It's that time of the year again - last year I set myself huge reading challenges for Halloween, but it didn't work out as planned (the second half of Dracula made me lose the will to read). This year is faring much better - I'm on book 12 of the month (my Sky+ planner is full to the gills of stuff I haven't watched) and hope to get through a few more that I've been saving up for this time of the year. I'm going to give you some adult suggestions along with a couple of young adult and children's books, hopefully there will be something here to suit everyone, and you might find a book you'd like to read for Halloween!
Stephen King - my favourite horror writer. He's not perfect, but I love that he reads as much as he writes. He just lives and breathes books - there are many of us who started reading his books way too young, but I feel like I've grown up with him. I can personally recommend The Shining, Carrie, Misery, IT, and Revival. Any or all would be a great choice this October, although none mention Halloween in particular. The Shining is one of my favourite books of all time. If you've already read it, check out Doctor Sleep, in which we revisit Danny as an adult. Sometimes I forget that others aren't familiar with King's books, so here's a brief idea of what each book is about:
- The Shining: A writer and his family move to a remote hotel for the winter where he takes up the position of Caretaker, but finds himself slowly going insane with a little help from some former residents.
- Carrie: A young girl with a very religious mother has the power of Telekinesis - she is subjected to horrible bullying incidents at school, but she gets her own back..
- Misery: Writer Paul Sheldon has just written the conclusion for his very popular book series when he is involved in a car accident and rescued by his biggest fan Annie Wilkes. But Annie is not quite ready for her favourite series to be finished, or for Paul to leave her.
- It: An epic 1,000 page plus novel about growing up in a small town inhabited by pure evil, and a group of friends coming together one last time to defeat it once and for all.
- Revival: A boy keeps coming into contact with a Preacher at various stages of his life. Their lives intertwine until a final, terrifying conclusion is revealed. A story about addiction and obsession.
Shirley is someone I only discovered a year or two ago. In The Lottery, a short story just a few pages long, she delves into the concept of The Chosen One and turns it on its ear (a concept reproduced many, many times since). If you've seen the horrible movie version, you'll know this story - but it's definitely worth a read. I haven't read any of the other stories in that collection yet but hope to get to them this year. In We Have Always Lived in the Castle, we meet two sisters, one of whom has been declared insane by the villagers after an incident she was blamed for. When a cousin turns up and threatens the girls' way of living, it's up to eldest sister Merricat to get rid of him.
Horror is a genre that has always been popular in the YA world - how many of us cut our fangs on R.L. Stine's Goosebumps or Point Horror series? Goosebumps is still popular (in this house anyway), car boot sales and charity shops are goldmines. There are a number of Point Horror books available on Kindle, but in my opinion it's worth tracking down the old paper version, it just doesn't feel the same on a Kindle. Some other YA horror that I enjoyed are:
Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender: a story about a 15 year old girl full of attitude trying to help her younger sister after she is possessed by an evil spirit.
The Doll by JC Martin: a short story about a creepy (and real) Mexican island that worships dolls, and what would happen if one left the island.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - a young boy suffers a terrible family tragedy and ends up in a small, strange Welsh village where he encounters strange children in an even stranger building. Littered with amazing vintage photographs, they're creepy and definitely worth a look.
This is a Film Too
I love reading books that were later turned into films - or in some cases, books that were written to tie in with films. Here are a couple of books-to-movies that would work great for Halloween
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson: I was a bit disappointed that this story of the legendary 1975 Amityville haunting wasn't scarier, but some of you might enjoy it more. How much of it is true? Well, the names are the same, but I would approach with an open mind!
Halloween by Curtis Richards: Written after the movie, this expands on the history of Michael Myers and gives us a better insight into his character. The paperback of this is very hard to find, so if you see it anywhere, pick it up! It's very easy to find a digital copy online, give me a shout for the link.
Rosemarys Baby by Ira Levin follows a young New York couple as they move into their dream home and become involved with some very scary people. When Rosemary find out the truth, it's already too late.
If you enjoy a horror movie, have a look and see if you can find a book. Nine times out of Ten, the book came first - The Omen, Psycho, Ring, The Exorcist, The Other, Children of the Corn, The Haunting, Frankenstein, Dracula - all books.
Halloween Books for Children
Demon Dentist by David Walliams - for children 10 and up, this is a favourite with my 11 year old. It's about a demon masquerading as a dentist in order to pull teeth from the mouths of children, leaving them grotesque 'presents' under their pillows instead. Approach with caution - some events may upset young or sensitive children.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman - a story about a young girl who finds an alternate reality in her home, including an alternate set of parents. But is the grass always greener? Talking cat alert! Readers 8-12 would be well able for it.
Meg and Mog by Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski - suitable for toddlers and up, Meg and Mog (written in 1975!) is the story of witch Meg and her cat, Mog. They intend on going to a great Halloween party, until Meg's spell goes wrong and turns all the other witches to mice. Great fun to read aloud.
The Witches by Roald Dahl - I read this around age 7 or 8, but it's up to parents if they think their children are old enough for it, it could be scary for younger readers (I always found the Quentin Blake illustrations scarier than the actual story). This story of a boy who infiltrates a convention of witches is still one of my own personal favourites.
A couple of other books I enjoyed -
The Crucible by Arthur Miller - originally a play, this is set during the Salem Witch Trials and draws on true events to create a story of paranoia, hysteria, and injustice. The book is great - but for the love of god, avoid the terrible film version.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman - a dystopian thriller/horror about a young woman who finds herself all alone with her two children five years after a terrible unknown event in Russia spread worldwide - people see something, then they go insane, killing each other and themselves. The only way to avoid it is to remain blindfolded. Now the woman has to make a decision - in order to escape to safety, she must leave her home with her children and go outside where she knows 'they' watch her. A really good psychological horror, the baddies are as scary as your imagination can make them.
Hopefully I've covered a wide range here, and that you can find something to enjoy over the rest of October and get you in a Halloweeny mood!