Stinky farting unicorns, zombie teenagers, true-life crime mysteries, murderous obsessions, and folktales gone grim. From graphic novels to teen fantasy and adult nonfiction, these are just a few of the themes that await the daring and brave reader from this uncorked and terrifying ‘Seriously Spooky Books For Adults‘ book list.
Some of my favorite bloggers, bookstagrammers, and new authors have come together to create 11 of their top recommendations filled with spooky books for adults and teens. I dare you to read one of these titles late at night, alone in the house with lights dimmed, and not be terrified out of your mind. Heck, I need a glass of wine just thinking about the horror and suspense. This eclectic Halloween and fall book list, perfect for any time of year, will have something for every type of reader.
Stinky farting unicorns, zombie teenagers, true-life crime mysteries, murderous obsessions, and folktales gone grim: Check out these 11 Seriously Spooky Books For Adults. #booklovers #horror #suspense #Halloween Click To Tweet
11 Seriously Spooky Books For Adults
1. The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Submission from a returning TUL contributor, Hayley of Backpacking Bookworm
Genre: Adult Thriller- Suspense and Mystery
Things are not as they seem
Don’t be fooled by the title of this one. Though it may seem innocent, the story actually goes hand in hand with a Halloween binge. Think blood, gore and murder – I’m talking internal body parts from a mother’s gruesome death splattering her children square in the face. The author does not hold back on psychologically disturbing descriptions. The dark nature pushes the boundaries of typical thrillers, drawing out the horror and creating graphic images in the mind of the reader.
Part 1 – A gruesome murder
This is a turbulent family drama that follows the Quinn family. The first part of the book reveals the harrowing murder of Gamma (the mother mentioned above – don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler) witnessed by her two daughters, Samantha and Charlotte who are helpless in trying to save her. The reason lies with their father – a successful defense lawyer with plenty of local enemies. This part is gritty and graphic, immediately hooking you in.
Part 2 – A double school shooting
The second part of the book is set 28 years later. Charlotte, now a successful defense lawyer herself, is first on the scene of a school shooting. The culprit is a teenage girl who is quite clearly holding the gun that killed two people. Everyone can see the murder has no ambiguities – girl with gun; two people dead. But Charlotte knows there is always more – a motive, a reason, a trigger. With the help of her father and begrudging sister, they must work against the clock to help the vulnerable teen, whilst still facing the unspoken demons lingering from the events 28 years previous.
This story has a great pace, perfectly created with the right ratio of fast and slow. Mundane events are effortlessly incorporated with action to craft a narrative that is unputdownable. Beware – the content of this book is not for the faint-hearted. Perfect for the Halloween season.
Check out Hayley’s latest book musings on her bookstagram.
2. Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
Submission by Christine of The Uncorked Librarian
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy and Horror
Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?
Zombie, unicorns, and ZOMBIE UNICORNS!!! Gosh, Holly Black never fails to disappoint me.
Just a fair warning since I do not typically read short stories: Zombies vs. Unicorns is an anthology edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. Authors include a few of my YA favs like Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, and Maureen Johnson. And yes, guys, this is me so you know I am going to recommend young adult titles for this adult book list. You will convert to the dark side.
Get ready for serious comedic banter as Black tries to convert you to Team Unicorn and Larbalestier to Team Zombie. Which team are you? Maybe you should read on to find out:
Babysitting monsters, demon-possessed ponies, zombie weddings, and lots of gore
I learned that sometimes it is harder to find a virgin than a unicorn in NYC. You should always follow instructions—no matter how odd—when babysitting. Cute and fluffy animals are not always cute and fluffy animals, and it is best not to dig up someone unless you plan on marrying them.
Think you personally despise short stories, zombies, or unicorns. Me too. Said no one, ever. I loved Zombies vs. Unicorns and fantasy-loving adults and teens will too. Zombies vs. Unicorns ultimately brings together childhood unicorns and matures them with Walking Dead worthy zombie drama and gore. A few of these stories completely grossed me out. P.S. Maureen Johnson’s “The Children of the Revolution” could possibly be a witty and brilliant spoof on Angelina Jolie and her lifestyle.
