5 Haunting Books To Read in October
October 20, 2020
You know by now that we love nothing more than a good book list, and we simply couldn’t let October slip past without gathering up some shiver-inducing, heart-pounding seasonal reads.
So what do we look for in a perfect October book?
Well, for starters, extra points for something gothic. The gothic is a seriously tricky concept to pin down (a truly absurd amount of ink has been spilled trying to define it) but think:
- Ancestral secrets
- Dramatic settings, like dark forests, ruined castles, creepy manors, dungeons, and towers
- A sense of decay
- Dread glamour
- A spooky supernatural threat!
And a bunch of other markers (all of which we’re going to really get into in our upcoming course on GOTHIC FAIRY TALES, which, just saying, you can get a 20% discount code for when you register for our Halloween Extravaganza Haunted!!) But the thing about the gothic is that you know it when you see it. Or read it.
You just feel the gothic in your bones. And while we love the gothic all year round, it’s especially delightful in the fall, when the leaves are turning and the air is getting a little crisp.
October is also the perfect time for stories about monsters. Preferably supernatural monsters. And extra-preferably, supernatural female monsters. We especially love when a supernatural female monster story critics gender norms and stereotypes – basically, when they question who has power in the world.
So if any of this sounds like your jam, read on for 5 of our favorite October reads. We think you’ll love them as much as we do!
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…” – such a fabulous, provocative opening! And it only gets better from there. Rebecca is hands down one of our favorite more modern Gothic novels. The story tells of a (never-named) girl who marries a mysterious windower and must combat the ghost of his former wife, Rebecca (who is still everywhere and yet nowhere in the house where they live.) This novel is seriously hard to put down. Bonus: Netflix just released a new film adaptation of this novel! It’s getting kind of mixed reviews, but we’re totally watching anyway. If you really want a goooood film version though, and you’re in the mood for a classic, it has to be said that you really can’t beat the Hitchcock version.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Forced to spend her summer taking care of her grandmother’s old house, the main character of this tale finds a key that unlocks an enormous mystery. Simultaneously the story of the Salem witch trials (with a bit of real magic thrown in) and the modern world of a grad student trying to write her dissertation, this is a fascinating tale full of delightful surprises. We’re particularly fond of the magic of the house (and the dog!) The sequel, The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, came out last year and we’re both looking forward to reading it soon! (And seriously, it heavily features the terrors of grad school, so is it really any wonder we love it/find it scary?)
Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
So, apparently we have a thing for books about young women who inherit the magical houses of former (maybe) witches… but we know you ain’t mad. This novel isn’t really all that scary, but it DOES have that perfect, subtle, maybe magic/maybe not feel that can 100% hit the spot sometimes (especially in autumn.) We admit we love the first part of this novel a bit more than the second – the romance plot can get a little cliche – but honestly it’s so good we don’t even really mind. This is the perfect novel to cozy up with on a crisp day with a warm pot of tea.
Medusa’s Daughters: Magic and Monstrosity from Women Writers of the Fin-De-Siècle edited by Theodora Goss
Everything we said above in the intro? You’ll find it in this phenomenal collection curated by the fabulous Dr. Theodora Goss. Dora wrote her dissertation on the monstrous women of the 19th century – she knows her monsters and she knows her literature. This collection is a gem, full of lesser-known gothic stories and poetry by women written in the fin de siecle, or the period at the end of the 19th century. It’s all spine-tinglingly wonderful, but we especially love the pieces by Charlotte Mew, Vernon Lee, and Virginia Woolf.
The Bone Key by Sarah Monette
We have absolutely no chill about Sarah Monette’s collection The Bone Key. We’re huge fans of Monette’s work in general, but The Bone Key is one of our favorite books of all time. It’s a collection of loosely interconnected short stories, all centered around the protagonist and first person narrator, the brilliant and painfully introverted Kyle Murchison Booth. (As introverts ourselves, we say this with nothing but love and fellow-feeling.) Booth is a reluctant magnet for the supernatural, and his strange, haunting, and terrifying encounters persist when he’s at work as a museum archivist and pretty much everywhere else he ventures. We love this book so much that it’s actually our Carterhaugh book club read for October – so you should definitely sign up at the “Willows” level here and join us on Thursday night to chat about it!
So what are your favorite spooktacular reads? Tell us in the comments!