Previously: What To Do On Halloween, 2022 Edition.
Halloween is just a little over a week away. Do you know what you’re doing on it yet? Yes, it’s a weekday this year — and a Tuesday, at that — so, for some of us, that means that any reveling will occur the weekend before, with the day itself being a bit more sedate. But you know what sounds great to me? Dimming the lights… brewing some tea, or maybe pouring some wine… turning on some atmospheric music… and cracking open a good book. And if you’re looking for eerie, seasonally appropriate books to read on Halloween in 2023, good news: I have many, many suggestions for you.
This year, we’re looking at a bit of an adjustment in format for TGIMM’s “What To Do On Halloween” suggestions — a slight change in tradition, if you will. Historically, I’ve put together a big ol’ of things to do on Halloween covering a variety of categories, offering ideas regarding video games to play, podcasts to listen to, movies to watch, books and other written media to read, and a catch-all list of other activities to do on or leading up to the big day.
But, friends: I read a lot of really good books this year.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
Some were newly published (and, in some cases, I was fortunate enough to be provided with an ARC to read prior to publication); some were older, but still new to me; but they were, each and every one, a cracking good read.
So, for 2023, we’re going to focus specifically on just one of the usual categories: The “Read Something” category. In no particular order, here are 18 chilling, eerie, and sometimes straight-up frightening books just waiting to cause your spine to erupt in shivers on Halloween night.
For our previous What To Do On Halloween coverage, which includes not just things to read, but also things to play, listen to, watch, and do, each year’s archive can be found here: 2022; 2021; 2020; 2019; 2018; 2017.
1. Other Terrors: An Inclusive Anthology, ed. Vince A. Liaguno and Rena Mason
Let’s start things off with a short story collection, shall we? Other Terrors tells us exactly what it is upfront: A collection examining the horror of the “other” — but not from the perspective our culture and society usually view as the default. It’s not necessarily the “other” that’s horrifying here; it’s the act of being othered, and of othering others — what Chris Kluwe accurately described in his review of the collection at Lightspeed Magazine as “neatly subverting the classic horror trope of the ‘other’ automatically being the villain (and, more importantly, highlighting the fact that those who view the ‘other’ as an object of fear and loathing may, in fact, be villains themselves).”
Much of what’s present in these tales will no doubt ring true for many — for anyone who has these lived experiences, who moves through the world with any or all of this being the context. It’s familiar, and in that familiarity lies the horror.
Standouts for me include “Invasive Species” by Ann Dávila Cardinal, “Waste Not” by Alma Katsu, “The Turning” by Hailey Piper, “Idiot Girls” by Jennifer McMahon, and “Incident At Bear Creek Lodge” by Tananarive Due, but each and every story in this collection is a gem.
Get it here.
2 and 3. Just Like Home and The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey
Spoiler alert: I read a lot of haunted house books this year (don’t worry, we’ll talk about all of them by the time this list is done) — and Just Like Home was honestly one of the most frightening.
When Vera agrees to come “home” at the behest of her dying mother, the homecoming is a fraught one. “Home,” in this case, is a relative term; the house Vera grew up in — the house her father built — hasn’t been her home since her mother made the decision to cease being a parent to her when she was still a child.
Vera’s father, you see, had a secret — one built into the walls of the house he constructed. A secret that destroyed lives and families — and not just Vera’s own.
But when Vera arrives, she finds that she and her mother are not alone; there’s an “artist,” as he calls himself, living in the guest house. All is not what it seems here, and as Vera peels back the layers of the house’s walls and of her own life…
I honestly don’t think I should tell you anymore about this one than that. There are reversals upon reversals here, and each one is more horrifying than the last. Ad the saying goes, the past isn’t always over; sometimes, it’s not even in the past.
The Echo Wife, meanwhile, is a story about cloning — but to chalk it up just to that is to oversimplify it. The two-paragraph summary is this:
Dr. Evelyn Caldwell’s research into cloning is brilliant — revolutionary and groundbreaking, the stuff that lasting scientific legacies are made of. Her husband, however — rapidly falling behind his wife’s brilliance and resentful of the fact — does more than just swipe it out from underneath her; Nathan uses it to make a clone of her — a new wife, Martine, who looks exactly like Evelyn does, but who literally exists to serve him.
