Spooky – not scary – books for some seasonal fun

I’m a huge fan of horror. Whether on screen or on the page, I love the thrill of being scared. Every October I try to read and watch as much horror as I can, filling my days and nights with scares to celebrate the season. However, there are many people who don’t share the same love of the genre and prefer their books to be less scary, more spooky.

Today, I’m giving you six books that are perfect for readers who want some spooky fun this Halloween.

Scary Stories for Young Foxes / Christian McKay Heidicker

If you crave atmosphere, Christian McKay Heidicker’s Scary Stories for Young Foxes is the book for you. I read this earlier in the summer, and it made me wish I had held off until autumn to read it. Using horror tropes of ghosts, witches, and monsters (as well as a WILD appearance by Beatrix Potter) to illustrate the real-world dangers of the forest, Scary Stories for Young Foxes won’t keep you up at night afraid, but it will keep you turning to the next page.

Small Spaces / Katherine Arden

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden seems like pretty standard middle grade horror… until it doesn’t, becoming something more intricate, more engaging, and ultimately more rewarding. On a class trip to a local farm, Ollie discovers some strange links to book she found the day before. When their bus breaks down as they’re leaving, Ollie and her classmates have to survive the night, evading the Smiling Man and an ominous field of scarecrows. Arden’s world-building in this short novel is pretty remarkable, and it makes sense that this was expanded into a series.

The Diviners / Libba Bray

I absolutely love The Diviners series by Libba Bray, and the first book is an absolute knockout. Following a group of young people with special powers living in 1920s New York City, Bray loads this story up with period details and takes readers on a wild ride through the streets of Manhattan as the Diviners try to stop a killing spree that may or may not be the work of a long-dead serial killer. The opening chapter is one of my favorite pieces of table-setting ever, and I was immediately hooked.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder / Holly Jackson

True crime and horror tend to go together, and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson proves why. For a class project, Pippa decides to look into the murder of Andie Bell by her boyfriend Sal Singh that shook her town five years earlier. The reason: she doesn’t believe Sal did it. Jackson is clearly a true crime fan, and intricately structures her plot in ways that feel true-to-life and never just convenient for the story. This is a young adult novel, but it doesn’t shy away from the dark.

The Little Stranger / Sarah Waters

Gothic horror is a love-it-or-hate-it genre. Some love the well-drawn characters, while others can’t stand the slow-burn plotting. Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger is a modern gothic novel, and deserves a place among the all-time great ghost stories. Parts of this novel edge up to the scary side of the spectrum, but the focus of the novel is the relationships among the characters. As an examination of generational wealth in post-WWII England, this one is perfect for fans of historical fiction looking for some Halloween fun.

Coraline / Neil Gaiman

This is the closest to full-blown horror novel on this list, and it’s also meant for some of the youngest readers. Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a modern classic middle grade novel that works like gangbusters on readers of all ages. Part of the fun of reading this at different points in life is that the novel becomes terrifying for different reasons as you grow older. It was adapted into a stop-motion animated film in 2009, which itself has become a Halloween classic.