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16 Spooky Halloween Books for Adults

Are you a seasonal reader?

A few years ago, I started doing a Halloween read-aloud with my girls in October and it was SO FUN.

It’s the perfect way to add a little extra magic to your regular read-aloud routine and make October feel extra special.

But why should kids have all the fun?

Now reading something a little spooky and fun during October is one of my favorite ways to welcome the holiday season!

Whether you’re looking for a spooky title for your book club to read in October or just want something a little bit atmospheric (but not too scary) to read on your own next month, these Halloween books for adults are perfect!

halloween books for adults

16 Spooky Halloween Books for Adults

rebecca bookRebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
If I had to pick one spooky October read, it would hands down be this one. I read it with my mom when I was in high school and have re-read it multiple times. It’s about a young woman who marries a rich widower, but feels like she can’t get out from under the shadow of his deceased first wife, Rebecca. It’s a classic for a reason (note that the first chapter is a bit slow and then you won’t be able to put it down).

 

the thirteenth tale bookThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
This bestseller was one of the first books I read after I finished my undergrad degree and started reading in earnest again. It definitely has that Gothic feel to it and so many unexpected twists. Vera Winter is a famous novelist and has never told the real story about her life until her death is approaching and she asks a young woman she doesn’t know to be the one to write her real biography.

 

the 7 1/2 deaths of evelyn hardcastle bookThe 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
This is the story of a man who attends a celebration party at a secluded estate, where the guest of honor is murdered. Each day, he wakes up in the body of a different attendee at the party and it’ll keep happening until he solves the murder! A perfect Halloween book for adults! (full review here)

 

frankenstein bookFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
This was another classic I read with my mom when I was in high school and I still can remember my surprise at learning that Frankenstein isn’t the monster, but instead the doctor/scientist who creates the monster. It’s so creepy (and sad).

 

 

nine coaches waiting bookNine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
I read this novel years ago and all the reviews that compared it to Rebecca weren’t wrong. Linda is an orphan in her early 20s who goes to be a governess in France for a wealthy young boy who will inherit the whole family estate when he comes of age. Naturally, things get a little frightening very quickly. You’ll swear you’re at a Gothic manor in the French countryside, all without leaving your couch.

 

truly devious bookTruly Devious by Maureen Johnson
If you’ve been here a while, you know I love a good young adult book and this one features a private school, an unsolved kidnapping, and a teenage true-crime aficionado and new student who is determined to crack the case. This was my Halloween read in October 2021 and I blew through the whole four book series on audio in a few weeks – it’s SO FUN.

 

dreamland burning bookDreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
This was one of my favorite books I read a few years ago. When a skeleton is dug up on 17-year-old Rowan Chase’s family property, she’s immediately determined to figure out who it belongs to and how it ended up buried in her Oklahoma yard. The story switches between Rowan’s life in the present and Will Tillman, who is also 17, but lives in 1921. A perfect historical fiction murder mystery that I couldn’t put down.

rock paper scissors bookRock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney 
This twisty thriller was just at the edge of my creepy tolerance and I loved every second of this story of a couple who win a weekend away in Scotland and hope a change of scenery will save their crumbling marriage. But when they arrive at the church-turned-hotel and find it empty, it’s clear that there is more to this trip than meets the eye. How did they win this trip, anyway? With jumping timelines, moments full of suspense, multiple narrators and the twist in this one completely surprised me. I read a paper copy, but I’ve heard the audio version is terrific too (the husband’s parts are read by the beloved Richard Armitage). 

 

and then there were none bookAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
No one does a suspenseful mystery like Agatha Christie and this one, where ten strangers arrive at a deserted mansion and then begin to die off one at a time, is probably her most famous. We also went to see a stage version of The Mouse Trap (another of her books) last year during October and it was the perfect creepy mystery. I need to read the book version now!

 

the silent patient bookThe Silent Patient by Alex Michaelide
Alicia is a famous painter married to a brilliant photographer and their life looks storybook perfect. Until one night, her husband arrives home and she shoots him five times. And then she will not say one word about it. In fact, she won’t say a single word at all and Theo Faber is the criminal psychotherapist who is determined to unravel the mystery. (Fair warning that this one is probably the most adult title on this list)

the hound of baskervilles bookThe Hounds of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
If you want something shorter, you can’t go wrong with this Sherlock Holmes story that clocks in at just over 100 pages. I mean, legendary hell hounds and an attempted murder? Hello, Halloween.

