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5 Best Horror Books for Halloween

Updated on October 9, 2015
JenPaxton profile image

Coffee Goddess by day, renegade writer by night. Jen lives in the Midwest and holds a BA in Creative Writing. She blogs in her spare time.

What Makes Great Horror?

Is it the psychological? Is it the mythology behind the tale? Is it the gore factor?

It doesn't matter - these books have it all.

While I receive no compensation for endorsing these books, I am a lover of all things Halloween, and these books do the trick. They get me in the perfect mood for the creepiest time of the year.

So look no further than these tales of terror for your next October read.

Ghostly

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Ghostly - Audrey Niffenegger

While technically not a novel, this collection of short stories comes from masters around the English-speaking world. Audrey Niffenegger, one of my favorite writers solely on the merits of her novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, has compiled some of the most chill-inducing short stories I've ever read into one volume.

Niffenegger not only introduces this novel but contributes with her own story of terror, and it includes works by Edgar Allen Poe, Neil Gaiman, H. H. Munro, Ray Bradbury, and more. It gives a comprehensive look over several centuries of ghost stories, and when you get right down to it, it's really just a lot of fun.

From the macabre to the humorous, Ghostly is a great way to start your Halloween reading.

The Haunting

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The Haunting - Shirley Jackson

Considered one of the most quintessential horror stories in existence, The Haunting, sometimes known as The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, is a thrill ride on page. I first read Jackson's arguably most-famous book back in high school, and it left a lasting impression, and ruined the genre of horror for me for quite a while - in the best possible way. I can't watch horror movies because none of them compare to the way I felt reading this book.

It's gritty but sophisticated, psychological and macabre, and once you start you just can't put it down out of sheer fear of what will happen to the characters while you're not around. Jackson truly defined psychological horror with this novel of gothic leanings.

Nell, Eleanor, and her newfound friends visit this creepy old mansion, but what they find is more terrifying than anything they had ever been prepared for. Jackson twists the plot around in mysterious and wonderful directions, and brings us a supernatural roller coaster that we can curl up with in bed ... just don't turn the lights off after you're done reading it, you'll have nightmares.

How Well do You Know Poe?

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Edgar Allen Poe: Complete Tales and Poems

What is horror without Poe?

Edgar Allen Poe led a troubled life, a life full of death, disease, disappointment, addiction, and goodness knows what else. He died with just as much mystery as the stories he wrote, being found delirious on a park bench and succumbing to whatever madness took him on October the 7th, 1894. Nobody is quite sure what killed him, even to this day.

But because of this potent mix of troubled times coupled with the stunning period of Gothic art and literature, he, in his short life, created some of the most terrifying, mystical, psychological, and horrific fiction known to mankind, defining Gothic poetry and short stories. He brought to life the concept of macabre as very few could do before him, and I dare to say that he did it better than anyone else ever has.

While most known for his poem The Raven, Poe also wrote some of the most terrifying tales known to mankind, stories that have inspired everything scary since then.

Pretty much any collection of Edgar's works is sure to make your skin crawl, your mind race, and deny you sleep if you have any imagination at all.

What's Your Favorite Scary Story?

Do You Read Horror? What's your favorite scary story or tale of terror?

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The Strain

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The Strain - Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

I won't ruin this one for you. Suffice it to say, it's the first of many books in this series by award-winning director and writer Guillermo Del Toro.

What are the critics saying about it? That he's redefined the vampire sub-genre of horror, elevated Gothic horror, and to be honest. ... I agree. I haven't seen the TV show based off of this, but I'm sure it's hair-raising as well.

I can tell you that Del Toro brings his cinematic style and imagination to the page in a way that makes every scene jump out at you like you're watching a movie. The creepy pieces slowly come together to form a more terrifying whole, and it's a real treat for your imagination as he's able to write in such a way that you feel like you're watching it all unfold on a screen, bringing you the most intimate form of terror previously only available to movies on the big screen. I was sucked right in...pardon the pun.

The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

Admittedly, I haven't finished this one yet, but it's so far shaped up to be quite entertaining. This goes beyond a retelling of a famous myth and dips into history - the history of the infamous Vlad the Impaler, and a young historian's search for the truth behind his myth ... and I hope she finds more than she bargains for.

Partly told from a first-person narrative and partly from journal entries she discovers along her way, this novel is full of suspense, history, and thrills.

What's on the back of the book? Tons of praises for how Kostova rejuvinates Bram Stoker's old tale of horror and mystery, the original story that brought the vampire to life for billions of people.

I can't wait to see where the journey takes me from here...

Bonus Tale of Terror

Now, I will admit, I haven't read this one. However, I work in a bookstore, and several of my co-workers have, and I just have to give it an honorable mention as I have it on my "to-read" list.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes is a terrifying, gut-wrenching thriller that had even my horror-loving co-workers in shock. Even Stephen King called it "Scary as hell!"

I can't wait to read it and figure out what all of the fuss is about, but that will have to wait until I'm done with The Historian.

Happy Hauntings

So whether you're just getting into the horror genre, looking for a quick read, or looking for something to scare the daylights out of yourself with, there's something here for everyone.

Plug in your nightlight and enjoy these tales of terror!

Be sure to comment below about your favorite scary stories, and if you have any you'd recommend beyond this list, please feel free to let me know!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

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