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Every fall, I look forward to big sweaters, pumpkin spice everything, and a good book to get me in the Halloween mood. It’s the perfect time of year to read spooky thrillers, spine-tingling horror stories, or witchy novels in between pumpkin carving and apple picking.
To gather these recommendations, I searched for feel-good fall reads, books with classic Halloween characters, and scary stories that would haunt any reader. Whether you’re ready for a cozy October romance or a terrifying Stephen King story to keep you up at night, here are 21 of the best books to grab this Halloween.
“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.99
“Mexican Gothic” is a historical horror story about Noemí Taboada, who receives a strange letter from her cousin begging for someone to save her. Unsure of the terrors that await her in the Mexican countryside, Noemí begins to uncover the secrets of blood and violence in a mysterious house that may never let her leave.
“My Heart is a Chainsaw” by Stephen Graham Jones, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.29
In “My Heart is a Chainsaw,” Jade Daniels is a half-Indian teen who escapes from her life by watching horror movies. When something horrible begins to unfold in her town, Jade must use her horror film knowledge to predict how the plot will unfold, uncovering her own traumatic past in the process.
“Pumpkinheads” by Rainbow Rowell, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $11
For those who love Halloween but not the horror, “Pumpkinheads” is a cherished graphic novel about two best friends who work together every fall at a pumpkin patch. While they usually say goodbye every Halloween, they decide to make their last shift together an exciting and memorable adventure.
“Fledgling” by Octavia E. Butler, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.19
A masterful blend of horror and fantasy, “Fledgling” is about a young girl with inhuman desires who discovers she’s a genetically modified vampire. A haunting look at vampire mythology, this speculative read is an original vampire story as the girl pieces together her past and the mystery surrounding herself.
“Practical Magic” by Alice Hoffman, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.99
In this fantastical book that later became a classic witchy movie, the Owen family has been blamed for everything that goes wrong in their town for over 200 years. Now, the Owen sisters, Gillian and Sally, are tired of being outsiders and try to leave — but cannot resist the magic that draws them back home.
“Get in Trouble” by Kelly Link, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $15.64
In this short story collection skirting between fantasy and mystery, “I Can See Right Through You” is about a movie star who travels to a Florida swamp where his former love is filming a ghost-hunting reality show. With an unreliable narration and a twisted ending, this short story is more haunting than the reader might initially believe.
“Goth” by Otsuichi, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.79
In this gory and haunting book of interwoven short stories, two teenagers are obsessed with serial killers and their victims. Perfect for any reader obsessed with true crime, this Japanese horror is full of twists and disturbing scenes.
“Her Body and Other Parties: Stories” by Carmen Maria Machado, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.99
This National Book Award finalist is a genre-bending collection of short stories about the violence towards women’s lives and bodies. In “The Resident,” a writer escapes to an artist’s retreat and struggles to unblur the lines between fact and fiction while unraveling her own haunted past.
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” edited by Alvin Schwartz, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $6.78
I remember reading these stories as a teenager and they still haunt me to this day — particularly “High Beams,” where a young woman is driving home when a car behind her shines their high beams and begins to follow her home. Only when she reaches her house and the car pulls in behind her does she discover the sinister plot that was brewing all along.
“Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.30
In this paranormal fantasy romance, Yadriel is determined to prove himself a real sorcerer as his family struggles to accept his gender. In an attempt to summon and free the ghost of his cousin, Yadriel accidentally summons the recently deceased Julian Diaz and must help him find out how he died in exchange for Julian helping him save his cousin.
“Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $9.19
“Ninth House” is a fantastical story overflowing with witchy, magical, and dark Halloween vibes. Alex is a freshman at Yale and the sole survivor of an unsolved multiple-homicide. Offered her seat at Yale by mysterious benefactors in exchange for monitoring Yale’s secret societies, Alex is thrust into an underground world of tombs, haunts, and occult-like practices.
“The Shining” by Stephen King, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.27
Stephen King is a modern horror master and “The Shining” is considered by many to be his best work to date. When Jack begins his new job as an off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, he quickly discovers that his five-year-old son, Danny, can see the frightening haunts within the hotel.
“Home Before Dark” by Riley Sager, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.76
After her father’s death, Maggie Holt inherits the home that her father made famous with his book “House of Horrors”: A nonfiction bestseller chronicling the horrors her family faced when they lived in the home for three weeks before fleeing in the night. In this page-turning novel, Maggie returns to renovate the house and slowly discovers whether or not her father was telling the truth.
“We Have Always Lived in the Castle” by Shirley Jackson, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $14.99
Shirley Jackson is a master of classic gothic horror and “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” is a disturbing reminder of her sinister talents. This short but chilling read is about an 18-year-old girl named Mary Katherine and her sister, Constance, who hasn’t left their home since a terrible tragedy six years ago isolated them from their village.
“The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $2.99
Remembered for her short stories and early feminist activism, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote classic gothic horror with a feminist perspective, the most famous of which was her 1892 story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In this story, a young woman is imprisoned by her husband to “rest” and recover after a “temporary nervous depression” following the birth of her child, with horrors slowly revealing themselves as you read on.
“Ring” by Kōji Suzuki, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $12.89
The original book upon which the 2002 horror movie “The Ring” was based, this Japanese horror story explores a videotape that warns of the viewers’ death unless they perform a certain task. When Asakawa’s niece dies after watching the tape, he is dragged into the mystery and must discover the tape’s secrets before he becomes the next victim.
“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $8.27
In this highly acclaimed and award-winning novel, Nobody Owens (“Bod”) is a normal boy who lives in a graveyard and is being raised by ghosts. “The Graveyard Book” is a spooky story full of adventure as the man who has already killed Bod’s family lurks outside the graveyard.
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $5.47
Frankenstein’s monster has become a Halloween staple, first depicted in this creepy science-fiction/horror classic. The story is about a scientist named Victor who brings life to a creation that he and the villagers find horrifying.
“The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe” by Edgar Allen Poe, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $17
Edgar Allen Poe is known for his haunting writing and “Berenice” is one of the most unsettling stories in his collection. This short story is about a man named Egaeus whose wife, Berenice, begins to slowly deteriorate from a mysterious illness, leaving only her teeth undisturbed. As Egaeus falls into an uncontrollable obsession with her teeth, the story gets progressively creepier.
“Unhallowed Graves” by Nuzo Onoh, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $13.99
In the second story in this horror collection, Oja-ale is a night market run by the dead where everything is for sale, but at a terrifying price. When a skeptical British diplomat stationed in Nigeria encounters a young woman who needs a ride, he must go to the Oja-ale to save himself and his family.
“House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski, available on Amazon and Bookshop, from $19.49
This horror novel has had a cult following for years, passed around the internet before emerging as a published book. It’s a terrifying and mind-blowing read about a young family who moves into a home and discovers it’s bigger on the inside than the outside.
Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected].