If you saw my TBR for this month, you know I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to anything scary, whether its books or movies. So, coming up with a list of spooky books to recommend was a challenge, but something I always wanted to do. Some of these may be more “spoopy” than “spooky,” but they’re all great reads nonetheless. If nothing else, they all have excellent dark and creepy atmospheres, perfect for a fall read. There’s a mix of books as well, so there’s something for every reader!
Without further ado, let’s get to the recommendations! (I’ve listed them from least spooky to most, in my personal judgment of course, so you’ll know what kind of vibe you’re getting right off the bat!)
The Accident Season: Moïra Fowley-Doyle
When I think of fall, I think of this book. It’s been a while since I read this (and it’s probably time for a reread). But Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season has the exact mix of dark, haunting atmosphere and ambiguous plot that makes a perfect fall read. If you’re looking for a book to pick up on those cloudy, rainy fall days, this is on the top of my list.
The Accident Season follows Cara who’s family is cursed. Every October, she and her family become accident prone: whether it be cuts and bruises or something even worse. This year, Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, all think it’s going to be a bad one, and they’re not entirely sure why. This’ll be the season that Cara learns that accidents aren’t the only thing that can leave scars, but secrets can too.
Grimoire Noir: Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch
I read this a couple of years ago for a spooky read-a-thon, and it was just the perfect graphic novel for the time! The art is absolutely gorgeous, and the plot is equal parts mystery and paranormal that’s perfect for a light, Halloween-y read. IF you’re looking for a quick read, and one that’s not too spooky (think along the lines of, like, a Disney Channel Original Movie or something they would show on Freeform for 31 Days of Halloween), then Grimoire Noir is the graphic novel for you.
Set in the town of Blackwell where all the girls are witches, Grimoire Noir follows fifteen year-old Bucky Orson as he tries to investigate the kidnapping of his little sister.
The Fell of Dark: Caleb Roehrig
Talk about a book that surprised me! I had no real expectations going into this one when I picked it up initially, and it’s now one of my favorite vampire books I’ve read. It’s so campy in the best possible way, and I couldn’t help but root for Auggie and the other characters in this book. The Fell of Dark isn’t necessarily a Halloween book (I mean, I read it in July), but if you’re looking for a book with paranormal elements that’s not too spooky, I would go with The Fell of Dark every day of the year. (Also, the queer rep in this book is prime: the main character is gay, his love interests are gay and pansexual, and his best friend is a lesbian with a girlfriend.)
August hates his town, Fulton Heights, mostly because it’s a nexus of mystical energy fields (basically, it’s a beacon for supernatural drama 24/7). And Auggie is thrown right into the middle of that drama when a hot vampire boy arrives to town with a warning about oncoming doom, and somehow, Auggie’s the only one who can stop it.
Sadie: Courtney Summers
Now, we’re starting to get into the creepier books on this list.
I don’t read many just mystery/thriller books because I tend to not enjoy them, but I made the exception for Sadie after I heard all of the glowing reviews for this book, and I’m so glad I did. This book kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I really connected to Sadie as a character and admired her tenacity. And then the ending … I don’t want to talk about it, okay. (Also, if you’re looking for an audiobook, this one is incredible. And truly makes it feel like a true crime podcast.) If you’re still not really looking for something spooky, but will give you those dark, thrilling feelings that crop up every October, Sadie is for you.
Sadie has basically raised her little sister Mattie in their small town as best as she could considering their circumstances. But when Mattie is found dead and the police investigation comes up empty, Sadie’s whole world is thrown upside down and she’s determined to find answers. Meanwhile, radio personality West McCray is working on a segment about small towns in America and hears Sadie’s story in a gas station. Intrigued and obsessed, West starts his own podcast about Sadie and her journey, hoping that he can find her before it’s too late.
Nightbooks: J.A. White
(Okay, I know this is a middle grade book but hear me out first, okay?)
When I first picked this up last year, I thought I was picking up a spooky kids book, nothing too extreme. Boy, was I wrong. Now, yes this is still a book for kids and very clearly so, however it was just spooky enough that I couldn’t read it at night because it was giving me bad dreams. If you liked Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark? as a kid, you’ll probably love this book.
