With Halloween and all things spooky just around the corner, we’re taking a look at all the best books to read this fall season. Whether you love a good horror story, magic and witches, or light-hearted spooky fun, we’ve got a little of everything to get you in the spooky season mood!
Read With The Lights On
Is it even spooky season if you don’t read at least one spine-chilling, heart-pounding, read-it-with-the-lights-on book? These titles will bring you all that and more as they pull readers into their worlds of horror, things that go bump in the night, and the otherworldly that will leave you haunted by the story long after you close the book.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is not a book that is easy to get through in more ways than one. Not only does this book continue to haunt its readers long after they’ve put it down, often making them read parts of the text again, this book is truly just difficult to read. With a completely unique formatting, including some passages that are upside down, footnotes, and passages that only contain jumbled letters, House of Leaves becomes a labyrinth that readers have to work to understand. What you get out of the book is completely dependent on how much work you’re willing to put into it.
As for the story, House of Leaves promises to bring nightmares to anyone who dares turn its pages. Not only is this a book that many have to read with the lights on, this is one that you’ll need to remind yourself that it is entirely a work of fiction and that none of the nightmares within can actually reach you physically. Mentally, however, House of Leaves will haunt you. This is a book that, due to formatting, people will either love or hate, but it is definitely one that fans of the horror genre should give a chance.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline by Neil Gaiman has been so successful that the chapter book was turned into both a graphic novel and then a stop-motion movie, all released under the children’s genre. If you’ve already seen the movie like many have but you haven’t had a chance to read the book, this is your sign to do so. Gaiman is able to pull you completely into Coraline’s world (and other world) in a way that no one else could accomplish and, as such, leaves readers terrified.
Coraline probably should have never been released under the children’s genre and instead found its way to the horror genre. However, it could also be argued that depending on the reader’s age, this book may be interpreted entirely differently. A child could read the story of Coraline Jones as an adventure tale. An adult, however, is more likely to view the words on these pages as a horror tale due to the fact it puts a child in a precarious position, which generally causes fear in adults. If you’re looking for something that will put you on edge while reading this fall, Coraline is a perfect option.
A Taste For Monsters by Matthew J. Kirby
For those looking for a side of historical fiction along with their fright, the Edgar Award-winning A Taste for Monsters is for you. Matthew J. Kirby’s novel follows Evelyn, a “match girl” in 1888 London with “phossy jaw” who talks her way into a job as a maid for gentle and kind Joseph Merrick, the so-called “Elephant Man.” Set against the backdrop of the Jack the Ripper murders, Evelyn and Joseph begin seeing the gruesome ghosts of the Ripper’s victims. Determined to keep the ghosts from scaring Joseph, Evelyn decides to find the person terrorizing her world and lay the victims to rest. But will the horrors of the streets of London take Evelyn too?
With several truly terrifying scenes, this book certainly fits the “read with the lights on” category. But the centerpiece of A Taste for Monsters is the friendship between Evelyn and Joseph. Joseph is given depth that is often lacking from on-screen portrayals and biographies of the man, and he helps soften Evelyn’s prickly edges. The historical setting also sets it apart, and the novel’s ending will have readers on the edge of their seats.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
In space, no one can hear you scream … or so we’ve heard. Romy Silvers would know. Our protagonist is alone on a space ship after the deaths of her parents and the rest of her crew, hurtling through space on a mission to create a colony on another planet. To ease her loneliness, she strikes up a chat-based friendship with the pilot of another ship that is set to link up with her own. But as time goes on, Romy begins to question the story she’s been told about her own origins, and the past catches up with her. What really happened to her parents, and how does it connect with Remy?
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe feels like a typical YA romance at first, but it quickly shifts into horror-thriller territory. The ending is fantastic, with twists that are truly impossible to foresee. The marketing around this book truly does not sell it as the thriller it is, and though it centers on a teen protagonist, adults will likely love The Loneliest Girl in the Universe for its smart writing and slow burn tension.
