List love: Halloween reading

Tomorrow it is Halloween, and so here is a list of books you might want to pick up and read (or start reading) on that special day.

I posted two Halloween lists last year, one of short stories and one of books. This year there will only be one list, of books and a couple of long short stories. I tried to list all different stories from last year, and this time decided to not only choose obvious stories but ones you perhaps wouldn't at first think of in connection with Halloween. Their subjects suit the Halloween theme without necessarily being classifiable as actual horror stories. It is quite possible to get a chilly frisson of fear and/or revulsion without blood, guts and screaming demons.

  1. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. A non-fiction examination of what happens or can happen to our bodies after we die. It’s actually quite cheery and even funny in places, but the subject is one that makes a lot of people squeamish and since it is all about the physical afterlife it’s perfect for Halloween. Roach also wrote a book about the spiritual afterlife, titled Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, but I haven’t read it and so can’t say if I would recommend it or not.
  2. Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett. Vampire mythology gets turned on its head when classic evil vampires clash with a trio of more-or-less good witches. Many of Pratchett’s books have dark elements and some are very dark indeed. This isn’t even the scariest of the Discworld books, but with its classic Halloween-related theme of vampires and Igors I chose to recommend this one.
  3. Alternatively, if you want to read about evil werewolves, try The Fifth Elephant, also by Pratchett. It and Carpe Jugulum mark the point at which the Discworld series started getting darker.
  4. "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood. This is a very scary and atmospheric novella about two men who camp on an island in the middle of the Danube river and come across a mysterious and malevolent force that seems bent on destroying them. Need more convincing? H.P. Lovecraft thought it was finest supernatural tale in English literature.
  5. It wouldn’t be at all bad if "The Wendigo", another fine supernatural tale by Blackwood, was included in the same book. It is about an encounter with the titular monster on a camping trip in Canada.
  6. Any collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories.
  7. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James.
  8. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a pretty obvious choice. May be read as a simple weird science horror tale, or as a complicated moral tale of the fight between good and evil.
  9. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. With a serial killer as the hero, you know it’s going to be dark. The fact that Dexter is somewhat endearing makes it an even chillier read.
  10. The Witches by Roald Dahl. This terrifying children’s tale of witches who hate kids can scare even adults.


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