Autumn: a time for apple picking, corn mazes, costume parties, and horror films. I dislike all of those things, however, so my autumnal joy comes elsewhere, mostly from cardigans, pumpkin-flavored everything, and books. I like reading mysteries, thrillers, and horror-adjacent books all year long, but my desire to spend time with those genres intensifies in the fall. Today I want to share some of my favorite spooky books, specifically five of my favorite creepy classics.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
When I was assigned Frankenstein in college, I was unexcited. Nothing about the book sounded like something I’d like. But because I am a rule-follower to the max, not reading the book wasn’t an option. Much to my surprise, I ended up genuinely enjoying this classic tale of identity, loneliness, and revenge. Though I was dreading this book based on the monster and sci-fi aspects, the heart of the story is about basic human emotion and desire. Frankenstein was first published in 1818, yet its themes are as timely as ever. If you’re skeptical of this book like I was, give it a try. I bet it will surprise you.
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
As I read “The Lottery,” I had one of those moments when I thought I’d misread something: Is this what I think it is? Is this really happening? It was indeed happening, and because of this story’s profound darkness, it’s one that has stayed with me. When I read a short story that holds so much in so few words, I’m always amazed at the writer’s skill. Shirley Jackson is no exception. Her other work is high up on my TBR. (I’m not the biggest fan of graphic novels, but this book by Jackson’s grandson is very well done.)
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Because I do judge books by their covers sometimes, I bought The Picture of Dorian Gray due to its beauty, not because I was desperate to read it. (Which I now realize fits nicely with this book’s plot.) I don’t remember what made me finally move from staring at the book to finally reading the book, but I’m grateful for whatever inspired me. This story of a man’s self-obsession and self-preservation is fascinating, disturbing, and maybe a little too relatable in my selfish moments. Wilde tells a haunting story of destruction from the inside out.
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
The Stepford Wives is another book I read in college thanks to my theories and fictions of the women’s movement class. Along with reading pieces by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Audre Lord, we read a few novels, including this one. This book is about perfect wives and mothers and the cost of that perfection. Most classics are classics because they have timeless themes, and this book could spark a conversation right now that’s as relevant as ever.
The Monk by Matthew Lewis
I wrote about this book before, but it’s too good not to mention again. Here’s what I said then:
This gothic novel is difficult to summarize. There’s a monk, of course, named Ambrosio. There’s a woman and/or demon who tempts him. Eventually, Ambrosio sells his soul to the Devil, which is never a good move, in my opinion. In the NoveList description of this book, they call it “an extravagant blend of sex, death, politics, Satanism, and poetry.”
If that’s not enough to get you reading, I don’t know what more I can say.
Do you find yourself reaching for books like these come fall? What are some of your favorite creepy classics? I’d love more titles to add to my list.