True Crime Aficionados
If you are an avid reader, listener, or follower of all things true crime, then these reads are for you. Take a dive into the past and get your fill for true crime all in one with these books.
The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
So often in true crime, the focus is on the perpetrators, and never has that been the case more than the Jack the Ripper murders. The still unidentified Victorian killer has inspired a whole subgenre of books with theories about their identity. But the victims of the killer’s crimes have often been overlooked, or painted broadly as sex workers who, it is implied, were easy prey and not missed. But Hallie Rubenhold challenges this assertion in her meticulously researched The Five.
She dives deep into what we know of the five known Ripper victims, busting myths not only about them but also about the world they lived in. Rubenhold doesn’t care about who Jack the Ripper was or why they did what they did. Her only focus is on filling in the details that so many Ripper “enthusiasts” miss in their quest to simply find out who the killer was. The Five won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 Wolfson History Prize, both well deserved honors that show just how thorough The Five is. If you’re interested in historical crimes but want less of a focus on sensationalism, this book is for you.
The Last Book on the Left by Ben Kissel, Henry Zebrowski, and Marcus Parks
The hosts of The Last Podcast on the Left have been mocking the macabre for over ten years now, mining the world of true crime and paranormal activity for laughs with their deep dive series exploring everything from serial killers to alien abductions. With The Last Book on the Left, Ben Kissel, Henry Zebrowski, and Marcus Parks take some of their work in researching notorious serial killers and expand it in book form. With their trademark humor and Parks’ skill in research, The Last Book on the Left is both entertaining and illuminating for true crime fans, and those who love The Last Podcast on the Left will love this book as well.
Magic and Mystery
Not a big fan of horror? That’s ok, the below books carry all the best spooky season vibes within their pages with the nightmare inducing scenes of the above titles. In these titles you’ll find all the magic and mystery we love about this season!
All Souls Series by Deborah Harkness
The All Souls Series consists of three titles, A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life, which follow the story of historian Diana Bishop who finds herself in possession of a dangerous and sought after magical book. A descendant of a long line of witches, Diana is determined to banish magic from her life, but she can no longer hold out as she’s thrust back into that world. She meets vampire Matthew Clairmont, and things escalate in every way you might imagine.
A truly gifted writer, Harkness builds a compelling world of witches with Ivy League degrees and other creatures, while also maintaining an air of magic and wonder. A Discovery of Witches is a rare gem in its flawless marrying of intellectual thought and romantic elements, all set in various historical settings. It’s that rare historical novel that manages to be as intelligent as it is romantic. All three books spin out the dangerous lives of Diana and Matthew as they fight for their love and uncover hidden secrets. The series popularity has also led to a television adaptation titled A Discovery of Witches which airs on AMC. Seasons 1 and 2 are currently available with season 3 set to air in January 2022. That’s just enough time to grab a copy of the series and enjoy some enchanting witchy storytelling.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
It is difficult to recommend The Wicked Deep without spoiling it, but rest assured, it is a page turner that will have readers staying up until all hours of the night to finish it. Teenager Penny Talbot grew up in Sparrow, Oregon, a town beset by generations of tragedies supposedly caused by a trio of ghostly sisters who get their revenge on the men who executed them for witchcraft by drowning males in the town each year after possessing teenage girls. Penny lives a fairly isolated life, but her world begins to expand when new boy Bo becomes her friend … and perhaps something more. But what will Penny do to ensure Bo is not the latest victim of the Swan Sisters?
The Wicked Deep is full of lush imagery and poetic language on top of its fast paced plot. If you loved Hocus Pocus but wished it was a bit darker, you’re in luck with this book. With the film rights already sold to Netflix, The Wicked Deep is sure to draw you in with its twists and turns.