P.P.S. I am both Team Zombie and Team Unicorn, which I never thought possible.
You can follow along with Christine’s book and travel adventures on Pinterest.
3. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind and translated by John E. Woods
Submission by Jella of Asiana Circus
Genre: Historical Adult Fiction
Not your average thriller
Get ready because Perfume is not your everyday thriller story. It doesn’t have lots of blood or a cruel and crazy serial killer. However, it has a perfectly characterized, curious antihero, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille.
Jean-Baptiste is born into the slums of 18th-century Paris, where his mother leaves him to die in the middle of the fish market. Despite the low chances of survival, his loud crying saves his life. Grenouille will have a rather tormented and emotionless life up to the point where he finally finds his passion: scents. He soon discovers he has the gift like no one else. He’s able to detect aromas that are impossible for a normal person and starts his journey as a perfume maker in Paris. He learns the ins and outs of the craft including how to extract and preserve scents.
Can you take your passion too far?
While Jean-Baptiste gets lost in the world of scents, he also discovers that he has none on his own. This revelation helps him finally understand that this is what made it impossible for him to build relationships with others. He decides to create a fragrance so perfect that will make him instantly lovable. His new found passion quickly turns into an obsession that will lead him to commit murders along the way. It’s one of the most unique and imaginative books I have read so far. Perfume is also a beautifully written, bizarre, and a grotesquely humorous tale about a strange boy whose only wish is to be loved.
You can join Jella’s 16,ooo followers and find unique and self-proclaimed weird and geeky things on her Facebook Page.
4. Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
Contribution by Eliza Stopps of Eliza Stopps.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense
When your prince charming turns back into a frog
My Halloween book recommendation is perhaps not your traditional scary story, but it has haunted me since I first read it. It’s a thriller about a woman whose dream man turns into a nightmare. Their relationship slowly turns into something violent and controlling and when she finally figures out her ex-boyfriend’s motives, it’s almost too late.
The book is Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes. I grabbed this book one October when rummaging through a discount bin at my local used book store. I didn’t expect this $3.50 novel to stick with me for years later.
Is it you or is someone messing with your life?
Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, which gives her a terrifying insight into abusive relationships and criminal behavior. I was shocked to discover Into the Darkest Corner was her first novel. I wasn’t familiar with this this author before I picked up this book, but I believe she represents the best of what comes out of NaNoWriMo.
The story follows the main character, Catherine, through past and present experiences. It follows a criminal trial, flashbacks, and her present method of coping with the madness. Catherine managed to leave her ex, Lee, and was attempting to start a new life without him. Her own mental health is fragile as she tries to rely on counseling to manage her own PTSD and severe OCD as a result of the abuse.
She starts to see another man and thinks that this might be her chance to move on from Lee and what he put her through. But just as she starts to get better, Catherine is forced to question her own sanity, as she notices strange things happening around her apartment. Her spoons are in the wrong spot in the drawer, a curtain pulled to the side when it shouldn’t have been, and the feeling that someone is always watching her.
A title you will want to read over and over again
This novel felt so real, I could have sworn I was Catherine. It’s the type of novel that you put down only to pick up after months and read again. Elizabeth Haynes captures parts of the human psyche that you didn’t want to know existed and somehow makes it an irresistible read.
Eliza Stopps is an author, editor, and marketing manager. You can see her latest projects and tweets on Twitter.
5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Submission from Rachael of Pingel Sisters
Genre: Nonfiction- United States History and Criminology
When horror and crime becomes real
If you really want an intense book to read for Halloween, then you should pick up Truman Capote’s true crime thriller In Cold Blood. Now a classic, Truman Capote was one of the first authors to write nonfiction to read like fiction.
In 1959, a typical all-American family is savagely murdered in their home. With no apparent motive, the murders at first seem to be completely random. Yet, the Clutter family was intentionally targeted. When a seemingly random act is not random at all, the question isn’t who did it, but why.
Why kill an average family?
The story opens on an ordinary day for the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas. Right off the bat, you’ll find yourself captivated by Capote’s exquisite writing. You’ll feel as if you know the Clutter family as the go about their usual Saturday activities.
