As fall descends (or waits to descend on us), Laura and Hannah prepared a list of horror films that at least one of them enjoyed. Some of these are lighter on the horror, but are atmospherically fall. One of us has read each of these books and approve of them for this list. Hannah’s favorite season is fall, so she is looking forward to some cooler nights in Illinois and a shift in her reading from fun summer romps to more deep reading that makes her feel unsettled in some type of way, whether through horror or just more thrilling reads.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein is a classic, and has built itself on the image of Frankenstein to the left. Many people use Frankenstein’s monster as an evil or questioning force in movies (or, in I, Frankenstein, a very weird, hot man). But the book Shelley wrote is not a big, scary green monster terrorizing everyone. It has now even become pretty standard to say “Dr. Frankenstein is the monster” but that’s because it’s true. This is a tragic, haunting story of a scientist’s creation trying to find their place in the world being continually rejected and becoming villainized throughout that experience. The Monster is trying to find companionship and begging his creator to hear him. And in the end, Dr. Frankenstein’s own hubris refuses to see what he’s done. The questions and implications are wonderful for a classic read during spooky season.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Jackson is one of the most well known horror and mystery authors of her time. She is well known for many of her horror tales such as The Haunting of Hill House. While many people know of that (and its companion show), the book that Hannah recommends is her Gothic mystery We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The book starts saying that two sisters are shunned from their town because they believe the eldest sister murdered the rest of the family. What follows is the day to day of the younger sister, the two living in a decrepit castle and trying to exist until a cousin comes to town. Dark, captivating, and amazing. This is a great book to read if you want a few scaries but don’t want a full horror tale.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
This book is haunting in the best sense. It takes Native Indian tales and beliefs and brings them to the forefront. A group of friends who made a decision one day are now being hunted by a spirit, and we follow them as they try to run from it and to find a way to forget their past mistakes. This book is a beautiful and stunning story, and well worth the read for a dark night.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
This book is harrowing on so many levels. This true crime novel is the search for the Golden State Killer. McNamara had a true crime blog for a long time and weaves her own narrative on how she discovered this crime and how she did extensive research. She spoke with the investigators who never gave up and was pivotal to finding the murderer. McNamara is excellent at writing and making you feel the killer and his actions. It’s unnerving to hear about such a prolific killer, and definitely keeps you up at night.
What makes this book so much more beautiful was the fact that McNamara died before it was finished. People who loved her hard to make sure her work was seen by the world.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Laura adores this book. The way the book portrays the past and trauma of Sethe suffers through as a former slave. This comes to a head when she is haunted by Beloved, a ghost from her past. This book is brilliant, simply put. Morrison is able to create a fantastical story that causes readers to reflect on our own histories and how we remain haunted, too. Morrison is one of the most amazing writers, and she writes slim novels where not a word goes to waste. You feel the writing and need it to sit with you, and you will be haunted by the words just as much as the story.
Pet Semartary by Stephen King
This would not be a spooky list without one Stephen King novel! It is also a Laura add because it is too scary for Hannah. But Laura assures us that this book is terrifying and that King does a great job brining the reader into the sadness of the characters and what they are experiencing. King is a master and blending horrific stories that involve humans at there best and worst. He is also one of the best writers and little touches in his novels like misspelling cemetery and inviting you into the story to absorb this very specific characters and this tale.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca may not be considered as scary as other books, but it’s so atmospheric! You can picture yourself in the dark halls at Manderly, the mist by the ocean, the gray skies, and the way that nature seems to have become as twisted as the story and characters. The author’s writing is also so poetic and just pulls you into the novel. And the storyline still gives you some spookiness for the season. The main character’s movements in the world, trying to figure out what is going on and how Manderly is run is intense and questioning.
Monstress volumes 1-6 by Majorie Liu and Sana Takeda
I mean monster is practically in the title! Majorie Liu has created an amazing world full of different factions of peoples and creatures, there is magic, there are gods and goddesses, and a main character who is struggling to discover her place in the world and also to discover more about herself. There’s political intrigue, mystery, action, drama, and adorable cats with multiple tails. The action that takes place in these pages is enough for a fall spooky pick, and we highly recommend for a nice read on a night where you have a nice mug of cider (with our without whiskey or rum). Sana Takeda brings the world to life with some of the most amazing art.