The best Halloween books for adults are terrifying, creepy, sometimes funny and ideally enjoyed now through October 31. From classic horror staples like Frankenstein and Dracula to more contemporary—but equally spine-chilling—thrillers like Final Girls and A Stranger in the House, here are 23 of the best Halloween books to creep yourself out with this spooky season.
23 Halloween Books for Adults to Read During Spooky Season
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Even if you’ve already binged the Netflix series, the original 1959 gothic horror novel by Shirley Jackson (The Witch) is more than worth a read—especially because the two differ in more ways than one. The book concerns four people who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly, likely haunted property. They’re led by Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a haunting. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with some inexplicable phenomena, but Hill House is gathering its powers and none of the four know just how terrifying things will soon get.
Good evening, Clarice. Before it was a pee-your-pants scary movie with an all-star cast of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, The Silence of the Lambs was an equally terrifying novel. First published in 1988, it’s the sequel to Harris's 1981 novel Red Dragon. Both novels feature the cannibalistic serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, though the latter sees him pitted against FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling.
In a classic horror movie, the "final girl" is the one young woman who makes it out alive--but barely, and usually not with all her clothes. In Sager's more subversive novel, Quincy, who survived a mass murder, refuses to play into the "final girl" trope. Instead, she creates a fulfilling life in New York City. Then, a woman like her dies of an apparent suicide, and Quincy's well-crafted facade begins to unravel. This one will keep you guessing until the very last page.
In a similar vein, Hendrix’s (My Best Friend's Exorcism) 2021 thriller is about Lynnette, a real-life final girl who survived a massacre. For more than a decade, she's been meeting with five other final girls and their therapist in a support group to put their lives back together. But when one woman misses a meeting, their worst fears are realized. Someone knows about the group and is determined to rip their lives apart again, piece by piece.
In 1982, Viv wants to move from upstate New York to Manhattan. To help pay for the move, she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. Then she disappears. In 2017, Viv’s niece Carly moves to Fell and visits the motel, desperate for answers about her aunt’s life. There, she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982, and she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.
For more than 200 years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: As children, the sisters were taunted, talked about and pointed at. After they escape their hometown, the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic. Oh, and after you finish the book you should absolutely watch (or rewatch) the movie version with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock.
It wouldn’t be Halloween without at least one vampire, right? Irish author Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897 as an epistolary novel told through letters, diary entries and newspaper articles. It’s the story of a vampire, Count Dracula, and his move from his native Transylvania to England in the search for victims of his undead curse. At the same time a group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing are determined to stop him.
There’s no whodunit in this perfectly plotted thriller. We know from the start that the killer is Alicia Berenson, a famous photographer who, one night, shoots her husband five times in the face in their posh London home. What we don’t know—what no one knows—is why. Since the shooting, Alicia hasn’t spoken a single word. But as she sits silently in a psychiatric hospital, one therapist is determined to break through, even if it leads to his own demise.
The book isn’t too far from the movie (projectile vomiting, anyone?), but you get more background information on some of the supporting characters that makes the whole thing just a little more unsettling—if that’s possible.
In need of a fresh start, Jess asks if she can crash with her half-brother, Ben, who lives in Paris and doesn’t sound thrilled about the arrangement. When she shows up to Ben’s address, Jess find a very nice apartment—one that she’s not sure how Ben can afford—and he’s not there. The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother's situation and the more questions she has. Ben's neighbors are an eclectic bunch, not particularly friendly, and Jess suspects they all know things they’re not sharing. Jess might have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s looking more and more like it's Ben's future that's in question.
Suspense, mystery and romance—what else would you expect from a novel that takes place in an English estate run by a creepily stubborn housekeeper? It’s like a spooky Downton Abbey.
Though the name Frankenstein has become more associated with the creature itself, it’s actually the name of the mad scientist who created the creature in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel. A combination of gothic horror story and science fiction, it centers on Victor Frankenstein, a Swiss student of natural science who brings an artificial man to life. Though it initially seeks affection, the monster eventually turns on its creator.
If creepy, scary Halloween books aren’t your thing, try this lighter take on a spooky novel. Phoebe is a PhD candidate who’s always been obsessed with true crime. While spending a summer in Florida cleaning out her childhood home and grappling with the complicated feelings of mourning a father she hadn't had a relationship with for years, she starts to think the new neighbor, Sam, is a serial killer. But it's not long before Phoebe realizes that Sam might be something much scarier—a genuinely nice guy who wants her to give him a chance.
Any number of King’s books deserve a spot on this list, but we’re partial to Pet Sematary, his 1983 novel about the Creed family, recent Maine transports who encounter endless horrors in their new neighborhood, not limited to freak accidents, murder and more than a few dead animals.
In the winter of 1952, London was struck by two killers: One, the Great Smog that killed thousands, and the other, John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least six women. Drawing on extensive interviews and archival research, Dawson recounts the intersection of these two brutal forces and their lasting impact on modern history.
Locke was a writer and producer on Fox’s Empire, and her second novel (after Black Water Rising) is part murder mystery, part historical fiction. The Cutting Season is a heart-pounding thriller that interweaves two murder mysteries—one on Belle Vie, a historic landmark in the middle of Lousiana’s Sugar Cane country, and one involving a slave gone missing more than one hundred years earlier.
If your favorite thing about The Girl on the Train was the train, you’re in luck. This classic is the original railway murder mystery, telling the story of passengers on the same train who somehow agree to commit each other’s murders. Read it, then invite your book club over to watch the Hitchcock film.
Antoinette Conway is a newbie detective looking for an interesting case. What she gets is an open-and-shut lovers' quarrel. That is, until her colleagues start acting strangely, and someone shadowy is lurking outside her house…
This one is super short, but super scary. Set in Italy during carnival season, this terrifying tale concerns revenge and being buried alive. Told from the perspective of the murderer, it’s cold and vengeful and will make you pray you never piss anyone off as much as the story’s victim did.
Get ready for some serious twists and turns. In this 2018 thriller, a woman who is making dinner and waiting for her husband to come home gets a disturbing phone call, then abruptly wakes up in the hospital, with no memory of what happened next. The police suspect she was up to something, her husband doesn't believe it and the rest of the people in her life aren't so sure. Lapena's smart and suspenseful novel will have you believing so many different points of view, you'll never see the ending coming.
Another true crime masterpiece, this one about a mysterious stranger, a secret love affair and a dead body—all set against Savannah, Georgia’s high-society in the early 1980s. All in all, a Southern Gothic epic that Berendt unravels with rich, obsessively researched detail.
A gothic novella about two young, possessed children. James wrote this spooky story in 1898 and it’s just as horrifying today. It’s sinister and weird and blurs the lines between sanity and insanity a little too well.
If ever there was a good time for a feminist revenge fantasy, we’re pretty sure this is it. Three sisters—Grace, Lia, and Sky—have been raised in total isolation on an island and taught that men are the enemy. In fact, they’ve only ever seen one—their father, King. But one day, King disappears and two men and a boy wash up on the island, and the girls are caught up in an intense psychological game. It’s a strange, dystopian tale, but we promise that you’ll get deeply invested in their fate.