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Fall is the perfect time to curl up with a new book! Whether you prefer the literary equivalent of sweater weather or you like to read novels that induce nightmares, this autumn reading list has something for everyone. Rated on a scariness scale of 1-5 (1 = like sipping a pumpkin spiced latte, 5 = read with the lights on), each of these titles was written by a BIPOC, Queer, or Woman-identified author.
Haunting Fall Reads
Arsenic and Adobo by
"When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case." ~Goodreads
Murder in G Major by
"With few other options, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, she figures any job is better than none. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliffside cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage's murdered owner haunts the place."
Root Magic by
"A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic.Jez and Jay have always been fascinated by the African American folk magic that has been the legacy of her family for generations—especially the curious potions and powders Doc and Gran would make for the people on their island. But Jez soon finds out that her family’s true power goes far beyond small charms and elixirs...and not a moment too soon. Because when evil both natural and supernatural comes to show itself in town, it’s going to take every bit of the magic she has inside her to see her through." ~ Goodreads
A Deadly Inside Scoop by
"Recent MBA grad Bronwyn Crewse has just taken over her family's ice cream shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and she's going back to basics. But unexpected construction delays mean she misses the summer season, and the shop has a literal cold opening: the day she opens her doors an early first snow descends on the village and keeps the customers away. To make matters worse, that evening, Win finds a body in the snow..." ~Goodreads
Death by Dumpling by
"The last place Lana Lee thought she would ever end up is back at her family’s restaurant. But after a brutal break-up and a dramatic workplace walk-out, she figures that a return to the Cleveland area to help wait tables is her best option for putting her life back together. Lana’s love life soon becomes yesterday’s news once the restaurant’s property manager, Mr. Feng, turns up dead―after a delivery of shrimp dumplings from Ho-Lee. But how could this have happened when everyone on staff knew about Mr. Feng’s severe, life-threatening shellfish allergy?" ~Goodreads
The Ice Cream Girls by
"As teenagers Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe were the only witnesses to a tragic event. Amid heated public debate, the two seemingly glamorous teens were dubbed ‘The Ice Cream Girls’ by the press and were dealt with by the courts.Years later, having led very different lives, Poppy is keen to set the record straight about what really happened, while married mother-of-two Serena wants no one in her present to find out about her past. But some secrets will not stay buried..." ~Goodreads
Cairo (Graphic Novel) by
“A stolen hookah, a spiritual underworld, and a genie on the run change the lives of five strangers forever in this modern fable set on the streets of the Middle East's largest metropolis” ~Goodreads
By the same author as the Ms. Marvel graphic novel series
Darkness and the Devil Behind Me by
"In December 1923, Esther Todd was a lovely young pianist and a rising star. One month later, she was on the Most Wanted List. She vanished from the snowy streets of Harlem, while thieves hit the home of her society patron, pulling off a million-dollar heist. Were the disappearance and the robbery a coincidence or a conspiracy? Somebody knew, but nobody was talking." ~Goodreads
Deep Fried Trouble by
"Widowed and officially retired, EUGEENA PATTERSON throws herself into organizing the neighborhood association. This presents a great opportunity to re-connect with old friends and get to know new neighbors like recently widowed Amos Jones, that is until Eugeena stumbles upon her estranged neighbor's dead body..." ~Goodreads
Dial a for Aunties by
"When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. " ~Goodreads
A Spell for Trouble by
"On a whim, Alex accepts an invitation to visit her estranged relatives and to help them in their family business: an herbal apothecary known for its remarkably potent teas, salves, and folk remedies.Alex discovers that her own family is at the center of salacious town gossip, and that they are rumored to be magical healers descended from mermaids. She brushes this off as nonsense until a local is poisoned and her aunt Lidia is arrested for the crime. Alex is certain Lidia is being framed, and she resolves to find out why." ~ Goodreads
Plot Is Murder The by
"The small town of North Harbor on the shores of Lake Michigan is about to have a new mystery bookstore. But before the first customer can browse its shelves, the store’s owner is suspected of her own murder plot . . . " ~ Goodreads
Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by
"Mimi Lee is in over her head. There's her new Los Angeles pet grooming shop to run, her matchmaking mother to thwart, her talking cat Marshmallow to tend to—oh, and the murder of a local breeder to solve...now if only Mimi hadn't landed herself on top of the suspect list. " ~ Goodreads
My Sister, the Serial Killer by
Publication Date: 2018-11-20
Dark and witty, this short novel chronicles two sisters: one who keeps killing her boyfriends, and the other who is a resentful accomplice. A delightful read for anyone who likes things dark but doesn’t a blood bath.
