There are only two days left until Halloween! Embrace the season with this handpicked selection of gory, haunted, uncanny, weird, and downright spooky reads. Ranging from horror to the horror-inspired, creepy to the creepy-adjacent, this list touches on a diverse array of subjects from disability, to the creative process, to sisterhood, to the pitfalls of office life. These books will bend your concept of fright. Diving into metaphor, surrealism, and social critique, they will leave you with a renewed sense of what it means to spook and be spooked, and the many genre-bending literary possibilities.
THE GORY: Suture by Nic Brewer
Suture by Nic Brewer is a shoo-in for any Halloween reading list. Set in a world where blood and gore are familiar sights for artists and art-lovers, Suture tells three interweaving stories of artists tearing themselves open to make art. To make her films, Eva must take out her eyes and use them as batteries. To make her art, Finn must cut open her chest and remove her lungs and heart. To write her novels, Grace must use her blood to power the word processor. “Nic Brewer’s Suture is a fleshy, flashy, not-for-the-faint-of-heart tale that poetically reimagines artmaking into the gory-yet-tender body horror that it has—perhaps—always figuratively been. Hold on to your guts.” writes John Elizabeth Stintzi, author of Vanishing Monuments and My Volcano.
THE HAUNTED: Phantompains by Therese Estacion
Drawing inspiration from Filipino horror and folk tales, Therese Estacion’s poetry collection Phantompains takes a real-life terror—a thinly survived infection that led to the loss of both her legs below the knees, several fingers, and reproductive organs—and turns it into a visceral, imaginative meditation on disability, grief and life, interweaving stark memories with dreamlike surrealism. Estacion incorporates some Visayan language into her work, telling stories of mermen, gnomes, and ogres that haunt childhood stories of the Philippines and, then, imaginings in her hospital room, where she spent months recovering after her operations. “Phantompains is a text of rare power, birthing a brave new world flush with pain, lust, drugs and the uterus,” writes Tamara Faith Berger, author of Queen Solomon.
THE UNCANNY: Because Venus Crossed an Alpine Violet on the Day that I Was Born by Mona Høvring, Translated by Kari Dickson and Rachel Rankin
At first glance, Because Venus Crossed and Alpine Violet on the Day That I Was Born seems to be set in a realist universe, but little by little it oversteps the boundaries of our common reality, leaking into the realm of the uncanny. During a stay with her sister Martha at a hotel mountain retreat, Ella encounters a series of odd characters: the omnipresent hotel manager; the enigmatic love interest; and the wistful Salvation Army soldier, among others. These characters are hyperreal—a little too present, a little too loose-lipped—they tend to appear out of the blue as they haunt the hotel and nearby village. As childhood beliefs bump up against the confusions of early adulthood, Martha and Ella become somewhat unpredictable in their actions and feelings, producing a tone of perpetual suspense. “Høvring’s prose, in Rankin and Dickson’s translation, is sensual and searching and allusive,” writes Aimee Wall, author of We, Jane, “it shimmers with a strange winter light. I fell immediately under its spell.”
THE WEIRD: The Lightning of Possible Storms by Jonathan Ball
A mad scientist seeks to steal his son’s dreams. A struggling writer, skilled only at destruction, finds himself courted by Hollywood. A woman seeks to escape her body and live inside her dreams. Citizens panic when a new city block manifests out of nowhere. The personification of capitalism strives to impress his cutthroat boss. This is the landscape of Jonathan Bell’s increasingly strange, doom-addicted book of short stories. “Cheerfully horrifying, and full of the unexpected, The Lightning of Possible Storms is an entertaining Borgesian foray into the existential dread of writing itself,” writes Saleema Nawaz, author of Songs for the End of the World.
THE DOWNRIGHT SPOOKY: RATS NEST by Mat Laporte
Mysterious and sometimes hallucinogenic, this debut book of sci-fi stories by Mat Laporte introduces readers to a protoplasmic, fantastical underworld, as navigated by a self-reproducing 3D Printed Kid made, especially for this purpose. As the Kid descends the layers of a seemingly never-ending pit, its nightmares and hallucinations—recorded in stunning detail—unfold in twelve chilling stories of unreality that will make readers think twice about what it means to be a human (or humanoid) on the planet we call home. “Has Mat Laporte eaten our dreams? Are these texts the cognitive-enteric-cybernetic remnants of a necessarily alienated posthumanity? ‘Bursting forth from the primordial/ id itself … a flickering/non-linear flood of fact and sensory data,’ Laporte has engendered for us an austere and gorgeous horror,” writes Liz Howard, 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize winner for Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent.