We love thrillers for fall, but that’s not the only genre that begs to be read during the autumn months. Whether you’re looking for something creepy, spooky, slightly unsettling, downright horrifying, or pleasantly magical, these books will have you looking over your shoulder — or sinking even further into your reading nest of cozy blankets and apple-cinnamon-candle-scented warmth.
My absolute number one pick for an atmospheric autumn read is this fantastic Gothic ghost story featuring a young biographer and a reclusive author. There’s an old house, an unsettling pair of twins, a mysterious library, and long-buried familial secrets. Cozy, right?
Shirley Jackson has long been one of America’s most famous horror authors, but she’s really having a moment this year. The Haunting of Hill House is a new Netflix series, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (another Jackson classic) was also adapted to film recently.
Like many horror books, this eerie novel features a haunted house; but in this case, the house is one of the characters, even narrating some of the story. The family that lives in the house, which may also be home to several generations of ghosts, includes a young woman with a strange eating disorder, her twin brother and their widower father.
If a thriller sounds like your ideal fall read, this intricate mystery is a perennial favorite. When the daughter of a legendary cult film director is found dead one October evening, an investigative journalist with a personal vendetta is determined to prove the death was not a suicide, as determined by official reports.
Mary Shelley is widely considered the first modern science fiction author. If you haven’t yet read her classic Frankenstein, this is the perfect year as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the book’s publication.
You might already know and love the movie with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, but don’t miss this chance to know and love the original book as well. Hoffman also released a prequel last year, The Rules of Magic, but we’re partial to reading these books in publication order.
In this young adult novel, Alice is the granddaughter of a reclusive author of a cult-classic book of fairytales set in the Hinterland. After her grandmother passes away, Alice has reason to believe the Hinterland exists outside her grandmother’s imagination.
Carmen Maria Machado
This is the best short story collection I’ve read in recent years, and its subject matter screams to be read in October. Part urban myth, part retold fairytale, part science fiction, this collection of stories with not-so-subtle feminist underpinnings will terrify you with both its imaginative settings and unfortunate realisms.
This is a doorstop of a book, but if you’re willing to commit to one thousand pages of gorgeous Victorian-style writing and hefty (but interesting!) footnotes, this alternative-history novel about the return of magic to 19th-century England will keep you entertained for many a fall evening.
If you don’t need magic in your fall reading list, this mystery about a murdered college student who has a doppelganger on the police force is full of old houses, cozy sweaters, hot drinks, and intrigue. The Likeness is the second book in a series, and though it’s not absolutely necessary to read In the Woods first, we highly recommend both.
This book of short stories has a little something for everyone this Halloween, from ghosts to vampires to speculative Afrofuturism. The great thing about short stories is you can read the ones that interest you and ignore the rest! If you like Due’s writing and want to read a full novel, try the fantastically chilling The Good House.
I have a “dark AF” shelf on my Goodreads account, and this was one of the first three books I added to it. So, yeah, it’s not for everyone. But if the idea of orphaned (possibly stolen) children raised by a domineering “Father” in a library that transcends time and space appeals to you, this horrifying story should find a place on your fall nightstand.
This story by fantasy favorite Schwab (who writes adult novels under the name V. E. Schwab) about a young girl who can pull back the “Veil” between the worlds of the living and the dead has just the right amount of spook for a middle-grade novel, but parts are chilling even for adults.
For fans of magical realism and circus stories, this beautiful novel features a young librarian in New England who receives a peculiar old book that could reveal the key to breaking a family curse. Beautiful mermaids, traveling carnivals, a string of tragic suicides and — again — a crumbling old house create a magical and mysterious reading atmosphere.