What Big Teeth by
Sometimes the monster we’re fleeing is ourselves. Lush and introspective, this YA book will resonate with any reader who doesn't fit the roles imposed by family and society. It also checks a lot of spooky boxes: What Big Teeth can be described as a gothic novel, body horror, and a monster story rolled into one.
White Is for Witching by
This is a spine-tingling tale that has Gothic roots but an utterly modern sensibility. Told by a quartet of crystalline voices, it is electrifying in its expression of myth and memory, loss and magic, fear and love." ~goodreads
Ghost Summer: Stories by
"In her debut collection of short fiction, Due takes us to Gracetown, a small Florida town that has both literal and figurative ghost; into future scenarios that seem all too real; and provides empathetic portraits of those whose lives are touched by Otherness. Featuring an award-winning novella and fifteen stories—one of which has never been published before—Ghost Summer: Stories is sure to both haunt and delight." ~Goodreads
Mexican Gothic by
"After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find." ~Goodreads
This is a refreshing and thrilling take on the gothic genre! If you haven't read Mexican Gothic yet, this is your sign to do it this Halloween!
Afterlife Ghost Stories from Goa by
A family gathers at their Goan estate for their father's 75th birthday. When a power outage shrouds the house in darkness, uncle begins telling ghost stories. Each story brings readers closer and closer to a dark family secret. A fantastic choice if you're looking for that "campfire" ghost story vibe.
Black Water Sister by
"Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there's only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma." ~Goodreads
After the People Lights Have Gone Off by
"This collection of fifteen stories taps into the horrors and fears of the supernatural as well as the everyday. Included are two original stories, several rarities and out of print tales, as well as a few "best of the year" inclusions. Stephen Graham Jones is a master storyteller. What does happen after the people lights have gone off? Crack the spine and find out." ~Goodreads
White Smoke by
"White Smoke is about a girl and her blended family who move into a newly renovated, picture-perfect home in a dilapidated Midwestern city and are haunted by what she thinks are ghosts, but might be far worse" ~Nightfire blog
"Samantha Heather Mackey couldn't be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England's Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort--a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other "Bunny," and seem to move and speak as one. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies' sinister yet saccharine world, beginning to take part in the ritualistic off-campus "Workshop" where they conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur. " ~Goodreads
Out of Salem by
"When genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed their parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed." ~Goodreads
The Changeling by
In this dark, contemporary fairy tale, Apollo Kagwa begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever." ~Goodreads
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by
This unsettling gothic mystery follows the story of two sisters and their uncle, isolated in their cavernous estate, navigating the fall-out of notable family murders. This unsettling classic written by the godmother of horror herself, Shirley Jackson (who also penned The Haunting of Hill House).
Drive Your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by
"In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Then a neighbor, Big Foot, turns up dead. Soon other bodies are discovered, in increasingly strange circumstances. As suspicions mount, Janina inserts herself into the investigation, certain that she knows whodunit. If only anyone would pay her mind." ~Goodreads
Certain Dark Things by
An author-described “Neon Noir” that takes place in an alternative version of Mexico City, Certain Dark Things, offers a different kind of vampire thriller for those who want a change from Dracula, Twighlight, and the writings of Ann Rice.
The Taking of Jake Livingston by
"Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as a vengeful spirit begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood." ~Goodreads
Spook Lights by
"Pull up a rocking chair and sit a spell. Soak in these tales of Southern Gothic horror:
Sinister shopkeepers whose goods hold the highest price, a woman’s search for her mother drags her into the binding embrace of a monster, a witchdoctor’s young niece tells him a life-altering secret, an investigator who knows how to keep a 100% confession rate..." ~Goodreads
The Mary Shelley Club by
New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.
To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.
"Fledgling is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. This captivating novel tests the limits of "otherness" and questions what it means to be truly human." ~Goodreads
Empire of Wild by
You don't have to be a horror fan to be drawn into this dark and compelling book. This novel explores the impact of colonization (historical and contemporary) through the story of Joan and her quest to save her family from the rogarou—a werewolf-like boogeyman.
Five Midnights by
"If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other's company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch the killer, they'll have to step into the shadows to see what's lurking there--murderer, or monster?" ~Goodreads
Bad Witch Burning by
Katrell doesn’t mind talking to the dead; she just wishes it made more money. Clients pay her to talk to their deceased loved ones, but it isn’t enough to support her unemployed mother and Mom’s deadbeat boyfriend-of-the-week. Things get worse, when a ghost warns her to stop the summonings or she’ll “burn everything down.” Katrell is willing to call them on their bluff, though. She has no choice. What do ghosts know about eating peanut butter for dinner? However, when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go." ~Goodreads
Spook level: 3
Haunted by the ghost of her child and the horrors of enslavement, Sethe’s life begins to unravel when she takes in a mysterious teenage girl. Heart wrenching, poetic, and tense, Beloved is a Pulitzer Prize winner and classic.
Frankenstein in Baghdad by
"From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi--a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café--collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed." ~Goodreads
The Ballad of Black Tom by
Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping. A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?" ~Goodreads
The Drowning Girl by
"Struggling with her perception of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about an encounter with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that came to her as a feral girl, or neither of these things but something far, far stranger..." ~Goodreads
Never Have I Ever by
"Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap’s debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, 'A Spell for Foolish Hearts' to the terrifying tension of the urban legend 'Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez'"~ Goodreads
Summer Sons by
"Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that mutters of revenge. As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him." ~Goodreads
The Hunger by
An alternate telling of the history of the Donner Party--the wagon train headed west that turned to cannibalism when supplies depleted. In Katsu's version, the Donner party is being hunted by something hungry and, perhaps, more terrible than their fellow travelers. a Slow burning and deeply unsettling read...in a good way!
The Between by
This Bram Stoker Award nominated classic was re-released in 2021, and there's never been a better opportunity to read it! The Between is a heart-palpitating thriller about a man whose nightmares begin to blur with reality when his family begins receiving racist death threats. Lightly paranormal and impossible to put down, this book slaps just as hard as it did in 1995!
The Graveyard Apartment by
Considered a classic of Japanese horror, The Graveyard Apartment is a welcome (and chilling) departure from the typical haunted house novels most western readers are familiar with. A great choice for someone who wants scares without gore or violence.
When No One Is Watching by
This twisty, engrossing story of gentrification and race will keep you guessing until the last page. Engrossing and realistic, Cole disarms her readers and then takes them to darker places than they'd ever imagine. A heart-pounding thriller for our time!
Dread Nation by
After the Civil War is disrupted by the dead rising from their graves, Jane and other young Black women are trained to be elite zombie hunters. Meticulously researched and heart pounding, this book is a offers a refreshing escape from the conventional zombie stories that have hogged the spotlight over the last decade.
Children of Chicago by
"This horrifying retelling of the Pied Piper fairytale set in present-day Chicago is an edge of your seat, chills up the spine, thrill ride. When Detective Lauren Medina sees the calling card at a murder scene in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, she knows the Pied Piper has returned. When another teenager is brutally murdered at the same lagoon where her sister’s body was found floating years before, she is certain that the Pied Piper is not just back, he’s looking for payment he’s owed from her." ~Goodreads
Dark Corner by
"When renowned author Richard Hunter dies in a boating accident, his son David travels to Mason's Corner, Mississippi, to find out more about the father he never really knew. At first, Mason's Corner seems friendly and unassuming-the perfect "small town." But after a newcomer moves into the old-and supposedly haunted-mansion on the hill, everything changes...People begin to disappear. Dogs viciously attack. And soon David discovers that the terror consuming this place has its roots in his own family tree...For something has risen in Mason's Corner. Something with bloody ties to the town's past. Something undead--and hungering for vengeance..." ~Goodreads
The Hollow Places by
Falling somewhere between cosmic horror and weird horror, this novel is unlike any other. Alternate dimensions, taxidermy that comes to life, and creatures that can hear your thoughts make this book as compelling as it is unsettling.
Into the Drowning Deep by
Are mermaids the new zombies? A classic cautionary tale of science asking if it could (not if it should), do not read this book at the beach! Or on a boat. Or anywhere near water, really. Like any good creature-feature, Into the Drowning Deep offers a little camp and a lot of gore--but it also explores weighty themes like ableism and climate change.
Voices in the Snow (Black Winter Series, Book 1) by
Clare wakes up after a car crash in an isolated mansion, wary of her host, and snowed in. She quickly learns there is more to survive than her injuries. Twisty and and full of pandemic-relevant themes, read this book with the lights on.
The Toll by
People don’t go missing in the swamp often, but when they do it is because they crossed the wrong bridge. Atmospheric and unsettling, this southern horror novel is best read indoors, with the lights on.
When the Reckoning Comes by
"A haunting novel about a black woman who returns to her hometown for a plantation wedding and the horror that ensues as she reconnects with the blood-soaked history of the land and the best friends she left behind." ~Goodreads
Nothing but Blackened Teeth by
"Cassandra Khaw's Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists." ~Goodreads
My Heart Is a Chainsaw by
Publication Date: 2021-08-31
Jade lives for slashers. So much so that she is the first to notice a cinema-worthy horror plot unfolding in her town. The challenge is getting others to see it too. This book is a must-read for scary movie lovers.
The Good House by
Vodoo spirits seek revenge in this tale of inter-generational healing and Black motherhood. A masterpiece of contemporary horror, if you can brave the darkest bits, you'll be rewarded by a cathartic ending.
Ring Shout by
"Maryse Boudreaux has a magic sword and a head full of tales. When she's not running bootleg whiskey through Prohibition Georgia, she's fighting monsters she calls "Ku Kluxes." She's damn good at it, too. " ~Goodreads
Fast paced and dripping with literal #BlackGirlMagic, Ring Shout is one of the best horror novels of the 21st Century.
Coyote Songs by
"A man tasked with shuttling children over the border believes the Virgin Mary is guiding him towards final justice. A woman offers colonizer blood to the Mother of Chaos. A boy joins corpse destroyers to seek vengeance for the death of his father.These stories intertwine with those of a vengeful spirit and a hungry creature to paint a timely, compelling, pulpy portrait of revenge, family, and hope." ~Goodreads
The Queen of the Cicadas by
When a Bracero Program farm worker is lynched, the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacíhuatl, seeks revenge and rebirth across generations. This this gives rise to the urban legend: the Queen of the Cicadas. Decades later, Belinda finds herself at the farmhouse where it all began, and she soon finds that she is a part of La Reina's divine plan.
The Return by
"Julie is missing, and the missing don't often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she'll come back. She's right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she's been or what happened to her. " ~Goodreads
Although the monster, Crota, will be new for most readers, the novel Crota delivers the gore and tension familiar to pulp horror fans. This book is action-packed, soaked in blood, and serves a satisfying ending.
Queen of Teeth by
"Within forty-eight hours, Yaya Betancourt will go from discovering teeth between her thighs to being hunted by one of the most powerful corporations in America.
On the run and transforming, Yaya may be either ABP’s greatest success, or the deadliest failure science has ever created." ~Goodreads