Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

16 October 2021

Books

5 Halloween Reads That Aren’t Horror

Spooky mansion

October is one of my favourite times of the year to read. There’s something about the change of season and the shared themes that just gets people diving into books! After a summer of outdoor activities, I finally get the chance to snuggle into a cosy jumper, get myself a long-awaited pumpkin spice latte, and pick up a scary book to set me up for the season.

But October is long, and while I love a scary read, just reading horror novels can get a little overwhelming. Besides, horror books just aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. There are so many books outside the horror genre that are sure to give you the shivers though, you just need to know where to look.

Here are my top 5 spooky reads that aren’t horror. They’re sure to give you the tingles this October.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime

Book cover for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is about as stylish as a book can be. With a southern gothic flair, it tells the story of the shooting of Danny Hansford by his employer, respected antiques dealer, Jim Williams.

While the premise is simple – Williams claims self-defence for Hansford’s murder and goes through four trials before being acquitted – it’s the cast of characters surrounding Williams that make Berendt’s book such a standout literary tour de force.

The characters of Midnight are quirky and spooky in equal measure. Savannah feels isolated, odd, and full of the occult. Graveyards, magic, witches, and murder all punctuate Berendt’s account of the events and characters surrounding Hansford’s shooting, and it all comes together in a delightfully spine-tingling, eerie package that will keep you at the edge of your seat.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Genre: Historical Fiction / Dark Academia

Book cover for The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Dracula is one of the most well-known characters of the horror genre, so to see him appear in a book that isn’t a traditional representation is certainly interesting. While The Historian is certainly eerie and thrilling, it doesn’t set out to shock, as much as it sets out to make you think.

Instead of focusing on the fictional Dracula, Kostova instead uses his inspiration in her novel – Vlad Tepes of Wallachia. It’s a literary mystery in which three stories intertwine; an unnamed narrator, her father, and her father’s mentor. It spans several decades and crosses numerous borders to find the truth behind the myth.

Weaving together a mix of genres from thriller, gothic, detective fiction, and travelogues, the result is a heady blend of the sensual and intellectual that makes The Historian such a joy to read. Its dark, gothic atmosphere makes it the perfect Halloween read.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Genre: Magical Realism

Book cover Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic reads like a modern fairytale. It’s enchanting and immersive from the very first page. The series spans multiple generations of women in the Owens family, but this one focuses mainly on sisters Sally and Gillian.

The story is eerie in places, with cruelty and sadness mixed in. But despite that, it’s full of heart and love. The sense of magic that Hoffman’s novel conjures isn’t just tied to specific elements – it permeates the whole narrative pointing to the magical moments of every day life and the joy of living, despite its difficulties.

Full of ghosts, the supernatural, the uncanny, and above all, witches, Practical Magic is the perfect Halloween read for people who don’t enjoy being frightened.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Book Cover for The Graveyard Book by Nail Gaiman

No matter how old or young you are, The Graveyard Book is just a wonderful book. It tells the story of Nobody Owens (Bod to his friends), a young boy who is raised and educated in a graveyard by ghosts after the murder of his parents.

The story is twisty, dark, and has a palpable sense of danger. But despite that, it’s sweet, and really captures the essence of what it feels like to grow up. It’s a book that is child appropriate, which makes it a great option for the easily spooked, but at the same time, it doesn’t *feel* like a children’s book.

The Graveyard Book is eerie, yet emotional. It’s a dark tale with heart. It’s about leaving the past behind and moving into the future and is told with a weight and depth that will appeal to readers of all ages.

The Thirteenth Tale by Dianne Setterfield

Genre: Gothic Fiction

Book cover for The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Twins are a bit of a horror trope, but in The Thirteenth Tale, Setterfield masterfully weaves that trope into a tale of gothic strangeness that was practically written for book lovers.

The Thirteenth Tale is dark and mysterious, and absolutely brimming with atmosphere. Margaret Lee is a writer who travels to interview the enigmatic Vida Winter for her autobiography, and the story that follows is one worthy of the gothic greats.

The book relies heavily on psychological twists and ambience, rather than falling back on horror tropes. It’s stylish and suspenseful, with huge topics to cover that are dealt with in subtle, rather than gratuitous ways. This is the kind of book for those who love classic ghost stories or gothic tales like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre – it’s a more literary read in time for the spooky season.

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