Nothing quite encapsulates the experience of autumn and the upcoming Halloween season as much as cosying up with a good spooky book and a warm drink. This year, there’s not much chances of trick-or-treating or dressing up for Halloween parties; which is why here’s a list of 13 books and mangas to get you into the spirit of Halloween.
1. The Witches
A classic by Roald Dahl. It might seem like a children’s book, but this 1983 dark fantasy will have you on the edge of your seat; with Quentin Blake’s illustrations a perfect addition to the spook factor. Witches—the kind that make children disappear mysteriously—have always existed in a corner of this young British orphan. But when he discovers that there is a meeting of all the witches of England in the same hotel he’s staying at with his Norwegian grandmother, the two of them must figure out a way to stop the witches’ evil plans. There’s a new movie adaptation, starring Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch, releasing on the 22nd of October—so this is the perfect time to start reading, or refresh your childhood memories if you’re familiar with it already.
Neil Gaiman’s titular protagonist Coraline discovers a mysterious room which leads to another world that’s almost identical to her own—except it’s much better. But when her other parents don’t want her to leave, Coraline has to use all her wits to escape this world. It’s a genuinely creepy book that’ll send chills down your spine, even if you’re an adult.
3. Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark
The three volumes of Alvin Schwartz’s series, supplemented by Stephen Gammell’s nightmarish illustrations, has a highly nostalgic appeal. This collection of American urban legends and folk tales might not be the scariest, but they are delightfully fun to read—as long as the original illustrations don’t scare you (be careful of the edition you pick, or you might miss out on these!)
4. Goosebumps series
It’s an almost universal experience to pick out books from the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine during the Scholastic book fair in our schools. With more than 230 books in this series, there is enough content to keep you entertained with the occasional spooky moments. ‘Night of the Living Dummy’, ‘One Day at Horrorland’, and ‘The Haunted Mask’ are fan-favourites that you don’t want to miss.
The genres of gothic horror and science fiction would not have been the way they are now without Mary Shelley’s iconic novel. Written when she was just 18 years old, ‘Frankenstein’ had such a seismic influence on horror that it is felt and seen even today. This epistolary novel features young scientist Victor Frankenstein and the story leading up to, and the consequences of creating a creature that he found so dreadful that he couldn’t even look at it. There are many adaptations and remakes, but the 1818 original text remains the greatest; without husband P.B. Shelley’s more flowery text inputs for the 1836 version.
Whether it is your first time reading Bram Stroker’s classic, or revisiting it for the nth time, this 1897 Gothic horror has plenty to savour for both. Another iconic book on this list, and perhaps the most well-known for establishing the ground rules for how the Gothic vampire villain should be written. It created a Gothic horror atmosphere that few could recreate afterwards— its various adaptations do not capture the true essence of the novel.
7. House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski’s book is not an easy read. Reading it is an experience you’ll find yourself immersed in. On the surface level, the plot is about a family who find that the new house they’d moved into is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. This sounds simple enough, but it contains layers of storytelling that, finally, is conveyed through a documentary-style narration. It’s presented as a completely factual and researched document.
8. The Shining
No compilation of horror novels could ever be complete without including Stephen King, and The Shining is a good example of one of his classic works—and King at his best. It contains many chilling elements, and is one of the most atmospheric horror books ever. The story of the Torrance family at the Overlook Hotel during a harsh winter is perfect to read on a chilly night.
An anthology of 23 stories by Chuck Palahniuk featuring some of the most gruesome short stories you’d ever read. (“Guts” made several people faint when Palahniuk read it out in public).
10. The Haunting of Hill House
You’ve probably seen, or at least heard of the Netflix adaptation of the same name. Shirley Jackson’s classic novel has four individuals who arrive at Hill House—which isn’t traditionally haunted as a haunted house seems to be, with ghosts and all, but is rather an entity in itself. With its subtle writing and an unreliable point-of-view through character Eleanor, ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is a great pick if you’re looking for a horror novel with Gothic elements.
Spiral into Horror: Junjo Ito, for many, is synonymous with Japanese horror manga. Split into a collection of short stories that tie neatly into one another, Uzumaki is a psychological horror which is perfect for Halloween. Kurozuchou is a small Japanese town like any other—except for the fact that it is cursed in a manner which manifests itself in the form of a mysterious spiral called “Uzumaki”. There are three volumes of this manga, with an intense climax and ending; it’s better read slowly.
12. Unknown Caller
If you’re looking for a more interactive horror experience, look no further than this Korean webtoon. Available only on the Webtoon app, this horror anthology uses Augmented Reality (AR) to scare you. Besides ‘Unknown Caller’, there are also other great webtoons on the same platform that use sound and moving graphics that provide a more immersive experience.
13. Bong Chon Dong Ghost
For all those looking for a short, quick jumpscare, this short Korean visual story is perfect. Supposedly based on a true story, it features a young woman who comes face to face with a ghost. It’s not for the faint of heart, though—viewer discretion is advised.