Until Martine begins to chafe under Nathan’s abuse, that is. After she takes matters into her own hands, Martine has only one place to turn in order to clean up the situation — and Evelyn, in turn, cannot turn her down.
Gailey has a masterful gift when it comes to taking the familiar and making it unfamiliar. Their work exemplifies true uncanniness, and it makes my skin crawl.
Which, of course, is exactly what I’m looking for.
4. Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Cinema-based horror scratches a very particular itch for me; it feels much like a lot of Hollywood history does — glitzy and glamourous on the outside, but with a sort of tarnish lurking at the corners if you look carefully. (A tarnish which, I would argue, is finally being thrust into the sunlight, thanks to the ongoing WGA and SAG/AFTRA strikes. Reminder: People deserve to be paid fairly for their work!)
A strong current of that hidden seediness and smoke-and-mirrors quality runs through Silver Nitrate, which I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC for prior to its July 2023 release. Here’s what I had to say about it over at NetGalley:
“For a certain kind of person, there’s a kind of magic to cinema — the magic that builds a whole world outside of your own, to which you can escape for an hour or two simply by sitting in a darkened room and letting a flicker of light play across a screen. This is true both for those who watch, and for those who make — but in Silver Nitrate, that magic becomes reality.
But magic can be dangerous — and this particular magic is as dark as it gets.
Set not in modern-day Hollywood, but in Mexico City’s film industry in the 1990s, Silver Nitrate follows Montserrat, a talented sound editor constantly fighting against the boys’ club nature of the business, and her fading soap star best friend Tristan as they uncover the mystery of auteur filmmaker Abel Urueta’s lost film Beyond The Yellow Door — a film Urueta, who unexpectedly becomes Tristan’s new neighbor, claims was made as a kind of spell, but which left its participants cursed after it went unfinished.
One of Moreno-Garcia’s particular strengths is her ability to write characters who may not necessarily be likeable, but who we still care about. Montserrat is prickly and abrasive; Tristan is self-absorbed and frequently focused only on himself; but they are both deeply complex individuals who, despite their foibles — or perhaps because of them — are uniquely suited to pulling out the threads of this story.
Get it here.
5. She Is A Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran
Another haunted house book — this time about a house that hungers, and hungers, and hungers, and the family caught up inside it.
The house is a French colonial house in Đà Lạt, Vietnam. It’s not in good shape — it’s damp and rotting and full of bugs — but Jade Nguyen’s estranged father is determined to restore it and open it as a bed and breakfast.
Jade, for her part, doesn’t want to be there. But her father has promised money to pay for college for her if she and her sister, Lily, come to stay for the summer, and if Jade gets the tourism website for the bed and breakfast up and running. So she grits her teeth for the sake of her future, and she goes.
But all is not well in the house. There are ghosts — ghosts of the house’s past, ghosts which seek to consume Jade and her family, even as it seeks to feed them.
Along with a lot of haunted house books, a not-insignificant number of the books I read this year are about generational trauma. This one tackles that, and colonialism, and racism, and drives the lasting effects of them deeply into your heart, where they, like the house at the center of the story, grow, and grow, and consume. A terrifying take on the concept of the hungry ghost that is about so much more than just an unquiet spirit rattling a few chains, She Is A Haunting sticks with you long after you finish turning its damp, waterlogged pages.
Get it here.
6. A House With Good Bones by T. Kingfisher
It wouldn’t be the Halloween season for me without a new read from T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, in the mix — and this year’s offering, A House With Good Bones, might just be my favorite one yet. (And yes, it’s another haunted house story — like I said, I read a lot of them this year!) From my NetGalley review of the ARC I was provided with before the book’s publication in March of 2023:
“Sticks in the woods. A hole in the wall. Mushrooms. What do these things all have in common? They’re common, everyday things that T. Kingfisher has made terrifying in the novels The Twisted Ones, The Hollow Places, and What Moves The Dead.
