No celebration of All Hallows’ Eve is complete without a spooky tale to accompany it. Although the classics of the genre are not to be missed—The House of the Seven Gables, The Turn of the Screw, Wuthering Heights, Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, and, of course, Dracula and Frankenstein—we have some suggestions from further afield that it would be monstrous of you to miss. Whatever your predilections, these 13 unlucky titles are sure to give you palpitations.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Before big-budget television claimed the carnival, there was Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, ushering Halloween in a week early to the unsuspecting denizens of Green Town, Illinois.
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
This cult classic bills itself as a found object, a narrative-within-a-narrative complete with a hypnotizing monograph, a supernatural house that’s bigger on the inside, and a dark labyrinth of footnotes.
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
What’s better than a haunted house? For literature lovers, it’s a haunted bookshop in the middle of a hostile town. This tragicomic gem, by repeat Booker nominee Penelope Fitzgerald, is about small-town humanity (and one poltergeist), in all its humor and horror.
The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro’s massive novel was reviled by critics, but it is a masterpiece (and strangely moving), with a Middle European setting as disorienting as your worst dream; the sense of unease one has while reading the book can make for an unsettling experience.
The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
It’s difficult to choose just one book from this author’s terrifying oeuvre, so we’re choosing two. For pure terror, The Haunting of Hill House is the best ghost story of the 20th century: a tale of the horrors inflicted on four people trying to unravel a house’s secrets. But the sinister family at the heart of The Castle is just as likely to crawl under your skin.
Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist.
In this classic German novella, the title character, a Brandenburg horse dealer of good character and reputation, is unjustly treated by a country squire. Kohlhaas’s need for justice devolves into an unquenchable thirst for retribution, turning him into a vicious killer who is himself ultimately destroyed. E. L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime was partially based on Kleist’s work, which itself has its basis in the true story of a 16th-century merchant.
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
These unnerving stories shift restlessly among fantasy, horror, and realism, and in the process upend what you thought you knew about the world. You’ll never look at stone rabbits the same way again.
At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft
Although all of Lovecraft’s books would be appropriate Halloween reading, this novella gives us particular chills in its depictions of a bloody Antarctic expedition, homicidal aliens, and giant penguins.
A Name for Evil by Andrew Lytle
A psychologically penetrating Jamesian ghost story set in the South, about a young couple and an old house, from one of the leaders of the Agrarian movement.
Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson
It may not be conventionally spooky, but this brilliant experimental novel about the last woman on Earth is permeated by a sense of unease, disorientation, and loneliness—making for terrifying reading.
The Revenant by Michael Punke
A blood-soaked tale of revenge, circa 1823, in which a trapper hunts down the men who left him for dead after he was mauled by a grizzly bear on the American frontier.
The Terror by Dan Simmons
In the 1840s, an expedition to the Arctic goes horribly wrong. With their ships stuck in the ice, the voyagers fall victim to madness, mutiny, and cannibalism—and the vicious polar monster hunting them down. If there’s one thing you’ll learn from this tale, it’s never to set sail on a ship named the Terror.
Not scared yet? Check out Michael Dirda’s attempt to out-spook us with a list of thirteen tales.