Practical Magic: A Beginner’s Guide to Crystals, Horoscopes, Psychics, and Spells
Stepping away from the scary stories and monster books, Practical Magic is a very different type of read than the “typical” spooky novels. Practical Magic: A Beginner’s Guide to Crystals, Horoscopes, Psychics, and Spells is the perfect introduction to the mystical world of modern magic, exploring everything from chakras, crystals, herbs, white magic, dream interpretation, and more. Focusing on three main areas—healing, magic, and clairvoyance—Practical Magic gives a good foundation for the most important concepts, history, and tools for the curious beginner. With herbal recipes, astrological charts, a guide to interpreting tarot cards, the history of pagan holidays and ways to celebrate them, and more, readers can expect not only to learn about all things magical, but also practical ways to use them in their everyday lives as they begin their initiation into the world of magic.
Basic Witches: How To Summon Success, Banish Drama, And Raise Hell With Your Coven
Imbued with chapters such as “Lotions and Potions,” “A Spell to Accept Compliments,” and “Witch History: Why Witches Dance Naked in the Woods,” Basic Witches: How To Summon Success, Banish Drama, And Raise Hell With Your Coven is a fun way to get started in the world of everything witchy. Similar to Practical Magic but with a more silly spin, Basic Witches focuses specifically on amplifying feminine power through modern witchcraft. Supported with informative historical anecdotes, Basic Witches is chock full of enjoyable projects involving spells, rituals, runes, and potions. Whether you’re trying to work on yourself, build up your friendships, eliminate toxicity in your life, or attract a new romance, Basic Witches has something for everyone to do either by yourself or with a coven full of your closest friends.
Frightfully Good Fun
Here are a few titles that will bring all the thrills and themes of spooky season without the major frights of our above section. From children’s to young adult to adults, there’s a little something for everyone who loves to get spooky without getting scary!
What Once Was Mine by Liz Braswell
This latest edition to Disney’s A Twisted Tale series takes the story of Rapunzel from sunshine and fun to moonlight and mystery. What would happen if the Queen drank an elixir of the moondrop rather than sundrop flower? That’s the premise behind this exquisite story in which Rapunzel finds her hair contains various magical abilities depending on the phases of the moon, and she must explore the mysteries of those magical qualities. Braswell also marries Rapunzel’s tale with a well known historical figure known for her bloody baths. What Once Was Mine is filled with all the amazing witchy aesthetics we love during the Halloween season, but it doesn’t go too far down the path of darkness to haunt a reader’s dreams. Check out our full spoiler free review and pick up a copy at your local bookstore today!
Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
Ah, Goosebumps. The classic children’s horror novel series from legendary author R.L. Stine. Each book has a different tale that can give anyone goosebumps… whether it’d be about Slappy the Dummy, a haunted camera, the ghost of a headless boy, and plenty more. While this series is mostly for children, the stories can still make even adults get the creepy vibes. Goosebumps is one of those books where you can’t help but love no matter how old you get. Although a book series aimed at kids, these stories are still scary and can create stunning visuals in your head. Plus, the Goosebumps TV series based on the books is the perfect adaptation.
The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim
The Last Fallen Star is a recent publication from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint that brings readers stories based on lesser known mythologies, and this one carries all the great elements of a spooky season read. Readers are invited into the world of Korean witches as Riley Oh, who was adopted into a family of the Gom clan, prepares to watch her sister’s initiation into the clan allowing her to cast spells without supervision. Having been born with no powers, Riley and Hattie decide to perform powerful magic that will give Riley half of Hattie’s power. As the sisters attempt to cast this forbidden spell, things go wrong and Riley must embark on a quest to find the last fallen star. This is the only way to appease her clan’s god and save Hattie. This is one of those magical books that you simply can’t put down. Kim builds a phenomenal world full of magic, mystery, and adventure that’s perfect for the season. Check out our full spoiler free review, and you can grab a copy at your local bookstore now.
We hope these books will bring readers all the wonderful, spooky season fun that everyone loves about this season. What’s your favorite book to read as the leaves change and the nights grow colder? Let us know in the comments below!