Top Ten Halloween Books

Posted October 27, 2015 by Lory in lists / 26 Comments

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I’m not a fan of the grisly or the gruesome in literature, so I was surprised at how many books I’ve enjoyed that fit into this week’s Top Ten Tuesday category. I had narrow my list down to ten, in fact! What these books have in common is that they are not about gratuitous thrills or violence — they have some of the best development of character, setting and atmosphere out there. Exploring what’s on the edge of our human experience, letting in elements of the unexpected and dangerous, can lead to some very interesting fiction, it seems. I’m looking forward to revisiting some of these during Witch Week — will you be joining us?

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JenHecate  GraveyardBook  DrownedMaid  FireHemlockPB  WeHaveCastle

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg
When I reread this childhood favorite not so long ago I was newly impressed by its subtly subversive message.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Out of our childish fascination with ghosts and graveyards, Gaiman weaves a magical tale of love, belonging, and connection.

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
I loved this debut novel (subtitled A Melodrama) about spiritualism and deception in early 20th century New England.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
Probably my very favorite Halloween book, and one of my favorite books of all time. From last year’s Witch Week, this guest post by Ana of Things Mean a Lot helps explain what it means to one of its many fans.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
I discovered this deliciously creepy tale of a reclusive family back in high school, when I perhaps tended to identify a little too closely with the protagonist. Don’t worry, I’ve gotten over that now…I think.

FinePrivate  AllHallowsEve  WorldWonders  LollyWillowes  TamLin2

A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
A love story beyond the grave? Peter S. Beagle can make us believe it’s possible.

All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams
Another variation on the love-after-death theme, with Williams’s strange and mystical touch.

World of Wonders by Robertson Davies
This story of how a neglected small-town Canadian boy becomes a world-famous wizard is truly mesmerizing.

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Warner’s tale of an ageing English spinster who becomes a witch is a sly modern fable that’s become an underground classic.

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
I had to put in a plug for the book I’ll be blogging about on Halloween! Come back here on October 31 for a tour of the real sites behind “Blackstock College,” Dean’s setting for a modern retelling of the sixteenth century ballad.

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26 responses to “Top Ten Halloween Books

  1. I loved We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It has a quiet and slow sinister-ness. Like you I prefer creepy books without the gore. I haven’t read any of the other books on your list but they sound good too 🙂

  2. People do not appreciate Jennifer, Hecate, etc. nearly enough in the oeuvre of EL Konigsburg. I am going to reread it soon. Konigsburg is hit or miss with me, and Jennifer Hecate etc is one of the few really major hits. I want to own it in hardback at some point.

  3. Some impressively sophisticated choices for observing this holiday in style. I started Fire and Hemlock years ago (one of my first kindle books) but didn’t finish it. Obviously a big mistake, which I will try to remedy! I take quite seriously when someone says a book is an all-time favorite of its kind! I’ve read some Robertson Davies but hadn’t come across this one. Thanks for all of these on your list.

    • There are some people who don’t love Fire and Hemlock, I believe, but I don’t speak to them. 🙂 Seriously, I hope you’ll give it another try and make it to the ending (which is a doozy.) And read more Robertson Davies! Another of my very favorite authors.

  4. I absolutely loved A Drowned Maiden’s Hair–it was so sensitive and not at all what I expected from the summary. Schlitz is one of my new favorite authors.

    I haven’t read that particular Konigsburg book. I find her books are hit or miss for me. I loved The View from Saturday. Other works impressed me less.

    • Interesting that you and Jenny both have that response to Konigsburg. I’ve been meaning to read more of her books — I like that she seems always to be trying something different, which may be why some books are more successful than others.

  5. I love these lists.

    It turns out that I have not read any of these books!

    I want to read several of them.

    I agree with you, graphic and violent horror is not for men. Atmosphere and character is really the driving force of great horror stories.

    • I wouldn’t categorize most of these as horror — or only a very mild variety. But they have the magic and mystery I love, sometimes with a touch of the supernatural. Glad you found some to interest you.

  6. I’ve never heard of Fire and Hemlock! That sounds like something I should check out. I almost included A FIne and Private Place on my list too. It’s definitely a good book!

  7. Oh, I love Jennifer, Hecate Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth! That’s one of my favorite books! And a great Halloween read. I also like Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. It’s pretty fun, too. Not as good as Something Wicked This Way Comes, but still a good read. Love your list! 🙂

  8. There are several there I’ve heard of but not yet read, including Tam Lin, Fire and Hemlock, The Graveyard Book, and A Fine and Private Place. All are on my TBR list (if they weren’t before — Tam Lin *cough* — they are now.) And how could I have forgotten Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth?!

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