halloween novels

9 books to horrify and thrill this Halloween

With October 31 fast approaching, we’ve compiled a list of the nine most famously terrifying literary offerings for you to feast on this Halloween. Prepare to be spooked – and don’t say we didn’t warn you…

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)

frankenstein - halloween novels
Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster, 1931

Part morality tale, part horror story, Shelley’s debut novel was born out of a story-telling game played at Lord Byron’s villa in Switzerland. Frankenstein’s monster is one of the most classic horror story figures but a reading of the book will provide a greater insight into the deeper meaning behind the plot.

Key quote: “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…”

Spook rating: the monster’s freakish strength, speed and ability to stalk Frankenstein across Europe earns it 10/10 – even though it is easy
to sympathise with its surprisingly eloquent pleas.

Dracula (Bram Stoker, 1897)

The original portrayal of Count Dracula leapt off the pages with the release of Stoker’s novel, which horrified and captivated Victorian readers.

Key quote: “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.”

Spook rating: High, high, high. The tension drips off the page like blood of Dracula’s fangs. Garlic at the ready…

The Monk (Matthew Lewis, 1796)

Arguably the first horror story to make it into print – and its portrayal of religion, abuse and the spooky Spanish catacombs has scared readers for centuries.

Key quote: “Ambrosio was yet to learn, that to an heart unacquainted with her, Vice is ever most dangerous when lurking behind the Mask of Virtue.”

Spook rating: while the overt wordiness of the novel makes it drag in places, the atmospheric tension and the grim fates of the characters jump off the pages. Eek.

The Shining (Stephen King, 1977)

Jack Torrance is a struggling writer and alcoholic who has moved, along with his wife and young son, to a new town to become a hotel caretaker for the winter. Unbeknownst to Jack, the hotel is haunted and he slips into madness – but will the telepathic abilities of his five-year-old son, Danny, be able to save the day…?

Key quote: “This inhuman place makes human monsters…”

Spook rating: it’s kinda lost its fear-factor since The Simpsons parodied it, but it’s still pretty spook-tastic. 

The Witches (Roald Dahl, 1983)

the witches - roald dahl - quentin blake
The Witches by Roald Dahl; illustration: Quentin Blake

The witches in Dahl’s classic tale hate children. So much so that they want to rid the world of them. A little extreme? Um, yes – but also mesmerisingly terrifying as one boy and his grandmother try to take them on…

Key quote: “I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But–here comes the big ‘but’ – not impossible”

Spook rating: witches are pretty scary, no? And Quentin Blake’s illustrations bring them vividly – and terrifyingly – to life.

American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis, 1991)

This cult novel centres around Patrick Bateman, a high-flying Manhatten businessman by day and coldblooded serial killer by night. Or is he…? Whether or not Bateman’s demented killing spree is real or simply the stuff of warped fantasy remains non-clarified.

Key quote: “Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?”

Spook rating: whilst it’s not exactly Halloween-horror, the novel is pure terror – and the film! (Advice: do not watch alone.) Plus, Bateman has inspired Halloween costumes galore.

Lord Of The Flies (William Golding, 1954)

An airplane full of evacuees crashes on an unspecified island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With no adults to control them and as mini-masters of their own destinies, events quickly spiral out of control, with tragic consequences…

Key quote: “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.”

Spook rating: not spooky so much as sinister – the story is set against the backdrop of a nuclear war, the children are stranded on an island with no hint of rescue until the end of the novel and the lack of civilization is truly chilling.

The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe, 1843)

the raven - halloween reading
The Raven illustration, by John Tenniel

A talking raven is a pretty terrifying prospect at the best of times, so the mental vulnerability of the grieving narrator makes him all the more susceptible to the sinister bird’s taunting.The original horror poem – and some very clever rhyming.

Key quote: “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’…”

Spook rating: high! Read around a flickering candle on the 31st for an atmospheric, lyrical twist on Halloween horror.

Rebecca (Daphne Du Maurier, 1938)

The nameless narrator of Rebecca is forever living in the shadow of her new husband’s first wife, Rebecca, whose memory is worshipped by all who encountered her. Will our heroine ever get to the bottom of what happened to her…?

Key quote: “Last night, I went to Manderley…”

Spook rating: pretty low – more of a thriller than a spine-tingler.

We’d love to hear what your favourite Halloween reads are – leave them in the comments box below!

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