Spooky Stories You Can’t Put Down

Orange Harvest Moon at NightPhoto by Neven Krcmarek

Decorations, events, and costumes are great, but if you ask me, the best way to celebrate any holiday is with your nose in a good book. And Halloween is the perfect time to light a candle, curl up in a cozy blanket, and crack open a spooky tale!

While I’m partial to an Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None reread this time of year, my friend is reading through Harry Potter in time for Halloween. But in the spirit of things (ahem), here are some other spooky stories I think you’ll love:

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

I’m reading this right now and...whoa. Fifteen year old Vern is a Black, albino, pregnant woman fleeing the compound where she grew up. After giving birth to twins (Howling and Feral), she begins to experience hallucinations that feel a little too real.

Readers struggle to define this story’s genre (Gothic Horror? Sci-Fi? Magical fantasy?). Whatever the category, it’s a world-rocking (and utterly creepy/terrifying/nail biting) story about fiends, rebellion, passion - and the brutality Black bodies continue to experience in the United States.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Readers describe this story as spine-tingly and deliciously spooky, and the description reminds me a bit of Wuthering Heights. If Wuthering Heights featured a heroine with bright red lipstick and referenced Mexican movie stars from the 50s.

Written by Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia, this novel is set in a distant house in the Mexican countryside, where the protagonist’s newly-wed cousin lives with her husband, a brooding Englishman. Things take a sinister turn when the main character, a glamorous, headstrong debutant, arrives in response to her cousin’s cry for help.

Foreboding doom? Check. A strange, hidden family history? Check. A bizarre house that shows up in the main character’s dreams, dripping in blood? Double check.

Books on the shelfPhoto by Syd Wachs

The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun

Readers compare this bestselling novel, originally published in Korean, to stories written by Stephen King or Shirley Jackson (though many point out this particular story is more like The Vegetarian by Han Kang).

A husband is widowed and paralyzed after a tragic car accident with his wife. He becomes completely dependent on his mother-in-law for care...and also almost completely abandoned.

Meanwhile, something strange is happening: his mother-in-law begins to dig larger and larger holes in the garden his wife carefully tended, saying she is finishing what her daughter started.

This story is literary horror, with sly and subversive undertones, but it isn’t violent or gory. It’s perfect for readers who want a book with layers.

The Likeness by Tana French

You could read any Tana French and you’d have a perfect, atmospheric, creepy thriller on your hands, but this is (in my opinion) one of her spookiest. Frankly, it still haunts me.

Detective Cassie Maddox stumbles across a shocking event: a murdered young woman looks just like her. And the victim’s ID is the same identity Cassie herself used years ago during an undercover operation.

Cassie does what I would never, ever do: goes undercover as the murdered woman to tempt the killer out of hiding. As you can imagine, things take a turn. This is psychological horror at its finest!

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is a staple on any spooky book list, but I’m including this collection of short stories (including her infamous short story, “The Lottery”) for those who prefer shorter reads. I’ll admit to preferring shorts to novels these days, and this collection doesn’t disappoint. The title story features a gruesome surprise ending--you will absolutely understand why Jackson is the master she is.

Bonus! If you like creepy short stories and happen to adore Levar Burton, “Madre Nuestra, Que Estás en Maracaibo" by Ana Hurtado is an amazing listen, read by Levar, about a woman who finds her grandmother is being haunted.)

PS Don’t forget to shop your local independent bookstore for physical books or audiobooks! #shopsmall

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.