11 Scary Books To Read For Halloween

Halloween is my favorite holiday, hands down. I love dressing up and playing around. I love handing out candy. I love horror movies and scary books.

I was looking back and realized I’ve never done a Halloween book list. How is that even possible?

I have no idea, but I’m fixing it now.

In no particular order, 11 fun and scary books:

Unknown-5Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King

This is classic vampire horror set in a claustrophobically small town. As more people become vampires, a small group needs to figure out how to survive. The body count is high and the vampires are nasty. If you’ve never read it, it’s held up to the test of time pretty well.

Unknown-10The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

It’s a terrifying story about a haunted house, and demonstrates beautifully how an author can use a reader’s imagination against them.

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Rebecca, by Daphne duMarier

It’s a classic for a reason. The unnamed narrator is stuck in a creepy house with the shadow of her husband dead first wife and a housekeeper who hates her. What really happened to Rebecca?

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Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris

The Silence of the Lambs gets more love, but I found the first novel in the series to be the creepiest. A serial killer is killing families, and Will Graham has come out of retirement to hunt him. Alternating between Graham’s point of view and the serial killer’s, the book ups the tension until the terrifying climax.

Unknown-7Hell House, by Richard Matheson

This book combines two of my favorite things, haunted houses and psychological horror. Not only do people go into this house voluntarily to investigate creepy things, but the house begins to attack their sanity.

Unknown-1The Girl From the Well, by Rin Chupeco (YA)

Okiku is a restless spirit who kills people who kill children. She’s single-minded and perpetually furious. But then she meets Tark, a teenaged boy whose body contains a barely contained evil spirit. Okiku decides to help him fight this spirit contained inside him. This is more creepy than terrifying, but it is fantastic.

Unknown-6House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski

Reading this book is a serious commitment.  Not only does it clock in at 705 pages, but it’s also got footnotes, pages that need to be turned to be read, and other weird things. It’s a crazy story of a guy who finds a manuscript referring to a haunted house that gets larger than it should be, and what happened to a family who tried to investigate their new house. The manuscript says it really happened, but as Johnny tries to find out more about if the haunted house really existed, he becomes more obsessed with the manuscript and begins to lose his mind. It’s crazy and creepy and a fantastic reading experience.

Unknown-2Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (YA)

It’s a YA anthology of short stories. Many of the stories are creepy and pull zero punches. It’s good, solid horror that runs the gamut from bloody to psychological (and some of the best stories had both).

Unknown-4The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black (YA)

When Tana wakes up after a party, she finds everyone there dead except for a chained up vampire and her ex-boyfriend (who’s been bitten). For reasons she can’t even fully understand, she rescues them both and takes them to Coldtown, where vampires have been quarantined. The vampires there have their own TV show, and while the present a glamorous, sexy face to the world, the truth is that their world is just as bloody and terrible as you’d expect from a bunch of vampires.

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And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich (YA)

Like House of Leaves, this is another book written in an odd style, with journal entries and odd formatting. When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s house, all they know is that they were fleeing from their abusive father. They didn’t know that the house was cursed or their aunt was crazy. After their aunt retreats to the attic, Silla and Nori try to keep the land going, but nothing grows. And the trees are creeping closer. It’s magnificently creepy, especially if you live surrounded by trees, as I do.

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The Mask, by Dean Koontz

When Jane ran out in front of Carol’s car and had no memory of where she came from, Carol and Paul immediately feel connected to her, and take her in. But as strange things begin happening, they realize that maybe there’s more to Jane than they originally thought.

 

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list. I could do an entire list of just Stephen King books. And I left off all the classics, like Dracula and Frankenstein because those are too obvious.

What are your favorite scary books?

V is for (Books About) Villains #atozchallenge

For A to Z 2018, my theme is Books About ____. If you’re stopping by from your own A to Z blog, feel free to leave a link. If you need help with how to do that, you can look here.

If you’re someone looking to read a lot of great blogs, here’s the link for the A to Z challenge.

I do love a good villain, one with their own story, who you can even sort of understand and root for. So many villains are one-dimensional and boring. When they’re not, they’re often the best part of the book.

Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal, by Thomas Harris (horror): I loved Hannibal Lecter the moment he said he liked eating the rude. I think of that often in the grocery store. He appealed to me because of how manipulative he was, like a chess master, using people as the pawns. These books would not have been as good with a lesser villain.

Gavin in Fearscape, Horrorscape, and Terrorscape, by Nenia Campbell (YA horror): Before I get to the review part, I need to be honest about these books. The first one was fantastic, but quality went downhill as they continued. I still liked them a lot by the last one, but the last two would have benefitted greatly from better editing. (I think the second two were self-published. If they were ever re-edited and re-released, I’d definitely buy them.) Okay, so anyway… Gavin is a creepy stalker who develops an interest in Valerian, despite her friends telling her to stay away. I loved these books because they didn’t make the bad boy turn good with the influence of the right girl. He is a creep and that doesn’t change.

Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey (classic): There’s nothing worse than someone who’s awful to people in their care. That’s one of the things that makes Nurse Ratched one of the evilest characters of all time. She’s a control freak, among other things, and McMurphy and his chaos are perfect foils for her. It’s a classic story.

Heartsick, by Chelsea Cain (horror): In my mind, there’s nothing better than a female villain (done well), and Gretchen is one of the perfect ones. She’s a serial killer who’s also a psychologist. She manipulates her way into working with police and then tortures the police detective in charge. Instead of killing him, she then lets him go and turns herself in, professing her love for him. But it turns out that it was all another manipulation, and she keeps manipulating him from jail, Hannibal Lecter-style. There’s a second book I haven’t gotten to, mostly because I didn’t know it existed. It’s now on my TBR.

Who are your favorite villains?

R is for Red Dragon

Unknown-6Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris, is technically part of the universe that encompasses Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, though it takes place before either of those books.  It introduces Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

My absolute favorite character is Will Graham, who is a brilliant profiler who can get into the heads of serial killers.  This book kicked off a lifetime fascination with serial killers, and made me (for a long time) want to be an FBI profiler.  Ultimately, I didn’t go that direction with my career, which part of me has always regretted.

Red Dragon is about a man who believes that every time he murders someone, he is moving toward becoming “The Great Red Dragon.”  Will Graham is asked to come out of retirement to help the FBI catch him.

Will Graham is very good at his job, but he retired because connecting with the monsters in that way became too much for him.  The price was too high.  I’d never thought of people like him being tortured by their talent.  It made me wonder what secrets people keep behind their masks of competence.

This may also be the first book I read where the bad guy is sympathetic, and even likable at times.  Yes, he’s clearly insane.  Yes, he’s dangerous.  But he’s also tortured, complex, and has redeeming qualities.  It made me want to understand bad guys.

I love a bad guy who’s just pure evil, but I also love ones who are multi-dimensional.  Bad guys and good guys both have secrets and needs and whole other lives.

It’s a dark book, but if you enjoy this kind of thing and have never read it, it’s my favorite of the three.

“Fear comes with imagination, it’s a penalty, it’s the price of imagination.”
― Thomas Harris