The 5 Best Books To Read During Spooky Season

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

As Halloween quickly approaches and squirrels gnaw away at our front stoop pumpkins, it's officially time to settle down with a delightfully-unsettling read. Horror and mystery are two of the most popular genres on the market, meaning there's no shortage of suspenseful books to choose from this fall. As noted by novelist Stephen King in a UMass Lowell faculty essay, horror "deliberately appeals to all that is worst in us." The genre represents "morbidity unchained, our most base instincts let free." According to Bustle, horror fiction provides an opening to process real-life hardships. It allows us "to play with dark emotions," explains Dr. Mathias Clasen, scholar and author known for "Why Horror Seduces." It teaches readers "how we respond to fear, anxiety, dread, and so on."

Given all the options on the market, it can be difficult to choose which scary book to curl up with this Halloween season. However, out of the many truly-spooky reads, a few stand above the rest. Here are our picks for the best books to devour on a dark and stormy night. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is beloved for works like 1959's "The Haunting of Hill House," turned into a popular Netflix series decades later, and "The Lottery," a truly-chilling short story. However, her 1962 novel, "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," combines the perfect amount of horror and autumn charm. The story follows Merricat and Constance Blackwood, two sisters who have made do after losing most of their family to arsenic-laced sugar. The Blackwood sisters have become town outcasts, isolated in their quiet family home with only their rambling uncle and pet cat for company. When a distant cousin arrives to court Constance, only Merricat senses a threat (via Penguin Random House).

It's a book filled with cozy dinners, forest foraging, and a generous helping of poison. As noted by The Guardian, the novel entrances just as much as it unsettles, making it the perfect story for Halloween. Reviewer David Barnett writes, "I'm envious of those that read it for the first time." "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" represents Shirley Jackson at her finest.

Fledgling, Octavia E. Butler

Octavia E. Butler is true literary legend, remembered for her influence on the science fiction and horror genres, per Lit Hub. At the time of her passing in 2006, Butler had published nearly 20 novels including "Fledgling," one of her few stand-alone works (via Barnes & Noble). "Fledgling" tells the story of Shori, a girl who wake up inside a cave with no memory of who she is, per NPR. Readers join Shori in solving the mystery of her identity, coming to learn that she is not, in fact, a young girl at all — she's a 53-year-old vampire who must drink human blood in order to survive. But, as we sink our teeth deeper into the story, we come to learn that Shori's origins are more complicated than she ever imagined.

According to Atlantic reviewer Lovia Gyarkye, "Fledgling" is much more than a vampire story — it "shows us how to coexist." Whether you order yourself a paperback or download the audiobook, there's nothing quite like Octavia E. Butler's take on horror.

The Year of the Witching, Alexis Henderson

Fans of "The Crucible" who want an updated take on the story might be interested in "The Year of the Witching," Alexis Henderson's first novel. Immanuelle is an outcast within the tight-laced town of Bethel, a puritan society that hasn't forgotten her deceased mother's connection to witchcraft and controversial affair with a man of a different race cast (via Publisher's Weekly). But, when Immanuelle ventures into the Darkwood that borders her town, she discovers shocking secrets about her mother and the very laws that govern Bethel.

As noted by Amazon, Oprah Magazine praises this witchy debut as "universal" and "timeless," a "story about women's power" that updates stories of Salem for today's readers. Ultimately, and as explained by Alexis Henderson herself, "The Year of the Witching" is both "fantasy and horror," full of "gothic world building, gruesome imagery, cataclysmic plagues, creepy witches, dark family secrets, and a theocratic, dystopian church," per The Nerd Daily.

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is often called "the queen of crime," and for good reason. She is the author of over 66 detective novels, all laced with poison, murder, and a genre-defining take on the "who-done-it" (via Chilkibo Publishing). Christie first gained popularity in 1920 after the release of "The Mysterious Affair at Styles," continuing to publish up until the 1970s, via NPR. "And Then There Were None" is one of her most well-known stories, depicted time and again on both stage and screen, per The Home of Agatha Christie. When 10 strangers are invited to an isolated island by mysterious hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Owen, they begin dying one-by-one. Together, they must determine who among them is the murderer or face extinction.

"And Then There Were None" is often ranked among Christie's best works, "A perfect combination of thriller and detective story," according to one Guardian review. Fans of the star-studded "Knives Out" are sure to enjoy this bottled-up mystery, a novel which has served as the inspiration for generations upon generations of detective stories.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

Sometimes it's hard to beat the classics. Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was published in 1886. The novella tells the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll, a scientist who takes his experiments too far, creating an evil alter-ego "Mr. Hyde" (via Britannica). Dr. Jekyll must engage in an internal battle with his creation, struggling for single control in an effort to prevent Hyde's violent crimes. It's a truly chilling story, examining the things we fear most inside us all. Stevenson's book served as a blueprint for years of hero and villain origin stories, inspiring the likes of Green Goblin and the Hulk (via Pop Culture Classroom).

Yes, Halloween is an opportunity to display clever costumes, but it's also the perfect time of year to give yourself a good scare. Not only will the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transport you back in time to the spooky streets of 19th century London, it could also serve as this year's costume inspiration.