Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week, she will post a new Top Ten list topic for everyone to weigh-in on. Link back to That Artsy Reader Girl on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers’ lists!
I know spooky season is coming to a close, but if you’re in the mood for something creepy to keep you up at night this Halloween, I have ten books for you that I’d recommend to anyone. They’re all spooky in different ways, so there’s bound to be something for everyone here. Some of these books I read a while ago, but some I actually read this year for my spooky readathon. So grab your cozy blankets, turn on all your lights, and pick up one of these nail-biting books.
Murder mystery with fantasy/science fiction-y undertones
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. This is no ordinary murder mystery. The main character, Aiden, wakes up in a different body every day until he can solve the mystery of who kills Evelyn Hardcastle. He has eight days, which means eight hosts, until the loop resets and his memory is wiped. Not to mention there are other players stuck in loops of their own — with some even trying to kill Aiden along the way. And all of this takes place at a spooky castle in England. It’s like Groundhog Day meets Every Day, with some Agatha Christie vibes thrown in.
Young adult horror told in a found footage narrative
Rules for Vanishing. A group of teens go into the woods to find the mysterious road that will take them to local ghost legend Lucy Gallows. And, hopefully, to one of the teens’ sisters who went missing in search of Lucy one year ago. But the road is much more horrifying than any of them could ever have imagined, and not everyone makes it off the road alive. The story is told through found footage, interviews, documents, etc. It’s like The Blair Witch Project meets Silent Hill, and it is pretty terrifying and deadly for a YA novel. Definitely spooked me, and one scene even gave me chills.
Young adult paranormal horror that simultaneously tackles real-life horror
The Taking of Jake Livingston. Jake can see ghosts. He can also astral project into the spirit world, which comes in handy when he starts being haunted by a very angry ghost named Sawyer. Sawyer shot up his high school before turning the gun on himself one year ago. Now, he’s hoping to continue killing people as a ghost — and maybe even posses Jake to cause some serious damage. Half of the book is told from Jake’s perspective, so we get to see a lot of ghosties and cool spirit world stuff. Kind of reminded me of Stranger Things. But the other half is told from Sawyer’s perspective — a few journal entries before his death but also as a ghost. This part of the story dealt with very real issues such as mental health, parental neglect, poverty, sexual assault, and gun violence. It’s a lot, especially thrown into a YA horror novel. Definitely check with trigger warnings for this one before reading.
Magical young adult fantasy graphic novel
Mooncakes. This graphic novel has it all: witches, werewolves, magic, ghosts — you name it. It also features queer main characters, one of which is non-binary and the other hard of hearing. What more could you want? Nova works in her grandmothers’ bookshop and practices her magic on the side. While investigating a paranormal occurrence, she runs into a werewolf, who happens to be her long lost childhood best friend (and possibly crush?), Tam. Together, they must team up to defeat a dark, mysterious entity terrorizing the forest. Short and sweet and cute, this graphic novel is less spooky scary, more fall Halloween-y vibes.
Young adult paranormal mystery / loose fairytale retelling
House of Salt and Sorrows. I thought this novel would be lightly spooky, but I was wrong. This one full-on creeped me out the further I read. I did read the fairytale this novel is based on, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” right before I started reading, so I can say it’s definitely a loose fairytale — it kind of uses the same premise as the fairytale but takes it in a different direction and wildly expands upon it. Also there’s ghosts — lots of ghosts. And it’s a bit of a murder mystery, too. There’s a lot going on, but it all makes sense in the end and turns out to be a fantastic novel. Annaleigh used to have eleven sisters living with her in a manor by the sea with her father and step-mother. But four are dead now, and Annaleigh is convinced they weren’t accidents. The novel captivated me from the start and I ended up loving it more than I thought I was going to. The vibes were the same as The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix.
Classic haunted house story
The Haunting of Hill House. Shirley Jackson’s novel is not as explicitly terrifying as its Netflix adaptation. Nowhere close. It’s more gothic than horror novel. I’d call it quiet horror — more suspenseful and creepy than outright terrifying. It’s a slow horror that creeps up on you. Dr. Montague and three others stay in the notorious Hill House in hopes of capturing evidence of a haunting, but wind up getting more than they bargained for. It’s the OG haunted house story that inspired countless others. It’s also a great character study novel, if you’re into that kind of thing. It may be an old story, but it’s a classic.
Young adult slasher horror
There’s Someone Inside Your House. Makani has a dark, secret past. She moves to the middle of nowhere with her grandmother in hopes of putting it all behind her. But when her classmates start being murdered one by one, she realizes her past may be catching up with her after all. This is a great book for all you teen slasher film fans. There is quite a bit of romance in the novel, but what else do you expect from teenagers? An incredible novel it is not — but if you’re in the mood for a suspenseful, gory murder-fest, then this is exactly the book you’re looking for.
Bird Box. The world has been overcome by monsters. The only way to survive is blindfolded. Open your eyes—see the monsters—and you go mad. Malorie and her two children survive as best they can, but Malorie thinks they can make it to a safe haven down the river. Can they make it without sight? It’s basically A Quiet Place but instead of silencing your voice, you must blind yourself. Not being able to make a sound is impossible for me, so A Quiet Place is definitely one of my worst nightmares. But not being able to see? Uh uh. That’s top-tier nightmare stuff. This novel is crazy suspenseful and very creepy, all without ever seeing the monsters.
Annihilation. Nature has reclaimed a part of the planet closed off to the world called Area X. Expeditions sent into Area X come back changed; some don’t come back at all. The twelfth expedition is made up of all women: an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and a biologist. Will they bring back answers? Will Area X change them? Will they make it out alive? This book is science fiction-y above all else, but I’d also label it as horror. You’ll just have to read to find out what I mean. It’s very much a quiet horror, though—one that sneaks up on you. It’s very good and will leave you with more questions than answers by time you finish the last page. And, bonus, it’s a series.
Dark, twisty murder mystery
Dark Places. Libby’s mother and two sisters are murdered when she’s only seven years old. She escapes the massacre and puts the blame on her brother Ben, sending him to prison. Twenty-five years later, a group is convinced Ben is innocent and is working to free him. Sure that they’re wrong, Libby starts an investigation of her own, only to find out nothing from that day is what it seemed—and now she’s in danger once more. Gillian Flynn is the queen of modern mysteries. Not only are they twisty, but they’re dark. In my opinion, this novel is her darkest, with a family being murdered in the night and the terror that ensues. I loved Gone Girl and Sharp Objects as much as anyone else, but this novel has stayed with me through the years. It is creepy—do not read it at night.
I hope you were able to find a spooky read for you in there somewhere. October may be almost Octover, but these reads are great no matter what time of year you read them. Share some of your own favorite spooky reads in the Comments, or link your own Halloween-y Top Ten Tuesday post — I’d love to read them! Happy (almost) Halloween 🎃🎃