Spoopy season is my favorite season and as far as I’m concerned, it starts in August, because that’s when stores start putting out their Halloween decorations awesomeness. The majority of the year, I’m like, jeez, consumerism, slow it down, it’s not time for insert-name-of-holiday-or-season-here yet (you know, when you’ve just finished wrapping your Christmas presents and Target is already tossing their Valentine’s Day stuff at you?), but the second I walk into Michael’s and see their shelves lined with skulls and cauldrons and little coffins and black everything and candelabras that look like they were jacked out of the set of The Munsters, I’m like YESSSSSSS.
And that day happened in August this year, so I’ve been in full spoopy mode for almost a whole month now.
SO, since I’ve got spooky on the brain, I figured I’d go just go ahead and start recommending spooky books now, and you can probably expect one or two of these a month until October is over, because let’s be serious, I love spooky books. I’ll start by recommending six spooky reads for anyone who’s looking to get as hyped about this season as I am.
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Joe Hill’s practically got spooky in his blood (his dad is Stephen King), and he proved it in his debut book, a collection of short stories titled 20th Century Ghosts. This book was spooky enough to win the Bram Stoker Award, and if you’re not sure what that is, it’s a writing award given out for achievement in the fields of dark fantasy and horror. And if you’re not sure who Bram Stoker is, just….just go.
The titular story in this collection is about a movie theater employee coming face to face with the theater’s beautiful, female ghost-in-residence, but there are a plethora of great short options encased within, including “Best New Horror”, about an anthology editor who goes searching for the author of a downright gruesome story called “Buttonboy” (yes, you get a story within a story here, it’s the inception of horror shorts), and…well, I guess we’ll see he gets more than he bargained for…as characters tend to do in horror stories.
With all the stories featured in 20th Century Ghosts, you’re sure to find at least one you like (though I suspect you’ll like them all), and if you’re new to Joe Hill, it’s a great introduction to his work before you dive into Horns and Heart-Shaped Box (which I also recommend, but that’s a post for another day).
Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano
Okay, before we even get into the contents of this book, can we please just take a second to TALK ABOUT THIS COVER.
I love this so much.
So with the dust jacket on it appears as pictured above, with a young woman sleeping, and another—ah—ghostly young woman apparently clinging to the ceiling in an act of defying gravity that would make Elphaba proud.
But when you remove the dust jacket….
BOOM. Ghost girl is gone.
This is so creepy-cute, y’all. Not only is it really unique and not the type of cover on a regular basis, but it’s also so representative of supernatural experiences in the sense of one moment it’s there and the next it’s not.
Diary of a Haunting, a YA novel, is the diary of Paige, who is keeping a record on her computer of her experiences with moving into a new house in Idaho with her mom and her little brother. The diary is made up of mostly traditional entries, but also includes some spooky photos and images to help add to the creeptastic atmosphere.
When Paige and her family move into their new (old) house, which for all intents and purposes seems to be a pretty standard old haunted house, weird things start happening right away with the droves of flies and spiders collecting throughout the building. But then more weird haunting type things start happening—things moving or going missing, her little brother acting strangely, losing time, and electronics malfunctioning, just to name a few. When Paige and a friend do some investigating, they find out that the house used to be home to a creepy cult who was doing some less than moral things, and the activity only escalates from there.
Diary of a Haunting is a fun, suspenseful, spooky read that takes you right along for the ride by telling the entire story in the form of Paige’s personal diary entries, and it will definitely have you wondering if you really remember moving your coffee cup over there….or was it something else?
No, it was probably me, though, I’m just really forgetful.
Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
I have a much longer review on Horrorstor here if you’re interested (it’s spoiler-free!), so I’ll try not to ramble on and on, but I will tell you if you’re looking for a spooky read, I highly, highly recommend this book. Horrorstor tells the story of a group of employees who decide to stay overnight in their workplace, an Ikea knock-off store called Orsk, in order to find out who (or what) exactly is responsible for the strange occurrences happening in the store overnight. Some of the employees believe the strange happenings are the work of human intruders, while some of them are betting on ghosts—and weirdly, they both happen to be right.
Things get seriously out of hand in this book, but even more engaging than the storyline is the fact that reading Horrorstor is a veritable experience. The book is laid out like an Ikea catalog, complete with help wanted ads, ordering guides, and Orsk values galore to really help bring the story to life in a darkly humorous way. If you like your spooky with a side of laughs, or you think retail is its own special kind of hell scarier than anything you could encounter on Halloween, then this book is for you.
The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy
The Creeping is a YA suspense novel about Stella, who was playing with her friend Jeanie one day when they were little when Jeanie vanished. Jeanie has never been found—and neither has her body—and Stella doesn’t remember anything about that day. But eleven years later, the past gets dredged up again when a body that looks just like young Jeanie turns up in a cemetery right next to where Stella and her friends are partying (teenagers party in weird places, okay, let’s not dwell on that part). With the disappearance fresh on her mind and a chance the killer is on the prowl again, Stella starts a winding and mysterious journey to rekindle her memories and figure out exactly what happened back then. But the journey takes her straight into the path of danger, and as she delves deeper and deeper, it becomes less clear if what happened to Jeanie was the work of a murderous, depraved human, or some sort of supernatural occurrence, which is by far the spookiest part of the book. As I was reading, I was trying to determine if what was happening was natural or supernatural, and the not knowing really kept me on edge throughout the novel.
Also spookriffic is a recurring line delivered to Stella as a warning that will just send shivers down your spine: “If you hunt for monsters, you’ll find them.”
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Trigger Warning is described as a collection of “short fictions and disturbances”, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. Neil Gaiman is another one of the reigning Kings of Spooky, and can basically do no wrong, but this short story collection is outstanding. Some stories are outright scary, some stories are more fantasy-leaning, and some are just downright intriguing. (And, Whovians, heads up, there’s even a Dr. Who story in this collection). One of my favorite stories in this collection is “Black Dog”, in which Shadow Moon of American Gods fame stops in at a pub and somehow gets involved in a majorly spooky situation involving black dogs (the supernatural kind, not black labs or Scottish terriers or anything equally adorable), passageways hidden in hills, and ghosts looking for some closure.
My other favorite story in this collection is “Orange”, in which self-tanning goes so…so…so wrong.
Like, even more wrong than this.
It’s definitely an outside-the-box, off-the-wall story, but it’s Neil Gaiman, so what can you expect? For some reason I just find this story hilarious, and so well-written. I am rolling every time I read it.
And as an added bonus (or maybe even the best part), the book includes an introduction in which Gaiman himself talks a little bit about each of the stories and his thought process behind them.
And finally, I’d like to recommend…
Anything by Edgar Allan Poe
I know, you’re like, oh, wow, you’re telling us that Edgar Allan Poe writes spooky stuff? What a book blogging revolution, Sam, please, slow down, we can’t handle so much knowledge being dropped at once.
But here’s the thing.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in all the amazing new releases, all the fantastic modern collections, and the mild echo chamber effect that occurs where reading and social media bisect each other, that we forget how amazing some of our old favorites are. Edgar Allan Poe is like the granddaddy of spooky, and it is never a bad idea to revisit his work and be reminded of how his dark turn of a phrase or stunning plot twists can send a chill down your spine.
And if for some reason you haven’t ventured into the world of Poe, you really, really should. Go read “The Black Cat”. Read “The Cask of Amontillado”. Read “The Tell-tale Heart”. Read “The Pit and The Pendulum”. Experience truly classic horror. See where the spookiness was incubated and born.
So, that wraps up this round of spooky recommendations, but don’t worry—there will always be more spooky coming down the line (especially in October, which is basically when I come alive).
Have you read any of these spooky books? Do you have any spooky book recommendations of your own? Let me know in the comments! You know I’d love to talk. <3