9 spooky books to devour

The weather outside is finally getting cool, and even thought the Halloween season has passed, it’s always time for a good scary story.

While horror movies are an autumnal given, there are just as many tantalizing murder mysteries and spine-tingling supernatural scares to appeal to you between the pages of these nine classics, some of which may have inspired your favorite frightening films.

Find a good blanket, a warm drink and one of these books, and let yourself slip into the mood of the season.


Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

Let’s start this list off with one of the heavy-weights.

It’s critical to pay tribute to this great-granddaddy of modern horror (and science fiction too!).

Spawning one of the most iconic monsters of all time, it’s hard to overestimate the influence of Mary Shelley’s first novel on the genre that came after her.

But far from the hulking, groaning beast of the pop culture mindset, Shelley’s creature monologues philosophizes and ultimately turns to evil when his own creator and the world he was thrust into rejects him for his unnaturalness.

By the end, you may just find yourself sympathizing far less with Frankenstein than with his monster.


House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski

Multilayered and dizzying, there seem to be two reactions to House of Leaves – cult-following or complete rejection.

The three intertwined plots that run throughout this story – or four, if the pilot script recently released by Mark Danielewski is included – make you work for it, but the narrative they reveal is just the right kind of darkly incomprehensible that makes for great horror.  

Give this one a shot if you’re looking for a compelling read that will twist you into knots at every corner, but be prepared to cast suspicion everything, even your own house


Carrie” by Stephen King

Stephen King is another quinnessential name in horror, and when it comes to blending the bloodiness of the Halloween season with the familiar fears of adolescence, there’s no better place to start than with Carrie.”

King’s first published novel uses an experimental and unusual narrative style to tell the story of a repressed teenage girl’s loneliness and telekinetic angst through a series of striking scenes that are just as vivid in writing as they have been through two film adaptations.


The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe, illustrated by Ryan Price

If a short and sweet punch of creepy atmosphere is what you crave, Poe has you covered.

“The Raven” made Poe famous in his day, and to read it accompanied by Ryan Price’s darkly exaggerated illustrations or listen to one of the countless celebrity readings is to understand why.

Tension, mourning and madness all come together in this famous poem, best read on the kind of dark and dreary night described within.  


And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie

It isn’t a scary-themed book list without a good murder mystery, so how about the best-selling murder mystery of all time?

Everyone is a suspect in this hallmark of crime fiction, where a series of strictly planned murders on an isolated island turns a cast full of predators into prey.  The story is always a step ahead of you, with a level of twists and turns that make it hard to put down.

This is a scenario those familiar with the modern “Saw” movies will immediately recognize, and Christie indeed was the first to write many of the tropes we now consider staples of the genre today.  


Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz

Both a love letter to Christie’s work and to the murder-mysteries at large, Magpie Murders” juggles two mysterious deaths – one within a manuscript of popular mystery writer within the novel, Alan Conway, and one within the world in which he’s made his fame.

The main character is Conway’s editor, and the reader follows her investigation of his latest story as she searches between the lines of his fiction to discover intrigue in the author’s own life.

A well-crafted whodunit by a man intimately familiar with the genre, Horowitz delivers an excellent plot with just enough twists to keep it fresh.


The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

For those who loved Gaiman’s kid-creepy classicCoraline,” this is his next take on macabre humor for young adults (and a little charming, morbid heartwarming to go with it).

It would be too easy to write off a children’s book that starts with a triple homicide as shock value to the extreme, but as the young orphaned protagonist ‘Nobody Owens’ learns to navigate life with the love and teachings of an adoptive family of ghosts and vampires, you’ll find yourself sucked in to Gainman’s rich world building and skill for making touching moments out of the most improbable scenarios.


The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris

While Anthony Hopkins’ delightfully unsettling portrayal made Hannibal the Cannibal a pop culture phenomenon, the source material for The Silence of the Lambs” deserves equal praise for crafting real-life horrors into compelling fiction.

Thomas Harris researched serial killers for years during the writing process for Lambs and it’s a big part of what makes his villains, Hannibal and Buffalo Bill both, creepy and compelling all at once.

For fans of the film seeking the origin of the iconic characters and lines, it’s worth a trip back into the pages that inspired it all.


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell  

If you’re one of many who grew up with these books, it only takes one look at the cover for the memories to come rushing back.

While Alvin Schwartz’s stories are a good introduction to horror for younger readers, it’s the terrifying drawings by illustrator Stephen Gammell that truly engrained themselves in the minds of the generation that grew up with them. That imagery still stands strong today, even gaining the attention of that infamous lover of the grotesque, Guillermo del Toro, for a big-screen adaption.


Whether you chose to pass the terror on to the next generation or frighten yourself anew, there’s no better collection of stories to get in the mood for a good scare.  

by Ariella Backman

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