Now, we can add roses to the list with A House With Good Bones. Or, more specifically, rose gardens, full of rose bushes. Or, even more specifically, a particular rose garden — the one occupying the backyard of the titular house.
The rose garden has secrets, you see. Just like Sam’s grandmother, who owned the house when she, her mother, and her brother lived in it when she was a child. And although Sam’s grandmother is dead and buried, that rose garden is still there. Its roots are still there. And those secrets are definitely still there. And when Sam’s brother tells her that their mother, who still lives in the house now, seems… off, the urge to dig those roots up is strong.
Trouble is — what Sam finds when she starts digging isn’t easily reburied.
And I’m not just talking about the jar of teeth she unearths from the garden.
What really makes A House With Good Bones tick, though, isn’t just the roses, or the ghosts, or the thing that sometimes tickles Sam’s hair or face when she sleeps. It’s the relationships at the heart of it: The warmth between Sam, her mother, her brother, and even the (perhaps literally) witchy neighbor down the street and the handyman/gardener from across the way makes the terrifying bits all the more frightening because you really want these people to make it out of here unscathed. I always find Kingfisher’s protagonists people to root (har har) for, and here, we see that quality exemplified.
A House With Good Bones is scary, yes. But it’s also warm, and funny, and full of life… amidst all the death, of course.
If you pick this one up, you may never look at a bouquet of roses the same way again.”
Get it here.
7. How To Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
A common theme between this entry and most of the other haunted house books on this list: They are, many of them, about adults returning to their childhood homes, and having to deal with all of the trauma they left behind between those houses’ walls. Because here’s the thing: Undealt-with trauma doesn’t dissipate. It sits. It festers. And when you return — because inevitably, you will — it will come back to haunt you. Literally.
As it does here, in How To Sell A Haunted House.
Louise left her hometown of Charleston basically as soon as she could. After a lifetime of always feeling like she came in last place to everything — her father’s career as an academic, her mother’s preoccupation with puppetry and dolls, her golden child brother Mark, who, from where Louise is sitting, had everything handed to him despite squandering it all without fail — she left, and had no intention of returning.
Return, however, she does, after her parents die in an accident; after all, if she doesn’t sort out the funeral arrangements, the estate, and, crucially, selling her parents’ house — the house in which she and Mark grew up, alongside their mother’s puppets — no one else will.
But the house is still full of all those puppets and dolls — including Pupkin, a vaguely malevolent figure Louise has always felt uneasy around. And, well… suffice to say that some things are even more difficult to sort through than they already seem.
As a former theatre practitioner who spent a not-insignificant amount of time studying puppetry, and who now spends an awful lot of time thinking and reading and writing about things that go bump in the night, I fit squarely within a rather niche demographic — one which, it turns out, is the target audience How To Sell A Haunted House might not even have known it was zeroing in on. This was my favorite of Hendrix’s novels since Horrorstör; it’s heartrending, outrageous in places, and terrifying — and it rings very, very true for me on a wide variety of levels.
I recognize that it may not resonate quite this strongly for a lot of people — but if you’re even vaguely familiar with puppetry and mask work, or even just into creepy dolls as a concept, How To Sell A Haunted House offers a novel take on some well-worn tropes that I found immensely enjoyable.
Get it here.
8. Found: An Anthology Of Found Footage Horror Stories, ed. Andrew Cull and Gabino Iglesias
I’ve made no secret over the years of my love of found footage; from movies to web series, it — when it’s done well — is one of my favorite horror subgenres. But if you think found footage only applies to screen-based media… well, Found: An Anthology Of Found Footage Horror Stories would like to challenge that idea. And from where I’m sitting, it succeeds, and then some.
Edited by Gabino Iglesias, author of such masterpieces as The Devil Takes You Home (and who also has a story in Other Terrors), and Andrew Cull, who you may recognize as the driving force behind the web series In The Dark, aka the Louise Paxton mystery, Found is quite unique among its fellows. What I love so much about the theme is how it demands the consideration not just of the content, but also of the form in which that content is presented. (That’s another thing I’ve made no secret about my fondness for — the consideration of form and content when it comes to storytelling, not just one or the other.)
