Horror isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe you want a hint of eerie atmosphere or spooky characters without any monsters. Maybe you want that feeling of a horror novel without the crumbling haunted house. These books are great for joining in on the autumnal fun, without reading anything too scary or gory.
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
In a tiny Irish village, a young girl named Anna has lived for months without eating anything by mouth. She claims to be sustained by manna from Heaven. When English nurse Lib is assigned to care for the girl, she is determined to shoo away the devout tourists who wait to visit the miracle girl, and to get Anna healthy again. The Wonder is told in the internal dialogue of Lib, reminiscent of William Peter Blatty’s classic The Exorcist, without the horror elements.
The Memory Police: A Novel by Yoko Ogwa
On an unnamed island where things have slowly been disappearing for years, a novelist quietly continues her work. Around her, the things that disappear are becoming more dear. With the help of an old man, the novelist hides her editor, a man who retains his memory of everything that has disappeared, in her home. Told in the soothing voice of a bedtime story, The Memory Police is a dystopia that asks the dangerous question of “What if?”
The Lightness: A Novel by Emily Temple
The Lightness is what happens when Dark Academia goes to Buddhist summer camp. Tucked away in remote mountains, the Levitation Center hosts an annual teen program. Olivia is certain that’s where she’ll find her estranged father. In between meditation, healthy meals, and chores, Olivia finds herself swept up into an elite circle of girls who return to the center year after year. They aim to levitate, whatever it takes. The Lightness takes on a frantic and dark tone making it the perfect read for a dark and stormy night.
Parakeet: A Novel by Marie-Helene Bertino
The week of her wedding, the bride’s grandmother returns to her as a parakeet and tells her she needs to find her brother. A week that is supposed to be blissful and pretty becomes messy and weird as the bride attempts to track down her brother. The bride is a weirdo, but in a relatable way, as she wanders down endless hotel hallways and puts an entire pack of gum in her mouth. Memories interwoven with fantasies and the present create a strange, dreamlike narrative.
Gingerbread: A Novel by Helen Oyeyemi
Part fairytale, part contemporary, Gingerbread is a cautionary magical tale. Harriet and Perdita Lee live in London, which is fast, modern, and busy. Harriet shares stories of growing up in Druhástrana, a grim, dark country full of dangers and old traditions. Everything in their lives seems to be touched by Harriet’s childhood, even the gingerbread they bake together. This novel is enchanting and uncanny, just like your childhood favorite fairytales.
The Hole: A Novel by Hye-Young Pyun
After a car accident leaves him a widower and paralyzed, Ogi wakes from a coma to discover that his elderly mother-in-law is caring for him. Ogi is left alone for hours, with only memories and swirling thoughts for company. Soon, Ogi notices that his wife’s beloved garden is being uprooted, destroyed by her mother. She digs larger and larger holes, claiming to be finishing her daughter’s careful work. The Hole is a masterpiece of Korean Literature.
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
Annaleigh lives a privileged life in the beautiful, yet lonesome manor of Highmoor. She was once one of 12 daughters, but one by one, four of her sisters have fallen prey to the curse. Spectral visions haunt Annaleigh, even as she joins her sisters at the nightly parties and dances. A mysterious stranger with secrets of his own just might have the answers as to what the curse really is.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Three hundred years is a long time for a dance, but only if you’re mortal. A French peasant girl makes a desperate deal with the darkness and spends the next three centuries watching the world change and crumble and forget her. Yet, even after all that time alone, Addie finds joy and resilience in herself. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a dark dance, twisting, and turning.
Throw: A Novel by Ruben Degollado
In a small Texas-Mexico border town, Güero and his friends are members of the HCP gang. Day after day, Güero pines after his ex-girlfriend Llorona, who like her namesake, comes and goes like the wind. Between gang confrontations and questions of identity, Throw is a richly woven story of Mexican folklore and Texas border tradition.
Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour
When Mila ages out of the foster care system, she accepts a job working as a teacher for a family on a remote farm. Her first night there, they warn her about the ghosts. The ghosts don’t bother Mila; it’s the trauma they remind her of that’s more worrisome. Watch Over Me is a hauntingly poetic novel, meant to be read during the autumn.
My favorite autumn tradition is going to the grocery store on November 1, buying up the clearance candy, and coming home to read for hours. What’s on your reading list this autumn? For more eerie books, try this list of eerie literary fiction books. Check out our horror archives or spooky reads archives or more book recs with thrills and chills.