5 spooky books that will put you in the Halloween mood

A novella, a collection of short stories, a psychological thriller and a true crime selection — regardless of your time constraints, one of these spooky reads is sure to raise the hair on the back of your neck.

“What Moves the Dead”

by T. Kingfisher (Thor Nightfire, $19.99)

If you’re not looking to commit to a full-length novel, “What Moves the Dead” is the perfect choice to get your eerie fill. Just under 200 pages, T. Kingfisher’s fast-paced, vivid storytelling and succinct yet humorous prose quickly draws you into the tale of Alex Easton, a nonbinary retired soldier on a trip to the House of Usher. If the name House of Usher rings a bell, it’s because “What Moves the Dead” is a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Easton is summoned to the remote countryside house because they learn that their childhood friend, Madison, is sick and dying. Without giving too much away, Easton’s visit turns out to be unexpected, and they arrive to find a dilapidated mansion that they soon discover is infested with mushrooms. And fungus is historically never a good sign in horror stories…

“Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century”

by Kim Fu (Tin House, $16.95)

For spooky reads in even more bite-sized pieces, “Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century” by Kim Fu is a collection of short stories that lean less toward horror and more toward unsettling and straight-up strange. The 12 tales in this release cover a diverse range — from a haunted doll to a sea monster and a married couple who continuously murder one another and bring the other spouse back to life with a 3D printer — but they are tied together by the blurring of the familiar with the unfamiliar, creating a general sense of unease. “‘Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century’ has people driving wood-paneled station wagons, kids going to work, and folks getting unhealthy breakfast at a drive-through, so it feels normal, like something we know,” Gabino Iglesias, author of “The Devil Takes You Home,” wrote for NPR. “However, it’s also full of surprises and strange new things — and those make for truly addictive reading.”

“We Spread”

by Iain Reid (Gallery/Scout Press, $26.99)

From The New York Times bestselling author of “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” and “Foe” comes “We Spread,” a psychological thriller following artist and long-term care resident Penny as she slowly starts to lose her grip on reality. A meditation on morality and perception that colors reality, “We Spead” might be the scariest book on this list, simply for its grounding in an all too possible existence that no one, regardless of gender, location or affluence, can escape. “Despite the lack of resolution, the story feels complete as it closes with a disturbingly upbeat and peaceful scene,” a starred Publishers Weekly review reads. “This deep plunge into fears about growing old and losing control is unforgettable.”

“When Women Kill: Four Crimes Retold”

by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes (And Other Stories, $13.43)

Speaking of real-life horror, Alia Trabucco Zerán’s first venture into nonfiction is one you won’t want to miss. “When Women Kill” examines murders that four Chilean women — Corina Rojas, Rosa Faúndez, Carolina Geel and Teresa Alfaro — were convicted of during the 20th century. Trabucco Zerán utilizes cultural analysis of the time to show how those crimes, and their resulting trials, were affected by gender biases. “Throughout, the language is both precise and evocative, and the author’s evaluation of the various circumstances is readable, trenchant, and intersectional,” reads a starred Kirkus review. “A formally inventive, lyrical, feminist analysis of Chile’s famous female murderers.”

“Interview with the Vampire”

by Anne Rice (Knopf, $37)

Finally, is it even spooky season without vampires? For those with ample time to read and then watch, I suggest Anne Rice’s debut gothic hit, “Interview with the Vampire.” As the title suggests, the story reads as if the protagonist, a vampire named Louis de Pointe du Lac, is recounting his life to a reporter referred to only as the boy. It’s dark, horrific, and oddly sensual. AMC recently revamped (pun intended) the 1976 tale as a TV series, and there’s a 1994 film adaptation of the novel version, too, if you want to fall fully into the “Interview with the Vampire” rabbit hole.

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