13 Horror Books to Read this Halloween

As the weather grows cooler and the days grow shorter, you might find that your reading tastes get a bit…spookier. Pumpkins and ghouls popping up in stores and in front of homes can make you want to find some hair-raising tales to get you in the Halloween mood.

Happy Halloween! Photo Credit: aotaro at Flickr.

Fortunately for you, there are some amazing books out there that can send chills down your spine. Here are 13 horror books to get your spooky season started:

1) The October Country by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is known as one of the masters of science-fiction, and nowhere is that more evident than in this collection of creepy short stories. Many of Ray Bradbury’s works were used as the basis of classic Twilight Zone episodes and for good reason. The air of creepy mystery and psychological terror is found in The October County, as well. Short story collections are always great for the reader on the go, as a story can be completed while in a waiting room or over a work break without you having to leave unsatisfied.

2) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

What if the classic The Jungle Book was set in a haunted graveyard? What if the man cub was raised not by animals but by ghosts? That’s the premise of The Graveyard Book, written by Neil Gaiman, who deserves all his accolades. Written as a series of interconnected short stories with the occasional illustration, these tales alternate between humor, horror, and even the occasional touching moment. It is brilliantly written and thrilling as the tension mounts. This is a great book for almost every age during the Halloween season.

3) The Shinning by Stephen King

The Shining is best known as a movie, but it was originally one of horror master Stephen King’s most well-known novels. Its true terror is found in the ghost-driven collapse of a family. The father’s descent into insanity, brought on in large part by his own issues but made worse by the tragedy that haunts the halls of the hotel the family is watching for the winter, is terrifying to read. This is a nuanced and layered tale. Even if you’ve seen the movie, you will find something new to frighten you with the novel.

4) A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

Weaving together multiple horror classics, A Night in Lonesome October develops its own mythos of creepiness around Halloween. Told from the point of view of Jack the Ripper’s dog, and mostly concerning the conversations of the animal companions of familiar figures like Dracula and Frankenstein, this book is part adventure, part thriller, and part strange political tale. It is a very clever novel, full of little clues and incredible wit. It is a fun novel that is perfect for getting people into the Halloween spirit.

5) We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

A novel of family intrigue, magic, and fear, this novel is the epitome of the bizarreness that marks Halloween. Full of mystery but also with a lot of wit, the characters are all distinctively written and unique people. This is a suspenseful read and is a definite must if you are looking for a perfect mystery read for the season. Buy it here.

6) Halloween by Curtis Richard

Unlike The Shining, this is the novel based on the movie “Halloween“. Going into more detail about the murder spree of Michael Myers, the novel maintains the same tension and level of fear as the movie. If you want more backstory of the original Halloween mythos, you should pick up this book.

7) The Stand by Stephen King

Many people claim that this is Stephen King’s best book. It is the story of the end of the world. It has heavy overtones of Stephen King’s Dark Tower universe, though it is a standalone work. The main character is someone unusual, 108-year-old Mother Abigail, evidence of King’s capacity for creativity.  If you want a great introduction to Stephen King’s written work, pick up The Stand.

8) Dracula by Bram Stoker

This is the novel that all vampire tales trace their roots to. Part mystery, part horror, part a tale of human error, Dracula chronicles the quest to stop the ancient evil Count Dracula. So much of our idea of vampires became popular with this novel. It has received multiple film adaptations and elements of it have found their way into countless other media. However, the original has a quality all its own. There are unique elements you won’t have imagined would make their way into this novel published more than 100 years ago. This classic is a must-read for any fan of horror. Collect your copy here.

9) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Another novel that is better known as a movie, The Exorcist is inspired by a true story of a child’s demonic possession in the 1940s. The novel is more true to the terrifying events that actually occurred. The profanity is even more vicious on the page than in the movie and there are many even more terrifying details to be found. These elements are used wisely in a tense, tight narrative. If you are looking for something truly terrifying, give The Exorcist a read.

10) The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

This is a perfect Halloween-themed adventure for younger readers and adults alike. The orphaned Lewis Barnavelt moves in with his uncle to find a world of witches and a clock that could destroy the world. The family sets off to stop it. Suspenseful, spooky, fun, and magical, this is an excellent book for the family to share. Buy here.

11) The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is best known for his tongue-in-cheek humor and biting wit, both of which can be found in The Canterville Ghost in spades. It is a parody of Gothic horror conventions. An American diplomat and his family find themselves living in haunted house. The novel documents their attempt to find out what is going on and solve their problem. Many books with this plot take themselves seriously, but this one is instead a comedy. It is a great novella if you are looking for a Halloween laugh.

12) The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

This book begins by being an odd, witty take on the kind of bureaucracy that sits behind an occult James Bond, but swiftly goes into outright horror territory with the titular Atrocity Archives. It is very much science fiction, going into the details of how its science/magic works, and contains elements of the classic movie Office Space, but it makes this list because its description of the Atrocity Archives is truly terrifying. Pick it up if you’re looking for something that balances quick dry British humor with terror and action.

13) The Works of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe is the American master of horror. In a very short number of words, he communicates true horror. Ghosts, insanity, and ravens (of course) create an unmatched atmosphere of fear in every story. Many of the tales contain a dark humor and a bleak sense of justice. If you love the horror genre, or are just looking for the perfect way to get into the Halloween mood, you need to read the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

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