Happy Halloween, dear readers! My, your costumes look lovely. Here, have some candy.
Today we’re sharing our favorite creepy reads with you. Our tastes range from connoisseur of creep to scaredy-cat, but none of can pass up a well-written book–even if some of us may need to read it from the safety of a blanket fort.
Keeping reading to see which sinister stories we recommend this All Hallow’s Eve.
Wendy’s Creepy Reads
For someone who rarely likes horror movies, I really enjoy well-written horror books. I don’t necessarily find a lot of them scary, though–as much as I like Stephen King or zombie novels, the books I find really creepy are the ones that evoke a feeling of unease or are terrifying in the power of their suggestion. I don’t bat an eye at bloody bodily violence, but describe a creaking sound in the attic or imply that the heroine might be going mad, and I get crazed with nervous excitement and fear.
and The Little Stranger
by Sarah Waters aren’t specifically horror books, for example, but they both were permeated with a pervasive sense of dread as well as moments that raised the hair on the back of my neck. Marcus Sedgwick doesn’t write typical cookie cutter YA horror novels either, but White Crow
was pitched at such crazy intensity that it practically gave me heart palpitations, and Midwinterblood
had some wildly romantic and savage imagery that I loved.
Some of my favorite traditional YA horror books include: Anna Dressed in Blood, a screamingly intense read that made me want to sleep with the lights on; Another Little Piece, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Unrest, Break My Heart 1000 Times, The Hallowed Ones, Angelfall, and The Waking Dark. I also need to include a special shout-out to YA classic Down a Dark Hall, which was probably the first gothic horror novel I remember reading, and is still one of my favorites!
K’s Creepy Reads
I love Halloween. I hate scary movies. I’m terrified of ghosts. I like post-mortem photography. That’s me in a nutshell. Despite these contradictions, I do not make conscious effort to read horror stories. However, as a reader, it is inevitable that you would at some point unwittingly pick a book that will instill chill after chill after chill on both flesh and bone. These are mine.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman — This has, I think, become a staple in middle grade literature because Gaiman knows how to write for children. Never underestimating his young readers, Coraline is sinister and sad, ominous but heartfelt. A little girl, neglected by her parents, discovers a mysterious door that opens into another world, where she finds her “other” parents and many wonderful things — until the wonderful turns wicked. This has proper creepy quality.
We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson — Oh, the classic. This is more psychological horror than one relying on the senses. It is not noises and shadows that scare but secrets and what we know our protagonist isn’t telling. It’s about Merricat, a strange girl who lives in the big mansion on the hill and about her one terrible and terrifying secret.
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield — This is an adult contemporary Gothic about a book shop owner’s daughter called upon the residence of the reclusive Vida Winter asking her to write her biography, into which the famous novelist is finally ready to confess all her secrets — and what great and frightening ones she has. It is a twisted, disturbing and absolutely gripping tale of death, words, family, murder, love and loss. Recommended to all.
One last one — Final Exits by Michael Largo. This is a “plus” book because it’s not fiction. Rather it is a dictionary of the many natural and bizarre ways people have met their ends. It’s gross, weird, paranoid-inducing but, yes, at times, funny. Enjoy.
Kate’s Creepy Reads
This was a hard list for me to narrow down. I started with 40 books, then narrowed it down to 20, and then finally decided that nine was the lowest I could possibly go. I’m sorry about that. I hardly ever read truly scary books (I get legit terrified—like little kid scared—especially with ghosts, and that’s no fun for me), but most of my favorites are at least vaguely unsettling, so that’s the tone of a lot of these.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is one of my favorite books released in the past few years. It’s creepy and wry, with the casually beautiful language we might have seen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, had Neil Gaiman ever written an episode of that show (WHY DID NEIL GAIMAN NEVER WRITE AN EPISODE OF THAT SHOW?).
by Justin Cronin is absolutely terrifying. In it, the government has been experimenting on death row inmates, turning them into enormous vampire-like creatures. When they break out of the facility where they are being kept, they spread across the world infecting or killing billions of people, and one little girl is humanity’s only hope of survival. This series is dense and literary, and the cast of characters, which spans several generations, can, at times, be hard to keep track of. It’s so worth it, though.
Undead by Kirsty McKay is such a delight of a scary, hilarious story about a zombie outbreak on a school field trip. I reviewed its sequel, Unfed, here last week.
by Neil Gaiman was a tough pick for me, because, frankly, my entire list could have been comprised of his novels and short stories. But this was my introduction to him as a solo author ( read Good Omens
, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett, first), so it seemed best to give it the spot on this list. This story started out as a BBC mini-series, so it falls a little flat on the page; I’d recommend listening to either the audiobook, which Gaiman narrates himself, or the BBC radio version
, which stars James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, and a million other crazy talented actors.
by Sarah Waters is one of those books that I’m incapable of talking about without putting my hand on my chest like an emotional old lady. It is haunting and heartbreaking and absolutely perfect.
by Mira Grant is about bloggers during the zombie apocalypse, and it is the first book in one of the best science fiction series I’ve ever read.
by Marcus Sedgwick is a seriously creepy story about a pair of lovers who die and become reincarnated over and over again, and I… I just… Creepy. So, so creepy.
The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury: I could really list any of the collections of Bradbury’s short fiction here, but I chose this one in particular because it was in an edition of this that I first read The Fog Horn, a story about a sea monster that falls in love with a lighthouse. This story haunts me, and I think about it at least once a week.
Tonya’s Creepy Reads
I see I’m the only scaredy cat of the group. As a kid, I read almost exclusively creepy stuff–Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Christopher Pike, etc. But as an adult? Well, suffice it to say I have to sleep with the light on after some Supernatural episodes. So. If you’re looking for creepy-lite? I’m your girl.
House of Leaves
by Mark Z. Danielewski. This might be more mind-f*ck than actual creep, but it gave me quite a few shivers up the spine while I read. I’m finding it almost impossible to summarize, but basically a slightly crazy young man finds a draft and an academic study on a documentary called The Navidson Record, where a family moves into a house that seems to shift and expand while maintaining the same shape on the outside. It’s quite an intense and convoluted read, but interesting. And very creepy (in my opinion.) More info on its wikipedia page
by Joe Hill. One of the only legitimately scary books I’ve read in the last few years, it tells the story of has-been rock god Judas Coyne, who has an affinity for collecting the macabre. When he’s told of a ghost being sold on e-Bay, he snatches it up right away. Only to be haunted by the vengeful spirit, driven to the brink of madness while everyone around him dies. Joe Hill is, of course, Stephen King’s son, and he’s definitely inherited his father’s creeptastic skills, with a hint of Neil Gaiman’s story telling ability as well.
Cabinet of Curiosities
by Stefan Bachman, Katherine Catmull, Claire LeGrand, and Emma Trevayne, which will be published in May 2014. What started as weekly themed short stories has now blossomed into a full-length book featuring “40 Tales Brief and Sinister.” The original stories can still be found online here
, and the Kindle pre-order
for the book (which has a GORGEOUS cover) is only $1.99 right now!
So what books send a shiver up your spine?