October Book Recommendations
by Emily Gevers
With the leaves changing colour and the days getting shorter, some people might look forward to apple pie, warm cider, and rewatching Gilmore Girls for the 6th time. Others have been anticipating the start of autumn for a different reason: scaring themselves senseless. Just because Halloween might not be happening like many hoped for doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the most wonderful time of the year in all its scary glory. Here are some book recommendations to keep you spooked this Samhain season.
1. The Shining, Stephen King (1977)
Struggling writer Jack Torrance agrees to be the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in Boulder, Colorado, while it’s closed for the winter months. Jack brings along his wife and young son, who has a mysterious psychic ability. When a horrible snowstorm occurs, the Torrance family end up snowed in, while literal and figurative hauntings chip away at Jack’s sanity.
The Shining is a staple in the modern horror canon, and, as a classic haunted house story, perfect for the darker time of the year. The characterisation is strong, leaving you to root for an innocent, clairvoyant boy and sometimes even for a violent recovering alcoholic. Suspenseful writing makes you question whether the family is indeed being haunted or just suffering from a case of cabin fever.
2. The Vegetarian, Han Kang (2007)
Over the course of three parts, The Vegetarian tells the story of Yeong-hye, a Korean home-maker and artist. After a series of gruesome, graphic nightmares, Yeong-hye decides to give up meat, much to the dismay of her controlling husband. After an intervention from her family, Yeong-hye’s life and mental stability begin to unravel.
The Vegetarian is incredibly, hauntingly strange. Raw, beautiful writing tells the disturbing story of a young woman’s descend into madness through three connected novellas, artfully exploring concepts of innocence, abuse and violence. The horror of this novel creeps in through the cracks when you least expect it and will stay with you for days after.
3. Dis Mem Ber: And Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense, Carol Joyce Oats (2017)
The titular story of this anthology follows a young girl enamoured with her older relative, the owner of a sky-blue Chevy, which is to play an important role in her dark fate. Other stories detail a student’s obsession with the murder of a female classmate, and a widow fascinated by a great blue heron.
Oates’s short stories, which often feature female lead characters, offer a range of spooky, suspenseful tales. Some are overtly scary, while others carry an undertone of unease, but all are very well written. Each unique, artfully crafted story is a great choice for any campfire.
4. I'll be Gone in The Dark, Michelle McNamara (2018)
In the 70s and 80s, California was haunted by a string of burglaries, rapes, and murders at the hand of an elusive killer, who was known as the East Area Rapist, or the Original Night Stalker. Decades later, true crime writer Michelle McNamara develops an obsession with this case. Dark is an investigation into the crimes of the “EARONS”, as well as the victims, the detective work, and McNamara’s own obsession with the case.
I’ll be Gone in The Dark proves that reality can be scarier than fiction. McNamara’s writing is lively, detailed, and suspenseful without being sensational. The book does not only remain respectful to the victims, but honours decades worth of police investigation through anecdotes and interviews.
5. Dracula, Bram Stoker (1897)
A small group of people led by the famous Professor Van Helsing try to stop the elusive Count Dracula from spreading the vampire curse, as one of their own falls inexplicably ill.
This book is a classic for a good reason. Even though it introduces a lot of the characteristics of the vampires we know today, Dracula contains many unexpected, creepy twists. With beautiful writing, the gloomy, dark atmosphere comes to life, along with a cast of interesting, well-defined characters. (It also has a cowboy).