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13 scary books, from classics to modern fiction, to read for Halloween

Thriller and suspense authors give 13 recommendations for scary books to read on Halloween.
Ready to get the creepy crawlies on Halloween? Try these books.
Ready to get the creepy crawlies on Halloween? Try these books.Amazon
/ Source: TMRW

Trick-or-treating is basically cancelled. Costume parties probably are, too. So, what’s a pandemic-safe way to celebrate Halloween this year?

Cozying up with a good book sounds pretty perfect to us! We asked some of our favorite thriller and suspense authors to recommend books that will not only creep you out, but also lift your spirits (pun definitely intended).

Below, see 13 books that will make for a spooky good time — even if you have to stay home on Halloween night. (Another idea: You could also give one to a friend and start the tradition of All Hallow's Read.)

Caroline Kepnes, author of “You”

Caroline Kepnes
Caroline KepnesCourtney Dowling Pugliese Ace Photography

Obsessed with the Netflix series “You?” (We are, too!) Caroline Kepnes is the New York Times bestselling author of the book that inspired the show. Her latest book, “Providence,” is part love story, part detective story and part supernatural thriller. And “You” fans can mark their calendars as Joe Goldberg makes his return in another new book, “You Love Me,” which is set to release April 6, 2021.

“Don’t Look For Me” by Wendy Walker

Kepnes likens the reading experience of this thriller to “reverse acupuncture with precise needles poking so many of your senses.” She said the novel taps into so many fears, including hurting a loved one, failing a loved one and a dark empty road in the rain at night. “And I love the heavy, heartfelt chill that comes from taking on a character’s sense memories as your own,” she added. “What a feat.”

“The Grace Year” by Kim Liggett

Kepnes gushes that this is a book made of magic. “I swear, I was in those woods with Grace and I barely survived,” she said of the novel, which has been described in the vein of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Power.” “What’s scarier than a book that gives you that delicious irrational sense of deja vu?” she added.

“The Hunger” by Alma Katsu

This supernatural suspense novel is “equal parts unputdownable and must-put-it-down-or-I-am-going-to-have-a-heart-attack,” said Kepnes. “You travel into this book and there is no escape. Katsu is an exceptionally gifted writer and the dread-soaked pages are with me every day as both a writer and a scaredy cat.”

Neil Gaiman, author of "Coraline"

Neil Gaiman
Neil GaimanBeowulf Sheehan

Neil Gaiman is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including “Norse Mythology,” “Neverwhere,” “The Graveyard Book” and “Coraline” (which was adapted for a film in 2009). A collection of his work, “The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction,” is on sale now.

“We Have Always Lived In The Castle” by Shirley Jackson

Gaiman describes this classic gothic tale as a murder mystery that ends up feeling like a ghost story — “if the ghosts were telling it,” he said.

“Krabat and the Sorcerer’s Mill” by Otfried Preussler

This story of a 14-year-old beggar summoned to work in a mysterious mill for its master — a powerful sorcerer — is written for young readers, but Gaiman says it’s “a spooky delight that works as well for adults as for children.”

“Ghost Story” by Peter Straub

This book follows four old men who gather to tell ghost stories. “A crime that's long been buried is reaching out from the past, and the ghost stories are just the precursor to the true terror,” Gaiman said. “Peter Straub is the finest writer of elegant chills we have. I've been rereading books by Peter recently, and enjoyed being reminded how powerful and how genuinely scary they can be.”

“Dark Entries” by Robert Aickman

Gaiman actually recommends anything by this author. “(Aickman's) strange stories are beautifully crafted and always gloriously unsettling,” he said.

Kellye Garrett, author of "Hollywood Homicide"

Kellye Garrett
Kellye GarrettCarucha L. Meuse

Kellye Garrett is the award-winning author of the "Detective by Day" mystery series about a semi-famous, mega-broke Black-actress-turned-private-investigator. She is also a co-founder of Crime Writers of Color.

“They All Fall Down” by Rachel Howzell Hall

“Is there anything scarier than being stuck on a strange island with a serial killer and not knowing who to trust?” Garrett said of this thriller that’s a modern and diverse take on Agatha Christie’s classic “And Then There Were None.” She added it’s the perfect slow build to get you in the mood for Halloween. “I’d explain more, but the less you know the better.”

“When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

“I’ve never seen a book with a more accurate novel description as Cole’s New York Times bestselling debut thriller being called 'Rear Window' meets 'Get Out,'” Garrett said. “Cole blends romance, thriller and horror perfectly for a wild ride that will definitely keep you up all night.”

“#FashionVictim” by Amina Akhtar

“Akhtar’s ‘#FashionVictim’ is one of those buzzed-about books that is still somehow underrated because it’s such a brilliant and often funny send-up of how cutthroat the fashion industry is,” Garrett said. “It’s downright scary how main character Anya St. Clair will literally stop at nothing to get what she wants. You’ll never look at the pages of Vogue or Elle the same again.”

Ania Ahlborn, author of “If You See Her”

Ania Ahlborn
Ania AhlbornCourtesy Ania Ahlborn

Ania Ahlborn is the bestselling author of horror thrillers including “Brother,” “Within These Walls,” and “The Bird Eater.” Her first novel, “Seed,” was self-published and clawed its way up the Amazon charts to the top horror spot, earning her a multi-book deal.

“Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin

Ahlborn says you can read this horror classic in a single sitting, which makes it perfect for Halloween plans. “Rosemary’s Baby is an unforgettable tale of revulsion and dread. Just don’t read it while you or anyone you know is expecting,” she warned.

“Carrie” by Stephen King

“We’ve all seen the movie,” Ahlborn said. “We know it doesn’t end well. But what fun are happy endings during the season of the witch?”

“Psycho” by Robert Bloch

“Made famous by Alfred Hitchcock’s unforgettable shower scene, Robert Bloch’s novel doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” she said. “Both thrilling and absolutely terrifying because guys like Norman (Bates) exist among us, after reading ‘Psycho,’ you’ll never look at another unassuming roadside motel — or the guy behind the counter — the same way again.”