The year’s scariest holiday is right around the corner. If you’re looking for a book to get you in the Halloween spirit, allow us to offer up a few off-the-beaten-path ideas from the BookPage Archives.
- Joe Hill’s Horns got a lot of acclaim when it was published earlier this year, but his debut novel about a musician who buys a ghost on eBay, Heart-Shaped Box, still ranks among my creepiest reads. Freak-ometer rating: 7
- Literary pastiches starring vampires, sea monsters or the undead have been all the rage for, well, too long now—but the wholly original Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith, a prequel to the bestseller Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, stands out from the pack. A good way for those with a low fear threshold to celebrate the spooky season. Freak-ometer rating: 2
- John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer plays on the tropes of Gothic and Victorian novels to tell the story of an Australian who travels to England to uncover the secrets of his mother’s past—and meet a pen pal with secrets of her own. Freak-ometer rating: 8, if psychological suspense is your drug of choice
- Mo Hayder uses the atrocities at Nanking to add an extra dose of horror to The Devil of Nanking. Her heroine, Grey, is obsessed with recovering a tape from those dark days of Japanese history, but her research will lead her into the face of evil. Truly disturbing and not for the weak of heart. Freak-ometer rating: 9
- As soon as you crack the cover of a Scott Smith novel, you just know that nothing good is going to happen to his characters no matter what is actually taking place on the page (how, exactly, a Mexican vacation scene inspires deep foreboding must be one of the tricks of the trade). The Ruins is no exception; I spent much of my time reading this book through the space between my fingers. When was the last time you felt that way while reading a book? Freak-ometer rating: 10
What’s your favorite Halloween read?