Top Reads for the Spooky Season
It’s almost Halloween!
The clocks have gone back, the nights are darker and the weather is foul. It’s the perfect time to curl up with a spooky book. We’ve rounded up our contributors and have a wide range of recommendations for you, whether you just want something with a slightly spooky vibe, or something a little toothier – read on!
Titles are linked to reviews where applicable
Never Die by Rob Hayes – Eastern Fantasy (but with a supernatural twist)
The Kishi by Antoine Bandele – African inspired fantasy (but with a monstrous twist)
Where Oblivion Lives by Teresa Frohock – Urban/historical fantasy (but with a demonic twist)
The Waters and The Wild by Jo Zebedee – contemporary fantasy (but with a fae twist)
Danse Macabre by Laura M. Hughes – spooky fantasy (with a devilish twist – and a snail)
All my choices will be “not especially scary”
The Library of the Dead by TL Huchu – Urban Fantasy / Mystery (Speaking with ghosts)
The Library of the Unwritten by AJ Hackwith – Urban Fantasy (Partly happening in hell / demons)
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho – Urban Fantasy (Possessed by her own grandmother)
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow – Alt History (witches)
Nocturne for a Widow by Amanda DeWees – Historical Fantasy / gothic / very light romance (Communicating with ghosts)
IT by Stephen King – Small Town Horror
Come With Me by Ronald Malfi – psychological thriller/paranormal
Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison – Werewolves/Horror
The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean – Gothic/Vampire-esque
Boys in the Valley by Philip Fracassi – Demonic Possession/Horror
I’m not necessarily a fan of “scary” reads either, Julia! I’m all for atmosphere…
Starling House by Alix E Harrow – Gothic/Haunted House and Nightmares
Threadneedle by Cari Thomas – Witchcraft and dark themes
Games for Dead Girls by Jen Williams – Psychological thriller with lots of folk horror (ok, this one was quite scary)
Masters of Death by Olivie Blake – Aswan (vampire) estate agent enlists Death’s godson to get rid of poltergeist.
The Year of the Knife by GD Penman – Urban fantasy thriller with possessions, witches and demons.
*Appears in explosion of gore and tentacles* DID SOMEONE SAY HORROR?
I will happily confess to being a massive horror fiend, and I love spooky season. It’s the perfect time to celebrate an often overlooked genre which, through transgression and invention, is frequently able to confront uncomfortable truths in a visceral and meaningful way that other genres might struggle with. And while horror has a reputation for trashiness, much of the best horror is sublimely written and deeply literary, its extreme content married to bold and inventive experiments with form. In no particular order, some of my favourites:
The Cipher by Kathe Koja – extreme body horror, beautifully written
Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin – a gender plague novel written by a trans woman, with plenty of body horror and gore as it critiques transphobia and deconstructs the gender reification that goes on in a lot of these gender plague books
Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt – think Shirley Jackon’s The Haunting Of Hill House, but the house is fascism and transphobia in the UK. Brilliant, horrifying, not for the faint of heart
Familiar Spirit by Lisa Tuttle – an early classic from one of the masters of the genre. A visceral and repulsive possession horror novel that will make the most hardened horror fan’s skin crawl
The Seventh Mansion by Maryse Meijer – an isolated boy strikes up a relationship with the rotting remains of a dead saint. Beautiful, twisted and disturbing.
There are so many more I could have chosen – I’m sorry not to include C.J. Leede’s feminist deconstruction of the psycho killer novel Maeve Fly or anything by the visionary pioneer of modern British horror Joel Lane, but them’s the breaks when you can only have five!
Most of these titles are available on Bookshop.org where we’ve collated them into an (affiliated) list – CLICK HERE