There's nothing cozier than curling up with a great book on a cold, dreary night. A cup of tea, a warm blanket, a comfy chair — you have that stuff taken care of, sure, but you can’t read just any book on an evening like this. You need a book that complements the weather; that’s just the right length for waiting out the storm, and that makes you believe mother nature intended a night just like this so you could read a book just like that.
Accordingly, here's a list of 10 moody masterpieces that top out at roughly 200 pages — just the right length for a single-serving read — and that perfectly enhance the unpredictability of a cold, gloomy night. From the classic horror of literary master Henry James to the anonymous diary of a drug-addicted teen and every mercurial genre in between, each turn of the page will bring with it an appreciation for a cozy evening spent at home.
But before you begin, draw back the curtains and let the ferocious winds howl — these aren’t the books that will make you forget there’s a tempest outside. These are the books that will make you wish that every night were a dark and stormy one.
WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE by Shirley Jackson
Sparse, creepy and utterly unputdownable, Shirley Jackson’s 1962 story of two sisters cast out of their village under mysterious circumstances is everything you want in a dark and stormy read. Packs a punch at 160 pages, but if you finish before the storm, check out Jackson's short story, "The Lottery," which will have you cringing in anticipation the entire way through.
THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James
A haunted house, a frightened nanny, and her two disturbing little charges — it's no wonder that, after more than a century, this 120-page novel still stands up as one of the eeriest ghost stories ever written. There's no blood, gore, or really much action at all, but the atmospheric writing adds to the tension as readers are left sorting out the twists and turns of this Victorian thriller.
CORALINE by Neil Gaiman
When Coraline discovers a strange passageway behind her room, the unknown beckons. But what starts out as a curious journey becomes more and more sinister as Coraline becomes entangled in a world she may not be able to escape. This tale is eerie as all get-out and perfectly suited as a dark and stormy read at 162 pages.
THE NIGHT GUEST by Fiona McFarlane
Not all moody reads need to have stood the test of time to be scary, as this 2013 debut novel from Fiona McFarlane proves. A solitary widow is this story’s unreliable narrator, and she begins her tale by alerting her adult son that she believes she has a tiger in the house. Things just get more disorienting from there. It's a slightly longer read at 256 pages, so start this one early... or stay up late.
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
Even if you read it in high school, you should read this horrifying dystopian thriller again. It’s amazing how much more terrifying a few years’ worth of adult perspective will make this classic tale. Think Survivor meets The Hunger Games, except there's no guarantee that any of the marooned schoolboys will make it out alive. 158 pages.
APT PUPIL by Stephen King
Although it is The Body (adapted into the 1986 blockbuster movie, Stand By Me) that is the most well-known of the four novellas featured in King’s Different Seasons anthology, Apt Pupil wins the prize for the most disturbing contribution. At 179 pages, this is a dangerous tale of master and student, electrifyingly told.
GO ASK ALICE by Anonymous
Despite the fact that we now know that this 40-year old cult classic was written by a Mormon counselor as the ultimate cautionary tale, it remains a fascinating, frightening look into the downward spiral of a teenager who discovers the dangerous allure of drugs. Even if you read it 50 times in 9th grade, it's still a shockingly salacious read. 213 very quick pages.
ABLUTIONS: NOTES FOR A NOVEL by Patrick DeWitt
Written in dry, unforgiving prose, an aspiring author and accomplished alcoholic jots down notes in a diary as he observes the patrons in the bar he works behind — and falls deeper and deeper into addiction and despair. A morbid, moody look at the underbelly of Hollywood, after dark and past its prime in 162 pages.
FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley
Myth has it that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein after challenged to come up with a ghost story on a dark and stormy night. How perfect. Relying heavily on themes of the occult and religion, we all think we know the story of the monster, but how many of us have actually read this lushly penned, very scary book? There’s no beating the original when it comes to the horror story that spawned a thousand adaptations. 213 pages.
CHILD OF GOD by Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy has easily proven himself as the master of all things wretched, and Child of God offers no reason to challenge the designation. McCarthy's shortest text is also perhaps his darkest, with this 192-page Appalachian tale leaving us to wonder how a novel fraught with distasteful themes could be written so perfectly.
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