Spooky Season Reading List
I’m a bit late with this article, so I apologize upfront.
But in my family, we consider spooky season to begin October 1 and extend until the week before Thanksgiving, so you still have time to get these reads in.
There is too much breaking news and political insanity as of late. So, I wanted to unwind with a good book recommendation article. Since we are in the midst of spooky season, I went back to some of my classics for this time of year. I figured it’d be fun to share an article with some recommendations if others are seeking a similar read.
I excluded any dystopian books from this category. Those are excellent reading options, but will be saved for another time. The focus here is on true horror books.
Here are my top five spooky season (horror) reads:
- The Great God Pan and Other Horror Stories – Arthur Machen
Perhaps no figure better embodies the transition from the Gothic tradition to modern horror than Arthur Machen. In the final decade of the nineteenth century, the Welsh writer produced a seminal body of tales of occult horror, spiritual and physical corruption, and malignant survivals from the primeval past which horrified and scandalized late Victorian readers.
Machen’s “weird fiction” has influenced generations of storytellers, from H. P. Lovecraft to Guillermo Del Toro and it remains no less unsettling today. This new collection, which includes the complete novel The Three Impostors as well as such celebrated tales as The Great God Pan and The White People, constitutes the most comprehensive critical edition of Machen yet to appear. In addition to the core late Victorian horror classics, a selection of lesser known prose poems and later tales helps to present a fuller picture of the development of Machen’s weird vision.
This one is obvious, it is one of the most recommended in the genre. And it’s a classic. It should be on everyone’s spooky season reading list.
- The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson
“A fascinating and frightening book” (Los Angeles Times)—the bestselling true story about a house possessed by evil spirits, haunted by psychic phenomena almost too terrible to describe.
In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that, one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property—complete with boathouse and swimming pool—and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror.
This is the spellbinding, shocking true story that gripped the nation about an American dream that turned into a nightmare beyond imagining—“this book will scare the hell out of you” (Kansas City Star).
Cliche, perhaps. But a great book. Far better than the movie.
Should leave with a good spook or two.
- The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus – Richard Preston
The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus.
A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus.
The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.
Unconventional as a horror book, but still great.
Horror is better when it is tied to reality, and this book is more truth than fiction. This one is especially interesting given the covid pandemic, but I will let you figure out that connection on your own.
- The Case Against Satan – Ray Russell
Before The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, there was The Case Against Satan. By the twentieth century, the exorcism had all but vanished, wiped out by modern science and psychology. But Ray Russell—praised by Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro as a sophisticated practitioner of Gothic fiction—resurrected the ritual with his classic 1962 horror novel, The Case Against Satan, giving new rise to the exorcism on page, screen, and even in real life.
Teenager Susan Garth was “a clean-talking sweet little girl” of high school age before she started having “fits”—a sudden aversion to churches and a newfound fondness for vulgarity. Then one night, she strips in front of the parish priest and sinks her nails into his throat. If not madness, then the answer must be demonic possession. To vanquish the Devil, Bishop Crimmings recruits Father Gregory Sargent, a younger priest with a taste for modern ideas and brandy. As the two men fight not just the darkness tormenting Susan but also one another, a soul-chilling revelation lurks in the shadows—one that knows that the darkest evil goes by many names.
A classic on exorcism. It also includes very long, interesting theological debates and some elements of a crisis of faith. An interesting read all around, but particularly spooky for those who are averse to demonology.
- The Necromancers – Robert Hugh Benson
Few people, even among Catholics, have heard of Robert Hugh Benson. That was not the case 100 years ago. As an author and novelist, the Catholic priest from Britain was incredibly popular. The reading public and the Catholic Church suffered greatly when he died in 1914.
Benson was skilled in attacking evil practices without appearing to preach about them. He also had the knack for crossing genres. He is more well-known for his historical novel Come Rack! Come Rope! about Catholics persecuted and martyred in Elizabethan England.
The Necromancers, first published in 1909, is set in contemporary Britain, and the main character is the young barrister Laurie Baxter. Baxter falls in love with a local girl, Amy, who dies of natural causes before they wed. One could say he was obsessed with Amy Nugent. In his distress after her death, he can’t bear her absence. He needs to contact her, to touch her again, if at all possible. Baxter had recently converted intellectually to the Catholic Faith, but not with his heart. Amy’s death provides a test that he appears to fail. He connects with a spiritualist circle hoping that the medium will help him bring back his love. He will do anything to get back to Amy, except wait for eternity. As goes the ironic inscription on Amy’s tombstone, -I shall see her but not now.-
One conversation early in Baxter’s immersion into spiritualism – necromancy – gives clues to its potential for disaster and provides lessons for readers in the 21st century. He has a dream in which he encounters an overwhelmingly evil presence.
This is not an often-read book in the modern day. In fact, you may have a problem finding a copy. But it’s another great classical work. Honestly, it is one of the tops in this list in terms of actual scare potential, because of its ties to modern metaphysical, occult practices. Well worth a read.
That concludes my five recommended reads for this spooky season. I hope you enjoy them. You should be able to find them all on whatever website you generally use to buy books.
Pick one you are interested in and give it a read. And then if you enjoyed it, pass it on.
(If you’re looking for my non-spooky recommend reads page, you can find it here: Hidden Dominion Recommend Reads.)
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