We're a mere 10 days away from the turning back of the clocks, heralding shorter days, longer nights — and yes, one extra hour in bed. But that delicious slice of extra sleep isn't the only thing to look forward to come Sunday, October 28. Darker, colder nights mean it's officially reading under a blanket by the fire season (or in bed with a hot water bottle, or in a massive jumper with a mug of hot chocolate, or whatever your preferred configuration of cosiness looks like). Crack open one of these five creepy books for cosy nights with a sharp tinge of terror.
Horror, of course, is eternal — there's no need to confine your scary movie consumption to Halloween, for instance. But there's something about huddling under a duvet, a forbidding Autumn night outside, that perfectly complements a certain type of creepy fiction: a book that unsettles, that stains the ordinary with unease, that leaves unanswered questions writhing in your head as you attempt to get to sleep. Try Helen Oyeyemi's White is for Witching, for instance, which tells of haunted houses and haunted people; or Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez, which blends horrors both real and paranormal. With five profoundly chilling books on this list, it's past time to get reading!
'The Loney' by Andrew Michael Hurley
Hurley's debut novel is a modern gothic masterwork, set primarily on the north west coast of England. There, a group of devout Catholics attend a religious retreat, in the hope of "curing" Hanny, who is non-verbal. The creeping horrors that overcome the group — sinister villagers, a mysterious teenage girl, effigies strung up in the trees — haunt Smith, Hanny's brother and the novel's narrator, long into his adulthood.
'Fever Dream' by Samanta Schweblin
Amanda is dying on a hospital bed, with only a young boy named David beside her. David is forcing her to tell a story, one that accelerates with nauseating tension towards the event that brought Amanda to her bed, and David to her bedside. Begin reading Fever Dream cosy and complacent, certain that no book has the capacity to terrify; end it sick with dread, arranging and rearranging the disorientating puzzle pieces of the story over and over again.
'We Have Always Lived in the Castle' by Shirley Jackson
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is Shirley Jackson's masterpiece — and that's an enormous claim, given her astonishing body of work. It centres on the remnants of the Blackwood family, after a sprinkling of arsenic in the dinner table sugar bowl wiped out all the rest. Mary Katherine (or Merricat) is taunted by village children when she leaves the crumbling family home to buy groceries; her beloved older sister Constance is afraid to pass beyond the garden gate, while their Uncle Julian spends his days writing and rewriting his memoirs. But a distant cousin arrives with his eye on the family fortune, and Merricat must take desperate measures to preserve their precarious, insular life.
'Things We Lost in the Fire' by Mariana Enriquez
Enriquez derives horror from the worlds of the real and the supernatural alike in this short story collection. From the former, the stories draw on the aftermath of the Argentine dictatorship, on domestic violence, on police brutality. But terrors seep in from the latter: satanic rituals, demons, and skeletal companions. Only the bravest of readers will begin a second story directly after finishing their first.
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