It’s that time of year again — time for candy corn, trick-or-treating, and of course, spooky stories! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday asks for our favorite books to get into the Halloween spirit (pun, I assume, intended). I don’t read horror because I used to get nightmares as a kid, but there are plenty of spooky and atmospheric reads that are perfect for this time of year! So, in no particular order:
1. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre — The quintessential gothic novel! There’s a creepy old house, a mysterious man with a secret, and some very sinister goings-on. It’s also just a great story, and I love that Jane manages to stay true to her principles despite some very strong temptations.
2. Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale — Another novel with a gothic sensibility. The writing style is lovely, and the book has a lot to say about the power of fiction, keeping the reader guessing about what’s real and what’s embellished for the sake of the story.
3. Anya Seton, Dragonwyck — Yet another gothic novel of the creepy-old-house variety. (Are you sensing a theme here?) I like the setting of this one, as it takes place in a New York where the old Dutch families still have a great deal of influence and wield almost feudal power. There’s also a pretty good movie starring Vincent Price and Gene Tierney.
4. Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere — No one makes my skin crawl like Neil Gaiman, and I mean that in a good way! Neverwhere is an enthralling, fantastical adventure that takes place in the strange world of London Below. I really grew to love the characters, especially protagonist Richard Mayhew and the Marquis of Carabas. Also, the evil henchmen Croup and Vandemar are seriously creepy!
5. Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None — This is one of Christie’s most famous mysteries — and one of her creepiest, in my opinion. Ten people are mysteriously summoned to an abandoned house, where they are murdered one by one.
6. Daphne Du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel — OK, I almost said Rebecca instead, which would also work really well for this list. But since My Cousin Rachel isn’t as well-known, I thought I’d mention it. This book moves incredibly slowly, but the suspense builds masterfully throughout as the narrator wonders whether his wife murdered her first husband.
7. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles –I do enjoy Sherlock Holmes, and this novel is a delightful blend of mystery and horror. Is the sinister legend of a hellhound that roams the countryside searching for victims true? Or is is there a human culprit behind the mystery?
8. Robin McKinley, Sunshine — I’m not really into vampires, zombies, werewolves, and the various things that go bump in the night. But I am very into Robin McKinley, so I had to read Sunshine even though it is a vampire novel. I like that the vampires are EVIL and that the heroine is strong but not an invincible badass. It’s not my favorite McKinley novel, but it is definitely my favorite vampire book!
9. Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — Everyone knows this story, but the book itself is definitely worth reading. To me, the most interesting thing about it is that most people see Dr. Jekyll as pure good and Mr. Hyde as pure evil. But in my opinion, while Hyde is certainly portrayed as 100% evil, Jekyll isn’t 100% good. There are implications that he’s been doing some shady things even before he unleashes the monster within himself. So I think this book has some really interesting things to say about the nature of good and evil within a person.
10. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey — If you thought I couldn’t get through a list without mentioning Jane Austen, well, you were right! This isn’t actually scary at all, but it is a wonderful satire on the lurid “sensation novels” that were popular in Austen’s day. I love that Austen pokes fun at the genre while still defending novels against the people who dismissed them all as frivolous. Plus, the characters are delightfully rendered, as always, and Mr. Tilney is irresistible!