Halloween is tomorrow. In an attempt to forget that I still do not have my costume ready (might have to take our winning, and brilliant, “Charlotte’s Web” idea!), I’m posting some of my favorite spooky reading selections.
Mo Hayder’s The Devil of Nanking is more about the horrors that people do to one another rather than anything supernatural—but that just makes it all the more terrifying. The story of a troubled British woman who goes to Japan in pursuit of a rare film clip from the 1937 Nanking massacre finds herself on the wrong side of the Japanese yazuka. In his review, Bruce Tierney warned readers that “this is a disturbing book . . . that resonates long after the last page has been turned” and we couldn’t agree more.
If it’s a ghost story you’re looking for, look no further than Australian writer John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer. Unsettling, sleep-with-the-lights-on suspense is combined with a nod to the Victorian ghost story as a young Australian man goes to England to investigate his mother’s mysterious past. I reviewed this book for BookPage back in 2004 and said it was “more than a literary thriller,” if you read it, let me know if you agree!
It was hard to choose one Stephen King book, but for me, Skeleton Crew is the most nightmare-inducing of his works. Possibly because of the terrifying cannibalism story, possibly because of the creepy monkey on the cover, drawn from one of the collection’s most frightening tales, possibly because I read it first at the tender age of 12 and couldn’t go to sleep while the book was in the room with me…I could go on, but read it yourself and you’ll find plenty of reasons to shiver (it also contains the novella “The Mist”).
Scott Smith’s The Ruins is another spooky Halloween selection. Smith is a master at creating an atmosphere of dread—you just know nothing good is going to happen to the characters, but you can’t stop reading. As he told us in an interview about the book, “When it came to choices, I would always opt to push it further, because I have an instinct that if I’m uncomfortable with it, I should do it.”
But books that keep you up at night don’t have to be thrillers—our editor, Lynn Green, says when she first read the galleys of The Lovely Bones, the description of Susie’s murder was so chilling she had second thoughts about assigning it for review . . . though we did end up covering it.
Do you have a favorite Halloween read? Tell us in the comments. And don’t forget to check out our haunting Halloween selections on BookPage.com.