The stories contained within the collection, therefore, reflect that demand. Yes, some of them are straightforward narratives about how such footage comes into existence, or what happens when the footage is, in fact, found. But others? They are the footage — rendered unexpectedly, as is necessary when taking the concept of “found footage” and transposing it into written form. Diary entries; transcripts of recorded video or audio; reports documenting the footage, which also form another layer of “footage” themselves; the possibilities are endless.
Standouts for me included “Walls And Floors And Bricks And Stone” by Georgia Cook, “This Video Is Unavailable” by Robert Levy, “Disappearances At Coal Hill” by Nick Kolakowski, “Ghost Town Adventures” by Joe Butler, and “Two Months Too Long” by Holly Rae Garcia. But they’re all winners!
Get it here.
9. The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman
In the 1930s, a single mother and her daughter are ripped from their home and burned at stake, the victims of a witch hunt. The mother’s grave is lost to time. The daughter’s — Jessica’s — becomes infamous, with its steel-reinforced coffin and cross-bestrewn enclosure.
In the 1950s, ghost stories are told around campfires about Jessica, the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. She becomes legend, and legend becomes obsession.
In the 1970s, a low-budget horror film enters production based on the legend — the obsession — of the Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek. It goes down in cult classic history; its set, it’s said, is cursed.
In the 1990s, a remake of Don’t Tread On Jessica’s Grave goes into production. It, too, has a disastrous production — one that moves beyond cursed.
And in 2016, the reclusive Amber Pendleton — who, as a child, was cast as Jessica in Don’t Tread On Jessica’s Grave and brought back in a different role as a nod to the original in I Know What You Did On Jessica’s Grave — becomes the subject of obsession for podcaster determined to tell her story… whether or not she wants it told.
The Remaking is the third of Chapman’s novels I’ve read; it’s also the earliest published one, initially seeing release in 2019. And it is also by far my favorite.
That’s not necessarily a statement on how “good” it is in relation to Chapman’s other books; in this case, my preference is largely because The Remaking fits much more neatly in the niche of my personal interests than either Ghost Eaters or Whisper Down The Lane does. (I haven’t yet read his most recent release, What Kind Of Mother, which came out in September of this year.) The way the nesting narratives unfold is carefully measured to reveal just enough at any given moment, making each installment a delicious discovery — and, like Silver Nitrate, it taps into not just cinema history, but also the way the very productions of certain films develop a mythology of their own.
If you’re fascinated by horror cinema, the history thereof, and particularly the stories swirling around about allegedly “cursed” productions, this one is well worth checking out.
Get it here.
10. Sparrow Hill Road and the Ghost Roads series by Seanan McGuire
Do you know the story of the Girl in the Green Silk Gown? They say that in the 1950s, she was on her way to prom when she was driven off the road, the victim of a hit-and-run. She never made it to prom… although somehow, she still managed to meet up with her boyfriend. He dropped her off back home at the end of the night — not knowing that he had been spending time with her ghost all night long. And now, sometimes, you might see her hitchhiking by the side of the road — not always wearing her green silk dress, but always happy to accept a borrowed coat. And sometimes, it’s said that she might be the last person you see before you die.
Her name, they say, was Rose.
If that story sounds vaguely familiar, even if the details are new to you, it’s probably because it takes its cues from a time-honored urban legend: That of the Vanishing Hitchhiker. But the Girl in the Green Silk Gown herself is an original creation dreamed up by Seanan McGuire, and the world of the Ghost Roads series a truly magnificent universe spun out from the cornucopia of American urban legends centered around roads and highways, and the kinds of creatures you might encounter along them late at night.
Sparrow Hill Road itself was actually never intended to be published as a novel — or at least, not at first. McGuire originally invented the character of Rose Marshall as an NPC for a friend’s TTRPG; then, Rose became the subject of a 12-story cycle written for and published in the (sadly now defunct) zine The Edge Of Propinquity.
Those 12 stories, reimagined with a little connective tissue to tie them all together, became Sparrow Hill Road; as such, the novel is episodic in nature and non-linear in its storytelling. The two following novels, The Girl In The Green Silk Gown and Angel Of The Overpass, are more traditionally straightforward narratives. I actually prefer the nonlinearity of Sparrow Hill Road, although that’s definitely just a “me” thing, not a statement on whether it’s “better” than the other two.
