October means autumn is here. Time to curl up in front of the fire with a good book. And of course at the end of the month it will be Halloween, so maybe it’s time for a good ghost story? There are so many creepy books out there I decided that in order to qualify for this list, it would have to involve something unexplained, something supernatural. Here are my top ten spooky books.
1 Joe Hill Heart Shaped Box.
One of the best ghost stories I’ve read for years. I keep forcing it on other people because it is so good. An ageing heavy metal rock star buys a ghost on eBay. It arrives in a heart shaped box. If you enjoy this book, I’d also recommend Horns (which was made into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe) and NOS4A2 about a woman trying to save her child from a supernatural killer. First time I read Joe Hill, he reminded me of early Stephen King, so it was no surprise to discover Joe is Stephen’s son. What a mentor to have.
2. Stephen King Outsider
Really hard to choose just one Stephen King novel, but his recent novels have combined detective fiction with the supernatural (detective Bill Hodges, the books start with Mr Mercedes and end with End of Watch) and this latest one has a link up with that series. How can a murderer be in two places at once? Find out in the Outsider.
3 MR Carey Someone Like Me
I first picked up an MR Carey book – The Girl with All the Gifts – after seeing him at last year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival on stage with Joe Hill (above). Normally I wouldn’t like a zombie book, but by the time I realised Girl with All the Gifts was just that, I was totally hooked. This new book is even better, if that’s possible. MR Carey does child narrators so well, and his stories are brilliant. Aspects of Jekyll and Hyde, I notice that on Amazon that this book is described as Gone Girl meets Stephen King. That’s pretty apt.
4 Michelle Paver Dark Matter
A ghost story set in the Arctic. What’s not to like? A man is marooned on an uninhabited island in a trapper’s cabin, and it seems he is going to be alone throughout the long winter of continual night.. but something is outside and wants to come in…. Don’t miss her other two ghost stories Thin Air – a ghost story set on a Himalayan mountain, and Wakenhyrst, set on the Norfolk fens. Michelle Paver is a genius at choosing ghostly settings.
5 Sarah Waters Affinity
Everything Sarah Waters writes is a gift, but this is my favourite of her books and it involves a young woman who visits a spirit medium in prison, only to find messages arriving from said prisoner back at her own home. How is this possible?
6 Audrey Niffenegger Her Fearful Symmetry
My favourite book of all time is the Time Traveller’s Wife by this author. This, her second book, did not have as much of an impact on the literary world, but I adore it. Set in Highgate Cemetery, it’s full of ghosts and supernatural happenings.
7 Daphne Du Maurier Don’t Look Now
Only a short story, but it is truly brilliant, as are all of Du Maurier’s short stories (The Birds, anyone?) Yes it is also a brilliant film, but don’t miss out on the original story – and indeed any of her other creepy tales. And let us not forget Rebecca, one of the best gothic novels of all time.
8 Alex Bell Frozen Charlotte
There is something quite creepy about china dolls, isn’t there? Alex Bell takes this as far as you can go in this YA novel.
9 Louise Doughty Platform Seven
Not actually a spooky story, but it is narrated by a ghost, and it is definitely pretty creepy, and like The Lovely Bones by Alice Seebold, is really a voyage of discovery to find out why the narrator is dead and who killed her.
10 Susan Hill The Small Hand
This author is better known for The Woman in Black, which is seriously scary, but I love this one. Such a simple but effective concept. A man stumbles across a ruined Edwardian house, and as he is regarding it, he feels a small hand slip into his own….