Halloween is the perfect time for creepy books. I embraced the horror genre as a kid, cutting my teeth on Dean Koontz and R.L. Stine. These days, I appreciate wordplay more than gore.
Let’s shrug on some flannel, pour a pumpkin spiced anything, and explore some creepy books.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
Set in a pandemic (more Walking Dead than Contagion), Zone One details the extraordinary circumstances of a self-identified average guy. His pull-no-punches observations pair heartache with this suspenseful premise.
As with most Whitehead novels, there’s a cool twist to a common trope. Parts of this book literally made me jump.
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson
Merricat and Constance Blackwood live in a strange, claustrophobic world of their own making, hated by their fellow villagers. But it seems that their newly arrived cousin will bring their downfall.
Stephen King dedicated his book Fire Starter to Jackson, writing, “In Memory of Shirley Jackson, who never needed to raise her voice.”
The Mandibles: A Family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver
This book doesn’t belong in the horror genre, but it should. It kept me awake for months.
The Mandibles describes the fictional cultural and economic collapse of the United States in terrifyingly realistic ways.
Hadriana In All My Dreams by Rene Depestre
This ribald tale centers around Hadriana’s elaborate nuptials. The party atmosphere turns tragic when a powerful bokor (Haitian Vodou sorcerer) attempts to possess the bride as his own. As a zombie.
Like most exciting things, Hadriana In All My Dreams is both sexy and scary.
Man Crazy by Joyce Carol Oates
With Man Crazy, Joyce Carol Oates is at her trauma-exploring, soul-shattering best.
Ingrid Boone had a rough childhood, leading to a cruel adolescence and a terrifying adulthood. Oates walks the reader through Ingrid’s accumulation of trauma, ending with her daring escape from a cult.
White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
This book is part The Bell Jar, part The Amityville Horror. White Is For Witching tells the coming-of-age story of Miranda and her childhood home (which is a xenophobic, murder house).
Silver House is one of the first-person narrators, making this book spooky and inventive.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
The plot of Rosemary’s Baby has steeped into the cultural consciousness, but the ending of the book is terrifying in a way that the movie ignored.
I read this back in high school and it still makes me shiver.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Stay-at-home mom Suzette knows something is wrong with her daughter, Hanna. She’s just not sure if the issue is developmental, cognitive, or…psychotic. This book takes a hard look at parenting and modern life in the Instagram age.
Baby Teeth is a compelling entry to the “creepy kid” canon.
Room by Emma Donaghue
Have you ever watched an interview of someone detailing their survival of some horrific ordeal and wondered if you would have made it? That’s Room but in book form.
Jack and his mother live in an 11-by-11 foot room, and it’s the only space he’s ever known. The reader, unlike Jack, understands that he and his mother are captives, held by an Ariel Castro-type. How that sweet boy and his mother survive their ordeal made me cry.
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Fledgling explores themes of agency, sexuality, addiction, and race in an unusual take on vampires.
Butler’s depictions of vampire and human relationships made me squirm. As they were meant to.
What are some of your favorite creepy books? Drop your recommendations in the comments.