Reading a good book is an excellent way to spend an evening at any time of year, but horror novels are especially fun as Halloween approaches on the calendar. After all, some of the greatest stories ever told have been part of the horror genre!
Curling up with a spooky story is one of the best parts of October, but how do you choose which spooky story to read? Do you want a story about demonic possession or a story about man's descent into madness? Perhaps you are interested in a classic story about monsters, or maybe you would rather read a book where normally innocent children are made monsters instead.
No matter what type of terror suits you best there is sure to be something out there that will have you double checking the locks on your door before you go to bed tonight.
Satan is clearly the biggest of bad guys when it comes to terrifying villains in the horror genre. Everyone from Shirley Jackson to Stephen King has written spooky stories about the devil at some point, proving that you can't go wrong by scaring readers with Satan.
Nathaniel Hawthorne embraced this concept when he wrote the story Young Goodman Brown, a tale about the loss of faith (both literally and figuratively) and the dangers of religious fanaticism. This one is a short story, making it an excellent choice for someone looking for a quick read.
Rosemary's Baby, on the other hand, addresses many of the same concepts but in a much longer, more complex story. What is reality? Can you trust the people you love? Is religion helpful, harmful, or both? Ira Levin uses these themes and the presence of the ultimate evil to create what is rightfully hailed as one of the most frightening stories ever written.
Descent Into Madness
While it is technically a poem rather than a novel, Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven is a Halloween staple for a reason. A man left devastated by the loss of his true love is tormented by the desire to hold her memory close and, at the same time, the desire to move on from his misery. Waging a battle within himself leaves him broken, his soul trapped forever beneath the shadow of the raven.
Daphne Du Maurier approaches the idea of a lost love from the opposite perspective in her novel Rebecca. Witnessing the gaslighting of the main character is made all the more painful by the fact that we never even learn her name because she will never live up to Rebecca.
The thought of losing everything you've worked for and everyone you love to someone who takes over your life is truly terrifying, making The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky an excellent choice for people looking for a good scare this Halloween.
The Icarus Girl tells the same story but with a cultural twist. Helen Oyeyemi brilliantly uses an internal clash between cultures and Nigerian lore and legends to put a unique spin on the traditional doppelganger tale.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is one of the most complex horror stories ever told. Is it a ghost story? Is the governess slowly losing her mind? Is this a story about creepy kids or being possessed? The answer to all of these questions is yes, probably, but also maybe no...you'll just have to read it and find out for yourself.
John Dies at the End is definitely about being possessed, but by what? A strange, self-aware drug called Soy Sauce forcibly possesses the bodies of the main characters in David Wong's first novel but there is so much more to the story than your basic, run-of-the-mill possession. You'll need to read this one at least twice to truly understand it and then you'll read it a dozen more times simply because it is awesome.
Horrifying Haunted Houses
If you ask a librarian who they consider to be the ultimate master of the horror genre the odds are good they are going to say Stephen King. The odds are equally good that if you ask them to recommend his best novel they will hand you a copy of The Shining. A hotel haunted by multiple ghosts and a little boy who can see them all, this spooky take on the horror of addiction is one of the scariest stories you will ever read.
If you go back to that librarian and ask them to name a second master of horror they will without a doubt recommend Shirley Jackson. If you ask for a specific book they will point you in the direction of The Haunting of Hill House. Stephen King said himself that it is one of the finest horror stories of the 20th century and I can think of no better recommendation than the words of the master himself.
Bram Stoker's Dracula may not be the original vampire story but it is easily one of the best. It wasn't immediately successful and Bram Stoker actually died in poverty, but shortly thereafter a film version of the novel titled Nosferatu was made and the story took the world by storm. Dracula is the most well-known of all the classic movie monsters because monsters that can disguise themselves as human are innately terrifying.
Guillermo Del Toro knows exactly how to terrify an audience, which is why when he wrote The Strain he turned to vampires as his monster of choice. This is a modern take on the vampire story that will make your blood run cold, so you will want to make sure your curtains are drawn tight before you start reading this one.
The Horrors of Humanity
While you are more likely to see The Grapes of Wrath on a list of Great American Novels as opposed to a list of best horror stories don't let that fool you - John Steinbeck absolutely intended his novel to leave you terrified. If you have ever read the book you know just how horrifyingly uncomfortable you are left at the end of the story, and if you haven't read the book you should go pick up a copy right now because if I told you what happens you would never believe me.
Don't just limit yourself to scary movies this Halloween, make sure to curl up with a good book too! What are your favorite scary stories to read this time of year?