Halloween Reads for Grown-Ups

We are now firmly in the grip of my favorite time of year – the months of October through December. I love autumn leaves. I love pumpkins and gingerbread (in all their decorative, imbibe-able, and edible forms). And I love seasonal reading.

Pretty autumn leaves!
Pretty autumn leaves!

With my son well out of the picture books stage, lingering at the Halloween display in the children’s section is more exercise in nostalgia than shopping expedition (sniffle).

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Ah, the good old days when I could buy these books “for my son.”

Admiring the above display recently, I got to thinking about the books I could put in a display of Halloween reads for grown-ups. Here are seven that came to mind, several of which are classics and thus available online free of charge (link provided when available!).

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Leslie Meier’s “Candy Corn Murder”

This murder mystery, which (as you may have guessed from the title) takes place during Halloween, is one in a series following Lucy Stone: mom, Pennysaver reporter, and intrepid crime solver. The smiling ghost and the ghoulishly cute title first caught my attention, but I also loved that it’s set in Maine, revolves around a giant pumpkin competition, and includes loads of other autumnal, New Englandy events. Purely coincidentally, I happened to be reading the novel the same weekend that a town near me hosted its annual Giant Pumpkin Weight-Off.

It was an engaging read, so I was pleased to discover that Lucy Stone does much of her crime solving during holidays, especially the ones that fall between October 31 and January 1.

Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”

This gothic horror novel about the Transylvanian vampire who moves to London in search of fresh blood and new converts (and the men and women who fight him) has been on my reading list for at least three years. I’m hoping this will be the year I finally cross this off my to-be-read list!

You can read the novel by clicking here.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”

The rhyme and meter of this poem are epic. I could recount the poem’s symbolism and complexity and all the stuff scholars like to talk about, but what bowls me over again and again is how majestically moody and mystic it is. And even though the subject is rather dark, the musicality of the structure makes feeling depressed after reading it kind of hard. First published in 1845, it has provided inspiration for plenty of re-dos. But nothing beats the original, right?

You can read it by clicking here.

Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

Set in a New York Dutch settlement circa 1790 and first published in 1860, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a charming romp (for a ghost story) through post-Revolutionary New York. The holiday-appropriate story follows the exploits of the somewhat stuffy and wily schoolteacher Ichabod Crane in his quest to woo the lovely (and wealthy) Katrina Van Tassel. Irving’s ghoulish (but not fully terrifying) story and wryly humorous prose combine to create a Halloween story that’s more likely to make you smile than to give you nightmares.

You can read it by clicking here.

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”

Actually, many of Poe’s short stories work for Halloween, but for some reason, this one always gets to me. The ghastly tale of a murderer haunted by his crime is frantically paced and intensely creepy.

You can read it by clicking here.

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” 

Mary Shelley’s eponymous Frankenstein is a young man so enamored of the natural sciences and so keen on charting new territory that he collects leftover human parts and figures out how to create a living being with them. But he’s so horrified by the being he creates that Frankenstein rejects and flees from him, leaving the monster to fend for himself. Hideously disfigured and continuously spurned by society, he turns deadly, and he and Frankenstein end up pursuing each other across Europe.

You can read it by clicking here.

Edith Wharton’s “Tales of Men and Ghosts”  

Wharton’s supernatural/psychological thriller stories, ten of which are collected in “Tales of Men and Ghosts,” combine wry humor with emotional tension. Also, they’re creepy as … well, you know. For example, in the first one, “The Bolted Door,” Hubert Granice is so disgusted by his inability to get published that he wants to commit suicide. But each time he attempts it, his hands tremble, and he can’t go through with it. So he devises a plan to get himself convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty, only nothing goes as planned. The story is simultaneously hilarious and chilling.