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Wondering what to read to get into the mood for Halloween this year? We’ve curated a reading list of the best scary spooky horror novels and books to read this Halloween season.  Whether you’re in search of ghosts, zombies, supernatural occurrences or just good old-fashioned bedlam, there’s a book for that.

Seriously, are you not already afraid?

Who needs roller coasters, horror movies, escape rooms and ghost stories? If you really want to feel the adrenaline rush that accompanies the feeling of true terror, all you have to do is read the daily news. Or watch 10 minutes of cable news. If that doesn’t send you screaming from the room or make you assume the fetal position, there’s probably no hope.

The best horror novels and scary spooky books to read this Halloween.

The best horror novels and scary spooky books to read this Halloween.

However, in the event that you’re the type that doesn’t scare easily, and if recent events have not completely extinguished your desire to experience the feeling of terror and dread, then you’re in luck: Halloween is almost here.

Personally, we can’t wait for the return of the spookiest season, and a reason to re-immerse ourselves in all of our favorite scary stories. And movies.

which books are best for a frightful Halloween reading list?

We’ll stipulate up front that pretty much anything written by Stephen King will definitely get the job done if chills and terror are what you’re after. 

The best horror novels and scary spooky books to read this Halloween.

The best horror novels and scary spooky books to read this Halloween. Courtesy Photos.

Horror fiction cuts across all cultures and nationalities, and can even unite us across lines of race, class and gender. We went in search of  scary Halloween-ready works from authors of all stripes, and while this list comes from a diverse and wide range of voices, they share one common theme: to scare the beejeebees out of us.

If you’re looking to spend some time with ghosts and witches, or maybe even follow along with a few grizzly murders, then here are twelve books that are sure to haunt you. With choices new and old, these should keep you up all night, all month long.

The best horror novels and scary spooky books to add to your reading list this Halloween. Courtesy Photos.

1. The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

 The best scary spooky horror novels and books to read this Halloween season.  

In The Year of the Witching, Immanuelle Moore is an outcast. Born in the zealously religious community of Bethel, she does what she can to honor the Prophet, in spite of the way she is mistreated. But when she accidentally encounters the spirits of four murdered witches, everything changes.

Will Immanuelle be able to handle the truth about her home? This recent release offers a fresh and different take on what we should find frightening, making it the perfect book to kick off the season.   


2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

 The best scary spooky horror novels and books to read this Halloween season.  

Everything Shirley Jackson touches turns to terrifying, and her final novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, is no exception. After the unsolved murder of their entire family, sisters Merricat and Constance are ostracized, living in isolation with their aging Uncle Julian. But they may not be as innocent as they appear.

For those who like unreliable narrators – to say the least – and chilling prose, you will find the tale of these two troublesome sisters difficult to forget. 


3. Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano

 The best scary spooky horror novels and books to read this Halloween season.  

If you consider yourself hard to scare, give Diary of a Haunting a try. When Paige and her family move into a new building in Los Angeles, they’re unaware that it was once used as the meeting place of a dangerous cult.

But when a series of inexplicable events begin to unfold around them, will they be able to stop the disturbances before it’s too late? 


4. Grave’s End: A True Ghost Story by Elaine Mercado

 The best scary spooky horror novels and books to read this Halloween season.  

If you’ve decided that families living in haunted houses is the theme you want to follow here, Grave’s End is a must-read. After all, it’s a story about the author’s own experiences living in a haunted house in Brooklyn.

Mercado endured it all: unexplained noises and odors, frightening laughter, and even strange shadow figures on the wall. For those who are looking for a reason to believe – and fear – this true ghost story will change everything for you.


5. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

In another tale of troubled houses and haunted families, White is for Witching, Miranda’s father has recently turned their family home of four generations into a bed and breakfast.

The only problem is, that the house seems to have a mind of its own, and many opinions about who is allowed to stay inside. This outstanding novel is both an ode to all things horror, and also a serious work about family, race, and xenophobia. Put it at the top of your list. 


6. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Who doesn’t love Rebecca? Before the release of the new film adaptation, it’s time to revisit the terrifying world of Manderley, and the ever-presence of the late Rebecca de Winter.

There is something eternally eerie in this story of the unnamed Mrs. de Winter, who cannot seem to escape the shadow of her new husband’s ex-wife. Give it a reread this year.


7. The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle

In the chilling novel The Devil in Silver, a man is sent to a mental hospital in Queens for a crime that he cannot be sure whether or not he committed. There he finds himself face to face with an actual devil: a creature who haunts the mental hospital, terrorizing him and the other patients.

This is a book that takes a close – and scary – look at our relationship to the uncanny, subverting every expectation.


8. Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

In Night of the Mannequins, when a teenager’s prank with an old mannequin goes horribly wrong, nobody knows if the cause is something supernatural, or the work of a psychopath in their midst.

But the result is a night of terror, which you will hurry to read through even as your heart races. This new release is a short book that packs a considerable punch. 


9. Horror Stories by E. Nesbit

Popular children’s author E. Nesbit is also the author of an excellent collection of short, horrifying stories. We think the short story form lends itself well to scary tales, reminding us of when we used to whisper them under the covers at slumber parties.

In this anthology, characters return from the dead, move into haunted houses, and inherit unfortunately evil portraits. Read for a full feast of tiny, terrible tales. 


10. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Ghost Story is set in the small town of Millburn, New York. There, four old friends like to gather to tell each other scary stories. But as they know all too well, the scariest story is of something that they themselves did long ago, and tried to hide from the world.

This is an excellent and unexpected take on the horror genre, as well as a tribute to all the scary stories that came before it.  


11. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

Another classic from the annals, The Witches of Eastwick is absolutely worth reading if you’ve only seen the TV and movie adaptations. Set in a seaside Rhode Island town, three women find themselves with sudden access to supernatural powers.

But of course, what starts out as fun and games then turns a lot more complicated. Funny as well as scary, this cult classic will really set the tone for your holiday.


12. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

And one last classic: it doesn’t get scarier than Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Published in 1898, this is the gothic ghost story to rule them all, about a governess who takes a job looking after two exceedingly unusual children.

This has all the joys of a haunted house tale, with a bonus of terrifying children and supernatural occurrences. It creates so much nail-biting suspense for the reader that you’ll feel uncertain whether you want to keep reading, or put it away forever. 


the best Halloween books for your reading list

Those are our dozen picks for the best books to read to get into the Halloween spirit this year. What’s on your reading list this Halloween?

Abbie Martin Greenbaum

Abbie Martin Greenbaum is a writer, reader, and pop culture connoisseur, who loves storytelling, coffee, and dessert. Her work has also appeared in Playbill.