It’s officially October, and you know what that means? Take it away, Mr Skeltal!
I love Halloween, which is shame, because the celebrations in England are pretty lacklustre. When trick-or-treating is seen more as a nuisance than a tradition, you have to find more peaceful ways to enjoy the spookiest day of the year. And what could possibly be better than curling up with a creeptacular book?
So here are my favourite spooky books to read. And instead of stars to tell you how good the book is, I’m going to use skulls to say how scary the book is. Because, as a coward myself, I appreciate that some people actually want to sleep at night.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Scare Level: classic gothic
This classic Victorian tale is perfect for a dark, stormy night. Told in epistolary form (that means using diaries, newspaper clippings and other “this totes happened for real, you guys!” methods), this gothic vampire story has oodles of tension and atmosphere, and is perfect for people who prefer that creeping, eerie sensation that something is amiss, to out-and-out gore.
Since Count Dracula is so well-known in popular culture, it’s hard to find this book really scary. But the atmosphere is wonderfully spooky and unnerving, and there’s a good amount of blood and death for a scary story. Dracula is one of my favourites and I return to read at least one or two chapters every Halloween.
Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
Scare Level: perfect for wusses
From classic vampires to parody vampires. Like most of the Discworld books, there’s no need to read any of the previous installments to enjoy this book. And, like most Discworld books, Carpe Jugulum is utterly hilarious, and I love it. New vampires are moving into the quiet country of Lancre. Modern vampires. With style. The trouble is, if they want Lancre … they’ll have to fight the witches for it.
Featuring both witches and vampires, this one’s a double whammy for Halloween spooks galore. However, since Terry Pratchett (GNU) is a master of comedy, nothing in Carpe Jugulum is too grim or horrifying. This book is 110% recommended for anyone who wants to read something spooky, but still wants to sleep at night.
World War Z by Max Brooks
Scare Level: gory, will mess with your mind
The outbreak started in China–we think. This book collects a series of interviews with a variety of people, from military personnel to average Joes on the street, to tell the story of how the zombie outbreak spread across the world, grew out of control, and how it was finally defeated.
Seeing as I just recently recommended World War Z, no one should be surprised it makes this list. The way this book is set out makes for fascinating reading, as it outlines the politics, military strategies, and human reactions to a hypothetical zombie outbreak. Max Brooks gets full points for a) making me enjoy a zombie story, and b) making walking zombies scary again.
On a side note: if you saw the film and thought “Meh …”, as I did, please follow the old adage. Never judge a book by its movie!
Tales of Terror Series by Chris Priestley
Scare Level: I noped out more than once (but had to come back for more)
“But Amelia, these are children’s books! They can’t be two-skulls scary, come on!”
Oh, you sweet summer child.
I picked up Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth last Halloween, because I had nothing to read and I thought short children’s stories would be good to read in short spurts between doing other stuff. And then, I couldn’t put the damn thing down. Mostly by my fingers were frozen, clutched around the pages in horror.
The short stories in Priestley’s books all link around one central theme. In From the Tunnel’s Mouth, a boy meets an eerie woman on a train, who tells him a series of creepy stories as she tries to make him go to sleep. The scare-factor varies from one story to another–some being as tame as you’d expect from children’s fiction, some being worse than anything I’ve read in adult’s–but it’s well worth reading the whole book, just to see how they link together. I can’t wait to get my hands on another book in this series!
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Scare Level: even ghosts are scared of it
The power of Christ compels you!
This horror story about a little girl possessed by a demonic force was immortalised in the 1973 movie, and … okay, I’ll admit it. I haven’t actually read this one. I haven’t even seen the movie, because of that aforementioned thing about me being a total flipping wimp.
However, it is on my to-read list, and has been for years–since my boyfriend read it, and told me it kept him up at night. Nothing keeps him up at night. He is sleeping champion of the world. The creepy snippets he gave me just aren’t enough; my curiosity is killing me, and I’ve got to read it. So it’s going on my list, because I want some of you to suffer along with me.
The True Facts in the Case of M. Valdemaar by Edgar Allen Poe
Scare Level: quoth the raven: “AAHHHHH!”
Don’t have time to read an entire book this month? No worries! (And with 125,000 words of editing to do, I feel your pain.) This short story by horror master Edgar Allen Poe is easily read in one sitting, and will get your spine tingling.
Rumours of the death of M. Valdemaar have spread, wild and mostly incorrect, and now it is time to reveal the truth, and put these lies to rest. Our protagonist, fascinated with the art of mesmerism, asks his poorly friend if he may attempt to hypnotise him before he dies. His friend agrees…
Since this is a short story, I don’t want to give too much away. But holy wow, I was fine all the way through the story, until I hit the last two pages. I finished it, put the book down, and scuttled backwards out the room hissing, “Nope, nope, nope nope!” Hopefully it’ll spook you too!
Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes by Scott Cawthorn and Kira Breed-Wrisley
Scare Level: Chuck-E-Cheese is ruined forever
I know, I know, a video game tie-in novel? Well, yep. For anyone not familiar with Five Nights at Freddy’s, don’t worry. You absolutely do not have to play the games to enjoy this book (although if you have played the games, the book is excellent).
Ten years ago, Charlie practically lived in Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, entranced by the singing, dancing animatronic animals created by her father. Then five-year-old Michael was murdered. His body never found, Freddy Fazbear’s closed down in disgrace, and Charlie spent years living away, trying to forget.
But on the anniversary of Michael’s disappearance, she returns to hometown, drawn back to the crumbling pizzeria that was once her entire world. But the building is haunted by its history, and the animatronics that Charlie once loved have changed …
As a game tie-in novel, I didn’t go in expecting high art. But, as I whimpered through scenes of creepy, dead-eyed robot animals, this book certainly earned the description spooktacular.
So that’s it for my list of spooky books. What about you guys? Have you read any of these? What spooky books are on your list to get you in the mood for Halloween? Please talk books with me, I’m very lonely in this big … creaky … empty house … eek!