As the day progresses, Capote expertly switches between the family’s normal routine and the progress of their killers as the prepare to carry out a horrific crime. You know the murder is coming. Still, the suspense Capote evokes surprises you. You can’t help wonder why. Why the Clutter family? What’s the connection?
A must read classic
Truman Capote’s writing is so exquisite, you’ll be amazed this is nonfiction, not a novel. In the first days after the murder, Capote was already in Kansas interviewing everyone he could. Interesting enough, his best friend Harper Lee, the future author of To Kill a Mockingbird, joined him to help with the interviews.
Capote followed the case through the agonizing weeks before the murderers were caught. Over the ensuing years, he covered the case from the trial all the way to the executions of the murderers. Through his extensive interviews with all the people involved, In Cold Blood provides a disturbing peek into the minds of two killers. What could be scarier than that?
Find the Pingel Sisters latest book lists and favorite reads on Pinterest.
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6. Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Submission from returning book list contributor and bookstagrammer, Jennia
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy and Paranormal Horror
A hauntingly unique perspective
Most of us are familiar with the classic J-Horror remakes and their uniquely haunting imagery. Rin Chupeco plays with and blends these well-known stories to craft an original and wistful retelling in The Girl from the Well, a lyrical narrative told from the point of view of legendary Japanese spectre, Okiku.
As the story opens, Okiku is departing from her casual drifting through the world to focus upon one of her well-deserved victims. Instead of idly tormenting inhabitants in her original place of death, this version of Okiku descends upon those who thrive from misusing and slaughtering children. Chupeco employs a unique narrative style with Okiku’s somewhat detached point of view which is peppered with her idiosyncrasies. Despite being dead, she retains an essence of humanity and a connection to the mortal world.
A peculiar friendship is born
When Okiku departs from her first victim’s home, she finds herself drawn to a mysterious boy named Tarquin who is covered in striking and unsettling tattoos. It is slowly revealed that a malevolent spirit is attached to Tarquin. He has coped with self-deprecating humor and by avoiding close relationships, for fear that friends may come to harm. Okiku becomes committed to protecting Tarquin, coming to his aid numerous times. As their unusual friendship progresses, mysteries surrounding Tark’s life and bad fortune are gradually sprinkled throughout the storyline.
The scares and intensity increase as the story moves from the States to Japan. Many of the common Japanese horror tropes are represented as both Okiku and the evil entity surrounding Tark fight for him. From a mother in an asylum, ghostly faces hidden by lank, dripping hair, and mirrors that are better left not looked into, Chupeco ensures that none of her readers will be sleeping easily after the book’s conclusion.
Folklore meets young adult horror
Unlike the cheap scare tactics used in many thriller movies, Chupeco’s descriptions slowly fester over time, continuing to lurk in the reader’s mind long after the book is finished. The storyline is paced in such a way that it is akin to building a tower of blocks, with each chapter smoothly blending into and contributing to the next. Chupeco has flawlessly blended folklore with the young adult horror genre, ultimately giving us an intriguing take on the classic ghost story.
You can follow Jennia and her beautiful bookstagram account here.
7. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Submission by Becca of Becca Leighanne
Genre: Literature and Fiction- Classic Horror
When demons take over
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty tells the horrifying story of young Regan MacNeil as she literally battles her demons. While her famous actress mother, Chris MacNeil, is working on her next big film, strange and poltergeist-esque activities begin wreaking havoc in the MacNeil household. During this time, Regan is displaying very odd psychological and physical symptoms that send her to multiple psychiatric and medical treatments. These appointments serve to be of very little use, as Hell continues to break loose for the family. Finally, Chris MacNeil turns to local Jesuit priest, Father Damien Karras, for assistance.
A personal love for horror
I keep The Exorcist on a pedestal; okay, maybe more like on my desk as it serves for inspiration, but same thing… right? I’ve always been a horror enthusiast. Most of my free time is spent diving into the genre, with the use of books, films, and video games. And, let me tell ya, The Exorcist has by far been the most terrifying experience for me.
