Though it’s still almost 100 degrees while I write this, we are officially in spooky season. September has hit and with it comes the promise of ghosts, ghouls, and warm spiced cider. Basically all the loveliest things fall has to offer. To help you make the most of this delightful time I’ve curated a list of 15 brilliant books to help you embrace Halloween. From final destination-inspired folk horror to witchy romance there are plenty of new stories for every type of reader. So wrap up warm—or get your fan running—and prepare ready to get spooky with these Halloween book recommendations.
Taking on a legendary horror novel like Carrie is no easy feat but in The Weight of Blood, Tiffany D. Jackson does just that and makes it look effortless. This contemporary YA reimagining centers Madison Washington, a young biracial woman in Georgia. As her high school embarks on its first integrated prom the star quarterback asks Madison to the dance. She’s always been an outcast but prom offers a chance to be “normal.”
However, as anyone who has read Carrie knows, things aren’t what they seem. Madison has a secret too and it’s a powerful one.
Folk horror is one of our favorite genres here at Nerdist. And there have been some brilliant new additions and explorations of the genre in recent years. A new anthology featuring a ton of brilliant authors looks to add to that this fall. Collecting tales from Erica Waters, Chloe Gong, Tori Bovalino, Hannah Whitten, Allison Saft, and more, this book takes on local myths, urban legends, and classical folklore bringing them to life in terrifying ways. A perfect autumn read that will deliver a story for every kind of spooky season mood.
Slasher fans rejoice! Danielle Valentine has delivered a Scream level meta-homage horror that delivers wild final girl fan service. When a man stabs Alice’s sister Claire during a Halloween party, Alice’s life falls apart. She spent years studying horror to stay safe and yet she let her sister go into a corn maze alone. But just as Alice is about to testify against the man who killed her sister she’s attacked by a Sidney Prescott look-alike who throws her back in time to the night Claire was killed. Alice has until midnight to find out the truth about what happened and save her sister in this wonderfully twisted thriller.
Looking for something more romantically inclined but with a spooky gothic edge? Then look no further than Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match. This charming spin on the classic Mary Shelley yarn sees the titular inventor become inspired by her more famous brother’s experiments to create a man all her own. Angelika’s delightfully chaotic choice sparks the events of the book. It leads her on a monstrous romance featuring plenty of candles, shadows, and a mystery to be solved.
Disney has been doing a delightful job of recontextualizing some of their most famous films recently. And their newest title takes on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow! Kat Van Tassel is sick of the legend that defines her family. But when her mother gifts her her namesake’s diary on a very special anniversary, Kat is suddenly dragged into the very past she’s desperate to ignore. Then, when a delightful new girl arrives to town, Kat suddenly has to reimagine her life, her history, and her love life while trying to solve a 200-hundred-year-old mystery to save the place she loves.
We’ve been getting a lot of great tropical horror recently and The Depths is another delightfully terrifying addition. When Addie’s mother drags her along to her secluded island honeymoon Addie couldn’t be less enthused. Eulalie Island seems like a paradise but Addie is lonely and tired. That is until she meets a mysterious boy who tells her the “island loves you” and suddenly Eulalie Island opens itself up to her. But behind the beautiful foliage and sandy beaches lie dark secrets connected to the deaths of two girls.
If you can’t wait until Christmas but want to embrace the inherent spookiness of the season, make sure to add this to your to-read list. Lucky Girl, How I Became a Horror Writer: A Krampus Story takes place over the festive season as a lonely young writer, Ro, hopes to find companionship. After bumping into some strangers in a diner she organizes an impromptu dinner party which quickly becomes a stage from shared ghost stories. But stories have a certain power and at Christmas the veil between worlds is thinner than ever…
This startling neo-Western blends the boundaries of horror, magical realism, and mystery. Solitario Cisneros’ life has been lost to tragedy. But when a savage series of killings begin to ravage his quiet life he has to reluctantly embrace the living once again. Finding unexpected inspiration and support from Onawa, a gifted and enchanting Apache-Mexican seer, the pair head into the desert. This genre-defying literary thriller delves deep into the dark past of the US Mexico border shining a light on the injustice, suffering, and isolation it’s built on.
