Not for the Faint of Heart

“Beware the autumn people.”

-Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

It’s nearing that time of year where pumpkins are carved, candy is eaten, and browning leaves crunch under our feet. It’s a season where we can contemplate the finality of death in the same stroke that we don costumes and play make-believe. In Autumn the weather gets chillier and the days are shorter, so it is the perfect time to pick up a book. I have decided to compile my favorite spooky tales for those that want to get in the Halloween spirit. Read on, if you dare.

Ray Bradbury sets his novel precisely at this time of year. October, he writes, is “a rare month for boys”. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, a mysterious train roars into town. The carnival has arrived, an event that should delight our two main characters, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway. Jim convinces Will that they should go to the carnival at night. What they find is a group of monsters that twist a delightful childhood past time into a horror show. The carnival plays on the boy’s greatest fears. While not outright scary, this story is filled with creepy characters, and the writing is truly thrilling.

In the Introduction to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, he explains that after finishing writing the book he put the story away in a drawer, thinking, “I have finally gone too far”. Pet Sematary follows a doctor, Louis Creed, and his young family. Their new home has a path that leads to a cemetery for pets. The local children have buried their beloved dogs and cats here for decades. Beyond the borders of the pet cemetery is a place that only the most desperate people venture out to see. Pet Sematary is a slow burning horror novel. I happened to read this book during a camping trip. I didn’t realize how scared I was until I had to venture out to the porta potty at night without a flashlight. After reading this book, you might not be able to look at your cat the same way again.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a chilling story about the murder of a young girl in the early 1970s. Her body is never found, and her murderer, a neighbor, is never caught or charged for his crimes. In heaven, Susie watches her family search for answers and eventually cope with her death. You may be familiar with the 2009 film starring Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci. This book is scary and gruesome in some scenes, but it also has a really insightful message about grieving and moving on in the aftermath of a tragedy.

For YA readers, I offer a series by Maggie Stiefvater. In The Raven Boys, Blue Sargent belongs to a family of psychic readers. She is the only one in her family who doesn’t possess this gift. She has known her whole life that she will be the cause of her true love’s death as prophesied. Then, for the first time in her life she sees a vision of a boy who will die within the year. Shortly after, she is introduced to him. He and his friends are known as the Raven Boys. Though she knows she should avoid them, something keeps drawing Blue into their circle. Don’t expect a literary masterpiece, but this book is fun. It has super-natural elements, and there is some drama including an enemies to lovers dynamic and a love triangle.

I also wanted to include a short story by the queen of mystery novels, Agatha Christie. If you can spare a fast 20 minutes, you can easily get through this creepy tale. In Philomel Cottage, Alix Martin is a happy wife with a beautiful home and a luscious garden that she enjoys spending time in. Lately, Alix has been feeling increasingly uneasy because of a recurring dream where her husband is murdered and she strangely feels grateful to the murderer. To add to her anxiety, her gardener tells her to enjoy her trip to London – Her husband and her haven’t planned any such trip. Now, she waits anxiously for her husband to return home, trying to figure out what her husband has planned.

Check out my “Spooky Halloween Favorites” bookshelf on Goodreads to find even more books that’ll get you in the holiday spirit:

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14 thoughts on “Not for the Faint of Heart”

    1. omg yes Raina! It’s fun! I read Philomel Cottage a couple years back for a course on Gothic literature. One really interesting thing about that short story is that the name of the cottage, “Philomel,” comes from a story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses with a woman named Philomela. Basically, Philomela is literally silenced by her rapist. He rapes her and then cuts out her tongue as a away to prevent her from telling everyone what happened. Since she can’t speak she has to weave a tapestry with images showing what happened to her. I love that there’s this small nod to an ancient story connecting the character of Alix to Philomela.

  1. I don’t love horror at all. In addition, don’t like too creepy. So, kinda of hard to think of Halloween like movies I would really want to see

    However, I can love books that can be scary- as in HP and Lord of the Rings. I can handle those.

    1. Some of these books are a little scary (Pet Sematary would not be a good one for you if you don’t like scary!) but I think Something Wicked This Way Comes or The Raven Boys has spooky elements but won’t scare you.

    1. Ah thanks so much for saying that!! Something Wicked This Way Comes is honestly one of my faves. It’s a little quirky and there’s just so MUCH in it. I don’t know how to else to explain it just so much symbolism, so many literary devices, so many spooky characters, so much heart. It’s just great!

  2. Great recs! I have The Lovely Bones sitting on my bookshelf waiting on me to pick it up. Hopefully soon! And The Raven Boys is definitely the perfect series for this time of year!

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