As much as I enjoyed rereading My Sister the Serial Killer last week for book club, it does mean that I’m now a book behind for reviews. I didn’t want to post a second review of the book because my feelings haven’t changed much since my first read. I could have tried hard to finish my current read in time but, I’ll be honest, I spent much of the weekend playing Animal Crossing and was too busy collecting wood and catching bugs to be reading. So, it left me without a topic for today’s bookish. As it’s October, the scariest month of the year, I thought it would be fitting to discuss some of my top scary books. Disclaimer going in, I’m not much into the horror genre, so this is probably going to end up being massively underwhelming. I thought about including some examples of traditional gothic fiction but decided against it. Partly because I’ve already covered it. Also because they might not seem as spooky to modern readers.
If I didn’t own so many unread books, I would read this book annually. I know that Agatha Christie is known as a writer of cosy crime novels but she knows how to build suspense. I’ve read this novel more times than I can remember and it still sets me on edge. The setting and the writing all come together to create a chilling and memorable thriller.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I’ve not been brave enough to watch the Netflix adaptation of this book because I know it won’t do me any good. This book is the definition of spooky. It’s an unnerving and terrifying novel that is perfect for anyone looking for a good scare. Jackson was influential as a horror writer and this is one of her best.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Really, you can just insert the name of any of Stephen King’s horror novels in here because they’re all suitable for this time of year. This is a man who has become synonymous with terrifying his readers. I’m of the opinion that his latest books haven’t been anything to write home about but other people love then. My advice is to go back to his early days. That’s where you’ll find his best and spookiest tales.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein isn’t really a horror novel when you really think about it. It mostly gets that reputation because the monster of the book has become so closely associated with Hammer horror films. Of course, there is still something gothic and grotesque about this. A mad scientist bringing a creature to life in a thunderstorm? It’s pretty atmospheric. Will it stop you sleeping at night? No. Is it worth reading? Hells yeah!
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Another absolute classic here. Part of me wanted to leave this off the list because it’s so obvious. The other part of me knew that nobody in their right mind could put together a Halloween list without it. You guys know this by now. If you’re looking for vampire fiction, you might as well start here. However, I will say, this is a kind of repetitive book and can feel like a bit of a slog in places. But, come on, it’s Dracula.
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book on a whim and, almost 2 years after I read it, I still don’t know how best to describe it. It’s not a horror story in the sense that you might expect but it’s really unnerving. It uses Frankenstein as a starting point and explores the differences between reading and writing. It won’t have you jumping out of your seat but the paranoia that the narrator experiences does build quite nicely. If you’re looking for something a bit different this Halloween, then you might like this one.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I have to be honest, I haven’t actually read this one as it only came out this year. However, it sounds amazing. As a fan of traditional gothic fiction, I’m always a little wary of contemporary gothic novels. It feels as though the gothic tropes of the 1790s have evolved too far for my liking. However, this sounds creepy as fuck and I really want to give it a chance.
Haunted Castles by Ray Russell
This collection brings together all of Russell’s gothic horror fiction in all its glory. Why is he worth reading? Well, for one thing, Guillermo del Toro picked him to be part of the Penguin Horror series. For another, his stories are full of horrific characters that are perfect for this time of year. This collection is full of some of the greatest modern gothic tales ever written and you don’t need to take my word for it. Stephen King himself agrees.
Psycho by Robert Bloch
Even if you’ve never watched Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of this novel, you’ll probably be aware of the story. Mostl thanks to how it’s been parodied and referenced in pop culture. Still, most people won’t have read the book. There will be some who aren’t even aware that the film is based on a book. Hitchcock took a trashy horror novel and turned it into a cinematic legend. Why not see what started it all off?
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Rosemary’s Baby maybe best known thanks to the film adaptation but the book has been striking fear into readers since it was published. This is one of the rare times that a film religiously follows the book, so it’s definitely full of the same creepy horror. This is a book that is full of suspense and, though it might feel like a slow burner, will definitely provide a suitably spooky atmosphere for Halloween.