Top 7 Favorite Halloween Reads

Oct 14, 2020

I started a blog post on the benefits of a financial spreadsheet, but it just wasn’t writing itself. I mean, really? Spreadsheets? You are an artist and creative. Why would you want to read a blogpost about spreadsheets—although you should read my future blog post about spreadsheets, you should use a spreadsheet for all kinds of reasons to be addressed later. Now, if you do love spreadsheets, good for you, but you need a break. Read a great work of fiction. 

Besides, it is the Halloween season. So, toss the spreadsheets out the window or, better yet, cut out ghost shapes and hang them in the window. Let’s talk about our favorite Halloween books. What makes for a great Halloween tale? What makes for a Halloween read? For me, what makes a book a Halloween read is suspense, atmosphere, and some connection to, or hint at, the supernatural.

So, here’s my Top Seven list of favorite Halloween reads:

  1. The Shining by Stephen King

    Absolutely the scariest of all Stephen King novels. There are so many quotable lines— “redrum, redrum,” “Here’s Johnny,” “Wendy, the light of my life. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just going to bash your brains in.”  King just crams this book full of terror-inducing details and storylines. To me, the real evil of it is that most of us are afraid of the bogey man or the stranger in the alley. In this book, the bogey man is the person you know best.

    The book is better than the movie—more complex plumbing of the twisted mind—but both are terrifying. The movie is a classic horror and worth seeing (if you can handle it). Jack Nicholson is perfectly cast for this movie.

  2. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

    Atmospheric, psychological, terrifying, haunting, twisted, suspenseful—all of those right words apply. Dr. Montague, a professor and seeker of the occult, and his team, Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke, investigate a “haunted” house’s paranormal activity. Eleanor is most particularly and deeply affected. I have watched the movie, read the book, and listened to it on audio. Remember, “journeys end in lovers meeting.”

    The movie made in 1963 is the best; the 90’s remake is awful (IMHO).  This is now a 10 part Netflix series—I have not seen it on Netflix.

  3. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

    This is a Victorian psychological thriller written in 1898 so don’t expect a comfortable and light read although it is fairly short—it’s considered a novella. This is the story of a governess hired to care for two orphans who are still attached to their former dead governess. It is ambiguous on whether there is a supernatural connection at all, and it’s left open to interpretation, which is where its brilliance lies, but the psychological connection is real. 

    There are several movie adaptations. I have seen the Masterpiece Theater version, and it was excellent.

  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

    This is a dark book written for your preteen (12 yo and up, adults love it too), and it so works.  I loved this book—it is so well crafted and so enchanting and endearing yet terrifying. It’s my favorite book of Gaiman’s. Nobody Owens (Bod) is a little boy taken in by the graveyard’s ghosts after his family is murdered. The ghosts become his family, friends, and protectors. Newbery Award winner.

    No movie, although every few years you’ll hear rumors about a film in the works. 

  5. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz.

    The charming and likable young protagonist, Odd Thomas, can see, and help, the “lingering dead.” Not too ghostly and not too scary, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and Odd. I have yet to read the remainder of the series, but it’s on my list.

    There is a movie, but I have not seen it.

  6. The Witches by Roald Dahl

    A great first “scary” story for kids (9-11 year-olds, adults love it too) and a superbly fun read for adults. Roald Dahl is wickedly funny in this book. I loved reading this book to my children, and they loved the book, and as adults, they now share the movie with their children.

    The movie with Anjelica Huston is fantastic. It’s a great family movie. I saw where there is a remake in the works. 

  7. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

    Very Stephen King-esque—they were colleagues and writing partners before this was written. This is the story of four men, old friends, who meet one winter’s night as members of a private club, and the question is asked, “What was the worst thing that ever happened to you?” which leads to sharing ghost stories. This is a book of multiple layers with multiple stories that all come together as a supernatural revenge story. 

    Movie is only so-so. 

Pick one or two, or six or seven, of these to read before Halloween and get yourself in the Halloween spirit.  And tell me, what is your #1 favorite Halloween book?

Here’s to reading your story someday.

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