Expanding the world of her charming witchy romance The Ex Hex, Erin Sterling returns to Graves Glen. It’s here we first met the founding Penhallows and Gwyn Jones. Cousin to the first book’s leading lady Vivi, Gwyn became a firm fan favorite and is now getting entangled with a new handsome Penhallow of her own. This time it’s Wells, the dutiful Penhallow son who has come home to set up shop in Graves Glen. But when a new band of witches arrives in town he’ll have to team up with Gwen. Don’t be surprised if some magical sparks fly.
If you know us here at Nerdist, then you know we love Shadow and Bone. Leigh Bardugo’s brilliant fantasy series has been delighting us for a decade and now she’s bringing the Darkling to comics. Adapting her prequel Demon in the Wood with artist Dani Pendergast this is an absolutely vital addition to the Shadow and Bone world and hopefully the first of many comic book stories set in the Grishaverse. Centering on the Darkling when he was just a boy, this tragic and beautiful story adds layers to the villain we know and the scared child he once was.
Final Destination meets The Wicker Man is this utterly enthralling folk horror story. Lute is the kind of book you’ll read in a single sitting. Lute takes its name from the small island where it’s set. Nina Treadway thought that The Day was nothing but a silly tradition when she first moved from Florida. Of course someone would have noticed if seven people died every seven years on the exact same day. But Nina is wrong. The Day is very real. Affecting, unexpected, and both terrifying and joyfu,l Lute is like nothing else you’ll read this year.
As a spooky season treat, Jenn Marie Thorne shared this exclusive insight into the story with Nerdist. “The origin of Lute is a mystery to even me. Sometimes my ideas come from news stories or events in my life, but in this case, the set-up for Lute simply popped into my head right before I fell asleep one night. Once I’d outlined the “what if,” though, bigger questions arose, ones that were definitely tied into what I was experiencing at the time, particularly as an American living in England, looking out at the shifting political landscape around me. I wanted to look at the personal choices we make when faced with fear—do we protect ourselves or embrace community? Often folk horror is about the perils of tradition, of the community over the individual. With Lute, I wanted to examine that more critically and turn it on its head.”
There’s plenty of family-based horror on our list this spooky season and we’re eternally grateful. Excavating the horrors of home is fertile ground for genre and Malice House adds depth and darkness to a monstrously good tale. Haven Marbury wants nothing more than to be an artist, but the death of her father and a duty to clear out his rambling seaside home must be dealt with first. Uncovering a lost—and rather terrifying—manuscript by her Pulitzer-winning patriarch seems like the opportunity she needs but when the monsters from the pages begin to appear in her very real world, suddenly she has to rewrite everything she knows about herself and her life.
Catriona Ward has firmly established herself as one of the best horror authors of our age with her novels Last House on Needless Street and Sundial. Little Eve focuses on another unusual family, this time living in an isolated area of Scotland during the early 1900s. This gothic novel already won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and promises to be a delightfully gothic chiller about family, home, and the end of the world.
Another perfectly timed rerelease is Andrea Hairston’s stunning historical fantasy Will Do Magic For Small Change. This epic family saga follows Cinnamon Jones, the granddaughter of famed performers and conjurers, Redwood and Wildfire. You may have read their tale in Hairston’s award-winning 2011 novel. If not, no worries as this is a wonderful novel in its own right and a great jumping on point. When Cinnamon is given a book about a Dahomean warrior woman and an interdimensional alien at the 1893 World’s Fair, she’s drawn into a centuries old mystery that she dedicates herself to solving alongside her theater troupe in this utterly unique tale.
It wouldn’t be Halloween without Junji Ito and Viz has a gorgeous new edition of one of his most infamous stories. Four strangers meet on a strange website known as Black Paradox: a nurse, Maruso; Taburo, a man with a strange obsession; an engineer, Pit-tan who has created something terrible; and Baracchi, a woman devastated by a birthmark on her face. There, they plan to end their lives. But their chance encounter leads them to an unexpected fate. Ito is a master for a reason and this lengthy tale showcases exactly why he’s as beloved as he is.