As a trilogy, the novels hang together nicely — and the world-building! My goodness — I don’t even have the words to describe how enthralling I find it. At once deeply familiar and delightfully unexpected, the universe of the Ghost Roads will appeal to anyone who, like myself, has long harbored a perhaps unhealthy fascination with the folklore of the roads.
It’s my understanding that Rose also appears from time to time in McGuire’s InCryptid series; I haven’t yet read this series, but I know it is beloved by many and probably also worth picking up. Just, y’know… FYI.
Get it here.
11. Don’t Fear The Reaper by Stephen Graham Jones
And now, a sequel: Stephen Graham Jones’ much-anticipated follow-up to My Heart Is A Chainsaw, Don’t Fear The Reaper picks up with Jade Daniels four years later. Out of prison after her sentence is overturned, she finds herself returning to her hometown of Proofrock, Idaho… right as the convicted serial killer known as Dark Mill South escapes from his own prison transfer and embarks on a new rampage, carving up people — literally — as he goes.
Jade has made a conscious effort to leave her horror movie-steeped past behind her. But the knowledge she’s tried so hard to bury might be the only thing standing between her and Dark Mill South — and the destruction of Proofrock itself.
Maybe it’s just because I’m so far from my teenage years myself, but Don’t Fear The Reaper actually resonated with me more than My Heart Is A Chainsaw did. (And I still really enjoyed My Heart Is A Chainsaw!) Something about seeing Jade trying to square her younger self with who she’s put so much work into trying to become just hits for me as an older reader — even though Don’t Fear The Reaper’s version of Jade is still substantially younger than I am.
Furthermore, what Graham Jones is doing with self-referential horror here is both beautifully nuanced and in direct conversation with entries in the genre that came before it. As I’ve come to expect from his work, this one is a thrilling and thought-provoking read that’ll keep you up long after you’ve told yourself it’s time to turn the light out and go to sleep, already.
Get it here.
12. Our Share Of Night by Mariana Enriquez
Three families. A shadowy cult obsessed with immortality. A father and a son, mourning a wife and mother, who also both have certain… gifts — gifts that make them valuable to the families and their cult, and which have a habit of using up and exhausting the human vessels capable of channeling them.
These are just some of the elements that make up Our Share Of Night, a sprawling, multi-generational epic set primarily in Argentina and spanning the early 1960s through the late 1990s. Heads up that this one is a big book — it took me the entire three weeks of my library loan to get through it. (Typically, I’m a “finish a book every few days” kind of reader, so that’s… really saying something.) It’s worth sticking with, though; as we bounce back and forth between multiple perspectives, narrators, and even, I would argue, genres and subgenres, the tale that unfolds bit by bit paints for us a portrait of a group of people hellbent on their own destruction — even if they don’t realize it — because there are some things that simply cannot be harnessed. That shouldn’t be harnessed. To do so — or to attempt to do so — is folly, and the way things unravel is… truly something to see.
As a bonus, if one of your favorite horror tropes is interior spaces doing things they… probably shouldn’t be able to do (think TARDIS, but less benign), you’ll probably find a lot here to love.
Get it here.
13. The Fervor by Alma Katsu
In 1944, Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, have been forcibly removed from their home in Seattle and imprisoned in the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho. This would be enough of a nightmare on its own — but there’s also something… else going on within the fenced-in walls of the camp: A strange ailment is sweeping through those imprisoned there, something that at first presents like a cold or flu before causing its sufferers to become violently aggressive.
Most don’t survive.
Their numbers are dwindling.
And Meiko is sick.
All she can do is get Aiko out — but escape is just the beginning. There’s something bigger at play here, and there’s a conspiracy to unravel and a mystery to unearth.
The WWII-era internment camps are often brushed over in American history classes; sure, you might hear mention of them, as I did during my own school years, but, like most of the things this country has done of which it is not proud, the impulse is to quietly nod to it, and then proceed to ignore it. Katsu brings them into sharp focus in The Fervor, though — and it couldn’t be timelier.