A modern retelling of Scheherazade mixed with Hansel and Gretel, Nightbooks follows Alex who is imprisoned by a witch after sneaking out of his apartment one night. In order to keep the witch Natacha happy, and Nick safe, is to tell her a new scary story every night. Alex has loved and has written scary stories all his life, and he knows they don’t have happy endings. But now that he’s in one, he’s determined to change the narrative.
His Hideous Heart: Dahlia Adler [editor]
What author better encapsulates the dark and spooky vibes than Edgar Allan Poe? There are very few, that’s for sure. I’ve loved most of Poe’s work ever since I first read “The Raven” back in high school, so when I first heard about the His Hideous Heart anthology a few years ago, I knew I had to read it. Now, like with any anthology, I loved some stories and disliked others, but overall this anthology is incredible and full of interesting and creative twists on Poe’s most famous works. I found some new authors that I knew I had to read more from (Caleb Roehrig’s short story “The Glittering Death” based off of “The Pit and the Pendulum” is the reason why I picked up The Fell of Dark, for example) and some stories from authors I already love. Plus, the anthology also includes the thirteen original works so you can read the original source material as well!
(If you want my full thoughts on each of the stories, check out my review!)
Coraline: Neil Gaiman
I feel like it’s simply universally acknowledged that Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is the creepiest book, even if it was mainly written for children. Honestly, I blame this book for my aversion for anything scary because it scared the pants off of me when I read it in fourth or fifth grade. I just remember reading it over summer vacation and disliking almost every minute of it because of how freaked out I was. Ever since, I’ve been hesitant to reread it, which, I think, marks a good spooky book. (Plus, the movie adaptation is equally as creepy.)
The day after she and her family move to a new flat, Coraline goes exploring. She finds fourteen doors, but only thirteen are unlocked. Until, one day, the fourteenth door is opened and behind it, Coraline finds a passage to another flat just like her own. In the beginning, the flat behind the fourteenth door is better than anything Coraline could have imagined. But in this flat, there’s another mother and another father, and they want to keep Coraline for themselves.
When No One Is Watching: Alyssa Cole
After hearing positive review after positive review of When No One is Watching, I just had to pick it up. It was such a compulsive and thrilling read, that I read it all in one night! Some may say this isn’t your “typical” thriller, but I think this was actually more thrilling and scary than any of the other “typical thrillers” that I’ve read or watched on TV. The scariest parts of this book were as scary as they were because they could actually happen in real life, too. I mean, the Uber scene in this was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever read. Just saying. All in all, When No One is Watching was one of the most underrated thrillers of last year, and deserves much more hype than it got.
Sydney Green loves her Brooklyn neighborhood, but she sees it changing right before her eyes and not in the best ways. Condos are springing up everywhere, and it seems like her neighbors that she’s known her whole life are just disappearing left and right. In order to hold onto her community, she decides to start a walking tour. But as she and her unlikely assistant (and new neighbor) Theo start to dive into the neighborhood’s history, the line between conspiracy and coincidence start to blur. And the gentrification of the neighborhood may be more deadly than either Sydney or Theo could ever thought.
The Year of the Witching (Bethel: 1): Alexis Henderson
Honestly, The Year of the Witching may be my favorite book of the year – it’s definitely in the top five, at the very least. Supernatural horror just may be my jam. With a combination of feminist themes, some supernatural horror elements, and cultish religion, The Year of the Witching has every hallmark of what I think of as a perfect Halloween read. If you read only one thing from this list and have don’t mind a creep factor, read this one.
Surrounding the lands of Bethel is the Darkwood: a forbidden wood where the first prophet of the land chased and killed four powerful witches. Born from two people of different races, Immanuelle has always been an outcast and her very existence is blasphemous, but she does what she can to follow Holy Protocol, follow the Father, and stay out of trouble. But when the spirits of the four witches in the wood gifts Immanuelle the journal of her dead mother and learns that she once looked for sanctuary in the Darkwood, Immanuelle is set on a path that leads to her uncovering truths about her community and the darkness that lurks beneath.