It’s the month of Halloween. witches are dusting off their broomsticks and skeletons are preparing to burst from the ground. To help you get in the mood, we’ve compiled a list of 10 spooky books for you to read. Try not to have nightmares!
Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
Originally published in 1967, Rosemary’s Baby is often credited with igniting the horror boom of the 60’s and was a huge hit upon its release. It may be an oldie, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have you keeping the lights on this Halloween.
After moving into an old apartment in New York, Rosemary and her husband are quickly greeted by elderly eccentric neighbours and often hear strange noises coming from the flats next door. Rosemary is wary of the strangers, but her husband becomes increasingly familiar with them. After falling pregnant, Rosemary’s suspicions worsen but nobody seems to listen to her fears. We won’t spoil the ending for you but this book hasn’t received critical acclaim for nothing. You’ll be suspicious of your neighbours for weeks after finishing this horror classic.
The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty
You’ve probably at least heard of the film The Exorcist, but did you know it’s actually an adaptation of a novel released in 1971 by William Peter Blatty? Blatty first got the idea for the book when, as a student, he learned about a supposed real life case of demonic possession which occurred in 1949.
Like the film, the novel tells the story of a young girl named Regan who falls ill as increasingly strange things start to occur in the family’s home. After doctors fail to help Regan, her parents turn to a priest named Damien Karras for help. After seeing the condition of Regan, he decides to perform an exorcism upon the demon that has possessed the young girl. Both the book and the film are classics in their own rights and should be on the to read/watch list of any true horror fans. Why not read the book then watch the film afterwards, if you’ve got the nerve?
Dracula – Bram Stoker
Another classic that many readers will have on their “To Read” list. Why not enter in the spirit (no pun intended) of Halloween and fast track this novel? Originally written in 1897 by the Irish author Bram Stoker, Dracula introduced the world to the vampire who would go on to become one of the most iconic monsters of all time.
Forget Edward Cullen, Dracula doesn’t sparkle in the sun and he isn’t the sort of guy you’d want to fall in love with. Dracula tells the story of a group of vampire hunters including Van Helsing, Mina Harker, and Jonathan Harker who come together in order to destroy the evil Dracula who has stirred from his castle in Transylvania and is now terrorizing London. Given how famous the novel is now, you might be surprised to learn that it wasn’t an instant success. It wasn’t until Hollywood adapted the book in 1931 that it became a classic. Some readers were ahead of it’s time, including Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Author Conan Doyle, who wrote to Stoker to tell him how much he enjoyed the novel. Get your garlic and crucifix ready and start reading.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Most of the books on this list deal with supernatural terrors, but The Handmaid’s Tale deals with horrors that are far closer to home. Set in the near-future, The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in a United States that is now governed by a totalitarian religious theocracy where women have become second class citizens.
The Handmaid’s Tale’s plot is made up of several connected stories which guide the reader through the dystopian nightmare and offer different points of view from various characters. Like 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale is terrifying because it relies not on supernatural forces, but uses darker side of humanity as its basis for fear.
The Road- Cormac McCarthy
Like The Handmaid’s Tale, McCarthy’s The Road doesn’t need to use supernatural elements to scare the reader silly. The horror here lies in the hearts of humans and the terrible things we’re willing to do in order to survive.
After an unnamed disaster has destroyed almost all life on Earth, a man and his son are heading South in order to find a warmer climate to see out the Winter. What’s left of humanity consists of gangs of marauders who practice cannibalism and delight in torturing and murdering anyone who isn’t them. Even the good guys are forced to go to extreme lengths in order to remain alive and keep one another safe. It begs the question, what would you be willing to do to keep your loved ones safe?
Blindness – Jose Saramago
Blindness tells the story of what happens when the population is stricken by sudden and unexpected blindness. To make matters worse, the sudden loss of vision appears to be contagious and the powers that be work frantically to stop the spread of the infection and quarantine those afflicted.
The book follows the victims as they struggle to survive in the overcrowded asylum and sees the brutality unfold from the point of view of a woman who is inexplicably immune to the disease. Pretending to be blind so she can care for her husband, she must fight to stop the inmates resorting to savagery in their desperation. Blindness explores how a fast spreading disease could bring down civilization and how it would affect the morality of mankind.
Pet Sematary – Stephen King
No list of scary books would be complete without a Stephen King novel included. King is a true master of horror and many of his books, from The Shining to It, are worthy of a spot on our list. This year we’ve opted for his 1983 novel Pet Sematary. King initially shelved Pet Sematary because he believed it to be too dark. You know it’s going to be intense when even Stephen King thinks it’s too much.
Pet Sematary tells the story of a young family who move to a large house in a quiet town in Maine. Things quickly start to go wrong for the family and all the while an ominous pet cemetery (misspelled “sematary”) lies nearby. As things begin to get stranger and stranger, more is revealed about the sematary and the sinister powers it holds.
The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
First published in 1988, The Silence of the Lambs introduced the world to the man who would become one of the most iconic horror icons of all time. He may not have any supernatural powers but the fact he, you know, enjoys eating people makes him every bit as terrifying as ghosts and demons, probably more so.
You may well have seen the excellent film adaptation of the book but, like The Exorcist, you should absolutely check out the novel. Whilst investigating a serial killer known as “Buffalo Bill” a young FBI agent named Clarice looks for help from the brilliant but deadly Hannibal Lecter, who is currently imprisoned. He may be incarcerated, but ultimately Lector is the one pulling the strings during his conversations with Clarice.
The Masque of the Red Death – Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe’s life was haunted by tragedy and it’s hardly surprising his works are steeped in horror and the macabre. Poe has many famous works but the most creepy of all is arguably The Masque of the Red Death. The story follows a party of nobles who have locked themselves in quarantine in order to avoid a gruesome disease that is plaguing the land. A masquerade ball is held to entertain the nobles but one of the guests is not what he seems.
What makes the story so chilling is the fact that it is inspired by real tragedies from Poe’s life. The fictional disease, known as “The Red Death” causes pains, dizziness, and severe bleeding at the pores. Poe’s wife was suffering from tuberculosis as Poe wrote the story and he’d already lost his mother, brother, and foster mother to the illness. It has been speculated that, like the characters in the book, Poe was trying to ignore a disease that was wrecking havoc on his world. Masque of the Red Death is creepy in its own right, but far more haunting when you consider its real life inspiration.
Nod – Adrian Barnes
Reading these books might give you nightmares but, in Adrian Barnes’ Nod, no one is having nightmares because no one can get to sleep. Nod tells the story of what happens when the majority of the population finds that they can no longer reach the land of nod. We’ve seen fictional apocalypses come in all sorts of forms, from zombies to deadly viruses, but they all seem to pale in comparison to a world that’s slowly losing its mind from sleep deprivation.
Things aren’t much better for the few who still can sleep as they watch as their loved ones become deranged. Nod tells the story of humanity’s decline not from an outside force but simply because we’ve lost the ability that allows us to function sanely. This book will be all too identifiable to those who suffer from insomnia and will have readers hoping they get off to sleep quickly that night.