Is there a name for the opposite of a scaredy cat? Whatever it is, that’s me! I love to get scared, watch scary movies, read scary books, and Halloween is easily my favorite holiday (cuz I also like to wear costumes and be weird). So when this week’s assignment came down from the ladies of The Broke and The Bookish, I knew it would be a piece of cake.
Top Ten Book to Rouse Your Halloween Spirit
1. The Scary Stories for Sleepovers series by various authors
As a kid, I loved this series because it was actually scary! The stories were well written, the illustrations were great, and things didn’t turn out all right in the end. Wishy-washy spooky stories with half-hearted scares and everyone waking up safe and sound in their own bed at the end are for wusses! I still remember a few of these stories so well, I’ve used them as ghost stories around the campfire.
2. The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series by Steven Schwartz Alvin
These stories weren’t as well-written as the ones in the first series I listed, and they tended to mix a few joke stories and silly spooky songs in, but the illustrations were downright terrifying! Just grotesque. When I would flip through the book looking for the story I would actually just peel back a corner of the page, to avoid accidentally seeing a haunting illustration. Once I paper-clipped two particularly disturbing pages together. Even so, I still read the stories and peeked at the freaky pictures. High grade spookage.
3. The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine
Of course. This is a classic for anyone who was a kid in the nineties. The Haunted Mask is a good one that happens to take place on Halloween. I was also a big fan of One Day at Horrorland, since it combined my love of scary stuff with my love of amusement parks. Quick, quality spooky stories that will leave you with a general sense of unease rather than keeping you up all night. Scares that leave you with a smile.
Current teens might prefer his Fear Street novels or the work of Christopher Pike.
4. IT by Stephen King
As far as I’m concerned, this is King’s scariest novel. Perhaps because it invites the reader to slip back into childhood, and to be scared as deeply and irrationally as we could be scared then. When it seemed that anything was possible, even a murderous morphing sewer clown. One of the best parts for me is that each of Pennywise’s victims is scared by their own personal boogeyman: a werewolf, Swamp Thing, a giant bird. Still, they are tied together by that near-universal fear of what might be down the dark, wet drain.
5. The Harry Potter Series
It’s full of magic and fantastical creatures, and Halloween is the one time of year where it not considered hopelessly nerdy to indulge in a love of the supernatural! Besides, between pumpkin pasties and poltergeists, it’s always Halloween at Hogwarts!
6. Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater
This sequel to Lament has a distinctly autumnal feel. The action builds toward the end of October, and as more and more supernatural forces emerge at music conservatory Thornking Ash the narrative becomes increasingly spooky. Not really scary, but definitely has a Halloween-feeling for me.
7. Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, or pretty much any other collection of short stories by Stephen King
He’s not the master of horror for nothing, and his playfulness really comes out in the short story format. His collections generally offer at least one deeply disturbing, well-observed novella mixed into a selection of tightly-paced spook stories and short tales that manage to be both silly and spooky at once. The beauty of Stephen King is in his range, as he has said himself:
“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud. ”
― Stephen King
King understands that there are as many kinds of scary as there are people on Earth, and he tries to write them all (which is why this list could easily have been all King).
8. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I’m a sucker for any book where you can feel more for the monster than the hero, even as you feel the hero’s fear and anxiety, and this book is an absolute classic. It’s fairly short and masterfully crafted, if you’ve never read it it I would make a point of giving it a shot this Halloween season!
9. The Witches by Roald Dahl
I love Dahl, and like any of his novels The Witches deftly mixes the hilarious with the horrifying. What could be more quintessentially Halloween than a convention of child-hating witches? I also highly recommend the movie version, Anjelica Huston is divine.
10. Barn Dance by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Ted Rand
This book is one of my all-time favorites, and the late-night harvest-moon dance with the farm animals and scarecrow has always held a little bit of that Halloween magic for me. Great to read with the kids, and not scary at all, but equally as enjoyable for adults thanks to lovely ink-and-watercolor illustrations.
BONUS Graphic Novel and Manga Rec:
Pet Shop of Horrors is an entertaining and spooky manga with a great art style, of the “be careful what you wish for” variety.
The Walking Dead is an outstanding series about survivors roaming the American south in the latter days of a zombie apocalypse. There are some truly shocking plot developments, the story is complex, and the art style engaging without being unbearably gory. I must admit the show lost me about halfway through the first season, not least due to character and plot changes that weakened the overall story.
*The title of this entry refers to Neil Gaiman’s proposed All Hallow’s Read, a movement to start a tradition of giving spooky books on Halloween.