On a personal note, it all hits hard for me; had I been alive during the Second World War, the camps are where I and many of my family members would have ended up — even those of us who, like Aiko, were born in the United States.
Funny how often horror and history wind up intertwined, isn’t it?
Get it here.
14. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca
Two women develop a distressingly co-dependent relationship centered around apple peelers and parasites.
A couple coping with their child’s death agree to become winter caretakers for an isolated island resort, only for an outsider to upend the situation further.
A busybody enters into a bizarre competition of one-upsmanship with a neighbor.
These are the stories contained within Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, a collection that, to be honest, is straight-up devastating. It’s brilliant. But it is also very, very difficult to read.
I’m little late to the Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke party; I had heard a ton of talk about it following its September 2022 release before I actually picked it up, most of which was focused on a combination of how bleakly astonishing it was and how much of an ick factor it had. After my own read of it, I agree with the first part of that assessment — “bleak” is, in fact, one of the top words I’d use to describe all three tales, and they are all of them astonishing works — although I’m not sure how much I agree with the second.
To be honest, I was actually expecting Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke to be more explicitly gruesome than I ultimately found it. I’m not exactly squeamish, but gore has never really done it for me, so I don’t often tend to seek it out. But the “ick” in these stories isn’t necessarily explicit; much of it is about the suggestion of what’s happening, rather than the blow-by-blow, detailed account of exactly what’s happening. This, incidentally, is precisely how I like my horror, so I found it all to be just enough — enough to make my heart drop into my stomach, but not such that I felt totally turned off and unwilling to continue.
Tread carefully; there’s as lot here that’s upsetting and depressing. But it’s also important, I think, and I’m glad to have read it.
What have you done today to deserve your eyes?
Get it here.
15. Vampires Of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
Isabel Cañas’ The Hacienda was one of my favorite reads of 2022, so I was over the moon to be provided with an ARC for her sophomore effort, Vampires Of El Norte, earlier this year in advance of its Aug. 15 publication.
Here’s what I had to say at NetGalley:
“Nena and Nestor were once inseparable — as children growing up on the same rancho, one the patron’s daughter and the other a vaquero, they assumed that they’d always be together, and would one day find a way to make their dream a reality. After a horrifying night that Nestor believes leaves Nena dead, however, they were torn asunder — only to find themselves thrown together again years later, as the Mexican-American war draws ever closer… and as creatures lurking in the darkness — the creatures who attacked Nena as a girl — grow ever bolder, threatening not just Nena’s family’s rancho, but the entirety of Mexico.
I’ll admit that Vampires Of El Norte didn’t do it for me in quite the same way that The Hacienda did, but that’s entirely a ‘me’ thing — not a failing of the novel itself. I’m just personally far more invested in haunted houses than I am in vampires. What both novels do with aplomb is offer unique takes on familiar tropes, whether that’s a Rebecca-style gothic haunted by more than just memory, or a vampire tale that bites sharply into the subject of colonial invasion.
With a vividly-drawn environment rooted deeply in history and compelling characters you can’t help but root for even as they make… questionable decisions, Vampires Of El Norte is a thrilling read for both fans of horror and historical fiction alike.”
Get it here.
16. Lone Women by Victor LaValle
Adelaide Henry has a secret.
When she flees her family’s homestead in California in the early years of the 20th century, she leaves behind bloodshed and she brings with her a trunk that hides that secret. She carries it with her all the way to Montana, where she is determined to start a new life for herself as a “lone woman,” working land on offer from the government until she can prove out as a homesteader in her own right.
That trunk, though. It won’t stay shut for long. And that secret has no intention of staying buried, either.
I read my first Victor LaValle novel in 2018 — The Changeling, which had been published the previous year — and it destroyed me in the best way possible. From there, I went and plowed through his entire back catalog… and after I finished all of those, I was just left to wait until his next book hit. It took some years, but the good stuff often does, and Lone Women was absolutely worth the wait.
