If you’re looking for a good chilling read for Halloween, then look no further. (Everyone likes to read – or reread – scary stuff this time of year, right?) I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite scary books, all of which I would heartily recommend. (Also all of which I would heartily recommend you read when you’re not home alone.)
1. The Shining by Stephen King
This is actually not my favorite Stephen King book – possibly not even in my top 5 Stephen King books. But this time of year it’s perfect. It’s got all the old familiar horror aspects to it, plus it’s written during my favorite part of King’s career. The Shining is so well-crafted that multiple parts of it have become well known in pop culture, for which I’m sure we should be thanking Stanley Kubrick and the 1980 film adaptation of the book. (The movie, by the way, is also great although definitely took some liberties with the source material.)
2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I read this book for the first time in 6th grade, and I still remember how much it freaked me out. There’s one particular scene, with some seaweed…I won’t say anymore, but man. I had some paranoid nights when I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
You know how much I admire and respect and adore Agatha Christie, and she was incredibly prolific, but I think that when it comes to spooky and creepy, this book stands out from her other work. I’m not even sure what I can say about it without spoiling it. So I’ll just say…we passed this thing around in 6th grade. Even boys read it. And we all found it deliciously thrilling. And if a classroom full of 6th graders approve, you know it must be great.
3. Dracula by Bram Stoker
This is more fun than scary. I read this for Halloween a couple years ago, and I was surprised by how much I loved it. I expected it to be harder, with more flowery language – more like Frankenstein. But it was actually a pretty quick read, I had no trouble following any part of it, and I enjoyed the entire thing. I never got nightmares or anything from it, but it was a fun little October activity. I do like all aspects of Halloween – from the scary stuff to the silly stuff to the sentimental stuff (Hocus Pocus on TV every night, anyone?)
4. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Step aside, The Lottery. No, just kidding. While I find Shirley Jackson’s short stories to be some of the best (and most inspiring) writing I’ve ever read, The Haunting of Hill House has seriously stuck with me. This was one of those random library grabs, and then I ended up taking it up to my parents’ house one weekend when I was house sitting for them. Now, I’m skittish spending the night alone at my parents’ house anyway. I have done it maybe 3 times ever, and it just terrifies me. Something about how dark it is outside, how close the trees come to the house on all sides, providing plenty of cover for murderers, and how so many of the windows don’t have blinds you can tightly close to that the aforementioned murderers don’t know exactly where you are.
I couldn’t believe I was so dumb as to take no other reading material but The Haunting of Hill House, and I just sucked it up and curled up under the oldest, most familiar comforter I could find, with both cats on top of me, and waited out the night. (I think I got like 3 hours of sleep.) So good.
5. Rosemary’s Baby (or really anything) by Ira Levin
I picked Rosemary’s Baby because it’s been on my mind, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with Ira Levin. Here’s a list of his novels (we’ll start there and leave the plays for later) so you can figure out which one to start with: A Kiss Before Dying, Rosemary’s Baby, This Perfect Day, The Stepford Wives, The Boys from Brazil, Sliver, Son of Rosemary. Yes, Son of Rosemary is a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby. The cover of it makes it look like a cheap paperback, but as it was actually written by Ira Levin, it’s still great writing and a fantastic story with a crazy unexpected twist. Do it. (But you’ll want to start with Rosemary’s Baby.)
Rosemary’s Baby has also become iconic in our culture. You probably know that the story involves devil worshipers, the antichrist, and that Mia Farrow cut her hair really short for the movie. (The movie, I will mention, was also really good according to me, and it followed the book really closely, but it’s still not the same.) If devil worshipers and the antichrist aren’t enough to pique your interest, then it also takes place in New York City, which is fun to read about. Also, stop complaining and just read it already because it is awesome.
Any of these great works of literature would be well-worth your Halloween time. It occurs to me now that for each of these books, there is at least one movie adaptation. That’s all well and good and I like scary movies, but please don’t judge any of these books based off of just the movie. They all have so much to offer and they’re waiting for you to read them…alone, in the dark…maybe on a particularly rainy night…