Books for Spooky Season

The leaves are falling off the trees, the decorative gourds are ripening in the fields, the ghouls are busy hanging up cobwebs. That’s right, it’s Spooky Season! In the spirit of which we’ve spun together a web of seasonal spinetinglers, gut-churning ghost stories, and nauseous novels for your dismal delectation… enjoy?

Hell House, by Richard Matheson

You’ve probably heard us banging the Matheson drum many times before. He is, simply put, the genre-defining American horror writer. If you haven’t heard of him, you’re probably still familiar with his work in a second-hand sort of way. A major influence on heaps of writers such as Stephen King, writer of many of the most iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone, endlessly adapted to film and TV, Matheson’s fiction is the perfect blend between classic and genuinely shocking.

Hell House is the cult classic haunted house novel to top all haunted house novels. It ticks all the boxes. We’ve got an unlikely cast of strangers (a mixture of dyed-in-the-wool sceptics and supposed clairvoyants) hired by an eccentric dying millionaire, hoping to solve the question of life after death conclusively before the end of the week by staying at the Everest of haunted houses: a building once owned by the satanic, perverted cult leader Emeric Belasco, and a history so deeply depraved that few have since entered and lived to tell the tale.

Our Share of Night, by Mariana Enriquez

(trans. Megan McDowell)

It might be 700 pages long, it might be deliriously, psychedelically gruesome, but it is also one of the most deeply involving novels you’re likely to read. The sheer length and extremity of the material only serve to highlight what a work of intense craft and construction it really is. Gaspar is a special boy, born into a family bound by a generations-long occult obsession, one that his father has tried to protect him from across a period of decades. Intergenerational drama, shocking outbursts of nightmarish violence, trippy Jodorowskian visuals, an ingenious weave through modern Argentinian history: it’s got everything you could possibly want from a book with a gigantic claw on the cover.

Come Closer, by Sara Gran

Written back in 2003 but reissued beautifully here, Sara Gran’s tale of a woman’s gradual unhinging feels strangely historical, almost pre-internet, something from an analogue age. Comprehensibely terrifying, you might find yourself shutting the book simply to keep yourself from it. Anyone hear tapping? No? Just us?

Tarot: The Library of Esoterica

An absolutely mammoth book of all things Tarot, and maybe one of the most deliciously indulgent books to buy for yourself during Spooky Season. This is both an extremely thorough reference book and guide (you’ll find notes on all the cards’ meanings, associated elements, symbology, histories, practical tips) and an eye-wateringly beautiful coffee table book to gaze at by candlelight, flick through, while sipping some sort of herbal tea, black cat on lap… You can picture it, I’m sure.

Villager, by Tom Cox

A kaleidoscopic trip through the decades in one fictional village on the creeping edge of Dartmoor, Tom Cox’s first full-length novel retains many of the hallmarks that made his non-fiction so engaging – humour, a gentle and exploratory love of the landscape of Britain as it changes, occasional and well-placed extreme profanity. But with Villager he has indulged a darker side of his writing character, succumbed to the mossy dread of the countryside at night, and also pulled off the remarkable feat of creating a polyphonic novel with no weak voices.

Cursed Bunny, by Bora Chung

(trans. Anton Hur)

A collection of genre-defying Korean short stories that jump between the ridiculous and the terrifying. Dive in to find Angela Carter-style fables, body horror, ghost stories and science-fiction – it begins with a talking head in a toilet bowl and sort of goes on from there. Nuts, but brilliant, and not for the faint-hearted.

Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner

On the lighter end of the Spooky Season remit. This is one if you want something autumnal and witchy, without having the bejesus scared out of you.

An early feminist classic. As the generations go by, “Aunt Lolly” lives in the shadow of each successive Willowes patriarch, slowly subsumed into the confines of familial duty and a stuffy, frigid post-Victorian moral sensibility which she tacitly rejects. Approaching middle age, she suddenly decides (to the horror of her relatives) to move to the Chilterns for a life of solitude, freedom and… witchcraft! A perfect, witty modernist novel and a thorough rejection of society’s expectations of women

An Illustrated History of Ghosts, by Adam Allsuch Boardman

From the author of An Illustrated History of Filmmaking and An Illustrated History of UFOs comes the big one, the one we’ve all been waiting for. Starting at the dawn of storytelling, this breaks down everything from ghost ships to seances, Ouija boards to the woman in white. The perfect treat for the spectrally inclined. 

Beloved, by Toni Morrison

A much beloved classic (sorry). This is a richly imagined haunted house novel and gothic masterpiece. It’s a ghost story in the literal sense — the titular Beloved (named because that was the only word on her grave) is the embodied spirit of a long-dead child — and in the metaphorical sense: it’s a ghost story about America’s moral skeletons-in-the-closet.

Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh

A compelling, uncanny, typically Moshfeghian take on the murder mystery. And if you haven’t read any Ottessa Moshfegh before, now is absolutely the time! No one does narrative voice quite like her. In Death In Her Hands, it’s one of paranoia, isolation and self-doubt.

Vesta is a widow, living in near isolation with her dog, Charlie, near the woods at the edge of Levant — a desolate and unremarkable town in America’s back reaches, where, perhaps, a murder has taken place. Vesta finds a note which leads down a compulsive path of obsession and delusion.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

The perfect October novel. Small-town America. Boys on the cusp on manhood. A mysterious carnival comes to town in the week leading up to Halloween… A real proto-Stephen King feel to everything.

Bradbury is an absolutely unparalleled writer. His stories are simultaneously classic, familiar, and totally original and genuinely thrilling.

Where the Wild Ladies Are, by Aoko Matsuda

(trans. Polly Barton)

Witty and melancholy in equal measure, this is a collection of interlinked short stories loosely based around traditional Japanese folktales with a contemporary, feminist twist. A few of the stories begin with a light touch of context, which is exactly the right amount of handholding: you don’t have to have read any Japanese folktales to enjoy this. These are great ghost stories in-and-of themselves. If anything, it just makes you want to come back for more.

Sisters, by Daisy Johnson

Sisters July and September are so close that they’re almost one, at the expense of almost everyone else (including their mother, Sheela). Lying at the heart of this slim and savage novel is the fact that we know something has happened, but we don’t know what – discovering the secrets held between these two inseparable sisters is a haunting treat. We can’t even bring ourselves to even mention the word ‘ending’ because when you get there you’re going to be a HUSK, nothing but a HUSK of a person. Do not say we didn’t warn you.

Buy every book on this list and save 10%!

Location 236 North Street, Bristol, BS3 1JD Phone 0117 953 7961 E-mail storysmithbooks@gmail.com Hours Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-6pm | Sunday: 11am-4pm | Monday: closed
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