Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Up until I graduated college, I was a theater geek who planned to do theater as her full time job, first as an actor and later wanting to stage manage, direct and write. Ah, life. Anyway, I think that theatrical part of my personal still wants to play every Halloween. I’m a bit disappointed I won’t be dressing up for any parties until after Halloween but I’ll drown my disappointment in horror movies and handing out candy to little kids. Every year, I try to read at least one scary book during October. The following list encompasses some of my favorite titles appropriate for Halloween. Some may not be considered straight horror but they all have their scary moments.
1. The Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series by Alvin Schwartz, Illustrations by Stephen Gammell-Whether you are a 10 year old child or 30-something hipster, you’ve probably seen these books. I read these in the 5th grade and was terrified by the stories. Remember, I haven’t been a horror fan for very long and these were so different from The Babysitter’s Club books I was reading at that age (Although I was also reading Fear Street books by R. L. Stine, which only didn’t make the list because I can only remember a few of the titles that I read). Of course, the scariest thing about this selection of scary stories and urban legends are the creepy illustrations by Stephen Gammell. I watch horror movies and read scary books all the time now and these illustrations still make me want to crawl into a fetal position in the corner. No wonder these have been so frequently challenged in libraries and no wonder that they came out with 30th anniversary editions with tamer illustrations by Brett Helquist . But the originals pack the bigger punch.
I HAUNT YOUR DREAMS!!!
2, IT by Stephen King- How many times on this blog can I say I love Stephen King? Well, this book is one of my favorites, The only book I’ve read more is The Stand and that one is more fantasy with scary elements. IT is a great novel with characters that you really care about, both as adults and children but IT is also a commitment. At almost 1100 pages, this book is great if you want a scare that will last you past October. The story is about a group of kids, who nickname themselves The Losers’ Club. They are terrorized by a supernatural being that takes on many forms (including the clown Pennywise, that has haunted so many King fans’ dreams). The book alternates between It terrorizing the characters as adults and as children. While, the scenes with Pennywise are scary, the suspense that King builds at the beginning of the novel when Bill Denbrough goes down into the basement to grab a can of Turtlewax to seal the newspaper boat he is makiing for his ill brother George has always gotten to me. I’m in my early 30’s, read this book for the first time 10 years ago and I’m still scared to go down into the basement. I owe IT for that.
They All Float Down Here!!!!
3. Come Closer by Sara Gran- This book may be a little harder to get a hold of but it is really worth it. Amanda has a great job, a great husband and a great life. Then one day she starts hearing strange noises in her home and having strange dreams. Slowly her behavior starts to become increasingly bizzare. Is she succumbing to a mental illness or is she possessed by something darker and more supernatural? If you figure it out for sure, let me know. This was a twisted, extremely fast paced (I finished in 2 days) and hard to put down short novel. The ending is greatly ambiguous but in way that will just leave you doubting what you think you know. It was one of my favorite books of 2012 and I’m so glad my friend told me about it and that my library had a copy. The same friend has since bought me a copy since this is a book I want to reread.
4. Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry- It’s a Halloween list so I have to include at least one zombie novel. Maberry has several to choose from and if you’re more into YA, I’d go with the Rot & Ruin series which I have previously reviewed. Dead of Night is a scary and intense thriller. I finished this book at midnight right around Halloween last year and was so pumped with adrenaline I had to write a review on GoodReads right then (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10779721-dead-of-night?from_search=true). If you are as big a zombie fan as I, READ THIS. There’s also a sequel, Fall Of Night, due out some time in 2014.
5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- Another YA selection, probably best suited for older children. Nobody Owens, Bod, to those who know and care for him is raised by ghosts in a nearby graveyard after his family is murdered. The ghosts and other supernatural beings in this story are Bod’s friends and protectors and are more whimsical than scary. There is an engrossing mystery involving a man named Jack and what he wants with Bod. Bod has many adventures both inside and out of the graveyard. This book is essentially about growing up and growing into your own. I read it when I was in my twenties and then called my mom to say I finally understood why she cried at the end of Peter Pan. The scene at the beginning of this story is probably to dark and violent for younger kids. I was very affected by it.
6. Breathers by S.G. Browne- Another zombie offering, this one with a twist. If you aren’t really a scary story person but still want a story to get you into the season, this could be the book for you. Described as a “zom-rom-com” (zombie romantic comedy), this novel tells the story of Andy Warner, a “fresh” zombie begrudgingly living in his parents’ basement, friendless, and reviled by society, who no longer consider him human. One day, he goes to an Undead Anonymous meeting where he meets Jerry and Rita, a recent suicide whom Andy falls for. With his newfound friends and growing confidence, Andy embarks on a journey of self-discovery and down the road of advocacy for the undead. This book has a really dark sense of humor that is laugh out loud funny. As it progresses, it gets darker and more thrilling. Like Dead of Night, this book also has a sequel, I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus, already available at your local bookstore or library. You can start this on Halloween and be ready for its sequel by Christmas.
7. The Witching Hour by Anne Rice- I was a big Anne Rice fan when I was a teenager. Reading her Vampire Chronicles series taught me I desparately never want to become a vampire. Living forever becomes too lonely. I was more enthralled with her Mayfair Witches series and The Witching Hour is the first book in that series. The Witching Hour is the story of the Mayfair Clan, a New Orleans family possessed of great power and haunted by a powerful and seductive being named Lasher. New Orleans is like a character itself and the family is full of unique characters. I need to find my copy of this book and do a reread. Be warned this is the first of a trilogy that will suck you in. A great companion if you’re really into this season of American Horror Story.
8. Hell House by Richard Matheson- I read this for a group read on GoodReads a couple of years ago. Reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Hell House tells the story of four investigators on an expedition to explore the strange goings on at Belasco House, the “Mount Everest of haunted houses”. This book has lots of dark twists and turns and uses religious and sexual imagery to amazingly creepy effect. There are not many books that make it too uncomfortable for me to sleep, but this is one of them. ( Note: I also recommend The Haunting of Hill House or anything by Shirley Jackson, one of my favorite authors, but this post can only be so long. Her short stories, like The Lottery, are my favorite.)
9. Nos4a2 by Joe Hill- Vampires may not be my thing but Joe Hill makes them dangerous again. Charles Talent Manx has a thing for children, a power that literally sucks the life out of them. Then he takes them for a ride in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith to a magical land called Christmasland. Victoria McQueen has a gift for finding things that are lost. As a kid she finds a rickety bridge that allows her to travel farther and to stranger places than any bike or motorcycle ever would (although, those are also tools of her trade). One day, their paths cross leading to a series of events that could cause Victoria to lose everything she holds dear. A tense ride with many supernatural elements, Nos4a2 is just a lot of fun with memorable characters. This is another one you don’t have to worry about finishing by October 31st, You can read it right up until Christmas 🙂
10. Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker- Do you love the Hellraiser movies (especially the first two)? Then why not read the novella that those movies (the first two) are based upon? Frank Cotton’s search for the dark pleasures of pain have lead him down a dangerous path toward Lemarchand’s box and to his undoing. But Julia, his brother’s love crazed wife, has found a way to bring him back. Wrought with sexual themes, this book is as indulgent as its characters. It’s also a very quick read. The first time I read it, I read it in 3 hours. You could read it while passing out candy.