’Tis the season for the spookiest books around! Thanks to a few of our beloved horror, thriller, and literary fiction authors, we’ve got a spine-tingling lineup for the dark, atmospheric, autumnal nights ahead. You’ll find everything from short novellas to haunting classics on this list. So grab your fuzzy socks and hot cocoa—or whatever it takes to stave off the chill of ghost stories—and consider yourself booked for Halloween.
Quan Barry recommends The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
I recently read Arthur Machen’s 1894 horror novella The Great God Pan. Talk about a classic! I read it all in one sitting and managed to finish before sunset, as any talk of the devil gives me the heebie-jeebies. True, it jumps around a bit narratively, and at times it’s hard to keep all the upper-class men of London straight, but it creeped me out for a solid week afterward. Three thumbs up!
Lara Prescott recommends The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
I first read Doris Lessing’s classic gothic horror novel three Halloweens ago, and it’s haunted me ever since. In this terrifying tale, Harriet and David Lovatt’s idyllic life is shattered with the arrival of their fifth son Ben—a goblin-like baby who may not be fully human. Readers take caution: this novel will make you question what you would do in the Lovatt’s situation, and the answer may frighten you.
In Harrison’s The Return, four best friends from college reunite for a girls’ weekend at a remote hotel in the Catskills, only to realize that one among them is no longer . . .quite right. To say more would be a spoiler, but this truly creepy page-turner is also a moving, bracing meditation on the complicated nature of long-term friendships. If you want your horror to move you and keep you up at night, look no further. (And, as an added bonus—the book’s out in paperback as of early October.)
Langan is one of the best literary horror writers alive today, which makes his new, wide-ranging collection of short stories a cause for celebration. If you like your horror simultaneously well-written and deeply creepy (or, to paraphrase Stephen Graham Jones in the book’s introduction, “infectious”), this is the book for you. Although I preordered the book, I’ve been saving it for October, as a Halloween treat.
Shaun Hamill is the author of A Cosmology of Monsters
Erin Morgenstern recommends The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
I return to The Bloody Chamber again and again, I can hear it whispering to me when I’ve left it unread for too long. These are my favorite fairy tales, beautiful and macabre, filled with locked doors and forbidden corridors, inhabited by tigers and wolves and less easily identifiable beasts. The stories here may seem familiar but their fur is thicker and their teeth are sharper.
The Haunting of Hill House is the gold standard for ghost stories. Things don’t go bump in the night in the world’s scariest house: they bang and crash, and you are never quite sure whose hand you are holding . . .in the dark.
Pure and simple, there is no scarier doll and no scarier basement than what Searles has created in this fine novel. After I read it, I wouldn’t venture into my own basement at night for months.