It’s finally October, which means I’m no longer a weirdo for having decorated my apartment for Halloween! 🙌🙌🙌 Sure, it might be freaking 100° F (38° C) and my state is on fire so it doesn’t feel like autumn, but I’m going to drink my pumpkin ale and lattes and sweat in scarves anyways.
To celebrate the beginning of Spooky Season, it’s time to share a list of 8 books to read to get you in the mood! Can you guess what I have on my list this year?
9 Books to Read this Spooky Season
This year’s list has a combination of middle grade, young adult, and adult books that I found to be perfect and ~atmospheric~ autumn reads.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Middle Grade, Horror
Stephen Gammell’s artwork from the original Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark appears in all its spooky glory in this paper-over-board edition. Read if you dare!
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a timeless collection of chillingly scary tales and legends, in which folklorist Alvin Schwartz offers up some of the most alarming tales of horror, dark revenge, and supernatural events of all time.
And don’t miss More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3!
Originally published in 1981 before I was born, I accredit my love of horror in large part to this book! I vividly remember checking it out from the library in elementary school and hiding it from my parents (they wouldn’t let me watch Unsolved Mysteries, so I assumed this would also be banned). It’s been well over twenty years, and the spider-eggs-in-my-cheek story and illustration still haunt me. Every time my best friend and I go camping, we read these to each other in the tent.
Semi-related, but the 2019 “adaptation” film was actually surprisingly good! I loved how the writers approached the material – urban legends from a book – and let me tell you… there was a part that legit spooked us.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, LGBTQIAP+, Debut Author
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Words can’t express how much I adored this book. Aiden Thomas’ debut YA urban fantasy is set during Día de Muertos and is the perfect read for Spooky Season!
Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
Young Adult, Horror, Mystery
Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?
It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.
It’s been over a year since I read this one and I still think about it! This is perfect for fans of mixed media storytelling and found footage horror with a side of urban legends and ghosts!
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
Young Adult, Horror, Urban Fantasy
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.
The Bone Houses is easily one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read. Atmospheric and unique, this book features adorable sibling relationships, a loyal goat who is the true MVP, and spooks galore.
Contagion (Contagion #1) by Erin Bowman
Young Adult, Horror, Science Fiction
After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.
Most are dead.
But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.
Don’t set foot here again.
As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.
Of course one of my favorite books would make this list! This is a science fiction/horror crossover that is creepy as hell, atmospheric, claustrophobic, with some virus for good measure.
Note: this is an intricately plotted duology; the second book leans more heavily into the science fiction of the story, but I think this could be read as a standalone if that isn’t your jam.
I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…
When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected–and that she knows what happened to her.
Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?
If you’ve ever wondered what Rebecca crossed with a contemporary thriller and true crime podcast elements would be like… you need to pick up I Killed Zoe Spanos! If you’re itching for a good thriller for this season, I highly recommend this to fans of twisty mysteries that keep you guessing!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Adult, Horror, Gothic Horror
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes a novel set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
This book still haunts my dreams in the best of ways. Mexican Gothic is a stellar addition to the gothic horror genre… CREEPY house, CREEPY people, & excellently plotted Gothic thriller set in 1950s Mexico that you won’t be able to put down! Please check my review for the content warnings, as it’s a lot.
NOTE: If you aren’t familiar with the gothic horror genre, the pacing may feel a bit slow. The tension builds slowly to a truly horrific ending; patience is rewarded.
The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz
I read this back in 2018 and honestly? The Red Room still haunts me. This was truly the first book to creep me the heck out in AGES and it holds such a special place in my heart for that!
That’s it for this year’s Spooky Season recommendation list! If you’re looking for more recommendations, check out my other lists below!
What are your reading plans for this Spooky Season? What books would you recommend?
Let’s go on another adventure together!