Top 10 Halloween Reads
I LOVE a good horror story. And what better time than Halloween to curl up somewhere cosy and scare yourself silly? Here’s the ten creepiest books I’ve ever read:
- Through the Woods, Emily Carroll – These five graphic short stories are super-creepy and gloriously illustrated.
- Nyctophobia, Christopher Fowler – So tense, so creepy. I couldn’t get this out of my head for weeks after reading it.
- The Mall, S.L. Grey – I love this series! Point Horror for grown-ups.
- NOS4R2, Joe Hill – Utterly bonkers, vivid, and transporting. Oh, and terrifying.
- Daughters Unto Devils, Amy Lukavics – Short, sharp and scary. That ending, seriously.
- Bird Box, Josh Malerman – There’s something out there, but you mustn’t look at it. Such a simple idea, but so well executed.
- Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel – This isn’t a traditional horror novel, but it’s the most disturbing and uncomfortable book I’ve ever read. And it’s Mantel, so it’s beautifully written.
- Remainder, Tom McCarthy – Again, not traditional horror, but so unnerving and vivid. The protagonist still haunts me.
- People Who Eat Darkness, Richard Lloyd Parry – Non-fiction about the disappearance and murder of Lucie Blackman in Tokyo. A reminder that horrors don’t only exist in stories.
- The Daylight Gate, Jeanette Winterson – Witches, wicked women and the mean, moody, misty Lancashire landscape. And, scariest of all, it’s based on a true story.
What will you be reading this Halloween?
I’ve been reading some truly wonderful books this summer. July was spent with circus mermaids, ghost-hunters, war orphans, millionaire madmen, and all the books of our childhoods. These were my favourites:
- How to be a Heroine, Samantha Ellis – For anyone who grew up in books. I’m reading with Samantha at Wilderness festival next week, and I can’t wait to meet her.
- Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Emma Hooper – Beautiful, magical, sad and uplifting. Also, Emma is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met (we just did an event together at West Cork Literary Festival).
- Remainder, Tom McCarthy – You know those books that make you see the world differently while you’re reading them? This is one of those.
- Girl At War, Sara Novic – A harrowing story, beautifully told.
- Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase, Jonathan Stroud – Excellent fun. Lovely prose, an engrossing story, and subtle world-building. Can’t wait to read the next one.
- The Book of Speculation, Erika Swyler – Circuses, mermaids and gorgeously vivid descriptions. If you’re looking for something to read after The Gracekeepers, this is it.
What were your favourite reads in July?
On Thursdays, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their work. Here’s one from the ever-lovely Cassandra Parkin.
Once, a brother and sister lived with their mother and father. The sister was older than the brother and she had long hair that he loved to twirl his fingers in, and for a long time she was taller than him (and even when he finally overtook her, in his head she was still always in charge).
One day, someone asked the little brother, What do you want to do when you grow up? And he replied, I’m going to live in a little house by the ocean. Just one room for me and my big sister, and we’ll wake up every morning and look out at the beach and just be all by ourselves.
But you have to have a job, the person told him. (It doesn’t matter who the person was. Every story has some people in it who are unimportant. But just so they don’t feel bad, let’s say this person was a lady called Elinor, and she had a big house and servants and seventeen cats, and she always wore a turban in the afternoons and liked to take naps on a beautiful gold brocade chaise-longue.)
I’ll write books, said the little brother.
And what about your big sister?
I’ll make enough money for both of us, said the little brother, and the lady called Elinor with the big house and the servants and the seventeen cats laughed, and went home to put on her turban and take a nap.
But the little brother didn’t mind. He and his sister had talked about their dream many times. They knew it was what they both wanted.
And they loved each other fiercely, even when they drove each other mad.
Then one day, the two children looked up and realised they were lost. Exactly how this happened, it’s impossible to say. Or perhaps it was simply too sad to talk about, so that part was always left out of their story, and after a long time, it was forgotten. Perhaps they took the wrong path on a long journey. Perhaps they were playing in a wood when darkness fell, or perhaps they sailed away in a nutshell and found themselves on a cold shore with no stars to navigate home by. Whatever the explanation, on that terrible dark day, they both looked up from whatever they were doing, and realised they no longer had a home.
And the little brother was frightened. But his big sister took his hand and said, Don’t worry, little brother. I promised I’d always look after you, and I always will. Whatever happens, I’ll always, always take care of you.
After that, the little brother knew there was nothing to be afraid of, because his big sister was holding his hand, and she would never let him go. Whatever happened, he would always be littler than she was, and she would always take care of him.
April was mostly spent travelling around events and festivals for the launch of my first novel The Gracekeepers, which was great fun! The downside is that I barely saw my family (my fiancee Annie and our gorgeous lurcher Rosie); the upside is that all those hours spent on trains meant plenty of reading time. I’ve combined both things to have Rosie help me share my top three books for the month:
- Under My Skin, James Dawson – A modern, subtly queer update on Point Horror. I raced through this in a day as I couldn’t put it down.
- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson – A highly readable and scary exploration of public shaming in the age of social media. As well as being fascinating, this made me examine my own behaviour.
- The Spinning Heart, Donal Ryan – A novel in stories, each narrated by a different character in a small Irish town. It’s incredible how Ryan crams so much beauty and heartbreak into such a small book.
What were your favourite April reads? Share in the comments below, or on GoodReads.
March was a month of non-fiction reading, as for some reason I found it hard to get into any of the novels I started. I read some great true crime, mysteries and art history, but these were the two best of the month:
- Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, Donnie Eichar – A personal, insightful investigation into one of the world’s most-discussed mysteries. I’m a massive X-Files nerd (I even write a column on it!) so I loved this.
- I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Forger, Frank Wynne – A fun, fast read. I’m now fascinated by forgers and their motivations, so do let me know if you have any recommendations.
What were your favourite January reads? Share in the comments below, or on GoodReads.