 

 

a good girl's guide to murder bookA Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
I’ve been meaning to read this one for years and I finally picked it up this fall for Everyday Reading Book Club and it sucked me right in (I’m currently listening to the second one in the series!). It’s about a high school girl who for her senior project starts investigating a closed case about a murder/suicide that rocked her town five years earlier. But it looks like the past doesn’t want to stay buried. The audio of this is full cast and REALLY excellent. (Full review here)

the woman in white bookThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
I got a copy of this as a gift YEARS ago (like. . . 20 years ago) and I finally read it last year as the October book for the Everyday Reading Book Club and I’m so glad to have read this classic mystery!

 

 

the death of mrs. westaway bookThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
This one was repeatedly recommended with people using phrases like “best book I’ve read this year.” Hal gets a letter informing her of a large inheritance she’s received, but she knows it’s not meant for her. But she thinks her work as a tarot card reader might have given her the skills she needs to snag the cash anyway. I really loved this one – it reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale and Rebecca in the best ways!

 

nanny needed bookNanny Needed by Georgina Cross
I blew through this thriller on a single airplane ride and then could not stop thinking about it! Sarah Larsen is desperate for a new job and when she finds a notice for a nanny position in her building’s lobby, it feels like a golden ticket. And when she lands the job with the wealthy NYC family, she’s ecstatic enough to overlook the red flags that start popping up almost immediately, like the mother who never leaves the apartment on her own or the mystery of the former nanny. This one was just spooky enough to be fun without being actually terrifying.

 

daughter of smoke and bone bookDaughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
If October makes you think of costumes and mythical beasts, this is the book for you. Fantasy isn’t a genre I gravitate strongly toward, but this one is just so good about a young woman who lives in Prague as an art student by day, while by night she goes around the world collecting human teeth for the non-human monster who raised her. Just prepare to be completely sucked in by this magical story (and then read the rest of the trilogy). (Full review here)

halloween books for adults

Halloween books for adults that I haven’t read yet, but are on my list

I asked for recommendations on Instagram and now my list of Halloween books for adults is going to keep me going for several years! I haven’t read any of these, but can’t wait to check them out, assuming I can get up the nerve to read something creepy!

the devil in the white city bookThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
This is the only non-fiction book on this list, but I’ve been meaning to read this for nearly a decade and it seems like the perfect book to read in October.

 

 

we have always lived in the castle bookWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
This book is from the 60s and apparently a classic, although I’ve never heard of it (of course, anything even remotely scary is something I generally avoid, so it’s not a big surprise). This one is about a family that lives a very isolated life until a cousin comes to their home. The blurb on Amazon says it takes readers “deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis.” Pretty sure that’s code for “nightmares until Valentine’s Day.”

 

the broken girls bookThe Broken Girls by Simone St. James
I got the shivers just reading this description but it also sounds gripping. Is my curiosity or my fear going to win out? Back in the 50s, there was a boarding school for troublemaking girls with rumors that it was haunted. Four roommates became friends and then one of them disappeared. Now in the present (well, 2014), a journalist is investigating the death of her sister on the school grounds.

 

 

the historian bookThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Another one I’ve meant to read but never opened because. . .wimp. In this one, a young woman finds both an old book and a pile of ancient letters in her father’s library and discovers all sorts of secrets about her parents’ past.

 

 

And if you’d like a printable copy of these best Halloween books for adults list that you can take to your library or screenshot on your phone for easy access, just pop in your email address below and it’ll come right to your inbox!

 

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halloween books for adults

Photos by Heather Mildenstein

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29 Comments

  1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is actually one of my favorites, and not that scary, just eerie. There’s some good social commentary and the narrator is NOT reliable, in the best way. It’s great. Shirley Jackson also wrote The Haunting of Hill House, which is slightly more scary but still doable for my wimpiness.