I could never pinpoint the exact thing that scares me about The Exorcist; maybe it’s simply the demons, or that William Peter Blatty used actual experiences as inspiration. Or, maybe it’s just the idea that someone as pure and good-hearted as Regan MacNeil could have something so powerful and evil take over her body. Multiple times I had to put this book down, and I couldn’t read it before bedtime without having the suspicion that something was watching.
A book for everyone
Other readers may not have the same experience as I had with this book, but I strongly believe that just about everyone can find something to enjoy about The Exorcist; perhaps it’ll be the captivating writing, the characters and relationships, or just the uneasiness that comes with reading about pure evil.
You can check out Becca’s other favorite titles and everyday thoughts on Twitter.
8. Cauldron’s Bubble by Amber Elby
Submission by the author, Amber, of Amber Elby
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy and Folklore
The makings of the perfect Halloween read
Candy? Well, it’s BYO, so check your cupboards.
What more could you want for a Halloween read? How about a dash of Shakespeare, too? Cauldron’s Bubble is a fast-paced adventure novel that integrates stories from the Bard’s plays with original characters in a new, fantastical world. Join Alda, a teenage orphan who just learned that she may or may not be a witch, as she is whisked into a magical realm of sorcery, spirits, and nymphs. On the other side of the world, a cabin boy called Dreng helps a mysterious Danish prince escape from pirates before being shipwrecked on an enchanted island. The two come together to combat an evil sorcerer and save their realities, and themselves.
Classic literature paired with modern day tastes
Although this is a book that can be read and enjoyed by young adults and teenagers, it is edgy and nuanced enough to satisfy more mature tastes. Along the way, readers will meet characters from Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Tempest, so new and established Shakespeare fans will have something to enjoy.
And on October 1, Cauldron’s Bubble will be joined by the second part of its trilogy: Double Double Toil, in which our heroes enter the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and encounter fairies, mermaids, and some of Shakespeare’s most tragic characters.
So this Halloween, take a Bard crawl with Cauldron’s Bubble.
You can follow Amber and her bookish musings on Twitter here.
9. Come Closer by Sara Gran
Submission by Jessica of We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone
Genre: Supernatural Mystery and Suspense
Spooky demonic possession perfect for a stormy night
Whenever people request spooky book recommendations from me, one of the first titles out of my mouth is Come Closer by Sara Gran. It’s an incisive look at the dangers of ignoring your true nature and trying to mold yourself into the kind of person you think you should be. It’s also a damn scary book about demonic possession.
If you can, I highly recommend that you choose the spookiest possible way to read this. I first read it late at night when I was home alone, and I had trouble sleeping for several nights afterwards. Try to replicate that experience by waiting until there’s a midnight thunderstorm and reading it with a flashlight or spending the night curled up with the book in a creaky old house.
The picture perfect life?
The story follows Amanda, a woman with the steady job and the sensible marriage and the stylish loft that she thought she was supposed to have as an adult. To achieve this life, however, she has incrementally erased who she is at her core, rejecting and hiding much of her personality so that she can fit in as a responsible, “normal” adult. So when strange things start happening to her and she notices changes in her personality, she chalks them up as signs that she is becoming herself again.
Some of her initial paranormal experiences actually feel like triumphs, as she reclaims who she once was and starts to tear down the façade that she has built for herself. But the demon who has claimed her has far more insidious goals, and Amanda’s behavior shifts from unusual to alarming to downright terrifying.
What are you willing to sacrifice to get ahead?
This is a quick, scary read, perfect for a spooky Halloween night. I think the beginning of the book will feel very familiar to a lot of adults, particularly women, who have subjugated their true selves to try to get ahead in life and conform to other people’s expectations. But for your sake, I hope that the more frightening parts of the book don’t feel familiar at all. Watching Amanda descend helplessly into the depths of possession is horrific, and the fact that the early parts of the book are so relatable makes you wonder if the same thing could happen to you. If, like Amanda, you hear mysterious scratching in your walls and start having nightmares about oceans of blood, find yourself an expert in demonology. Fast.
Love this recommendation? Check out more from Jessica on Twitter.
