It’s October, therefore time to be terrified!
And honestly what is more terrifying than realising there are only 2 months left of the year and you have accomplished nothing 😪🙌🏻 So I do agree that October is the Spooky Month. Usually I am woeful at seasonal-reading (organisation? we do not know her) but this year I’ve been really into reading horror, so both September and October have been stuffed with creepy books for me and quite frankly I am here for it.
I’m quite excited to be putting together a recommendation list for the horror books I’ve been loving! This list is best for (a) horror newbies, and (b) light horror readers. I have yet to read a really hardcore horror that terrifies me, but there’s still time 😌👌🏻
As with all genres, horror comes in so many styles. So if you think “ugh I can’t handle horror” but you love epic fantasy…then look you’ll be fine with these books. Most horror just reads like thriller with a splash of supernatural creepery going down. But I do love the psychological disturbing ones with emotionally ruining endings too. Give me the peculiar, the witchy, the compellingly awful, the monsters, the gorgeous writing elegantly transcribing how the darkness breathes.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these or have any on your TBR! And recommend me your favourite horrors!
This list will have both adult and YA reads.
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo | Goodreads
- adult dark academia x horror, with massive Raven Cycle vibes (but all grown up)
- so gay, gays everywhere, also trans and polyam rep
- Andrew’s best friend Eddie is murdered while researching his family history, and Andrew inherits his research + his roommate + and Eddie as a clawing, horrific revenant haunting Andrew until he solves the mystery. He falls in with Eddie’s new friends who are basically nerds by day at university and bad boys with fast cars by night.
- Southern USA gothic vibes, and lots of legend and folklore nods.
- Sam Halse and Rylie are the cousin bros who you cannot help but adore. Sam will protec and he will attac 😪🙌🏻
- Andrew is incredibly messy and broken, and his grief is so palpable on page.
- Beautiful writing and imagery and it is DARK.
The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht | Goodreads
- adult horror / epic fantasy Tor novella
- it’s fast and dark and reads a lot like Schwab’s monster books (but genuinely queer)
- Johann wakes up a monster with no idea how he became one, and he cannot die. It’s set in a rotting, crumbling sea-side city with fantastic aesthetics of monsters and decay, add in a little sorcery as Johann attaches himself to the local delicate sorcery and promises to be his body guard if Florian will figure out why Johann is a monster. It’s knifey and dark, and the power dynamic between Johann and Florian is ever shifting as they prove to be as monstrous as each other.
- Johann literally flirts or stabs his way through the whole book.
- Super fast read, bit confused at times though so I wish it had been longer 😂 Me: “I love novellas!” Also me: “….make it longer.”
The Nesting by C.J. Cooke | Goodreads
- Adult haunted house horror
- Set in Norway! Lexi Ellis poses as a reputable nanny in order to escape her miserable life and get a free aesthetic trip/board/work in Norway looking after two little girls. Their mother recently killed herself, and now their father is still building a new eco-friendly, highly-expensive house in the Norwegian wilds.
- Lexi is, quite frankly, a hot mess and utterly sketchy as she has issues up to her eyeballs and yet is in charge!! of young kids!! The horror is subtle at first, ghosts and haunts and it turns into a real environmental and land-strikes-back horror which I loved. The characters? Did not love 😂 but the book was still super compelling and I wanted answers.
- It isn’t super terrifying, and focuses more on solving the mystery. So a good horror intro!
The Invited by Jennifer McMahon | Goodreads
- Adult haunted house horror
- The premise of this one is: “What if you built YOUR OWN HAUNTED HOUSE.” Which is a terrible idea, but look, we’ll let them have at it. Helen and Nate have a midlife crisis (or mid-30s crisis) and decide to build their own house in the wilderness and live all eco-friendly and grow vegetables and be self-sustaining. Except they buy a haunted plot of land and then Helen, a historian who gets obsessed with the town’s witch history, ends up sourcing housing material from murder sites to build into their house. (No, she doesn’t let her husband know this 😪) It’s very much about BUILDING, which was fascinating to read, and the #1 way to ruin your marriage through unending stress. I could have told them this.
- Simple storytelling and reads like a ghost story without too many terror moments or jump scares. I personally liked the premise more than the characters, but the ending had such a surprising twist so that was fun.
It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan | Goodreads
- Adult haunted house horror
- This is a more traditional haunted house story, with a young woman living in her family’s renown old home of ghosts. The ghosts just go about their daily lives and death loops and the family works around it. Like, oh there’s that old ancestor killing themselves again in the living room, she’ll be right.
- It also has futuristic ghosts + messy sister relationships + a lot of history woven in about a historical family who hid escaped slaves in the nearby bog until they could get them to freedom.
- The beginning was very slow as we wander through Sam’s languorous storytelling, but the end is fast-paced and horrible in the best possible way. It gets snarly and dark with some really sharp twists.
Amity by Micol Ostow | Goodreads
- YA haunted house this time!
- It’s told in 2 parts: half by Conor as he moves into this old house called Amity, and half by Gwen, 10 years later as her family moves in. So immediately you want to know what happened to Conor and why his family left (or what happened to them) and the way the two storylines meshed was very well done. The house is creepy and has a disturbing history, and basically it possesses and changes people’s personalities. It’s subtly creepy until it’s outright hostile by the end.
- The characters are not exactly likeable, but this is horror so eh, I get that. Conor is maybe an untreated sociopath and Gwen is a very damp, limpet of a person. In the end I loathed Conor but I also feel like he needed help and was denied it by his toxic/abusive family.
- There’s a lot of creep factors in the house + a ton of animal death.
- It’s very atmospheric and super compelling, so I just whisked right through quite fast. I did like it! Although the characters weren’t very proactive and just reacted to the house instead of searching for answers.
