I read horror fiction all year round. I love the genre, and it’s so deep and diverse that it’s hard not to. But October is special. I want to find the stories that put me in that autumnal mood. I want to read about pumpkins on porches and a bitter chill in the air. I want to read about dead leaves and the darkness at the edges of the world.
So where do I turn? What books call out to me? All of these books (while not always tied to Halloween directly) are exactly the kind of things I look for. If you’re on the hunt for something to read in October, I hope this list helps. Let’s get started…
Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
Ask any horror fan that’s worth their salt about Halloween reads, and Dark Harvest will be brought up. If you want a pure shot of All-Hallows-Eve terror, this book is where it’s at. It won the Bram Stoker Award, and it deserves it. Norman Partridge has conjured a Bradburyesque tale for the ages.
Poor October Boy… This poor town… You’ll recognize it. After all, you’ve been here before…
Dark Entries by Robert Aickman
This was almost a Robert Aickman appreciation post. He may be one of the most underrated authors in our genre. His stories are played so straight, so sterile. But in that formal quiet, horror resides. Aickman referred to his works as ‘strange stories’. It’s unbelievably apt. While his stories sometimes features common tropes (ghosts, haunted houses, evil towns) they are done with Aickman’s own unique style.
I selected Dark Entries because it’s my current favorite Aickman collection. While not Halloween focused per se, this is exactly the kind of unnerving short stories I crave. If you want something a little different, read Robert Aickman.
Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem
I’ve spilled a lot of ink talking about Deadfall Hotel. There’s a reason for that. Not only is it one of my all time favorites, I think it’s a novel that deserves 1000% more attention. Told over a series of vignettes inside the very strange Deadfall Hotel, the novel focuses on a single father and his intelligent young daughter.
Deadfall Hotel is cold and weird, but it’s also warm and beautiful. Every chapter is a surprise. Every detail is a mystical wonder. It tackles complicated themes such as grief and fear, love and regret. While the book unfolds over many seasons, it just feels right for this time of year.
Dead Leaves: 9 Tales From the Witching Season by Kealan Patrick Burke
I wanted to include at least one more single author collection. I decided this one was perfect for multiple reasons: it’s short. It’s got variety. And it’s all about Halloween! A collection like this one is the perfect way to kickstart the season. While Dead Harvest feels classical, Dead Leaves is contemporary and grand, but somehow coming in under a hundred pages.
Kealan also includes a list of recommendations for the genre, books that he’s found are perfect for Halloween reading. It’s a good list, and it’s made my TBR just a little longer.
Haunted Nights edited by Lisa Morton & Ellen Datlow
Let’s dig into some horror anthologies. There is an endless wealth of Halloween anthologies in the world, many of which have been haunting me from my TBR pile and may still be on there (looks over my shoulder nervously).
But not many people love Halloween more than Lisa Morton, and Haunted Nights is a tribute to the holiday. It’s co-edited by Ellen Datlow and filled with a list of horror fiction greats. It’s worth your time, and certainly worth the price of admission.
Autumn Cthulhu edited by Mike Davis
I like it when my collections come with a whole heaping serving of Lovecraftian horror. Thankfully, Mike Davis put out Autumn Cthulhu back in 2016. If you enjoy your Lovecraftian horror a little quieter, this is the perfect collection for you. Over the course of 19 stories, the authors explore the cosmic side of autumn, and all the horrors hiding behind the colored leaves.
I just hope we get an Autumn Cthulhu 2 soon. I need more of that autumn chill in my life.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
I wanted to include at least one Stephen King book on this list. After all, it is a list of horror books. So the question became: which book? Night Shift may be his best short story collection. It may just be my favorite novel ever. But they don’t quite belong on this list. No, I think the honor belongs to Salem’s Lot.
It’s a frightening vision of a regular town that has a truly rotten core. It’s eventual and gradual takeover by vampires is terrifying and ultimately tragic. It’s cold and it feels like it belongs on this list. And a good chunk of the book takes places over the autumn months. King has been good for a long time, and Salem’s Lot proves it.
That does it for some Best Books For Halloween. Have you read all of these already? What are some of your Halloween favorites?