10. From Hell by Alan Moore and illustrated by Eddie Campbell
Submission by Jella of Asiana Circus
Genre: Graphic Novels- Mystery
A lesser known Moore work
You probably know or heard Moore’s name because of his acclaimed and highly successful Watchmen series that he did for DC Comics. While From Hell is a lesser-known work of his, it’s still widely acclaimed and has quickly become one of the most beloved horror comics of all time.
It tells a fictionalized version of the Jack the Ripper story in a gripping and daunting style. It takes place in a slum of Victorian London. If you love the legend of the Jack the Ripper, you are probably going to fall in love with this comic’s beautiful design and dark and deep thoughts. I especially liked this version because it’s well thought through and is impeccably executed, not to mention that it finally reveals Jack the Ripper’s “actual identity” and motive instead of leaving us guessing like the rest of the books about this world-famous serial killer.
Victorian England meets Jack the Ripper
You will find yourself wandering up and down the cobbled stoned streets of London while getting to know the various social classes of Victorian England. The story also delivered some intriguing answers that we all always wondered about the Jack the Ripper murders. One of the most important is perhaps “Why did he do it?”. This work also gets a tad bit political and makes you think about the worth of all our fellow humans and how we choose who is worthy. Moore truly created a classic that has messages that are more relevant and important than they were back in the Victorian era.
You can follow Jella and all of her eccentric passions on Instagram.
11. Alive? by Melissa Woods
Submission from the author, Melissa Woods, of Melissa Woods
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Walking Dead nightmares
A creak of floorboards. Violet opened her eyes just in time to see a woman lunge. She was wearing a white lace nightie, offset slightly by the gaping wound in her stomach. Violet held out her arms, pushing back with all her strength. She barely had any left, but it was just enough to keep the zombie at bay. The woman’s eyes were almost white, and her teeth snapped in Violet’s face. Though she had no idea what caused this or why it was happening, she knew this thing wanted to kill her.
Her arms were hurting, but she continued to fight. The zombie moved her head suddenly, sinking her teeth into Violet’s left arm, just below the elbow. She screamed as teeth tore through her skin.
It was worse than any pain she’d ever experienced—sharp and brutal. She kicked out, catching the woman in the stomach and pushing her back. Violet ran, clutching her bleeding arm against her chest. She had no idea where the back door was, so she ran up the stairs. When she saw the bathroom up ahead, she threw herself inside.
The door slammed shut, and Violet saw a man click the lock into place as she dropped onto the floor by the sink. He was normal, not dead like the others. There was a hammering at the wood, rattling the frame. The man grabbed a towel, hurriedly wrapping Violet’s arm. She wanted to thank him, but her eyes felt heavy. Within seconds, everything was black.
Adolescence is already hard enough without a killer secret
Alive? is the story of Violet, a seventeen year old girl who has the misfortune of getting bitten on day one of the zombie apocalypse. Luckily for Violet, she doesn’t die. Unluckily, she’s picked up a few little quirks along the way. Like the inability to get a decent tan, and a somewhat troubling hunger for human flesh.
Alive? is about more than just zombies (though there are plenty of those!), it’s about friendship, survival, and different ways to hide the corpse of the guy you just accidentally ate. Violet, known to everyone she meets as clumsy, unfit, and constantly unlucky, must navigate her way through a world that’s slowly falling to pieces around her, while attempting to hide her terrible secret from her closest friends.
The debut YA novel from Melissa Woods – releasing on October 30th – blends zombie horror, post apocalyptic survival, and a dash of humor, in a story that will leave you wondering; “How long would I last in the zompocalypse?”
Follow Melissa and her writing adventures on Facebook.
Which Of These Spooky Books For Adults Will You Read?
Quite frankly, I scared myself by just compiling this list. Note that I wrote about unicorns and zombies. I cannot handle anything more terrifying than a nasty rainbow pony. I would never be able to fall asleep at night.
Which of these titles will you add to your TBR pile?
I also hope that you find new authors, bloggers, and friends to follow online. Thank you to all those who contributed.
Happy spooky reading!
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