Halloween is the perfect time of year for moody, atmospheric reading. The weather is on the turn, the nights are drawing in and the cold, frosty mornings either keep us tightly tucked up indoors or drive us to nature, seeking magic in the changing of the seasons.
When we think of spooky, creeping stories for Halloween, we often leap to the classics- Stephen King, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, and MR James. In recent years though, there has been a resurgence in interest in the horror and ghost story genres. We just love to be scared, apparently!
Historical fiction, spooky stories, horror, unsettling and weird fiction-we love it all.
We’ve compiled a list of ten books that we think you should reach for this Halloween. There’s something for everyone, so have a look if you have a penchant for the paranormal or a hankering for the horrific.
The Whistling by Rebecca Netley
If, like me, you enjoy the of traditional Victorian ghost stories, grand houses containing secrets, distrustful villagers and the like, then The Whistling by Rebecca Netley is for you. Elspeth Sansome is the new nanny to a family who have just suffered the recent death of their son, William. The surviving child, William’s twin sister Mary, has not spoken since the event. In an attempt to uncover the mysteries surrounding the tragedy, Elspeth seeks answers from reluctant locals, all while trying to understand just why she can hear a whistling sound during the night.
If you like the books of Laura Purcell or Susan Hill, you’ll enjoy this!
Night Side of the River by Jeannette Winterson
As one of the UK’s most respected and revered writers, you’d forgive Jeannette Winterson if she released a dud now and again. But it hasn’t happened yet! Night Side of the River is the author’s latest short story collection which navigates the Winterson themes of gender and technology, but with a more experimental flare.
Winterson is able to inspire terror with writing that is ostensibly quite plain but that gives you the space to fill in the horrible blanks.
There are also some short essays detailing Winterson’s own dealings with ghosts, so it makes the collection doubly creepy!
All Hallows by Christopher Golden
This is a suburban, Stephen King-esque supernatural terror, set on Halloween night in smalltown Connecticut. There are rumours spreading of The Cunning Man, a mysterious, evil presence lurking in the woods and the local children of Coventry are getting more and more scared. All Hallows is a perfect example of how isolated settings are able to fill you with dread as you read. This nostalgia-filled horror will definitely fill the Stranger Things hole in your life.
Brain Wyrms by Alison Rumfitt
Alison Rumfitt established herself as a fresh and exciting new horror writer with the 2012 debut Tell Me I’m Worthless, a clever, transgressive twist on the haunted house genre.
In her latest book, Brain Wyrms, the protagonist Frankie enters into a relationship with Vanya and things spiral from there.
Pick this one up if you like bodily horror, intelligent and provocative satire, trans representation. Absolutely not for the faint of heart, but spot-on for those who aren’t! If you like fellow body horror writer, Eric LaRocca, this will fit the bill.
Weird Woods: Tales From the Haunted Forests of Britain Ed. John Miller
There’s a wide range of twelve gripping stories in this anthology, one of the collections from the British Library Tales of the Weird series. The woods have always been a place for the imagination. There’s something uncanny lurking beneath each one, guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
If you enjoy folk horror, eerie and timeless tales, this one won’t disappoint. Expect stories from writers such as EF Benson and MR James, to Walter de la Mare and Algernon Blackwood.
The Beast You Are: Stories by Paul Tremblay
Paul Tremblay is arguably one of America’s most solid horror and fantasy writers working today. With ten books under his belt, as well as several prizes, his books are undoubtedly thrilling, exploring themes such as ghostly possession, apocalypse, vampires, and the dark psychology underlying society.
His latest short story collection, The Beast You Are, contains monsters of kinds and stripes. Genre-bending and exciting, come for the scares and stay for the fantastic narratives.
The Ghost Woods by CJ Cooke
Lichen Hall, 1965. Pearl Gorham has arrived, like every woman before her, to give birth in this forest-shrouded, 16th century house. It’s a mother and baby home on the Scottish Borders and its history is a strange and dark one. Soon, Pearl comes to realise that the proprietors are keeping many things hidden…
The Ghost Woods is a gothic exploration of motherhood, with Gaelic folklore and myth weaved into a spooky and intriguing plot.
If you would like to read any of these books you can pick them up here - Chilling Reads for Long Dark Nights (bookshop.org)
If you buy books from this link, we may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops