Get into the Halloween spirit with these spooky reading recommendations from Agate’s staff!
Kristina Dehlin, Associate Manager of Content Development
Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday, so I enjoy breaking out some spooky books this time of year. I’ve been borrowing from my dad’s Stephen King collection over the years. My favorite is probably The Shining, which I enjoyed because it gave me the same adrenaline rush as a scary movie (though it also gave me nightmares). It’s got some of the great classic elements: jump scares, evil spirits, and a haunted hotel. More recently, though, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado absolutely blew me away. It’s a memoir shaped by a real-life monster. Machado tells her story through various literary tropes—many from the horror world. It’s one of those books I devoured in a day and cannot stop thinking about. It’s scary, genius, and somehow beautiful.
Diana Slickman, Director of Operations
If you’re looking for a scary book, I don’t think you have to look much farther than Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House. No blood, no guts, no gore, no homicidal maniacs, no possessed cars or dogs or dolls, just a good, old-fashioned haunted house. Or maybe it’s the people who are haunted? It scared me sleepless when I was a young reader and I still worry about the characters from time to time. If you want to see a faithful adaptation, see The Haunting (1963; Robert Wise, director) starring Julie Harris as the troubled heroine. Do not fool around with any more recent offerings supposedly based on this truly frightening book.
Jacqueline Jarik, Publicity Manager
I do not partake in the reading of scary books because I am very easily frightened, but my sister loves the genre, so I posed this question to her to see what she recommends. She says her all-time favorite is The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which the internet tells me is considered to be one of the first mystery novels. She also says her recent favorite is Riley Sager’s Lock Every Door.
Paige Gilberg, Publishing Intern
I read Gideon the Ninth earlier this month, and it was perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit. Set in a galactic empire known as the Nine Houses, the story follows Harrow Nonagesimus, a gifted necromancer, and Gideon Nav, her servant-turned-cavalier. When Harrow is invited to compete for a position serving the Emperor, she and Gideon travel to the First House to face off against other necromancer-cavalier pairs. The novel recounts their experiences there, stuck in a decaying old mansion filled with skeletons, sword-fighting, and secrets behind every door.
Jane Seibold, Production Editor
I gotta recommend My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Harris. It’s a graphic novel gorgeously (and sometimes gorily) rendered in ballpoint pen that tells the story of a young woman with a passion for “B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines” who attempts to solve the murder of her upstairs neighbor, a holocaust survivor.
Rachel Hinton, Associate Director of Content Development
The Southern Reach trilogy (VanderMeer) is addictive, weird eco-fiction that’s VERY scary. I also just read Death in Her Hands (Mosfegh) during a power outage and I thought that was the perfect spooky book to read by candlelight.
Bri Rooke, Editorial Intern
I just finished reading The Picture of Dorian Gray for the first time (I know, I’m behind the times by a few hundred years), but I absolutely loved it! The mystery, the mortality, the opulent settings, Dorian’s slow decline into madness—all of it combined to make a gloriously spooky tale of the perils of obsession!
Elizabeth Pappas, Content Development Coordinator
I’d recommend Sarah Moss’s The Cold Earth, an epistolary novel about a group of archaeologists stranded in Greenland when a novel plague strikes the rest of the world. The pandemic aspect may be a little scarier now than when I read it a year ago, and there’s a hint of haunting, but the book is more of a psychological thriller than anything. It’s very atmospheric—the harsh northern landscape seems like a character in itself—and has a very creepy vibe; it’s also one of those books that I read all in one sitting and felt bereft at the end.