LaValle’s work is often concerned with monsters and the monstrous — who they are, what they’re perceived to be, and whether the society, people, and culture who have charged themselves with defining monsters may actually be the monstrous ones themselves. This remains true in Lone Women, where the town near which Adelaide sets up her homesteads has a clear hierarchy of insiders and outsiders with a streak of heavy racism and hatred of “the other” running straight through it. To say it would be satisfying to see that hierarchy upended doesn’t even begin to do it justice… but where things end up is quite satisfying, indeed.
A fine piece of historical fiction, as well, it’s intricately researched and highlighted an aspect of this particular era of history I wasn’t hitherto terribly familiar with. I’m planning on picking up a few of the resources LaValle recommends in the book’s acknowledgements for further reading soon.
Get it here.
17. The Beast You Are by Paul Tremblay
Another Halloween reading tradition: A new Paul Tremblay book. The Beast You Are is a short story collection, and it is (perhaps unsurprisingly) terrific. I was very kindly provided with an ARC prior to publication; from my NetGalley review:
“For many years — decades, even — I wasn’t much one for short stories. They always seemed… well, too short, with abrupt endings that never seemed to say as much as I’d hoped they would. The form, too, never seemed terribly interesting to me — just truncated versions of what I’d rather be reading instead.
But as time went on, I began to find writers who really stretched what the short story could do, playing with both form and content in ways I hadn’t realized were possible. Paul Tremblay — whose novels I also adore — is one of those writers; his previous short story collection, Growing Things, grabbed me in a way few such collections historically have, and this new collection, The Beast You Are, continues the trend.
In ‘The Blog At The End Of The World,’ for instance, we’re reading not just a series of blog posts penned by an increasingly isolated young 20-something as the world gradually ends around her, but a reverse chronology, and the comments section, leading us ultimately to a slow realization of what, precisely, occurred to cause things to end up how they are.
In ‘The Last Conversation,’ we experience a series of conversations with someone we’re told is our doctor as we remain trapped in a single room, recovering from a mysterious ailment no one will tell us anything about. (And I do mean ‘we’; written in the second person, the story positions the reader as the protagonist.)
And in the novella for which the collection is named, ‘The Beast You Are,’ a fable-like setting populated by anthropomorphic animals quickly becomes a nightmare, all told in a prose poem format that gives it the air of legend.
Fans of A Head Full Of Ghosts — my personal favorite of Tremblay’s novels — will find a lot here to love; several stories exist within the A Head Full Of Ghosts universe, or, in some cases, offer differing takes on its characters and their dynamic. The titular novella is particularly notable in this respect — and, indeed, I might even go so far as to say that when it comes to this particular collection, it’s sort of a, ‘come for the short stories, stay for the novella’ situation. ‘The Beast You Are’ is arresting in its plot, in its ideas, and in its presentation — a real triple threat.
I’m always excited to see what Tremblay has in store for us, and each page of The Beast You Are offers something to shock and delight. An excellent read.”
Get it here.
18. Yokai Cats by Pandania
Okay, so this one is more of a bonus; it, in and of itself, is cute, rather than eerie. It does, however, take its inspiration from some things that are very much up TGIMM’s proverbial alley — and, honestly, as both a cat person and a ghost person, if you can’t sell a book called Yokai Cats to me, you can’t sell it to anyone.
Written and drawn by Japanese cartoonist Pandania, the Yokai Cats series is exactly what it sounds like — although also… not. You are probably aware that there are many yokai that take the form of cats. And while some of the creatures depicted in Yokai Cats are, in fact, these kinds of yokai, the central premise is a bit more playful: It takes yokai (and some yurei) of all sorts — kappa, oni, nopperabo, you name it — and it renders them AS cats. As housecats, specifically, meaning you get to see what these yokai cats would be like… as pets.
It is adorable.
Not going to lie: I bought my Yokai Cats volume — which I believe is volume four out of seven total — as an absolute impulse purchase; I spotted it when I stepped inside a random comic book shop over the summer, and, you know what? I do not regret it in the slightest.
So: That’s what I’ve got for you this year. Happy reading, friends. And happy Halloween.
Don’t let the dark get you.
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[Photo via Skitterphoto/Pixabay]