The Book of Extraordinary Deaths
Cecilia Ruiz brings her stylish illustration style and singular aesthetic to The Book of Extraordinary Deaths. This book spans centuries and explores a host of unique and unsettling exits from this mortal coil—making it an unpredictable look at some memorable corners of history.
The Conspiracy against the Human Race
Thomas Ligotti’s take on horror fiction, which can be found in books like Songs of a Dead Dreamer, is one of the boldest examples of the genre out there. With The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, he delves into the philosophy of horror—or perhaps the horrific side of philosophy, depending on where you stand.
The Witch Elm
Monsters and other supernatural creatures are certainly terrifying, but something that’s every bit as unsettling is the realization that something you took for granted may be entirely different than what you believed it to be. As the protagonist of Tana French’s latest novel investigates an unsolved murder, he slowly realizes unsettling truths about his own life—making for a harrowing and gripping read.
Some of the most sinister things people encounter can emerge from their own pasts: unsettling, long-buried memories that threaten to upset a carefully arranged life. Such a disruption is at the center of Roddy Doyle’s Smile, about a man whose encounter with an old classmate changes his life forever.
Lisa Gabriele’s novel The Winters updates Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca for the modern era. Its protagonist falls in love with a wealthy man who resides in the Hamptons, only to find that the presence of her paramour’s first wife casts a long shadow over the present day—with abundant psychological suspense as the haunting result.
For his latest novel, Edward Carey delves into history to produce a surreal, often unsettling tale of discovering oneself at a time of turmoil. Here, Carey draws upon the life of legendary wax sculptor Madame Tussaud, juxtaposing her skill at creating heads with the period during the French Revolution where the guillotine was a part of daily life.
Jane Corry’s novel opens with a trio of classmates heading off to school. Soon afterward, something terrible happens, taking the life of one of them. Years later, the survivors continue to grapple with the aftermath, as well as a mysterious and menacing presence that’s making itself felt on the edges of their lives.
Few tales of horror have endured as much as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is both a gripping and complex narrative unto itself and a hugely influential work in terms of depictions of vampires in popular culture. Whether you’re revisiting an old favorite or looking to experience a classic for the first time, there’s plenty to savor here.
The Lies We Told
A host of unexpected parent-child bonds are at the heart of Camilla Way’s disquieting novel. In one strand of the book, a man vanishes mysteriously, leaving his girlfriend to uncover unpleasant secrets; in another, a mother becomes frightened of her daughter’s ominous tendencies.
The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In)
Shirley Jackson’s classic novel has been adapted numerous times for screens large and small—most recently for a critically acclaimed series on Netflix. Her ability to blend complex personal dynamics with the menace of the unknown is second to none, and her many skills as a writer are on display in this book.
Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down
If you’re fond of menacing conspiracies, bizarre creatures, parallel dimensions, or ’80s nostalgia, you’ve probably watched the acclaimed show Stranger Things. McIntyre’s book provides an inside look at the making of the show, with commentary and interviews with the cast and creators.
At the heart of Dathan Auerbach’s novel is a primal quest: our protagonist is searching for his lost brother, who vanished years before under mysterious circumstances. But his quest is a harrowing one, revealing truths that should never have seen the light of day, and journeying into menacing places from which there may be no return.
Sleep No More
P. D. James
Over the course of her long career, P. D. James created a host of thrilling mysteries and memorable locations. In the collection Sleep No More, readers can experience six stories of murder, its motivations, and its complex aftermath—a thrilling and unsettling master class in the form.
Ray Russell’s collection brings together a host of Russell’s tales of the Gothic-blending forays into history, mysterious castles, and unsettling families. The introduction here is by Guillermo del Toro, whose knowledge of horror’s history and effects is wide-ranging indeed.
The Penguin Book of Witches
Sometimes, historical narratives can be as frightening as fictional tales of ominous figures in the night. This collection of historical documents, assembled by author and editor Katherine Howe, provides an informative and unsettling look at how witchcraft was viewed centuries ago, and how that might have shaped contemporary takes on it.
Frankenstein: The 1818 Text
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most influential horror novels ever written, both for its story and the way in which Shelley’s themes have had a seismic effect on generations of writers ever since. This new edition restores Shelley’s original text for the novel, leaving in place a host of bold thematic choices.
The temperature’s dropping, the nights are growing longer, and carved pumpkins are appearing in windows and doorways wherever you look. Halloween looms around us, and what better time than now to explore an unsettling, spooky, or flat-out scary read? Here’s a look at 17 books that explore the uncanny, from classic tales of horror to more modern explorations of the bizarre. Perhaps this list contains the next book to keep you up at night—both with fear and anticipation of what the next page will bring.
Featured image: Matt McCarty