As the days become shorter and the temperate drops, there’s just one thing to do: curl up under a blanket and grab a book.
And with autumn now well underway, what better to grab than a Halloween read?
But don’t worry, Halloween reads don’t all have to be scary. Yes, there are tales here of ghosts and monsters who lurk in the dark, but this Halloween you can also find comfort in the magic of the natural world and in finding light amid the darkness.
Here are nine books, from terribly scary to inspiring, to add to your to-be-read pile in the run-up to Halloween.
Ghost Music by An You (2022)
It might have ghosts in the title, but An Yu’s novel about music, secrets and self-discovery is more about long-buried secrets and internal pain.
Ghost Music is the story of Song Yan, who gave up her career as a concert pianist when she got married. Although she tries to fill the emptiness of her Beijing apartment with piano students, what she really wants is a child.
When her mother-in-law comes to visit, she brings with her long-buried family secrets, and soon strange parcels start to show up on the doorstep. Song Yan finds herself pulled into ancient hutongs – narrow streets or alleys commonly associated with northern Chinese cities – to confront the source of her unease.
The Darkness Manifesto by Johan Eklöf (2022)
While autumn signifies the onset of a season of cosy knits and warming drinks, in the western hemisphere it’s also the start of months of long periods of darkness. With gloomy skies when you wake up, and sunset taking place before 4 p.m. on the shortest days, it’s easy to long for the light.
Johan Eklöf’s The Darkness Manifesto gives readers a new perspective on the power of darkness, urging us to cherish the natural rhythms of our planet for the sake of the environment, our own well-being, and all life on earth.
The book lays out how constant illumination has made light pollution a major issue and has led to entire ecosystems being altered.
Eklöf encourages readers to appreciate natural darkness and its unique benefits, and writes about the damage we inflict – from insects failing to reproduce to birds being blinded and bewildered – by relying too much on artificial light.
Magic Days by Nadine Jane (2022)
Spring is often seen as a period for fresh starts, while the new year is when we start thinking about self-improvement.
But Nadine Jane’s Magic Days, a ‘spiritual almanac’, makes an excellent argument for seeing autumn and winter as the perfect times to stop, reassess and commit to focusing on self-care.
Astrology expert Jane has taken the essence of the most popular forms of divination, from astrology and numerology to tarot, and distilled them into one book.
This almanac guides each star sign through the astrological year and offers insight into how the stars are shaping your destiny. Each page includes mantras, rituals and journal prompts to help readers reflect.
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian (2021)
Vera Kurian’s novel is about Chloe, a first-year university student and ordinary girl next door. Except for the fact that she’s a psychopath.
Chloe is taking part in a secret clinical study of young psychopaths, while also plotting to kill her childhood friend Will Bachman.
When others in the study begin to die horribly, Chloe realises she needs to discover who the murderer is before she becomes their next victim.
Never Saw Me Coming is a delicious, wryly funny and uneasy read, perfect for the autumn months.
Classic Ghost Stories (2022)
Any autumn reading list worth its salt will include ghost stories, and this classic collection has you covered, bringing together some of the best storytellers and their spooky tales.
Included is Charles Dickens’s ‘The Signalman’ and M. R. James’s ‘A Warning to the Curious’, as well as stories by J. S. Le Fanu, Edith Wharton, H. G. Wells and more.
Deadly Cure by Mahi Cheshire (2022)
Mahi Cheshire’s novel is a story about doctors, rivals and murder, perfect for thriller fans.
When Dr Rea Dharmasena loses out on her dream research job, it’s only made worse by the fact that it’s to her med-school rival and best friend, Dr Julia Stone.
Adding insult to injury is that Julia used Rea’s research to secure the role, but Rea is ready to forgive her.
But it’s too late: after a life-changing discovery Julia is found murdered, and Rea finally gets her dream job. But there will be a cost…
Lily by Rose Tremain (2021)
Rose Tremain’s novel opens with a confession of murder – to the reader – by the titular character, Lily, who was abandoned as a baby and taken to the Foundling Hospital by the young policeman who found her.
Released into the world of Victorian London as a young adult, Lily is hiding a terrible secret when she meets the policeman again.
She’s convinced he holds the key to her happiness – but if her crime is uncovered, he could also be the one to condemn her to death.
If you like books full of tension but don’t want any jump scares, pick up Lily this Halloween for an intriguing and dramatic read.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder (2021)
Lonely and sleepless, an artist is struggling. Her husband is away, travelling for work, and she is battling the relentless exhaustion of being a mother to a toddler. Overnight, suddenly, she starts to notice changes to her body. Sharper teeth. A hunger. A new, growling voice within her. Her inner beast is unleashed. This sharp, witty and subversive take on contemporary womanhood is perfect to sink your teeth into this Halloween.
Now She Is Witch by Kirsty Logan (2023)
Witches are an endlessly popular subject for fiction, and no wonder: persecuted, often found on the edges of society, and saying much about the power structures we live within, they’re a compelling and rich subject.
Kirsty Logan’s forthcoming novel Now She is Witch is the tale of Lux and Else, two women who feel alone in the world. Lux has lost her family, lover and home after they were all burned, and Else needs help with seeking revenge against the man who wronged her.
Now She is Witch chronicles the two women’s journey, and looks at a world where women grasp power using witchcraft, poisons, sexuality and more. It is the perfect book to pre-order this Halloween.
Logan is the author of several books including the unsettling short-story collection Things We Say in the Dark.