tales is a great way to enjoy all that Poe has to offer – plus, you can get some amazing editions.
Perfect for your Halloween bookstagram!
Henry James’ most well-known ghost story is a classic for good reason – it’s genuinely terrifying.
The Victorian novella tells the tale of a Governess who, taking care of two children, becomes fearful that the estate is haunted. Structured as a framed narrative in which the narrator reads the testimony of the governess herself, the reader is unable to ascertain the absolute truth of events, adding an additional layer of fear.
With ghostly children, apparitions at every turn, and the ambiguity of an unreliable narrative, The Turn of the Screw is a perfect read for Halloween.
Clowns are generally regarded as all kinds of scary.
Whether this has always been the case, or whether Stephen King brought about this cultural phobia, is up for debate.
IT – one of King’s most well-known stories – has been adapted to screen numerous times, with the malicious clown Pennywise now a staple of Halloween popular culture.
The novel itself is no exception.
Wild and Wicked Things isn’t an out-and-out horror novel.
However, it’s drenched in a delightfully witchy aesthetic. And as a Sapphic, supernatural retelling of Gatsby, May’s novel excels. It’s dark, moody, and mysterious with illicit magic and alcohol-fueled antics.
In short, Wild and Wicked Things is a terrific novel and a must-read this Halloween.
Here’s what I said in my review of Wild and Wicked Things:
If you’ve only seen the movie adaptations of Dracula – even the excellent Christopher Lee version – you need to read the book.
Whilst it’s a little silly, (the obsession with Mina’s purity is almost comical at times) the novel remains sufficiently dark, gothic, and creepy.
And despite its age, Stoker’s vampiric classic actually reads really well.
Acutely sinister, Dorian fears the waning of his youth. And after meeting socialite and all-round party guy Lord Henry Wooton, Dorian binds his soul to a portrait in exchange for eternal beauty.
But trading away one’s soul entails a heavy price.
Renowned more for his poetry and plays, The Picture of Dorian Gray was the only novel Oscar Wilde ever wrote.
And it’s a shame because it’s terrific.
Of all the books on this list, A Monster Calls is the most disturbing book due to its portrayal of child trauma.
Conor O’Malley’s mother is undergoing chemotherapy, and with an absent father, he’s highly troubled. Meanwhile, he’s also bullied at school.
Each night, he’s visited by a monstrous tree that tells a number of tales.
The real-world setting, with real-world problems – interspersed with supernatural interludes – is what makes this book such a troubling read.
With most people having faced death or family break-ups (sometimes both) Conor’s trauma is the reader’s trauma.
A Monster Calls is a terribly sad read, but it’s very, very good.
Similar to A Monster Calls, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a blend of the contemporary and the supernatural, which is what makes it such an unsettling tale.
Following a family breakup, the narrator goes to visit his father in the countryside. But infatuated with Ursula Monkton, his new lover, the narrator’s dad becomes distant.
Going to some surprisingly sinister places, Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is poignant, thought-provoking, and intensely unsettling.
Not one of my favourite books, but it’s well loved by many.
A rare ghost story by Charles Dickens, The Signal-Man tells the tale of an apparition haunting a railway signal-man in rural England.
Living an isolated life in shame after failing to achieve his academic dreams, the taciturn signal-man operates a small signal box near a darkened tunnel.
Meeting the titular signal-man in passing, the unnamed narrator of Dickens’ novella becomes concerned by his apparent hallucinations of the supernatural.
Preceding a tragedy on the tracks, the signal-man claims to witness a spirit at the entrance to the tunnel, covering their face as if cowering.
Like all good ghost stories, the truth of the tale is open-ended, provoking discussion for readers.
There is also a brilliant 1970s BBC adaptation of the short story, if you’re unable to get hold of a copy of the text itself.
10) Winterset Hollow, Jonathan Durham
Morbid fairy tale meets slasher horror – this is Winterset Hollow, in brief.
And yet it’s so much more than this. Durham’s text is also a really clever metafiction novel, playing with ideas of authorship whilst questioning social values.
The novel sees fans of Winterset Hollow – also the name of the in-universe text – visit Addington Isle to celebrate the anniversary of the book’s release. But with the island itself harbouring a dangerous secret, things deteriorate rapidly.
This dark fantasy is a must-read for your Halloween TBR.
Okay. Hear me out.
The Worst Witch is obviously not a scary Halloween read. It is, however, an absolutely wonderful children’s book. Long before Harry Potter, and the various dark academia books spawned as a result, came Jill Murphy’s witchy classic.
Mildred Hubble, our protagonist, is enrolled into a school of witchcraft and is waiting to receive her customary broomstick and black cat. Things don’t go according to plan, with the school running out of black cats and instead granting Mildred a curious, misbehaving tabby cat, and from here onwards, hijinks occur.
The writing is charming and the illustrations (by Murphy herself!) are a delight. So, no matter your age, if you haven’t read this wonderful series of books, then you need to add this series to your list of Halloween books.
Sadly, Jill Murphy passed away this year, but her legacy lives on in the adventures of Mildred Hubble, Tabby, and the girls of Miss Cackle’s Academy.
The Passage is an unusual book.
The first half of the book is primarily a contemporary thriller surrounding a lab outbreak, a missing girl, and a policeman gone rogue.
The second half goes full-tilt YA post-apocalyptic vampire world, which sounds really naff but it genuinely isn’t. Somehow, it just works.
Great characters and a well-told story create a terrific beginning to Cronin’s trilogy. If you’ve not read this book, Halloween is a great time to begin. Be warned though – at 766 pages, it’s a long book!
Convicted of witchcraft, Geillis Duncan sits in an Edinburgh prison cell awaiting her execution. Whilst reflecting, she is visited by Iris, a woman claiming to be from the future.
Bridging the gap between the 1571 of Geiller’s world and the reader’s contemporary world, Hex explores the way in which women are still routinely discriminated against.
This is a short book at circa 100 pages, but Fagan is able to exhibit the rage, sadness, and defiance associated with the fight for equality over the years.
What are you reading this Halloween? Let me know down in the comments!