Eleven months out of the year, I read only the occasional horror novel, but as soon as October comes around I’m ready for all the creepy books. Don’t get me wrong, these books are good reading any time of year, but there’s just something about chills and thrills that feel perfectly suited for fall. Witches and hauntings and things that go bump in the night—that’s what I want. And trust me when I say, these supernatural books are all you could want and more this Halloween.
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
In an isolated religious sect where womanhood and witchery are almost one and the same, a young woman born out of wedlock reckons with her past and the curses afflicting her community—that may just be related to her birth. Immanuelle has always been warned of the dangers of the Darkwood. It was her mother’s undoing, after all. But when she discovers the stories of the witches in the woods are all too true, she becomes entangled in a deadly attempt to undo the horrors afflicting her community. With the son of the Prophet as her only ally, she seeks answers to her birth and her mother’s experiences with the witches. If she does nothing, she’ll have to watch her home burn. But doing anything that might align her with witchcraft could lead to death at the pyre.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Space necromancers and deadly magic combine in this incredible science fantasy series from Tamsyn Muir. Gideon is an incredible swordswoman, but she was never meant to be a cavalier. In fact, all she’s ever wanted to do is escape the decaying tombs of the Ninth House. But when the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, is called upon by the Emperor to undergo a deadly trial of wisdom and skill, she is forced to look upon Gideon for help. Without Gideon’s sword, she cannot compete. And without a chance at the Emperor’s favor, the Ninth House will die out forever.
White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton
Adam Binder isn’t your run of the mill magician. He’s not run of the mill anything since his brother committed him to a psych ward for hearing voices as a teen. Now that same brother needs his help with a magical problem that doesn’t quite fit into the perfect suburban life he’s built for himself. Typical. In order to save his sister-in-law’s life from a strange possession that seems to slowly be affecting all of Denver, Adam has to team up with an adorable human cop in way over his head and his first love, the ethereal elf who broke his heart. But the powers Adam is up against are way out of his league, and if he doesn’t figure out some way to stop it, and fast, all of Denver is going to be as good as gone.
Urban fantasy unlike you’ve ever seen it. This incredible debut by my friend David Slayton is the start of a fantasy series full of trailer park wizards, unearthly possessions, and all-too-real family drama you won’t be able to get enough of.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Admitted to Yale by mysterious benefactors under the promise of supervising the university’s strange—and supernatural—secret societies, Alex guards the student body from ghosts as they perform dangerous, otherworldly rituals. She can see ghosts, by the way. But the more she digs into the societies’ occult activities and the reasons she was tasked with overseeing them, the more she realizes she’s in way over her head. These groups host the future—and already—rich and powerful. And if Alex gets in their way, she might find herself as their next sacrifice.
If you’re a fan of Bardugo from her YA fantasy series, make sure you look up some of the trigger warnings and gory details on this one first. Not only is it fully adult, it ranks high on the yikes and ick factors, too. I loved it despite all of that, but don’t go into it without knowing what you’re in for.
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Powers
Nobody does tense YA body horror quite like Rory Powers. Her first novel, Wilder Girls, explored a strange pestilence at an isolated boarding school. In Burn Our Bodies Down, her sophomore novel, a young woman reckons with her family’s past and her own identity after running away to live with her grandmother on a dying farm. It’s always been just Margot and her mother. Well, Margot and her mother and her mother’s secrets. Margot wants a family. She wants a past. She wants more than what her mother—struggling to get by, day to day—can give her. But maybe there’s a reason her mother kept her past a secret. The town certainly seems to think so, suspicious of this new runaway girl and her family. And if Margot thought her mother had secrets, her grandmother seems to be hiding even more in the cornfields of her farm. There’s poison in her family’s past, and if Margot doesn’t figure out what it is and fast, she might become the latest causality in her family tree.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Vampires aren’t welcome in Mexico City. For Atl, a descendent of Aztec vampires, this means double the danger as she tries to evade the authorities and gangs on the lookout for her kind, as well as the rival vampire clan out for her blood. The author of Mexican Gothic and Gods of Jade and Shadow crafts a vampire novel unlike any other, drawing on vampire lore from all over the world to create a story where no one—not even a vampire—is safe from the dangers of Mexico City.
The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones
The dead are never really gone—not in the town of Colbren. Nestled at the edge of a forest where strange magic can re-enchant those already departed, corpses known as “bone houses” have begun venturing beyond the edges of the wood. For Ryn, the daughter of the town’s late gravedigger, these risen bodies are a threat to her livelihood. There’s no need for a grave digger if people believe they must burn bodies to keep them from rising again. When a strange young mapmaker appears, wanting to map the local area, he and Ryn set out to find the source of the dangerous magic and put a stop to the rising dead once and for all.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
This is a haunted story about a tragic boarding school history being made into a movie, and the young author and two actresses reliving a terrible past. The Brookhants School for Girls is forced to close its doors forever after five terrible and mysterious deaths occur on its property—all somehow connected to the scandalous memoir of Mary MacLane. One hundred years later, the wunderkind author of a fictional retelling of the deaths, The Happenings at Brookhants, is whisked away to Hollywood to meet the young stars of the movie being made from her book. Harper Harper is everything an up-and-coming star should be—edgy, beautiful, a little scandalous—while the costar playing her ill-fated lover is a B-list former child star just trying to make a name for herself outside of her famous mother’s shadow. As the three young women head to Brookhants and its long shuttered gates are once again reopened, past and present become horrifyingly entangled. Was there ever truly a curse at Brookhants? And are the three young women revisiting its haunted past doomed to see history repeated once again?
Sharp and voicey, Emily M. Danforth’s adult debut is a thriller of immense proportions, one that will keep you turning page after page until you can see the horrifying conclusion through.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Classic horror meets social commentary in modern-day thriller. Four young men are haunted by a disturbing event from their youth. Hounded by an entity bent on revenge against them, they are forced to fight for their very lives. How can they ever move forward when the culture and traditions they left behind come roaring back to get them with a vengeance?
Jones is described as “the Jordan Peele of horror literature” so you know this is going to be hauntingly good.
Horrid by Katrina Leno
A haunted house, a secret past, a family’s grief. After the death of her father, Jane leaves California for her mother’s childhood home—an old, dilapidated house in Maine. They’re looking for a fresh start, but something dark lurks behind the locked doors of their new home. As summer turns to autumn, Jane and her mother must reckon with the secrets hidden within the house, and the terrible memories is brings up.
If you’re looking for more creepy tales, check out psychological thrillers for fall, 15 of the most terrifying books, horror books by authors of color, 18 diverse YA horror books, 10 eco horror novels, and Indigenous horror books.