It’s that time of year again. The light is fading fast, the nighttime chill is setting in, the shadows are growing ever larger. It’s the perfect time of year to curl up with a scary book. Here are our top seven picks for this Halloween.
Dracula by Bran Stoker is the perfect way to kick off Halloween. Open graves, blood-thirsty vampires, crumbling castles, an unknowing protagonist. Vampire novels began with this gothic classic, which is a must-read for Halloween-lovers. When the enthusiastic Jonathan Harker embarks on a journey to Transylvania to help the gracious, and ever-polite, Count Dracula purchase an estate in England, things go well at first. But when Harker discovers he’s a prisoner in the castle and tries to escape… all is not well.
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike is what happens when you mix literary finesse, witches masquerading as housewives, and magic all up in one big cauldron. The Witches of Eastwick has been adapted for film and TV time and time again, but the story originated with Updike in this novel about a fictional Rhode Island town where three witches must deal with a mysterious devil.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This novel debuted as a big hit in 2005, when audiences were awed by its genre-bending and spooky nature. It’s been described as: a gothic novel, an adventure novel, a historical fiction novel, and historical thriller. In fact, they’re all probably true, which might be why audiences are so taken with it. The novel is tied together with three separate narratives and tells the story of a young woman who is tied to an inconceivable evil due to her family’s past.
Damned by Chuck Palahniuk, is a lighter choice than some of our other suggestions, even if it does take place in hell. When Madison is left at her Swiss boarding school over the Christmas holiday she overdoses on marijuana and wakes up to find herself in hell. A humorous take on the afterlife, Madison must make do with a band of hell-bound misfits. A cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and others make up this colorful cast. The author described the novel as “if The Shawshank Redemption had a baby by The Lovely Bones and it was raised by Judy Blume.” And “it’s kind of like The Breakfast Club set in Hell.” So there you have it. Read at your own risk.
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This eerie tale was written in 1851 following Hawthorne’s success with The Scarlet Letter, and was inspired by a house in Salem, Massachusetts owned by Hawthorne’s cousin, which has “seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass.” The book tells the story of the haunted mansion, which was built on ill-gotten ground and whose history still haunts the current residents 200 years later. The book was said to inspire the works of HP Lovecraft, perhaps one of the most famous gothic writers of our time. The house is now a museum in Salem, where you can enjoy daily tours of secret staircases and really indulge in some creepy history. Simply put, there’s lots of good Halloween layers here, and is a perfect read as October 31st inches ever closer.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. This little book of scary stories was a favorite for kids in the 80s and 90s. Schwartz put this book together based on scary folklore, with the intention of passing on creepy stories to future generations. The book is intended for young readers and as such, the stories don’t feel quite as scary as they did fifteen years ago, but if you’re able to snatch up one of the books with the original illustrations by Brett Helquist (as pictured here) you will fondly remember lots of scary nights. You might even find yourself inspired to indulge in some scary adventures of your own. Go stand on a grave, we dare you.
The Shining by Stephen King. Stephen King wrote so many books that will have you second guessing familiar shadows, it was tough to pick just one. But our staff finally fell on an old favorite–equally compelling in book or movie form–for the Halloween holiday. There’s nothing scarier than when your seemingly normal environment turns on you. Plus, the haunted hotel and creepy ghosts with sordid pasts in this novel, are the stuff of scary-story legend. Not to mention, the movie was filmed at Timberline lodge, which is located just a few hours away from our office. Spooooky.