Five Books To Read For Halloween

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Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, since I was a little kid growing up in the suburbs of Milan; my schoolmates and I would go trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, even though in the late 90s and early 2000s it wasn’t very popular to celebrate Halloween in Italy, as it is a tradition that originates from the Anglo-Saxon world.

When I was ten years old, I remember spending Halloween night reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, whose Italian edition had just been published; I have always loved reading and, as with movies, I often enjoy reading books according to the current season.

I have just picked up a book from the Goosebumps series that I used to love as a kid; it’s called Ghost in the Mirror and it’s giving me 90s vibes!

Here are five books which belong to the horror/thriller genre that I have recently read and loved, so hopefully you too will get to enjoy some of the titles I am recommending.

Image Credits: Quirk Books

1) My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix: I bought this book after seeing the trailer from the Amazon Prime Video movie adaptation and I didn’t know what to expect, but I had a great experience reading it. While it has plenty of horror elements and some parts of the book are quite creepy, it is really about friendship and how much one is willing to put on the line to help a friend out. Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since they were little, but things change during high school, when Gretchen starts treating her group of friends badly and generally behaving weirdly with the people around her. Abby fears Gretchen might be possessed by an evil demon so she embarks on a quest to save her best friend, going against an entire community that does not believe her.

This supernatural horror story is set in the 1980s, therefore it is enriched with 80s pop culture references, which you will probably enjoy if you grew up in that decade or are fascinated by it. Maxwell, one of my friends on Goodreads, described the novel as “Mean Girls meets Fear Street” and I think it is perfectly fitting for this mood (plus, fans of Stranger Things will definitely appreciate it). I am looking forward to reading more from Grady Hendrix!

Image Credits: William Morrow & Co.

2) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: this was the fourth book I read by Neil Gaiman (I am a big fan of The Graveyard Book, which I read eight years ago for Halloween and would like to reread someday) and I enjoyed the story and its meanings. Neverwhere was published in 1997 and it is now considered one of the best works in the urban fantasy genre. It tells the story of Richard Mayhew, a young Londoner who lives a pretty normal life, working in Central London and spending time with his fiancée Jessica. While the two are going to a business lunch with her boss, they stumble upon an injured girl named Door, who has been abandoned in the streets. Richard decides to rescue the girl and takes her home against Jessica’s will, as she gets angry and breaks off their engagement. Richard’s life begins to get very chaotic when he discovers the existence of London Below, the dark world Door comes from…The two of them embark on a journey through London’s Underground as Richard gets stuck in London Below and tries to help Door and the other creatures in the fight against evil forces.

The book is structured in a way that is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and it is full of whimsical creatures and plenty of magical elements; some pages are characterized by a witty sense of humour and there are certain passages that really make you think about our place in the world and also question where we actually belong. Also, it makes you think about how sometimes happiness and the meaning of existence can be found in unexpected places. While I read the mass market paperback, the hardcover edition of this novel is brilliantly illustrated so this would be a bonus point as well.

Image Credits: Raven Books

3) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: according to its Goodreads page, this murder mystery has been described as “Gosford Park meets Inception, by way of Agatha Christie and Black Mirror” and I have to say it fits the description. The book takes place during a country house party and follows the investigation into the murder of a girl who gets murdered every night. Aiden Bishop, the main character, has eight possibilities to relive the same day to discover who killed her. He manages to do so by inhabiting a different body every single time, while he tries to understand if he really can trust the people around him, as some of them are working against him; all these elements make the story even more intriguing. It is a multi-layered novel which is also complex at times, as the reader needs to keep track of all the characters in the book and it is essential to pay attention while reading. It reminded me of Agatha Christie’s novels from the golden era of murder mysteries because it has numerous plot layers and it makes you feel immersed in the story… It is a perfect read for fans of thriller novels and murder mysteries!

Image Credits: Dutton

4) Home Before Dark by Riley Sager: this was my first time reading a Riley Sager novel and it turned out to be a great reading experience; now I want to read every novel he has ever written! Perfect for fans of Stephen King and The Haunting of Hill House, the book unfolds following two different points of view: one is Maggie Holt’s, who after 25 years has just returned to Baneberry Hall, the mansion she’s inherited from her father, to renovate the place in order to sell it. The second point of view is her father’s, told through his best-selling novel House of Horrors, which is basically a chilling tale of the twenty days their family spent living in the house before running away from it and never coming back. Maggie was only five years old at the time, so she doesn’t believe a word of her father’s book and thinks it is just fiction; what’s worse, the popularity of the book has been haunting her for years and has always prevented her from living a normal life. But as soon as she comes back to Baneberry Hall, spooky and unusual things start happening so Maggie is left wondering whether there is a kernel of truth to her father’s book after all.

This is a great novel for people who enjoy the haunted house archetype, as it is also reminiscent of Amityville Horror (I watched the film remake when I was twelve and it terrified me, even though I heard the original one is definitely better); Home Before Dark is a very suspenseful story and if you haven’t read any books by Riley Sager, this may be the right one to start with.

Image Credits: Quirk Books

5) Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of 70s and 80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix: this is another book by Grady Hendrix but it is a non-fiction title; it is a collection of vintage horror paperbacks complete with commentary. The book itself looks like a horror novel from the late ’70s and early ’80s and it celebrates horror from its early days to the ’90s decade. It contains high-quality pictures of cover art and it also discusses other horror sub-genres (like vampire novels, which I absolutely love). I am a huge fan of horror books in general and have enjoyed reading authors like Stephen King and Anne Rice over the years, so if you pick this up you will probably come across tons of books from your childhood and adolescence that you own and have read. It is a gorgeous book that makes you feel very nostalgic and also makes you discover facts about all these published works; it is basically the dark version of another Quirk Books title, Paperback Crush, which is a non-fiction book telling the history of pre-teen series of the 80s and 90s. I usually enjoy Quirk Books titles and I hope they will publish other similar works in the future. In the meantime, if you are a fan of horror novels or all things vintage like I am, be sure to add this title to your collection!

Image Credits: Simon and Schuster

BONUS TITLE: The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing): I spent the first two weeks of October reading this series so for those who love fantasy I can recommend the Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray. It is about Gemma, an English young girl who lives in India; after her mother’s mysterious death, she begins to have strange visions and gets sent to boarding school in England, where, along with some other girls at Spence Academy, she finds herself performing magic and starts to uncover the truth about her mother’s past, which is connected to the existence of a parallel world, a magical realm, which is both fascinating and dangerous.

While reading the first book, it took me some time to get into the swing of the series, but once I did I was totally hooked; it isn’t just about magic, since it also deals with themes like friendship, family and the female condition in Victorian London (there are some passages which are very feminist, especially when it mentions the role of women and what is expected of them from the English society during the late 1880s). The London of the time is described so vividly and accurately that I was quite surprised to find out that Libba Bray is actually an American writer; she did an amazing job of research! If you are a fan of the Harry Potter series and enjoy dark academia books set in a magical world, you will definitely appreciate Gemma Doyle’s character and her story.


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