I’m a HUGE WUSS, I’ll be the first to admit it. Reading a horror novel leaves me curled up in bed with the lights on, unable to sleep. But I love a good, creepy novel that sends chills down your spine!
Here are ten books to read to get you in the Halloween spirit!
1. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
Probably one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read. It’s a story within a story within a story (confused yet?) set in a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. But this isn’t a TARDIS; there’s something more sinister and mysterious at work. And it uses typography to convey both motion and emotion (like in the image above).
Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.
2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
More eerie than outright scary, this book comes complete with photos that vary between weird and nightmarish. The way the story is told means the mystery unfolds piece by piece, which I really love. I haven’t read the sequel yet, though!
And it’s being turned into a movie by the King of Creepy himself, Tim Burton!
3. Josh of the Damned series by Andrea Speed
Josh knew the night shift at the Quik-Mart would be full of freaks and geeks—and that was before the hell portal opened in the parking lot.
Definitely not creepy, but still really gloriously brilliant and absolutely hilarious! This is my kind of horror, where zombies shuffle into the gas station store to buy frozen burritos and werewolves are like mangy rats in the parking lot. You can read my five-star review of the series here!
4. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King
I thought about putting It on this list instead, because evil clowns are definitely horrifying, but I’ve never actually read it (because, seriously, evil clowns! Enough said). So this is the scariest Stephen King novel I’ve ever read, and I don’t think you can have a list of scary novels without having the King of Horror on your list. Plus, it has creeptastic vampires!
5. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice
Speaking of vampires, this book gave me ALL OF THE NIGHTMARES when I first read it at age 13. The novel itself isn’t horrifying, but the entire plot with Claudia freaked me out. The idea of a doll-like little girl who basically goes insane? Yeah… *shivers*
Anne Rice wrote vampires before they sparkled, and Lestat will always be one of my favorites!
6. The Whyborne & Griffin series, by Jordan L. Hawk
I’m recommending the entire series because I can’t pick out just one scene, or one book, that qualifies as “creepy”… instead, it’s the general vibe of the entire story! Whyborne and Griffin battle monsters, gods from the deep, and evil warlocks while trying to defend their town. Here’s our heroes’ first encounter with a monster, from Widdershins (Book One):
The beam of my lantern revealed a thing for which I had no words.
My mind flailed, trying and failing to make sense of what filled the doorway in front of me. It had four limbs, more or less, a shape which overall suggested some perversion of humanity. But its naked body was horribly misshapen, the limbs of uneven length, the joints distorted. Thick, coarse skin covered it for the most part, but certain protuberances sprouted scales, and something horribly like human teeth jutted out of an elbow.
Its head was worse, however. Thanks to Christine, I’d spent many an hour bent over the art of ancient Egypt and its animal-headed gods. Those gods had a strange nobility and completeness to them. This thing seemed a mockery of the ancient deities. Its misshapen skull retained traces of humanity, but was hideously flattened and distended into an unmistakably crocodilian form.
Beady eyes fixed on me: blue irises punctured by reptilian pupils. Its jaws opened, the gape huge and lined with savage teeth, and it let loose a howl like something from the lowest pit of Tartarus.
I couldn’t move, couldn’t scream, couldn’t do anything but stare. Had I been alone, it would surely have ripped me to shreds.
7. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a master of creepy. What makes this even more horrifying is that it’s a childrens’ book. I was actually just talking about this with Vane at Books With Chemistry (go check out her review!), and about how this book is way creepier to read as an adult than it was when I was a teenager.
The incredibly talented Dave McKean did the illustrations for the book (I have SO MUCH of his art, he’s ridiculously good!), but the movie did a pretty amazing job!
8. The PsyCop series, by Jordan Castillo Price
Once upon a time if you told doctors you heard voices, they’d diagnose you as schizophrenic, put you on heavy drugs, and lock you away in a cozy state institution to keep you from hurting yourself or others.
Nowadays they test you first to see if you’re psychic.
Victor Bayne is a psychic cop (hence PsyCop!) who sees dead people. And not just ghosts, either, but full-on, technicolor, graphically dead walking spirits. He teams up (both in the field and in bed) with a non-psychic named Jacob to solve murders by interviewing the dead spirits… when they’re willing to cooperate, that is.
You know there’s some Grade A level creepiness when even the psychic who sees dead people on a daily basis gets freaked out!
“Victor, back there in that basement, when the zombies were… were… moving around on those tables…. Twitching? And dead? You didn’t even blink.”
“This is nothing like those zombies.”
“No shit. Because this time, you’re scared—beyond scared. You’re terrified. And whatever’s got you scared? I don’t want any part of it.”
9. The Gashlycrumb Tinies, by Edward Gorey
The most horrifying alphabet book ever written. This isn’t for teaching your toddlers their A, B, C’s…
Gorey’s art is eerie and, yes, gory. But look, it even rhymes! Adorable, right?!
10. The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe
Everything he writes is brilliant and creepy, and he’s inspired dozens of mystery and horror novels. This is one of the opening paragraphs from The Tell-Tale Heart, one of my favorites:
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
Poe was one creepy, creepy guy. Stories about burying people alive, about insanity, and about guilt… definitely the stuff of nightmares! Even his death is a creepy mystery!
What are you reading this Halloween?