The Family Plot by Cherie Priest | Goodreads
- Adult haunted house
- This one is about a family business of salvagers who are hired to gut a very old ancestral home….and OH YEAH it’s haunted by the owner neglected to say so. We basically follow Dahlia as she leads a team of workers through this job, and there’s plenty of family drama and grown-up-sibling-rivalry and chaos as Dahlia is meant to be the boss and her brother is a lowkey jerk about falling in line.
- It is SO very factual about how to dismantle a house. I am literally an expert on the value of chestnut staircases okay. However 😂 the detail in the house descriptions and demolishing was interesting to start, and got weary fast. So go into this one expecting a slower, methodical pace. The haunts pick up speed towards the end.
- I do love family drama and construction work though 👀👌🏻
Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare | Goodreads
- YA Slasher Horror
- Okay this was fast-paced and gory and WILD. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and then it’s like, BAM, chainsaws in the cornfield and who is getting out of this alive. We don’t know!!!
- The story mostly Quinn, a new arrival to a creepy little USA town where the adults are sick of all the teens’s shit. She has no idea about the town’s tension and blithely goes to a party where everything proceeds to go very badly.
- It’s a simple plot, tropey and face-paced (takes place mostly over one night) and there’s blood and gore and some seriously big twists and wtf (in a good way) moments. Also a little dash of gay and a little bit of trauma bonding.
- I liked this one! It had literally no chill.
Things We Say In The Dark by Kristy Logan | Goodreads
- Adult Horror Novella
- This was super disturbing so !! it did it’s JOB and it did it well. It’s a collection of short stories (some incredibly small, like under a page) of disturbing tales that end up building into a bigger tale. Between the bite-sized disturbing little stories, there’s an anonymous author slowly telling their own unravelling tale of creepiness.
- The stories were often just really peculiar or disturbing, and it was quite riveting to read. Teeth and things in the walls and cutting creepy babies out of stomaches and living in a nest of rotting mushrooms. The imagination was magnificent.
- It’s also utterly queer, lesbians everywhere.
Horrid by Katrina Leno | Goodreads
- YA haunted house x family with dark secrets
- After her father dies, Jane and her mum move back to her family’s old home, planning to fix it up and live there for a fresh start. Because when you want to escape your bad past, you look for an absolutely definitely haunted house FOR SURE. Solid decision making. Right up, you know things are a bit off with Jane and her mum as well — Jane literally eats books and has a clear rage issue.
- Small creepy town atmosphere x weird house leaving chills crawling down your spine.
- Super open ending, left there for you to either make your own interpretation or just scream.
- A subtle and slowly crawling, chilling horror that takes place in October and Halloween!
Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters | Goodreads
- YA horror about family secrets and cursed fiddles that can raise ghosts.
- We do like a good music-centric tale around here 👀👌🏻 This is the southern horror of ghosts and curses and family drama that you’ve been waiting for.
- Shady Grove’s family falls apart when her step-father is murdered and her brother, Jesse, is jailed for it. She’s not even over her real father’s death and begins to search for his magic fiddle that can raise ghosts so she can get answers about the real murderer. It’s part creepy and part typical YA story, with Shady heading off to school and being disappointed by her bestie (who she has a crush on) while crushing on the soft cowboy named Cedar.
- Actually really loved Jesse and think he deserved better 🥺
- Shady is bisexual!! She is trying her best but is still somewhat a disaster.
- It’s a highly emotional story with a riveting murder mystery and ghosts with sharp teeth and anguished tears, very focused on the stages of grief.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass | Goodreads
- YA horror x mostly set in a highschool
- This one follows Jake (surprise!!) who is a medium, and he constantly sees the world of the dead and ghosts playing out their death loops, as he tries to go through day to day life. He’s very reserved and quiet, constantly zoned out, so it’s to his surprise that he gets caught up and targeted by the vengeful ghost of a school shooter — who is doing a lot of killing from the grave as well.
- CONFESSION…….I’m still reading this 😂 I have a little of the audiobook left, but I wanted it on the list, so here it goes!!
- This one is deep into the supernatural aspects, and it has a lot of dark and creepy vibes going on. Featuring traumatised kids lashing out, and lots of moral questions about the consequences and ripple effect of violence. We also have journal entries from the school shooter’s diary, so it’s very much a book about exploring perspectives.
- Focuses on Black kids in a mostly-white-high-school, and the everyday racism they face.
Harrow Lake by | Goodreads
- YA small creepy town horror
- Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker, but when her dad is stabbed, she is sent back to his hometown of Harrow Lake to stay with her (super weird) grandmother. From the moment she enters that town, everything IS WEIRD. From her grandma making her wear her missing (possibly dead) mother’s clothes, to just the towns people being balls of oddness, to all creepy obsession with Mister Jitters — a legendary puppet creature who maybe is not so fake after all.
- Lola is utterly unreliable which makes for a scintillating read because you realise YOU are getting screwed over the more pages you turn.
- There’s some haunting and weird stuff and teeth turning up in places teeth shouldn’t be, and just general lowkey disturbing aspects the whole way through. It wasn’t bloody/gory but definitely nails the harrowing part of its title.
Burn our Bodies Down by Rory Powers | Goodreads
- Another YA small town creepy horror!
- This one features Margot who slips away from her super weird mother to track down her family roots and get answers from her estranged grandma. Again this nails the small-town-everyone-is-lowkey-disturbing vibes. You just have to wonder what these small American outback towns are putting in the water, honestly. 😪 This one leans into creepy farming vibes, and family secrets that people refuse to let budge.
- Margot is queer too! Although there is no romance.
- I found it very, very slow and repetitive, but the aesthetic was utterly transfixing and it nailed that monstrous ending.