October, kids. It’s OUR season. The season where we can wear our pumpkin dresses without glares, be incredibly morbid and just be called “festive”, and pretend to be one of those “seasonal readers”.
So maybe it’s just me. But I’m getting into the spirit of things here.
I have to admit, I don’t read much horror or thriller novels in October. Shock, horror, but summer is typically when I gorge myself on trashy books where characters meet their grime demises. I don’t only watch horror movies in the autumn, so why save reading certain books just for October?
That being said, there are certain books which feel a bit more seasonal than the average book. These are stories that are a little bit more old school, whether they’re classics of the genre or just take on the style.
But just warning you now: there will be no Stephen King on my list. I know he’s meant to be one of those ‘staple’ authors, but it’s my not-so-deep and dark secret that I really don’t like him. Or at least I have yet to read one of his books that I enjoy. But I’m going to keep trying (if you have any recommendations, please share).
So grab your pumpkin spice arsenic teas, everyone! These are my recommended reads for Halloween:
1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Is there any haunted house book that’s better? That’s a rhetorical question and the answer is no.
Shirley Jackson is the queen of twisted, psychological tales. The Haunting of Hill House shows Jackson in perfect form. If you’ve seen the classic 1963 version of The Haunting, you’ll know the gist of this one. Four people go to stay in a supposedly haunted house where strange and horrible things begin to happen. Is it real? Or is it all in their heads?
This is one of the few books has actually managed to terrify me. Don’t read it when you’re home alone (or do, and scare the crap out of yourself).
2. How to Survive a Horror Movie by Seth Grahame-Smith
I have a real love-hate relationship with ol’ Seth. On one hand, he’s written this hilarious in-joke of a book, but on the other, we have him to blame for that Dark Shadows script.
How to Survive a Horror Movie is exactly what it says on the label: a step-by-step guide for navigating your way through a horror movie. Each page packs in as many Easter eggs as possible, making it a hunt for references. I read and re-read the shit out of this book as a teenager. Perhaps it’s time for adult me to give it another try.
3. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vol. 1 “The Crucible”
Archie Comics have been killing their revamped series. I think the jewel in their crown is this dark and horrifying version of Sabrina.
All of the original ingredients are here: Harvey, Salem, the aunts. Only Sabrina meets a nemesis with vintage Archie character Madam Satan. Don’t expect too many jokes with this one. Think more along the lines of blood-rituals, possessed trees and face eating.
It was announced last month that the Riverdale creators are working on turning this into a television show. You have all of my attention and all my love.
If you can’t wait, the Jughead one-shot The Hunger from last spring has been turned into a new full-length series. Issue #1 will hit comic book shops on October 25th.
4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Just give me a chance with this one.
Jane Austen often has a reputation she doesn’t deserve. The woman was fierce and clever, and wrote one heck of scathing book when she wanted to. Northanger Abbey is a parody of the gothic novel that was incredibly popular at the time. Her heroine Catherine Morland is silly and naive girl who has lived most of her sheltered life in the country. She goes to Bath and is whisked off on a journey full of ‘haunted’ homes and ‘murders’.
Northanger Abbey is, yes, a romance novel, but at heart it’s really about a girl becoming a woman. Catherine as the lead heroine is an absolute gem. She spends so much time dreaming that she’s in a Gothic romance novel that she forgets she actually doesn’t live in one herself.
This is certainly the most unusual choice on this list, but if you’re not into reading this, try watching the 2007 adaption starring Felicity Jones and JJ Field. It’s that perfect balance of Gothic imagery, sweetness and sick muslin jokes.
5. Spell on Wheels vol. 1
This limited-run series published by Dark Horse is absolutely brilliant. It’s full of feminism, witches, and mystery. And hilarious mythical monster romances.
Three witches go on a road trip throughout New England to look for their magical items that have been stolen from them. They try to track down their items while thwarting evil along the way.
The style really couldn’t be better for this time of the year. It’s a seriously good-looking comic. But also: witches.
6. Dark Entries by Robert Aickman
Aickman, for me, is incredibly dated in ways that male authors often are. He lacks all ability to write fleshed-out female characters. That being said, the short stories in this collection are pretty great. More than anything, they’re appropriate for Halloween. “The School Friend” and “The Waiting Room” are stand outs amongst the six stories included.
Most people prefer Lovecraft (there isn’t much in the way of similarities here), and I won’t argue that. But Aickman macabre stories are definitely worth checking out if you have yet to be exposed. He’s well worth experiencing.