October makes even those who don’t usually pick up Gothic or horror reads itch to read something a little outside of their comfort zone. Maybe a little witch-y, filled with ghosts, or vampires that don't sparkle! But choosing the right book(s) can feel a bit intimidating, especially if you’re not sure just how scary you want to go.
Below is a list to help you navigate spooky season and what you might be comfortable reading—we all have different levels of scary! Over the three sections, you will see that the books increase in level of scariness. I have included a brief rationale as to what to expect for each list. But, of course, I had to evaluate it based on my own loose criteria, so reader beware!
These lists are a mix of modern and classics… Because spooky knows no era!
A Tingle on the Back of Your Neck
For these books, something seems off. There may be minor mentions of magic, but mostly there seems to be mysteries surrounding people or events.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde
Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier
Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson
Flowers in the Attic (1979) by V. C. Andrews
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994) by John Berendt (this one is non-fiction!)
The Mary Shelley Club (2021) by Goldy Moldavsky
Things are Getting Creepy
Upping it a level, these novels have got more violence and fear for the lives of characters—to get your heart pumping. But by the end, there is safety (or at least some sort of explanation) to help you sleep at night.
The Monk (1796) by Matthew Lewis
I Am Legend (1954) by Richard Matheson
American Psycho (1991) by Brett Easton Ellis
Mexican Gothic (2020) by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Home Before Dark (2020) by Riley Sager
The Devil and the Dark Water (2020) by Stuart Turton
Read Only During Daylight
These are going to be books that stick with you after you close the back cover. Probably because they leave you feeling unsettled… with maybe with a stronger belief in the supernatural.
The Shining (1977) by Stephen King
The Woman in Black (1985) by Susan Hill
Hex (2013) by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
A Head Full of Ghosts (2015) by Paul Tremblay
Follow You Home (2016) by Mark Edwards
Silent Companions (2017) by Laura Purcell (one of my favourite Gothic novels by a modern author)
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper (2019) by Hallie Rubenhold (another nonfiction read!)
Mary: An Awakening of Terror (2022) by Nat Cassidy