animated haunted house and moon

Three Titles to Haunt Your Bookshelf This Halloween

As someone who used to work in a bookstore and handled literally hundreds of books every day, I consider myself pretty open to trying just about any genre that caught my attention. In fact, some of the best books I have ever read were ones I picked up on a complete and utter whim. For years, however, I’d avoided one genre in particular: horror. As Halloween approached this year, I decided it was time to face my fears and see what was out there.

Once I started poking around, I realized that the genre has a lot to offer and now is a particularly exciting time to be getting into horror as the genre is becoming more inclusive and welcoming to groups it previously mocked or relegated to victimhood. Whether you’re just starting out in this genre or you’re a die-hard fan who’s been devouring Stephen King under the full moon since childhood, I’ve got three recommendations that will scare your socks off.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

This novel has the power to send shivers down your spine in the middle of a crowded store in broad daylight. I would know; I literally could not put it down even to go to the grocery store. The repeating refrain, “I’m thinking of ending things,” loops through the head of the main character as she embarks on a road trip to meet her boyfriend’s parents. Haunted by menacing phone calls and increasingly doubting her own reality, she becomes less and less sure that she’ll ever return.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado brings horror to an entirely new level in this collection of nine eerie short stories that will haunt you long after you’ve put the book down. It’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for grown-ups. Machado combines the most unsettling elements of old campfire ghost stories with sharp wit, dark humor, and a centering of queer and feminist narratives in this absolute masterpiece collection.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

I’ve saved the best for last. Weaving a haunting tale of forbidden love and threatening curses through two storylines over a hundred years apart, Emily M. Danforth creates an atmospheric and eerie drama that centers queer characters and relationships.

In the 1902 storyline, Clara and Flo, students at an all-girls boarding school called Brookhants, have been found stung to death by yellow jackets in a thicket just off-campus. Another girl’s death, a memoir by Mary Maclane, and a string of unexplained “happenings” will eventually lead to the school’s closure.

In the 2019 storyline, a film crew endeavors to capture the full story of Brookhants in a horror film/mockumentary. When the crew—consisting of celebrity Harper Harper, child star Audrey Wells, and writer of the novel The Happenings of Brookhants upon which the film is loosely based Merritt Emmons—travels to the abandoned school, they have no idea what they will awaken within Brookhants and within themselves.

I hope you find yourself happily haunted by these novels. Happy Halloween!

old fashioned movie projector surrounded by mist

Four Scary Movies Based on Even Scarier Books

It’s that time of year again to carve pumpkins, hand out candy, and scare ourselves silly with tidings of the spooky season. I for one seek out as many scary movies as I can to embrace the Halloween spirit, but sometimes, there is nothing scarier than the source material. From demonic possession—the inspiration for the slasher genre—supernatural curses, and unseen monsters, there is something for every taste in horror with these frightening books. So when the silver screen just doesn’t cut it anymore, here are four books that are even more terrifying than the horror movies they inspired.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Widely regarded as one of the scariest movies ever made, the story of The Exorcist was first introduced to audiences by William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel. The story, inspired by the possession of a young boy in Cottage City, Maryland, details the story of eleven-year-old Regan MacNeil as two priests attempt to exorcise the demon possessing her. Published in 1971, the book has terrified readers for fifty years and inspired a film and television franchise that has spanned decades. Now, readers have the opportunity to delve not only into the original 1971 publication, but also the revised fortieth anniversary edition that still evokes the same level of terror as when it was first published, with slightly less pea soup.

Ring by Koji Suzuki. Kazuyuki Asakawa, a journalist struggling to find his next big break, stumbles across the biggest story of his life when chasing the story of his niece’s mysterious death. Following in her footsteps from her final week, Asakawa’s discoveries lead to more questions than answers; his niece and three of her friends passed away simultaneously, exactly one week after watching a mysterious, unmarked videotape. Asakawa tracks down the tape to watch it for himself, and he is brought face-to-face with a warning that promises the same fate as his niece and her friends. Unsettled and determined to find the truth, Asakawa uncovers the story of Sadako Yamamura and her vengeful, supernatural curse that haunts those who watch the tape. Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel offers a terrifying look into Sadako’s tragic life and the resulting curse that has since inspired several film adaptations worldwide in addition to a six-book series.

Psycho by Robert Bloch. When Robert Bloch’s seventh novel was released in 1959, it quickly began flying off the shelves, but not for the reason you might think. The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, intent on keeping the twist in his adaptation of the book a secret, bought up as many copies as he could. While this resulted in one of the most shocking reveals in cinematic history, it also meant that readers were not exposed to the equally suspenseful and shocking novel. Experience the novel that inspired one of Hitchcock’s greatest films as Bloch unfolds the tale of the Bates Motel and its unsettling manager, Norman.

The Mist by Stephen King. It wouldn’t be a list of scary books without including an entry by Stephen King. The original 1980 novella details the terror unleashed on a small Maine town when a fog bank filled with monsters traps residents in the local grocery store. As tensions rise, King weaves in terrifying images of unfathomable beasts that threaten to break into the glass-walled store. The 2002 movie adaptation offers one major change to King’s writing: the ending. While I won’t spoil either piece here, the movie received a rare stamp of approval from the original author and drastically changes the outlook offered in the source material. This is a quick read that sacrifices none of the terror portrayed in the other longer books on this list.

Happy reading this Halloween season!