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Not so spooky Halloween recommended reads

Graphic courtesy of Cait Jayme.

With the weather getting just a little bit cooler in the city, grocery stores selling pumpkins and Trader Joes officially releasing all their pumpkin flavored snacks, autumn has officially arrived. And while everyone is diving into their new favorite true crime podcasts and nail biting thrillers, if you’re anything like me, spooky season can be just a little too spooky. So here are nine fall reading recommendations that give immaculate Halloween vibes, without being too scary.

Short Stories and Novellas

“My Evil Mother” by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is no stranger to the fall themed list with her dystopian and eerily futuristic novels. However, this short story takes a different approach with its exploration of a complicated family dynamic. It’s 1950s suburbia where this evil mother may or may not be a witch; it’s neither confirmed nor denied. Complete with Atwood’s memorable and quotable prose, “She definitely had an evil eye – the left one, which wasn’t entirely in sync with the right.” It’s the perfect short story for an afternoon witchy read.

“Wayward Children Series” by Seanan McGuire

Here’s a recommendation for the fantasy readers out there. Seanan McGuire is an excellent contemporary writer, with influences coming from some of the classic Halloween gothic literature. With this series, it’s recommended you read them in order, but it’s not essential. These books explore the age-old idea of young children adventuring into alternate fantastical worlds. Some may be sugary sweet like McGuire’s third book in the series, “Beneath the Sugar Sky” or they might be entirely haunting with characters tumbling into worlds inspired by “Frankenstein” and “Dracula,” as seen in the second book, “Down Among the Sticks and Bones.” Either way, these novellas will transport readers into magical, spell binding worlds filled with nonsense, adventure and found family.

“The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This list would not be complete without this classic short story. “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is one of those books where the story behind it is just as strange as the fiction. Let’s just say Gilman has a very similar experience to that of her main character. This tells the brief story of a woman who’s been trapped inside her house by her seemingly caring husband, a doctor. However, it’s clear something more sinister is going on either within the narrator’s mind or under her husband’s care. It’s gives readers the feeling of a thriller, but certainly won’t give you nightmares.

“Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel” by Mariah Marsden (adaptor), Brenna Thummler (illustrator) and L.M. Montgomery

Here’s a graphic novel for all our visual readers. This is an adaption of L.M. Montgomery’s classic work of children’s literature, “Anne of Green Gables.” If you’ve yet to venture into Anne’s world, then perhaps this might be the season to do so. While the original is nothing less than wonderful, the graphic novel adds an entirely new spin on it. Beloved characters come to life in these beautiful illustrations, allowing for a breezy fall-time read. Anne herself is a big character of fall when she says, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” And when you visually get to see autumn come to life on the page, it makes for an excellent fall read.


“The Saturday Night Ghost Club” by Craig Davidson

Who doesn’t want to read this book based purely on the title? At least, that’s how I happened upon this novel. Davidson captures the nostalgia of stories like “Stranger Things” and “Stand By Me” with a group of adolescent friends in the 80s. Throw in a quirky uncle who loves ghost hunting and you’ve got a recipe for the perfect not-too-spooky autumnal read that packs a hard emotional punch at the end. (Even though it’s technically set in the summer time … ghosts.) This book is ideal for people who believe in things that go bump in the night.

“Mexican Gothic” by Silva Moreno-Garcia

This is perhaps the spookiest option on this list, based on the strange and macabre descriptions found in this world. Moreno-Garcia takes classic gothic literature and takes her own spin on it, seeping with Mexican culture and heritage. This tells the story of a woman who comes to the aid of her sister when she receives word that something peculiar is going on in the newlywed’s home. Where a creepy house meets eerie plant life. You’ll just have to read to find out how plants can be spooky.

“Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism” by Amanda Montell

What says spooky season better than cults? In this fascinating nonfiction novel by Amanda Montell, “Cultish” dives into the language of cults and how leaders of these groups can expertly allure people into their cults. Looking back at some of the historic cultish groups like Jonestown and Scientology before moving all the way up to Crossfit and social media gurus, this book left me with nothing but amazement. It’s truly about the power of language and with excellent language skills, you can convince people to do just about anything.

“The House of the Seven Gables” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

And we finish off with this classic American gothic. While we all may have encountered Nathaniel Hawthorne through our high school mandatory reading list with “The Scarlet Letter,” this is my personal favorite of Hawthorne. This is the classic spooky house troupe. Within the house lies ancestral haunting that transcends generations with secrets running far below the surface. It’s a book you want to analyze every scene and line of dialogue, as everything is clearly not as it seems.

So whether you’re looking for some cozy books to snuggle up with for an afternoon, or the weekend, check out any of the books above. These are best enjoyed with a warm beverage of choice and a pile of cozy blankets and pillows. Happy fall reading!

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