All October long Tor.com has been in support of All Hallow’s Read; a new Halloween tradition begun by this year by Neil Gaiman. You can read the particulars here but the idea is simple: give friends and family scary books (new or used) around Halloween time. We’ve been participating by giving away books in pairs, which means one for you, one for a friend! Though we’ve been doing this through a variety of promotions, we thought it was time for our staff and other contributors here to recommend their favorite spooky books. We’ll be giving away two copies of each of these books as part of our Halloween day sweepstakes marathon, be sure to stop by for digi-tricks-or-treats on the 31st.
Recommended by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
I’m not generally much for “scary” as a primary component of my reading diet, but Peeps is a brilliantly creepy novel that will change forever how you think about parasitism. (And admit it, don’t we all think about parasitism on a practically daily basis?) Unbeknownst to the wider world, for millennia there’s been a transmissable parasite that enhances people’s senses and gives them super-strength—alas, usually along with less groovy characteristics such as dementia, a fondness for rats, and a tendency toward cannibalism. But wait, secret ancient diseases require secret ancient disease-control units, and in fact our young protagonist works for the Night Watch, a top-secret agency of the City of New York dating back to the Dutch. Young Hero is particularly useful because he’s been infected himself and he’s one of the lucky ones who get the strength and super-eyesight without the nastier side effects. On the other hand, because of how he was infected, he also has to endure living in a state of heightened sexual interest pretty much all the time, while being obliged to Just Say No lest he infect someone else. (And they say modern YA novels don’t feature enough reader-identification characters aimed at teenaged boys.) If learned discussions of toxoplasmosis and scientific rationales for vampirism sound like a good time to you, you’ll love this book, written before Westerfeld’s rise to the top of the YA bestseller lists but, in my opinion, as good as anything else this consistently interesting writer has ever published.
Twentieth Century Ghosts
Recommended by Liz Gorinsky
Joe Hill came to prominence with his (relatively) standard horror tome Heart-Shaped Box, but genre fans of all stripes still cherish his earlier collection 20th Century Ghosts, of fifteen gorgeous, uncanny gems, each one a perfect balance of literary merit and unshakable chills.
Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural
Edited by Phyllis Cerf Wagner and Herbert Wise
Recommended by Emmet Asher-Perrin
One of those books that gets handed down generation after generation, my father introduced me to this anthology when I was a child. It contains 52 chilling tales by all the masters: Poe, Wells, Lovecraft, Sayers, Faulkner and Forster to name a handful. I recommend starting with “Leiningen versus the Ants”—you’ll never underestimate insects again.
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
Recommended by Irene Gallo
Every time I give someone a copy of this, they turn around and by three copies for three other friends. (Often they are big-people friends, not just kids.) Adam Rex pits classic monsters against every annoyances and it is hilarious. I’d say it’s worth it just for the “The Phantom of the Opera gets ‘It’s a Small World’ Stuck in Head” routine but, like a good Monty Python movie, it’s impossible to pick a favorite scene. Be sure to spend as much time looking at the pictures as you do reading, Adam Rex rewards a careful observer, the words and pictures hold more laughs than you might catch at a glance.
Recommended by Ryan Britt
I’m sure many would argue if you only read one Harlan Ellison collection, then it should be I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. However, for All Hallows Read I choose Slippage if only because it contains the story “Mefisto in Onyx” which is easily one the scariest stories about telepaths I’ve ever read. (How many scary stories about telepaths have you read?) I also have a soft spot for “Keyboard” as I often think my appliances are trying to f*#%ing kill me!
Recommended by Gina Gagliano
There is an adorable small vampire! He goes to school! He does kung fu! He has a pirate captain for a father! It is unclear to me why all vampires are not as awesome as this one is.
Dead Space: Martyr
Recommended by Justin Golenbock
Anyone who played either Dead Space game probably agrees those are the scariest games ever made; getting Edgar Finalist and creepy cult expert Evenson to pen the prequel novel (his own original novel Brotherhood of Mutilation could easily have been the pick) must’ve been a big coup for Visceral Games. Evenson’s disturb-your-dreams-for-weeks storytelling makes the book as creepy the games, and that’s saying something.
Recommended by Fritz Foy
From the (relavtive) safety of the Tor.com office rocking chair, our publisher, Fritz Foy, assures us that this is the scariest book, like, evar. With a quote sheet that includes Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro, we will not argue the fact.
Anna Dressed in Blood
Recommended by Bridget McGovern
I really can’t recommend this book strongly enough, and it’s perfect for Halloween: combining all the best elements of shows like Buffy or Supernatural into its own exhilarating, highly original blend of adventure, horror, and romance. Blake’s writing is pitch-perfect, moving effortlessly from snarky teen banter to descriptions of bone-chilling, visceral horror without missing a beat. Her characters are smart, funny, relatable, and as the plot grows more complicated, they grow along with it, becoming more complex, more vulnerable, drawing the reader in more deeply. Anna Dressed in Blood is a riveting ghost story with heart, ultimately evolving beyond the familiar, spooky thrills of an urban legend into a deeply human struggle for love and survival.
Updated for some comics frights. Scott Allie, editor at Dark Horse Comics, contacted us about…
Tim Seeley & others
Recommended by Scott Allie
Tim Seeley takes the most popular tropes from 1980s horror films and injects them with a dose of comic-book action-adventure, and more importantly with real heart. Tim has an affection for these characters that was usually lacking from those films. This isn’t horror at its most sophisticated, but it balances fun, colorful monsters with characters that gradually reveal themselves as complex and very human. Read it in the omnibuses from Image Comics.
Just a few suggestions to get the ball rolling—please tell us about your own favorite scary stories in the comments.