    1. I just read We Have Always Lived in the Castle for book club and it is definitely not scary, just strange.

  2. I read The Broken Girls this last weekend and LOVED it! Just the right touch of spooky. I think the ending could have been better but nonetheless still good.

  3. Oh i needed this list last week! We picked The Graveyard Book to read for book club. I’ve heard good things so i hope it’s a good one!

  4. Definitely read “Devil in the White City!” It was so good. I listened on Audible and didn’t want to stop listening!

  5. Love these suggestions. Thank you so much. I have enjoyed a few of these already so I feel we have similar tastes in books. I just finished “My Cousin Rachel” by Daphne Du Maurier and loved it even more than “Rebecca”. I so badly want to discuss it with someone but will have to wait for my bookclub.

  6. I read The Woman In White in high school and loved it. Then booked to see The Woman in Black on the stage and was terrified. In a good way.

  7. Are only of your suggestions not really scary, but Halloweeny? I am a huge wimp and steer clear of everything to do with scary. The movie Hocus Pocus is as scary as I can do….

  8. I loved the Thirteenth Tale, Rebecca, Frankenstein, but I really didn’t like The Historian. It was interesting enough, but I felt like it dragged, and was kind of a lame resolution. But that’s me!

  9. If you haven’t read Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, it’s a must. Gothic suspense in 1945 Barcelona. Epic story about missing books, murder, unrequited love. Plus beautifully lyrical writing. Zafon has written a lot of other atmospheric books as well. But start with The Shadow.

  10. I loved the 13th Tale! Great list!

    I ALWAYS love your lists, but even more so love hearing about your experiences of your mom reading to you in high school. I just find that so amazing. And I would love to read a blog post with more of those details – how, when each day would she do it, how long, how did you all pick the books, just anything! My oldest is in middle school, and while I would love to keep up our read aloud time I’m trying to wrap my head around the logistics and everything!

    Thanks in advance!

  11. For fellow scaredy cats like me- The Night Circus is magical and mysterious and perfect for Halloween. Also- Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are just creepy enough without being scary.

  12. Truly Devious is so good! Plus it’s a trilogy which is always a great thing to me – it means I have three books automatically without having to hunt for an interesting new one 🙂 And the best part is that none of them are duds, something that is rare. Enjoy!

  13. If you want to get scared with YA, I recommend The Screaming Staircase, along with the entire Lockwood & Co. series, by Jonathan Stroud. They get scarier as they go. I am in my 50’s and I couldn’t read those books at night but they are great for someone who wants a good Halloween read..
    I agree with The Night Circus. If you like that, another book to read is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.
    Nine Coaches waiting is a classic, in my opinion. I haven’t read it for over 25 years. Maybe it is the right time to open it up again.
    Loved the 13th Tale as well.

  14. My all-time favorite creepy book has to be, hands down, False Memory by Dean Koontz. It is a wild ride that will have you questioning everything and everyone and wondering if you really can trust your own memory at all.

  15. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is honestly not too creepy! I’ve read a lot of Ruth Ware books and the average creepy level is going to be similar to Rock Paper Scissors 🙂

  16. Thanks for sharing! I will be reading many of these!

    I have read Devil in the White City….and it’s so good! It’s VERY creepy, but also very educational about the Chicago World’s Fair and everything that went in to making it happen. Bonus – There’s a Disney connection to this story.

  17. The Devil in the white City is SO good! Definitely worth the read! Thanks for this list! My husband loves spooky books and we’ve been trying to find one we could both read and chat about this month 🙂 (he goes for scarier than I do, so it’s a balancing act, haha)

  18. As a total wimp myself, I love that you’ve pre-screened these for scariness! 😆

    That being said, The Historian is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s unputdownable. I’ve read it three times, and it’s worth the jumpiness at night. Just don’t read it if you’re going to be home alone if you’re a scaredy cat!

  19. Have you read “My Friend Dahmer”? It’s a graphic novel (excellently written I would add!) written by a guy who went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer and was one of his friends. IT’S CRAZY to see what a serial killer was like in high school! The book ends soon after high school graduation (and Dahmer’s first murder) when the author and Dahmer part ways. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and couldn’t put it down! Perfect Halloween read!

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