It’s SPOOKY season: Here is your haunted reading list.

October is one of my favorite reading months of the year. I dive all in on the spooky reads, short stories specifically. In my classroom, we do a spooky short story countdown to Halloween and in years past I have hosted a daily review of spooky stories on Instagram. This year, I want to share some of my favorite haunted reads and incredible scary authors with you, and give you some new suggestions for your classroom!

Here are my five favorite haunts:

#1 – H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)

Lovecraft came across my path a couple years back and is now a forever staple on the bookshelf and especially during the spooky season. With over sixty short stories, a few novels, and some novellas, his written library is extensive enough to dive in and stay for the whole month. I have only begun to scratch the surface on his work, but I am always intrigued by his ability to craft a story through his use of deep imagery, extensive yet specific vocabulary, and the natural voice expressed through his narrators. If you haven’t read any of his work before, check out: The Tomb, The Call of the Cthulhu, The Cats of Ulthar, and The Colour out of Space. I would recommend his stories (of what I’ve read so far) to any of my students.

#2 – Ambrose Bierce (1842-?)

Ambrose Bierce is another author I only recently discovered. I was immediately intrigued by this author after learning that he traveled to Mexico and simply disappeared. No one knows where or when he died, only that he left and a mystery followed. He has an extensive collection of horror stories, war stories, and tall tales. Every time I sit down to read some of his work, I am transported to a different time in America that is dark and mysterious. He uses vivid descriptions of setting and although I have only read a few stories – nowhere near enough – he has succeeded in scaring me in a matter of pages. I have shared his story The Secret of Macarger’s Gulch with my students and love to see their faces as the plot unfolds. 

#3 – Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)

A true classic to sink your teeth into, Dracula is a must read for any spooky fan as it is the core of all vampire stories. Written as an epistolary novel, it offers a unique look into each of the character’s viewpoints and the emotions and fears that follows Dracula’s journey from Transylvania to Whitby. This is a book that I desire to read again every single October. I highly recommend this to any of my students and would definitely use its letters and diary entries for mini-lessons whenever possible. The character development and use of emotion is unparalleled and unique to Bram Stoker’s abilities.  

#4 – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)

If you want to read a book that is both mind boggling, eerie, and downright scary, this is one of my top recommendations. I have read this book a few times, and each time I read it I am more and more shocked by the character’s development and their conflict with morality. Filled with mental angst and a battle between good and evil, this short novel is one that can keep any reader hooked from start to finish.

#5 – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

This is the first time I’ve read Frankenstein and I am loving Shelley’s writing style. She moves rather quickly (as it isn’t a long book by any means) but every page is filled with depth. The character – Victor Frankenstein – tells the story of his life and his creation of the monster. Being able to read his inner-struggle between right and wrong and his affinity to behold the power of giving life, only to be broken by the same desire, is incredibly powerful. This book is very complex, but I will still recommend it to students who want the challenge and are eager to find out the truth, not the movie takes, of Frankenstein and his monster.

Honorable Mentions

  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849): Creator of numerous poems and short stories, we will always read a piece by Poe in my classroom during our spooky season. 
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820): Another classic of spook, currently on my reading list.
  • Half Minute Horrors (2009): A collection of super short scary stories (some are comical in nature) that are perfect for middle and high school readers. This is easy to use for warm ups or quick reads to get in the spooky spirit.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890): This book immediately upset the Victorian English government, as it details the depravity of man and their obsession with vanity. Outstanding read!
  • Winter Moon by Dean Koontz (1975): My first Dean Koontz read and one that haunted me for quite a while! It has been a few years since I’ve read it so I would caution putting it on a classroom shelf, but it is great for adult readers who need something longer and haunting.

I hope you enjoy this spooky season and find a new favorite among these many talented authors. Let me know your favorite spooky reads in the comments!

Happy haunting!

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