Top eight must-read novels for Halloween

From classic gothic to modern horror, Halloween reading from non-fiction to thrillers.
“The Shining” by Stephen King
A cornerstone of horror, Stephen King’s “The Shining” follows the Torrance family as they move into the Overlook Hotel. Hired as the winter caretakers, the Torrance family is snow-bound in the Colorado mountains until spring. Powered by mysterious forces of guest-gone, the hotel begins to show the family visions and spirits. Danny, the son of the caretakers, begins to interact with the forces and the horrors begin to take their toll on the Torrances.

“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson
“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson is a classic haunted-house tale. Following four characters, each selected to live in Hill House for paranormal research, the house serves as a fifth main character in the novel. The characters experience hauntings, empathy with the past occupants and closeness with the house itself. The house is constantly evolving, influencing its inhabitants and drawing itself closer and closer. The novel has a claustrophobic hold on the characters that feels stifling, mirroring the nature of Hill House.

“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
Revered as a classic and the first gothic novel, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” has a firm place on my autumnal reading list. A far cry from green monsters or cheap polyester costumes, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is a philosophical masterpiece. The monster Dr. Frankenstein creates is shunned by his creator almost immediately, made to live on his own and ponder humanity and morality. The monster explores his place in the world, the meaning of life and aspects of the human experience, creating a beautiful, rich, philosophical read.

“Sharp Objects” By Gillian Flynn
Camille, a troubled, alcoholic journalist returning home to cover a series of murders in her hometown, moves back into her childhood home. Escaping family turmoil, Camille has not spoken to her family in years and is thrust back into the darkness associated with her childhood home. Following the murder and disappearance of two young girls, Camille teams up with a Kansas City detective to uncover the murderer. Elements of the southern gothic, family secrets and the darkness surrounding motherhood enrich the setting and characters. The plot is shocking and twisting, everything you would expect from Gillian Flynn and more.

“The Secret History” by Donna Tartt
Set in a small liberal arts college in the Northeast, Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” is a dark academia novel following six characters who belong to an exclusive Latin class. The narrator, an outsider, joins the class and the tight-knit group, bonding over their love of the classics, Latin and philosophy. The group features an eccentric cast of characters. After one of them is murdered, the group closes in and the unreliable narrator becomes increasingly entangled in the aftermath. Boundaries of morality, obsession and loyalty are pushed by the characters as they descend further and further into distrust of one another and the pursuit of unity.

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
Written as a critique of McCarthyism and witch-hunting surrounding the rise of communism, Arthur Miller uses herd mentality, deception and the power of God to create a dark, colonial, gothic Massachusetts at the height of the Salem Witch Trials. The play features pastors, unreliable narrators and accused witches. The writing held the intensity of the plot and created a sense of frenzy and confusion throughout the play.

“Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism” by Amanda Montell
For an alternative to horror, “Cultish: The Language of Fantasticism,” reviews the social influence and power of cults. Amanda Montell, host of the “Sounds like a Cult” podcast, argues that cult language and psychology can hold power over and influence followers of an institution. Reviewing common institutions like SoulCycle or pyramid schemes, to fringe groups like Heaven’s Gate, Montell offers a fresh and sociological perspective on cults and the common-place institutions we all play a role in.

“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Bernedt
Set in 1980s Savannah, Georgia, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt is a rich, complex, personalized version of true crime. Following a shooting in the house of a respected society member, the author follows the case, the various characters orbiting in and out of Savannah high society and elements of Southern gothic. A voodoo priestess, an eccentric con-man neighbor and a drag queen intertwine, blending scandal and Savannah high society. Told from a first-person point-of-view, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” brings a unique take to non-fiction that is personal and engrossing.

Post Author: Ailis Reavey