Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a Halloween freebie topic.
Halloween Reading That Won’t Give You Nightmares
I don’t like horror, and I don’t like being frightened, but I do enjoy a nice atmospheric book now and then. Here are some wonderful books for the Halloween season that won’t scare your socks off. (Note: I first posted this list in 2015. I’ve added some titles and review links, and tweaked a few of the descriptions, but these are still some of my favorite books to read around Halloween.)
A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness) Witches, vampires, and daemons; intrigue, romance, and danger; alchemy and a missing medieval manuscript – Harkness’s trilogy is modern fantasy for adults. The series opener takes place in September and October, and culminates in something of a cliffhanger on Halloween. (my review)
The Perilous Gard (Elizabeth Marie Pope) Outspoken Kate Sutton, exiled to a remote castle, is taken by “the People of the Hill” in this YA novel that blends legends of the Fair Folk and the sacrifice of the sacred king, the stories of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer, and Tudor political intrigue. The climax comes, appropriately enough, on All Hallows Eve.
The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) Darkmoor provides a grim and atmospheric setting for Doyle’s suspenseful masterpiece. Holmes and Watson investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, apparently killed by a gigantic, ghostly hound.
Macbeth (William Shakespeare) “Double double, toil and trouble. . .” Shakespeare’s witches are creepy, but the real evil in this classic play is in the ambition of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, who will stop at nothing–including regicide–to attain their goals.
Light Thickens (Ngaio Marsh) Macbeth is so notorious as an “unlucky” play that many theatre folk refuse to call it by name, let alone quote from it. But Peregrine Jay’s West End production is a huge success, despite some rather unpleasant practical jokes backstage. . . until an actor turns up dead onstage, and Inspector Alleyn, watching the play with his young son, is called upon to investigate.
Hallowe’en Party (Agatha Christie) When a nasty teenager announces that she witnessed a murder and is then drowned in the bobbing-for-apples barrel at a Halloween party, it’s up to Poirot to find the murderer–or double murderer.
The Grey King (Susan Cooper) “On the day of the dead, when the year too dies // Must the youngest open the oldest hills. . .” Will Stanton is only twelve, but he is also the youngest of the Old Ones, sworn to serve the Light. And as the day of the dead–All Hallows Eve–approaches, he must battle one of the Dark’s greatest servants, the Grey King, to find the harp which will awaken the Sleepers. Drawing on Welsh legend and Arthurian myth, this novel is perhaps the best in the Dark is Rising series; it won the 1976 Newbery Medal. It’s also the one that fits most closely with Halloween, but honestly, any of the books in this series would make good Halloween reading.
The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern) The Night Circus tells the tale of two young magicians, bound by their teachers to a game of wits and skill only one can survive. The Circus des Reves is their dueling field, as magical as the book itself. Atmospheric, lyrical, and beautifully written, this book will haunt you long after you’ve finished it. (Jim Dale narrates the audiobook, and I highly recommend listening to it.)
Other books you might enjoy at Halloween:
- The Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy by Nora Roberts — Romantic suspense set in contemporary Ireland. Four witches and their friends/lovers must fight an ancient evil. (My reviews: Dark Witch, Shadow Spell, Blood Magick.)
- The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen — Magical realism about three sisters reputed to knit spells. Set in Tarrytown, NY, near where the Headless Horseman is supposed to roam. (my review)
- Captivated by Nora Roberts — A screenwriter who doesn’t believe in real magic falls for a witch.