When you are born there are two types of people you can be: someone who loves Christmas or someone who loves Halloween. I am the latter, and I especially love autumnal and Halloween-themed books. October, and the type of books that October brings, are some of my favourite things in the world. As everyone gently places down their sand and sun-soaked romance novels they turn to something darker, something spookier as the night creeps closer… October is the season for mystery, fantasy, and horror.
A Witches Guide to Fake Dating a Demon, Sarah Hawley
After the success of The Ex-Hex by Erin Sterling, fun and flirty witch-themed romance books have been released every spooky season. A Witches Guide to Fake Dating a Demon takes all the relaxed vibes of your perfect summer rom-com but sets it to the backdrop of a clumsy witch just trying to get by. Set in a small town, with all the best tropes from small town romances, lives Mariel Sparks – a dysfunctional witch who accidentally summons a soul-collecting demon. This book has great romantic tension due to forced proximity and slightly unconventional meeting, and is perfect if you want all the autumnal vibes but none of the fear.
Kingdom of the Wicked, Kerri Maniscalco
Staying in the realm of the witchy, the next recommendation is the first in a fantasy trilogy that centres around the seven deadly sins. While this series starts as YA, by the conclusion of the third book the genre does shift to adult. Like with A Witches Guide, Kingdom of the Wicked centres around the relationships between demons and witches. We follow Emilia as she hunts down the killer of her twin sister in the lush landscape of 1800’s Italy. Filled with a compelling mystery and a tense enemies-to-lovers romance Kingdom of the Wicked is the perfect atmospheric book to sink your teeth into if you like your love interests morally grey.
Truly Devious, Maureen Johnson
Are you obsessed with true crime? Are you fascinated by scary, private schools in the mountains? Do you love solving cold cases from years ago? Then Stevie Bell is the protagonist for you. Set in the elite Ellingham Academy, Truly Devious follows Stevie as she sets out to solve the decades-old mystery: the kidnapping of the academy’s founder Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter. Yet the deeper Stevie falls into the mysteries of Ellingham Academy the more dangerous her life becomes. When students start dying Stevie begins to find more links between the past cold case and the present. Truly Devious is the perfect Halloween read because of the creepy isolated setting of Ellingham Academy and the gripping murder mystery it contains.
The Birds, Daphne Du Maurier
Du Maurier’s most popular novel is her chilling thriller Rebecca, yet her suspenseful writing shines in The Birds – a novella about a seaside town that gets attacked by birds. While initially this premise may seem comical and non-threatening, Du Maurier’s writing and descriptions teleport the reader into a frightening apocalyptic setting. The novella went on to inspire the Alfred Hitchcock film adaptation which is equally as suspenseful and scary.
If We Were Villains, M.L. Rio
September and October always bring forth a change of wardrobe. As we shimmy off our shorts, some of us step into the style of dark jackets and skirts, a style many would call dark academia. Written to mimic, and reply to, Donna Tart’s famous The Secret History, If We Were Villains is a dark academia novel that follows Oliver as he recalls the story of his final year in an elite acting school. Ten years on from Oliver’s arrest Detective Colbourne is dying to know the true story of the murder that Oliver allegedly committed a decade before. Filled to the brim with Shakespeare references, sexual tension, and a thrilling mystery, If We Were Villains will keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch these eccentric actors weave their web of lies…
Babel, R.F. Kuang
Autumnal dark academia reads can’t be complete without mentioning R.F. Kuang’s explosive novel Babel, or the Necessity of Violence, which follows an orphaned boy called Robin as he is taken from his home country to study in the UK. Set in a fictional England in 1828, Robin is trained from childhood to join Oxford University’s Royal Institute of Translation where he can be taught to use his magical silver-working, which allows him to translate ancient meanings, to help the British Empire gain power. Babel caused quite a stir when it was first published in 2022 as Kuang expressed criticism of colonisation. This fantasy novel is phenomenal and builds up the tension to a gut-wrenching ending that makes the book impossible to put down. Babel will be enjoyed by academics and those interested in the complexities of nationhood.
The Stand, Stephen King
The Stand by Stephen King. No Halloween recommendation list is complete without the king of horror himself Stephen King. While many people know of and have read his novels like The Shining and IT, The Stand is one of King’s most chilling novels. Set during a pandemic that wipes out most of the population, King catalogues a fractured society that begins to fight against each other. His descriptions of exactly how the world fell to disease are eerily reminiscent of COVID lockdown procedures which adds to the fear and the realism of the novel. King’s signature horror comes out beautifully in this book as he weaves together good and evil to tell the tale of a society that has fallen apart in the face of disease.