Books

20 Haunting Recommendations for Halloween

Halloween is coming up so I thought I’d recommend some spooky/scary/haunting books! Some of these are classics, so they’ll have links to free online editions, but some are newer books.

The Monk by Matthew Lewis (1796)

Set in a monastery in Madrid, The Monk is a violent tale of greed, power, and sexual obsession. It’s a dark novel, revelling in the darkest of taboos, and it’s a perfect book to read if you’re looking for a classic Gothic novel that has retained the power to horrify a reader, over 200 years after it was first published.

Project Gutenberg / Oxford World’s Classics*

The Italian by Ann Radcliffe (1797)

A response to The Monk, this book is Radcliffe’s take on the character of the sinister monk. This is a dark, sombre read and it’s a good contrast to Lewis’ wild, horrifying novel. I’d recommend reading this if you want to experience Gothic terror in all of its glory.

Public Library UK / Oxford World’s Classics*

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

A classic Gothic horror story about scientific experimentation, humanity, and monstrosity. It’s dreary, dramatic, and a perfect Halloween read. I’m a big advocate for reading the 1818 edition, rather than the 1831 edition, because I think it’s better.

Project Gutenberg / Oxford World’s Classics*

The Vampyre by John Polidori (1819)

A short tale written during the same trip to the Villa Diodati that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Vampyre is a thinly veiled reference to Lord Byron and his tendency to drain the life out of the people that were enamoured with him. It’s a creepy little tale and well worth reading if you’re looking for something short but eerie.

Project Gutenberg / Oxford World’s Classics*

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847)

Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathy I’ve come home, I’m so cold Let me in-a-your window

Kate Bush’s masterpiece of a song aside, Wuthering Heights is an excellent book to read at this time of the year. Set in the bleak Yorkshire moors (oh, my beloved Yorkshire), this novel is full of despicable people being awful to one another and it’s wonderful.

Project Gutenberg / Penguin English Library*

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot (1859)

I love this little novella! It’s very different to Eliot’s other works because Eliot was tapping into the emerging tradition of Victorian horror fiction so don’t expect it to be like Middlemarch or The Mill on the Floss.

Project Gutenberg / Oxford World’s Classics*

The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell (1861)

Elizabeth Gaskell is mostly known for her novels but she also wrote spooky short stories! I’d usually recommend The Old Nurse’s Story but I recently read The Grey Woman and thought I’d recommend that one instead. It’s a spooky, Gothic tale and it’s perfect for Halloween (or Christmas Eve if you want to be even more traditional).

Public Library UK / Penguin Classics*

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

Oh, the duality of humanity! What could be scarier than the potential evil that lurks in yourself? Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella covers a variety of genres (Gothic horror, psychological thriller, mystery, science fiction, etc.) and they all merge beautifully in this terrifying little book.

Project Gutenberg / Penguin Classics*

Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

Another classic Gothic horror novel! Dracula is long and strange and needs to be read carefully to fully appreciate the odd little details of the text. It’s a book that has never been successfully adapted, and too many people forget about Quincey Morris and his bowie knife, so I recommend picking up this Halloween and discovering (or rediscovering) this wonderful vampiric tale.

Project Gutenberg / Penguin Classics*

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

No matter how many times I re-read The Turn of the Screw, it never loses its edge. I still find it so unsettling and a deep discomfort sets in when I start to read the first page. It’s a Gothic horror story but I’d describe it as psychological horror too. It plays with your mind, in a similar way to Eliot’s The Lifted Veil, and that’s why I enjoy it so much. I don’t necessarily agree with the psychoanalytic readings of the story but it is a story that works on multiple levels.

Project Gutenberg / Oxford World’s Classics*

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (1901)

I adore these short ghost stories by M. R. James. I would also recommend the other collections he wrote but I decided to just include the first collection here but it’s my favourite of the lot. James took Gothic tropes and transformed them into something new, offering his reader an experience that they weren’t expecting, and I love the strangeness that comes along with that.

Project Gutenberg / Oxford World’s Classics*

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson (1949)

This collection is Shirley Jackson doing what Shirley Jackson did best: suburban horror. Each story is about the horrors that occur in small communities when people are enabled by one another. Some of the stories still haunt me because they’re just so real.

Penguin Modern Classics*

I am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954)

Post-apocalyptic horror was a(nother) genre started by Mary Shelley and I think Matheson’s novel is a fantastic example of the genre. It’s a horror novel, short but scary, and I loved the ending so much. I might have to re-read this one soon.

Orion Publishing Co.*

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (1975)

I haven’t read many Stephen King books but I think this is my favourite. I found it terrifying and I don’t really know what else to say. It was a great book and I didn’t even mind that it was almost 800 pages long.

Hodder Paperbacks*

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter (1979)

Another short story collection! Carter used traditional stories – fairytales and folklore – and transformed the horror that was always in them into something more potent for a modern audience. Carter plays with ideas of gender and Gothic fiction in this collection and the stories are fantastic.

Vintage Publishing*

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1984)

This is one of the best contemporary Gothic novels I’ve ever read. Hill skilfully imitates the style of Victorian writers, creating an authentic (or as authentic as possible) Victorian-esque ghost story. It’s fantastic and it’s relatively short so if you’re going to pick up any book on this list, seriously consider reading The Woman in Black.

Vintage Publishing*

The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa (1994)

This one isn’t scary but it is unsettling, strange, and rather sad. It’s different to the other books I’ve recommended in this post but I do think it could work as a Halloween read.

Vintage Publishing*

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (2018)

Historical novels often have very creepy vibes and this book is no different! The Silent Companions is an unsettling book that touches upon our biggest fear: the unknown.

Bloomsbury*

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (2020)

A long read but a good one! This book is full of suspense and terror and confusion. It has some very compelling characters and the plot is very entertaining.

Bloomsbury*

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020)

This book is a wonderful, strange mixture of Gothic horror and Gothic terror with an intriguing, mysterious plot and some fantastic characters.

Quercus Publishing*


That’s all of my haunting recommendations for the spooky season! Leave your recommendations (or links to any recommendation posts) in the comments.

This blog contains affiliate links that are clearly marked with an asterisk. I will receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. 

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