Autumn mists and ominous skies, vibrant falling leaves with their musty sweet scent, and the shivering chill in the air pronounce my favorite time of the year and put me in the mood for one of my most beloved book genres- gothic. Give me stories with ghosts, monsters, or dark desires preying on unsuspecting protagonists and I will curl up in my favorite chair with hot spiced cider and read of their perilous adventures in the gathering gloom! Here I share some ghoulish treasures new and old in the Bookwyrm’s hoard that perfectly suit the arrival of fall.
For spooky tales to read aloud to family or from the solitary comfort of a shielding blanket, I recommend two collections: The Big Book of Ghost Stories has an impressive array of authors such as Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Lafcadio Hearn, H.P. Lovecraft, and Joyce Carol Oates. If you enjoyed the Netflix shows “The Haunting of Hill House” and “The Haunting of Bly Manor”, we have the books that inspired them: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and The Ghost Stories of Henry James to chill your blood.
If you’re looking for something to go bump in the night, Max Brooks’ new novel Devolution tells a monstrous yarn that features a small eco-conscious community cut off by a disaster and terrorized by a group of Sasquatch. This book had me racing through the pages and in some ways reminded me of the feeling I got from Jurassic Park the first time I read it. Be prepared to be watching the forests and listening for the howl of a Bigfoot.
Interested in families in peril under sinister circumstances I recommend both Stephen King’s classic The Shining and Zoie Stage’s Wonderland. In both, families looking for a new start encounter forces that push them all to the breaking point. Both feature unusual hauntings that possess and terrorize characters and toy with their sanity, bringing out the best and the worst in them and revealing the depths of resentment and heights of love in the fractured families.
Perhaps one of my all-time favorite books, with a beginning dripping with poetic and sinister ambiance, is Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca where you wonder if the nameless protagonist is literally being haunted by her husband’s first wife or if there is a more substantial human threat that is working against her. Taking the Gothic genre and giving it an unexpected twist is Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, where a young woman goes to investigate if her cousin is being poisoned on an isolated estate in a Mexican silver mining village. The nightmare that infects the heroine will definitely cause shudders. There’s another disturbing home in Jane Healey’s Animals of Lockwood Manor, where a museum collection is being stored for safety during WWII. When specimens begin disappearing, it is up to the curator to solve a disturbing mystery before she loses everything, including her mind and her heart.
Halloween wouldn’t be complete without the appearance of witches. If you watch “Practical Magic” every October, than you might be excited to learn that Alice Hoffman has written a new book about the ancestor of the Owens family, with whom the terrible curse originated. If you like your witches for their brazen attitudes and powerful magic, you will be delighted with Alix Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches about sisters who are part of the fight to get women the vote who awaken their magical abilities in the battle against oppression.
For the Bookwyrm Hatchlings out there wanting fun and spooky reads, we have plenty of macabre fare. Young adult readers will enjoy the adventures of a former wizard, a smart witch, and a sulky vampire in Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow books Carry On and Wayward Son. For something more disturbing, there is the blood-curdling Clown in a Cornfield, because nothing makes you want to hide indoors more than a murderous clown. For younger readers, there are the beloved classics like the Bunnicula series and Roald Dahl’s The Witches. My little sister was obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebump series and it made her the horror movie aficionado that she is to this day, we have many volumes with different terrifying tales.
If you want to indulge in Halloween nonfiction, try Romantic Outlaws about the life of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, the author of the first ever science fiction horror novel Frankenstein. There is also the investigation of what really happened in Massachusetts in the gripping The Witches: Salem, 1692. The Lady from the Black Lagoon is an exciting hunt to find what happened to the female artist who created one of Hollywood’s most iconic monsters. There are numerous books to thill and chill, so please call and ask us for more recommendations, the true crime section alone is brimful with suspense.
As the days grow shorter and the witching hour draws closer, there is nothing to keep you up to enjoy the night like a good scary book- unless it’s a scary movie or series. We have The Haunting of Hill House, The Twilight Zone (old and new), The Terror seasons 1 and 2, and Castle Rock seasons 1 and 2 as well. The flicker of the TV might trick you into believing you can banish your fears as you eat your treats.
I wish you joy in this season of spooky reading !