More than anything, I love the history behind Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, I love any excuse to wear a costume of any kind, but it was learning about the ancient Celtic festivities that really drew me into this holiday. Of course, Halloween as we know it is more commercialised, but I love all the movies, tv shows, and books that come along with this. So, here’s a list of books that I think are perfect for the spooky season!
Note: the below recommendations are spoiler free.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House has been out for a few years now, but it remains one of my go-to reads. It follows Alex Stern as she navigates her first year at Yale University. However, Alex is someone who could be considered to be a very unexpected attendee of one of America’s most prestigious universities.
Alex’s life has been tumultuous at best, and she finds herself the sole survivor of a horrific multiple homicide, at the age of twenty. But, while she’s in the hospital, Alex is offered to attend Yale on a full scholarship. Her only question: what’s the catch?
The novel sees Alex as she tries to find the answer to this question whilst given the task of monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight societies are said to be the old haunts of prestigious alums, and when their activities are revealed to revolve around the occult—albeit more sinister than previously thought—Alex must navigate the intricacies of her new life.
Madam by Phoebe Wynne
Phoebe Wynne’s Madam has been on my to-be-read list for the longest time, and I’m so glad that I finally took the time to read it. Although devour might be the right word as I could not put it down.
Madam follows Rose Christie, a 26-year-old teacher, as she becomes the new head teacher of the Classics department at Caldonbrae Hall; a 150-year-old Scottish castle turned boarding school for young girls. As the school’s first hire in over ten years, Rose is extremely nervous to begin her tenure at this prestigious institution.
As she navigates her new role, Rose quickly discovers two truths about the school. Firstly, despite Caldonbrae Hall promoting that they deliver an education that leaves its young ladies resilient and ready to serve society, there is an extremely traditionalist culture that negates the school’s promise and Rose’s own beliefs. Secondly, Rose discovers that there’s more to the opening of the position she took than anyone at the school is willing to let on.
Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste
Gwendolyn Kiste’s novel is perfect for fans of classic, horror, gothic, and feminist literature alike. Not a usual mishmash of genres, but it certainly works for Reluctant Immortals.
Set in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in 1967, Kiste’s historical horror novel follows Dracula and Mr. Rochester, and the two women who survived these men in their original classic novels, Lucy Westenra and Bertha Mason. In Reluctant Immortals, Lucy and Bertha are now undead immortals, and living their lives in Los Angeles when Dracula and Mr. Rochester resurface in Haight-Ashbury.
This retelling of two classic tales does a good job of taking the original stories and their characters, whilst making it into something new. We see Lucy and Bertha stand up to the men who wish to control them, and take ownership and agency of their own lives despite how they started.
So, there we have it. My, apparently, gothic-centred recommended books for this spooky season (or for anytime). Happy reading!