scary books

Recommended reads for Halloween season

Autumn is the perfect time to snuggle up with a good book. Mostly because it’s raining outside and it’s miserable stuff out there.

But it’s also a high-point in the publishing calendar year. We’re getting all sorts of spooky books this year as everything occult is becoming popular again. I say bring on the trend! All the more witches and demons for us. Weird thing is, I tend not to read very much horror in the autumn. I save all those up for the summer where I can stay up late and scare the shit out of myself. I love supernatural romance and mystery at this time of the year. Characters > plot.

I gathered a list of my favourite books to read at the Halloween season. Incidentally, not many of these are new releases. But that does mean you can find these at a good used price.

Who said being spooky had to be expensive?

Whether you enjoy listening to a book or having pictures, there’s plenty to enjoy. So let me know what you’re reading this year (send some recommendations!). I’ve got plenty of books on funeral homes and murderous mischief awaiting me. Let the season begin!

The Novels:

If you like a bit of gore with a side of sweetness, there are loads of supernatural-themed cozy mysteries to choose from. I’m pretty new to the genre, so I may be one of the worst people to get a recommendation from. But I can say Caught Dead Handed: A Witch City Mystery is a pretty fun place to start.

Lee Barrett has returned to Salem, Massachusettes to interview for a TV reporter job. Only she ends up landing a gig as a psychic on a late-night horror movie show. Thing is – the job is only vacant because of the murder of the previous host. When Lee begins to see visions, she reluctantly begins to solve the murder.

And speaking of psychics… Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan is a supernatural thriller about Sarah, a young girl who begins to have visions upon moving to a new town. After posing as a fortune-teller for a fair, Sarah realises she’s set off a frightening chain of events linked to the Salem Witch trials hundreds of years earlier.

The book was turned into a pretty good made-for-TV movie called I’ve Been Waiting For You. (Terrible title change.) So if you want to skip the book and head straight for the adaption, I’d definitely recommend it. Try finding it on YouTube before dishing out £100 for the dated DVD.

You can’t talk about good adaptions of witch books without mentioning Practical Magic. Alice Hoffman’s classic is a wonderful tale about sisterhood, horrible ex-boyfriends and magic. You probably already know the story from the iconic 1995 film of the same name. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up and welcome to the world.

I personally think the prequel, The Rules of Magic, has more autumnal ambience, but it’s not worth reading without reading Practical Magic first. It will make you laugh and it will certainly make you cry. But most of all: it will fill your room with spells and a certain magic of its own.

The last novel recommendation is the Night World series by L.J. Smith. This is a classic YA series from the 90s. And personally, I think it’s one of Smith’s bests (only bested by the Forbidden Game trilogy). Set in a world similar to our own, human children keep falling in love with supernatural creatures. Sad news for them, this is a major no-no.

You’ll probably be able to draw similarities between the summaries of Night World and Twilight. Only, bless Twilight, L.J. Smith is actually a good writer. She has a great knack for making memorable characters. Even though each novel in the series follows a different set of children, I could easily describe the main character in each book. They have flaws, they have strengths. Sometimes they’re weirdly into techno music in a big way. But none of us are perfect, are we?

You might have noticed I’ve recommended a lot of supernatural romance and YA here. I’m very (not) sorry. This was unintentional. Have you ever heard of Stephen King? Yeah. Give that guy a try or something…

The Graphic Novels:

With the release of Shudder’s Creepshow reboot, it’s time to celebrate by revisiting the original (as well as enjoying the new show, obviously). If you haven’t yet, try the comic book version of the film. There isn’t much new here if you’ve already seen the 1982 movie, but there is something very satisfying about seeing the movie on page in a EC Comics-style.

A short read full of ghoulish fun.

Now the next pick is particularly special to me (as evident by the fact that I recommend this series to literally everyone). I first heard about Locke & Key at a Q&A at an IDW comic con panel. Most of the men on the panel agreed that this Joe Hill-penned story was one of their favourites. After following their recommendations, it’s one of mine too.

Locke & Key follows the story of the Locke children after the brutal murder of their father. They along with their mother return to their father’s ancestral home, Keyhouse. While healing from their trauma, they children discover a series of keys that each holds a magical power. As they gain more knowledge of they keys, an evil entity looms around them, growing stronger.

There’s an adaption coming to Netflix in 2020. And the cast really looks like the cast we deserve. So now is the time to read the comics before the show is released.

And if you’re like me and occasionally like revisiting the realm of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there are loads of comics to choose from. Most of them are terrible. Some are more interesting than others. I personally enjoyed Tales of the Slayers, which is a selection of stories about various vampire slayers throughout history and the future (featuring Karl Moline’s gorgeous Fray).

If you’re not ready to commit to the long story-arches of the comic series aren’t sure where to start with Buffy comic material, this isn’t a bad place to start. It’s by no means earth-shattering content. But for a quick, fun vampire read – this is it.

The Audiobooks:

If you know anything about my reading habits, I’m obsessed with audiobooks. It’s the number one way that I consume books these days.

Horror and fantasy are great genres to listen to. Horror especially, as the right narrator really adds an ambience that only enhances a book. Not that being said…I haven’t read many horror books on audio. I typically read mystery and thrillers. That way I can’t look at the end of the book and spoil things for myself.

I’m the literal worst.

One such example of a great narrator bringing a story to life is Peter Bishop’s go at Algernon Blackwood’s short story “The Willows“. It’s only two hours, but there’s a lot of well-built suspense that has a great payoff. Plus it’s not a huge commitment. No summary here. Best to go into this one completely blind.

If you love haunted houses, look no further than anything by Darcy Coates. I listened to The Haunting of Blackwood House a couple of years back, but I still recall some great, thrilling scenes. It isn’t going to be the most original tale you ever read, but if you want some spooky doors with your blood and screams, I do recommend Coates.

At the point of writing this, I’ve not yet finished with Serpent & Dove, but I’m still going to throw it in these here recommendations. I’m an unabashed lover of YA fiction. I don’t care that I’m an adult. I haven’t been this obsessed with a story in ages.

Lou is a witch. Reid is a witch hunter. So it’s fairly inconvenient when they are forced into marriage to save their lives and reputations. As Lou continues her work to save her kind, she becomes more entangled in Reid’s world. It’s incredibly addictive. So it’s probably best to hold off until you have 15 hours to sit and listen to this baby.