You all know I love reading scary books – my October Reading List is proof. I read Stephen King every Halloween. I devour thrillers and horror and true crime. And this time of the year is when I most love reading books that might make me a little afraid of the dark. But that isn’t what this post is about.
Today, we are talking about books that unexpectedly felt a little bit spooky. Historical fiction, fantasy, contemporary, science, mythology, and even some fantasy. All books that might not be the stereotypical Halloween genres, but fit the bill nonetheless.
So, whether you aren’t into super scary things, but still want to read something a little spooky for Halloween, or you just want to add a book that maybe won’t terrify you to even out the rest of your scary TBR, all of these books are excellent options.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
I don’t really know how to describe this book, but it was amazing. And it gave me so much anxiety. It’s historical fiction and sci-fi, but also has quite a few horror elements. I don’t get scared easily, but this book kind of scared me. I was afraid for the characters pretty much the entire book. Bad things happen – things you know are coming, but also know have to happen. It gave me the same feeling as a lot of thrillers I have read, but in a much more powerful way.
The Impossible Girl by Lydia Kang
This is a book about a girl with two hearts. Who also cross-dresses to work nights as a ressurectionist, digging up corpses to sell them to medical schools. She specializes in finding corpses with unusual characteristics, like the man with a tail. One day, she gets word that collectors of the strange and unusual – including P.T. Barnum himself – are offering a big bounty for something most people assume is legend. Suddenly everyone is after the girl with two hearts – dead or alive.
Surprisingly, while this definitely had an element of suspense, it was a lot more historical fiction. And even a little bit of romance (which I absolutely loved!). But also super creepy and weird, and a good portion of this book takes place in graveyards. Highly recommend if you haven’t heard of this or picked it up yet!
Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
This is a recent read (and I think recent release) that I had not heard of at all. I actually read it for the post where I let Buzzfeed decide what I read. I ended up really liking it. It’s an alternate Elizabethan history where our main character gets sentenced to spend her life as a sin eater. Basically, she has to go around eating foods that represent the sins of the recently deceased so they can go to heaven with no sins. But people start dying in mysterious ways, and our sin eater learns some secrets she shouldn’t know, and her job becomes even more dangerous.
I honestly wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. I’m a huge history nerd, so alternate histories usually aren’t my thing, but this one was really well done! It’s dark and creepy, without being scary. So if you don’t want to be scared, but do want something Halloween-appropriate, this is a great pick.
Blanca & Roja by AnnaMarie McLemore
This is about two sisters in a line of sisters who have been cursed by swans. They have been raised knowing that one day, the swans will come back and claim one of them as their own. They will be turned into a swan and live that way forever, leaving the other sister behind. This book follows the sisters after their family leaves them so that the swans can come and make their choice. It’s dark and magical and so lovely. Perfect Halloween reading if magical realism is more your speed.
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
I loved this book so much! Its a historical fiction novel about a girl who works in a dancehall and an orphan boy whose lives become intertwined over a Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers. Obviously kind of creepy, but also so beautiful. I’ve really been enjoying books the incorporate mythology that I’m not necessarily familiar with (there is another one on this list, too). I love mythology and stories that are dark and strange, and this easily fits the bill. Yangsze Choo’s other book, The Ghost Bride, would also make a great Halloween read depending on what you’re interested in.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus is one of my favorite books of all time. I rarely reread books anymore, but I finished my third read-through of this book about a year ago. And I made my book club read it, too. It’s so beautiful and magical, but there are also some really dark and spooky elements of this book. I don’t want to give away too much in case you haven’t read it yet, but trust me on this one. It’s an incredible book and you should definitely read it. Fall/autumn just happens to be the absolute perfect time to do so. You will not regret picking this up on a rainy day. Just make sure you have some hot chocolate or apple cider to go with it.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
The best way for me to describe this book is The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games. In this world, girls are sent away during their “grace year”. A year in which they go off into the wilderness so that their magic does not affect the men of the town. Then they can come back and be married and be good little wives. Only, not every one comes back. And some weird things are going on in the forest that maybe aren’t magic.
I could not put this book down when I read it. It’s thrilling and spooky and exciting. And it would make a great addition to your Halloween reading list if you’re in the mood for some feminist girl-power historical fiction.
Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright
You know I had to throw in some nonfiction. And what is scarier than plagues? You would think this book might be boring and I wouldn’t blame you – I am fully aware I’m a rare nerd who enjoys both history and science. But Jennifer Wright does such a brilliant job! I actually laughed out loud several times while listening to this audiobook (luckily, in the car, so I didn’t have to explain to my coworkers that I was laughing about the plague). Needless to say: this is brilliant, I loved it, and you should read it.
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I know everyone is talking about Mexican Gothic right now – rightfully so, because it is a great book that is perfect to read this time of the year. But honestly, I loved this one more. It’s unique so fun. And it involves the Mayan god of death, a journey to the underworld, and kind of a lot of bones. If those things aren’t spooky, what is? This kind of felt like a grown up take on Coco (the Disney movie), which you know I loved. I think I’m just talking myself into rereading it at this point, so trust me and give this one a shot.
Plight of the Living Dead by Matt Simon
This book is about zombies. Except they are real and caused by parasites. Fun, right? This is one of several nonfiction books I could not shut up about. I kind of still haven’t stopped talking about it. There are wasps turn cockroaches into mind-controlled zombies! How can I not share that information with everyone I know? I can’t recommend this book enough, because it is such a fun read. If you want something kind of spooky and definitely creepy that could (and should) also be a really weird nature show, read this book. And then use the insane facts you learn to creep everyone out. In the spirit of Halloween, of course.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
When her father cannot pay his debts, the main character, Miryam, decides to take matters into her own hands. Her shrewd business sense soon earns her a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold. Which catches the attention of the King of the Staryk (who I have imagined as basically the Night King). Her life becomes entangled in both her own world and the Staryk kingdom, both of which involve a lot of mystery and dark secrets. It’s spooky and lovely and magical, and honestly the ideal read for fall that is going to make you desperately want winter.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
I read this almost three years ago, and I still can’t think of a single other book that is anything like this. It is about a main character with a fractured self, the trauma that leads to her alternate selves gaining more power, and the darkness they bring. I still remember the eerie feeling this book gave me. It’s not a book for everyone, but I absolutely loved it.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Four young siblings visit a fortune teller who tells them when they will die. And then, not thinking too much of it, they go on to live their lives. But when the first of the siblings dies exactly on the day the fortune teller predicted, the other three siblings have to come to terms with their mortality – and whether or not they want to take their predictions at face value. This reads mostly like literary fiction, but with an ominous edge. It’s been a while since I read it, but I absolutely loved it. If anything, it’s a perfect atmospheric fall read.
Sourdough by Robin Sloan
You would think a book about bread wouldn’t be creepy at all. But there is definitely a mystery in this book. And maybe something weird going on the sourdough starter. It’s a fun read that will make you crave sourdough like crazy, but it might also make you think twice about where that sourdough comes from.
Circe by Madeline Miller
I think when people look at this, they think mythology or fantasy. And yes, Circe was a figure of Greek mythology. But she was also a witch (with a penchant for turning men into pigs). This book does feel much more like a modern take on classic mythology, but there are still enough supernaturally spooky elements to make this a great choice for a Halloween read.
I’d love to hear from you! Have you read any of these books? Are there any books you’d add to this list?