Welcome to our first installment of Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme that originated at another great book blog, The Broke and the Bookish! This week we delve into the best of Halloween books, which I’ll admit I’m not a great aficionado of, but I really enjoyed researching this new sub-genre. Halloween is such a cool time here in North America and I love that we have books that celebrate its spirit. So read on, if you dare!
10. The Tell-Tale Heart
Edgar Allen Poe’s famous 1843 short story can still enthrall and spook its readers. The narrator is hyper-sensitive and cannot stand the vulture-like eye on the old man who lives with him. He tries to convince us of his sanity during the murder, through the precision of his dismemberment of the old man. The police come to investigate and don’t suspect him, but he succumbs to his own guilt, driven by the beating of the dead old man’s heart only he can hear.
9. Interview with the Vampire
Anne Rice’s 1976 novel sounds like a great read. Louis is retelling his 200-year life as a vampire to a young reporter. Originally a plantation heir distraught after his brother’s death, he is turned by Lestat, and the two become
companions and move to New Orleans. Louis has trouble with Lestat’s lack of compassion, but Lestat turns a young girl he names Claudia, knowing it will make Louis stay. I won’t go beyond that, but the novel seems engrossing and dramatic, and this book is definitely on a tbr list.
I love how older books, like Shelley’s 1818 classic, can still kick newer books’ butts. “At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.” -A great Goodreads summation.
7. The Turn of the Screw
This book is an intense psychological tale of terror. A governess arrives at a house to care for a young boy and girl who have been recently orphaned. She begins to see ghosts, whom she learns may be two former residents that may have abused the children. Reality seems to derail as the governess tries to protect the children from these spirits they seem to know, and the governess loses all control. I haven’t been a huge fan of Henry James, but can definitely see his style well-suited to this type of novel. His 1898 novella still begs different interpretations and has a large fan base.
Another book I have not read, Bram Stoker’s 1897 epistolary novel became a cult classic after its numerous film adaptations came out, beginning in 1931. Jonathon Harker is a lawyer from England hired by Count Dracula, and is staying at his remote castle in Transylvania. He soon becomes aware that he is being held prisoner, and thereafter discovers Dracula is a vampire. He narrowly escapes with his life, but Dracula travels to England and begins haunting Harker’s fiancée Mina and her companion Lucy. This is the vampirest of vampire books, and is a must-read for all fans of the genre!
5. The Haunting of Hill House
One of the more terrifying modern books, this 1959 Shirley Jackson work centers around four people who live at an old mansion one summer to research paranormal activities. The house they are living in predictably starts to freak them out, picking on one of them in particular. It’s considered one of the greatest haunted house stories ever, and is a favourite of Stephen King.
4. Hallowe’en Party
At a Halloween party Joyce Reynolds relates how she once saw a murder, but only recently realized what it truly was. Before the end of the night she is found drowned in an apple-bobbing tub, and with the help of mystery writer Ariadne Oliver, Hercule Poirot must solve this complex crime. I picked this one despite my not having read it because I’m a great fan of Christie. Her mysteries are refreshing yet aged, and are always my favourites.
3. The Halloween Tree
As written on Wikipedia: A group of eight boys set out to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, only to discover that a ninth friend, Pipkin, has been whisked
away on a journey that could determine whether he lives or dies. Through the help of a mysterious character named Moundshroud, they pursue their friend across time and space through Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Greek, and Roman Culture, Celtic Druidism, Notre Dame Cathedral in Medieval Paris, and The Day of the Dead in Mexico. Along the way, they learn the origins of the holiday that they celebrate, and the role that the fear of death, spooks, and the haunts has played in shaping civilization. Great summation Wikipedia! I chose this novel, which I have also not read, because it delves into history. I love when history and fiction can come together entertainingly, and paired with this spooky halloween theme, this seems like a great festive book to read before the 31st.
2. The Witches
Of course Roald Dahl is going to be on my list. I remember reading this book as a tween and it still scared the bejeebers out of me. This being a kids book, it didn’t terrorize me, but the premise is perfect for a good scare. A young, recently orphaned boy is living with his grandmother who warns him to look out for witches. She teaches him that they try to disguise themselves as humans, but there are always tells. They are prevalent, and especially cruel in Great Britain and plot to kill all kids. On the alert, he has his first encounter which he deftly escapes by climbing into his tree house. The two soon vacation at an hotel where his grandmother is ill and not as attentive. Exploring on his own he discovers that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children conference currently being held at the hotel, is really an annual witches meeting where they demonstrate how to turn children into mice!
Linus writes his annual letter to The Great Pumpkin despite his friends’ insistence that The GP doesn’t exist. On his own while the others trick-or-treat, Linus waits in the pumpkin patch for the GP to give gifts to all the good girls and boys. All of your favourite characters and great lines like Lucy screaming “AUGH! my lips touched dog lips!”, and Charlie Brown’s “I got a rock.” This book may be a little tough for the younger ones, but is a great companion to the movie. My explanation: Nothing beats the Peanuts.
Overall, I find it interesting how so many of these books come from the turn of the 20th century, despite the Gothic fiction period having peaked decades earlier. The order of these books isn’t concrete as there are so many I haven’t actually read, but I think they all deserve to be on this list. Hope you have a spooky Halloween!