13 Books to Read this Halloween Weekend
Planning to bury your nose in a book or two this weekend? Here are 13 books to consider if you want to give yourself an extra dose of horror
Halloween is extra special this year because of the long weekend. We have more time to recharge while celebrating this spooky holiday. Now, for those of us who plan on spending the long weekend with a book, it only seems right to reach for a scary read.
What book to read, you might ask? Well, I visited my personal library and curated a list that covers—or at least attempts to cover—the horror spectrum. After all, there’s more than just one definition of scary. I hope you find one that knocks on your cabinet of curiosity.
Disclaimer: I didn’t rank the books in terms of scare factor—besides, what’s scary to me isn’t necessarily scary to you. I did, however, arrange the list alphabetically to establish a sense of order. Yes, my obsessive-compulsive behavior can be scary sometimes.
1. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
While I did consider The Handmaid’s Tale, I opted for this historical fiction novel instead because it’s based on factual events. Alias Grace follows convicted murderess Grace Marks, who is hired out from prison as a servant. Several people want to have her pardoned and released, so they hire a psychiatrist to prove that she is not a criminal. Why prove her innocence? Because she can’t even remember what happened on the day of the murders.
What makes this book scary: Can you imagine being convicted for a crime you didn’t do? Or on the flip side, how far are you willing to go to cover up a crime?
2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is often referred to as the “Queen of Mystery,” so it’s impossible not to include a book of hers on this list. Out of all her books I’ve read, nothing quite haunts me like And Then There Were None. Ten people find themselves on an isolated island and die one by one until—you guessed it—there were none. Why kill them? Who killed them?
What makes this book scary: What if your past haunts your present and keeps you from having a future?
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Look up American horror novels and you might be surprised to find a book with such a title on the list. Read it and you’ll understand why. Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, Beloved is a story of a family of former slaves whose home is haunted by an angry spirit.
What makes this book scary: Can you really be free from your past? Is it justifiable to kill someone in order to save them?
4. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
A children’s book on the list? Why not? Reading Coraline scared my inner child and reminded me that sometimes, there’s more to what our senses show and tell us. In this book, Neil Gaiman writes about a similar but different, more interesting world and how the one we live in is the better one all along. A little warning: This book might trigger a fear of buttons.
What makes this book scary: Remember when curiosity killed the cat?
5. Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto
This Banana Yoshimoto book explores two emotional and haunting stories of two women dealing with the deaths of their respective loved ones. I’ve recently fallen in love with Japanese literature and how beautifully the mundane is explored, and this book is no exception.
What makes this book scary: How do you deal with death—by yourself or with someone else?
6. Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. I had a college subject dedicated to this book and to this day, I shudder whenever I think of the many punishments assigned to the sins we commit here on earth. The first of three parts in The Divine Comedy, Inferno is a book that will stay with you forever.
What makes this book scary: If you get thrown in Inferno, which circle do you think will catch you? Can you handle eternal damnation?
7. It by Stephen King
What’s a Halloween reading list without a Stephen King book, right? So many to choose from, but I decided to go with It. Following the experiences of seven children, It is all about fear and how it manifests in our lives. Trust me when I say that there’s more to It than just Pennywise the Dancing Clown. After all, there’s 1,138 pages to read.
What makes this book scary: Oh, you’re not afraid of clowns? Are you sure? Are you really sure?
8. Macarthur by Bob Ong
This book was my introduction to Bob Ong and if you haven’t ready any of his/her/their works, then I highly suggest this one. Oh, I’m already jealous of the thought of you reading it for the very first time. Hitting close to home because of the setting, this tragic book, which explores themes of poverty and corruption, is not for the faint of heart.
What makes this book scary: How do you deal with the monsters in your head?
9. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Considered to be one of the defining books in the gothic horror genre, this book explores the duality of human nature. It draws the line between what is public and private, while blurs the line between good and evil. Can one truly exist without the other? Are you on Dr. Jekyll’s side or Mr. Hyde’s?
What makes this book scary: What happens when we cannot control our evil urges any longer? What are we capable of?
10. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
“Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are,” they say. Well, in The Secret History, Donna Tartt writes about six students studying the classics under an exclusive and elusive professor, at an elite college. One of them is murdered and the events leading up to the murder is revealed page by page. I was recently asked to name the scariest book I’ve read so far, and this book was my answer. The Secret History made me think of things I never thought I would think of.
What makes this book scary: How far are you willing to go in the pursuit of knowledge? Can you go back once you’ve wandered too far?
11. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
This book follows a governess who takes care of two orphaned children at a country house. Over time, the governess becomes convinced that the estate is haunted, seeing figures of a man and woman. If you’ve seen The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, which I highly recommend, then you’ve already been introduced to the characters of this gothic fiction novel.
What makes this book scary: What if you’re the only one who can see ghosts? How will you convince the people you live with that they are real?
12. The Wasp Factor by Iain Banks
The most recent book I’ve read here on the list, The Wasp Factory delivers punch after punch, then a giant kick towards the end—I audibly gasped in by the way. Bizarre and disturbing, this book invites you to enter the mind of 16-year-old Frank, whose childhood is far from ordinary to say the least.
What makes this book scary: Where do I even begin?
13. Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez
A collection of 12 short stories, Things We Lost in the Fire takes a supernatural dive into the political turmoil in Argentina. In her stories, Mariana easily deviates from the familiar into new and unknown terrors, making this book a horrifying roller coaster of a read.
What makes this book scary: How do we know when we’ve already entered the unknown? Once there, is it still possible to escape?
If you decide to read a book on this list or have read one on this list, then please let me know! I would love to exchange notes and scare myself once more!
Lead background photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels