Today, I am talking about atmospheric books. Why? Because I love fall and part of that is because it’s such an atmospheric season. And part of that atmosphere is related to all things spooky. Of course Halloween falls at this time of year–with the air turning crisp, the leaves falling from trees and the light changing, it’s no wonder our ancestors thought the veil between the world of the living and the dead was thinning. This why I think the fall is so atmospheric, and why at this time of year I just want to curl up with books. And in October, I especially want to curl up with spooky books. Books with ghosts especially.
I’m a big reader, a total book nerd and I want to share with you today some books I think are perfect to read during the fall, and especially closer to Halloween. Books that are atmospheric, horrorifying and fantastic.
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
The Graveyard Queen series is older an older series now, but trust me, it holds up. Every book in this series was fantastic. The book is really creepy, slow paced but wonderfully written. You are never bored, and you are drawn into the world created by the author. This is actually a series I would re-read, which is saying a lot because I don’t tend to re-read series as that is a huge time commitment. But the story, the characters, the writing are so good that this series would actually be worth that time commitment. Prepared to be creeped out by this very atmospheric book, or if you are reading the series, atmospheric books!
My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.
It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer, and to his other victims, lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.
Related Post: Top 5 Haunted Houses that will Thrill You
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
This novel will make you very uncomfortable. It’s really atmospheric, but the setting and the plot feel confined (and the characters are confined) and the story is horrifying. This book really sucked me in, and made me a fan of the author, but this book totally gave me the creeps. The more events unfolded, the more horrified I became and I really think this would be a good book to read during spooky season. When it comes to atmospheric books, The Family Upstairs certainly comes to mind.
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
The can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.
The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson
I am not exactly sure why I picked this up at the book store last fall, but I did and discovered the amazing Shirley Jackson. She’s also the author of The Haunting of Hill House, which may be more familiar to a lot of people thanks to Netflix. This novel is about a woman who has multiple personalities, and let me tell you, it’s a chilling kind of read because of the writing style. Part of it is written in an internal monologue style, and the thoughts of the main character are sometimes fractured and jumbled making for an unsettling plot at times as you are not quite sure what is happening. I really enjoyed this book, it reads with disquiet throughout and is certainly a horrifying read for October.
Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not just one girl—but four separate, self-destructive personalities.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Including this novel might seem cliche, but I’ve read Dracula a few times and it certainly is one book that would be fantastic to read during October. I mean, you really couldn’t ask for a more atmospheric book. Dracula is a great novel, and masterfully written with dark characters and situations, making this a must read for the month of October in my opinion.
When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into questions of human identity and sanity, and illuminating dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
I really like Ruth Ware! Her novels are just so good. The move along at a quick pace, but not a heart stopping one, and the air of mystery pervades throughout the book. The Turn of the Key was especially good I thought because it dealt with the possibility of a haunting–and ghosts always delight me for some reason. I mean, what is spookier than a ghost? This one is my favourite of her books so far, that I’ve read, and I think it’s one that definitely should be read in October. When it comes to atmospheric books, The Turn of the Key has plenty of atmosphere.
When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.
Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.
It was everything.
She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.
Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
I read reading this back in high school. And I’m still thrilled by the memory of Anne Rice’s writing and this series of novels about vampires. This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve read. Set in Louisiana and then France of the 1700 and 1800s is so good. The atmosphere, the setting, the emotionally tortured characters–the fact that they are immortal blood drinking creatures of the night–all of it is perfect for reading in October. I have read a lot of books in this series, and I maintain that this first novel and the second, The Vampire Lestat are the best. So definitely give this a go, and then, watch the movie too. If only for the sexy cast 😉
This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even “settle down” for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia’s struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.
Louis and Claudia travel Europe, eventually coming to Paris and the ragingly successful Theatre des Vampires–a theatre of vampires pretending to be mortals pretending to be vampires. Here they meet the magnetic and ethereal Armand, who brings them into a whole society of vampires. But Louis and Claudia find that finding others like themselves provides no easy answers and in fact presents dangers they scarcely imagined.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
I remember adoring this book. I did read it many years ago now, and I would re-read it not only to refresh my memory, but because I have such a strong memory of being spooked by the story, and really enjoying the book. There was just something so creepy and engaging about this entire book–the story really thrilled me. It is a longer novel, but then, all Victorian novels tend to be long. If I was to re-read this, it would likely be during spooky season.
‘In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’
The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.
Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
I really love this book. It’s a young adult novel, but one of the most atmospheric books in that genre that I’ve ever read. It’s also a YA that doesn’t annoy with an extraordinary amount of unnecessary angst. It has a moody, intelligent hero, and a plot that is supernatural and spooky and made for fantastic reading. I love that the author used Edgar Allan Poe stories to spin her own story around, and that just intensifies the creepiness. This is perfect reading for around Halloween.
Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.
Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.
As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.
His life depends on it.
He Will Be My Ruin by K.A Tucker
I really love this author, and always mean to read more of her books because they make for delicious reading, but just have never found the time to read more of her novels. And that really needs to change. Her writing is really powerful, and this story drew me in immediately. This book…is amazing. I really enjoyed it. It’s a mystery, and the climax is seriously thrilling. So if you enjoy thrillers, this novel is definitely one you ought read during the spooky season.
Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a bottle of Xanax and a handle of Maker’s Mark, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers secrets in the childhood lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man who Celine herself claimed would be her ruin.
On the hunt for answers that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
While I did begin this novel, I didn’t actually finish it. I put it aside for a while and never got back to it, but I fully intend to read this novel from start to finish because it was absolutely fantastic. It was weird, but good weird and something I think that ought be read in the fall when things can seem weird. At least, sometimes things seem weird to me in the fall. Maybe because the days are so drastically short. But, I just loved what I did read and am itching to get back to this book, which I’m sure will be making it’s way to the top of the list when it comes to atmospheric books.
Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.
All of these books are sure to chill and thrill, and I loved all of them which is why they made it onto the list for horrifying and fantastic books. I wish I had more time so that I could read all of these again because each of them is worth a re-read. I may actually put my current read on pause so that I can pick up one of these books in the month of October. If you are into Halloween, love the fall, or just love things that go bump in the night, one of these very atmospheric books might be for you.
If you want to know about the kinds of books I like to read, you can follow me on The Storygraph.
Have you read any books lately that are spooky or atmospheric? Let me know in the comments below.