Happy October, Monsters!
Fall is my number one time of year, and for plenty of reasons: the trees are filled with vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds; the winds become brisk and offer a fresh look at the season to come; the nights become longer; all my favorite television shows return from a summer hiatus; and last, but certainly not least, I am able to read some of my favorite scary, supernatural, fantasy, or creepy novels without shame.
Being the lover of books that I am, of course I have a booklist for every holiday, season, and occasion. As much as I enjoyed picking out the ten best books to read in October, I have to tell you that this was one of the hardest challenges I have faced as a writer for Monsters of Geek. As both a writer and a reader, I thought it would be an easy task to pick out the perfect books to set a great atmosphere just before Halloween, but I was quickly humbled by just how difficult of a decision it turned out to be. There were honorable mentions that I wish could have made it into this list. In fact, there are too many to put on here, but when it came down to it, I ended up picking the ten books that I believe are the best to read to make the most out of your literary month. Should you like to read what Honorable Mentions did not make the list, I will link back to this post from my personal book blog Lit Nerd FTW with a follow up post about those unfortunate few that I was told needed to be cut.
With that being said, in honor of being firmly enveloped in the Fall season and with Halloween quickly approaching, I give you my Top Ten books to read in the month of October:
1) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
In defense of high school English teachers everywhere, Frankenstein is one of the best novels to teach high school students about consequences of your actions. Literary themes aside, Frankenstein is an epic novel to read just before Halloween because your mind is really into the story of this mad doctor and his monster, and you are constantly looking deep into shadows for things that are not there. The overall Gothic and Romantic tones of this supposed first science fiction novel, set the standard for the horror genre with stories, films, and plays since its 1818 publication.
2) Dracula by Bram Stoker
I don’t know what good book list should be without Dracula, let alone what an October and Halloween book list could be without this novel. Published in 1897, Bram Stoker introduces the world to the vampire Count Dracula, and recounts Dracula’s move from Transylvania to England in order to find new blood sources and to spread the curse of the undead. Having been assigned to many literary genres – including but not limited to – Gothic literature, horror fiction, and vampire literature, Dracula was not the beginning of vampire origins, but the novel has defined the modern definition of vampire, and spawned many theatrical, television, and film interpretations. (Take that Twilight.)
3) The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
I love this book. I don’t think I have enough words to adequately describe how MUCH I love this book. Actually, my first interaction with The Halloween Tree was the 1993 cartoon, and, like many book-to-screen adaptations, the book is so much better.
In true Bradbury fashion, The Halloween Tree is a fantasy novel, but unlike that of Bradbury’s usual stories, this novel traces the history of Samhain and Halloween. The novel starts with a group of eight boys trick-or-treating when they find out a ninth friend, Pipkin, has been kidnapped and is being forced through a journey that determines whether he lives or dies.
What I love most about this book is that Bradbury takes all forms of Samhain and Halloween and recounts the origins of the holidays and festivals. The characters, minus Pipkin, embark on their own adventure to save their friend, and are taken across space and time through Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Medieval Paris, and through Celtic Druidism and the Mexican Day of the Dead to learn the origins of the holiday they celebrate, and learn the roles that death, ghosts, and haunts play in each and how each helped shaped civilization. The Halloween Tree itself being the culmination of all these events together as one holiday.
4) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
If you tuned in for my last post, Woes of a Book Nerd, you know that my main goal for Fall, not just October, is to re-read the Harry Potter series from start to finish. I am well underway with that, however, I do believe that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (HPSS) is a good read for the month of October because many scenes within HPSS actually take place during the fall of the year, particular with to the trio’s friendship beginning on Halloween.
11-year-old Harry has just found out that he is a wizard, and is just starting his new life at a wizarding boarding school when something is afoot. Harry and his best friends, Ron and Hermione, set off on an adventure to prove the nefariousness of one professor while providing assistance to another, all the while a dark evil is gaining foothold in the Wizard World once more.
5) The Witches by Roald Dahl
Dahl is known worldwide for his dark humored, unsentimental young adult novels like Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, it is Dahl’s novel titled The Witches that really shows the dark and twisted wit that Dahl had. The reason why I picked this novel as a great read for the month of October is the macabre tone set in every twist and turn.
Just think about it: you are a young boy (or girl), and you are on holiday with your grandmother and you happen to run upon a gathering of witches that are determined on eradicating the world of all children. What’s a kid to do? Well, you turn the tables on the witches, and reverse their plan and work to eradicate the world of witches. It really is a great book to read just as the ghosts, goblins, and witches begin to roam the neighborhoods for candy and treats.
6) The Boggart by Susan Cooper
My first experience with The Boggart was in third grade. I was an adamant reader, and my mother forced me to sit still so she could read the novel to me. However, it was within her narration that I became intrigued with the idea of this otherworldly character, and how it became woven within the Volnik family and their recent inheritance of a dilapidated Scottish castle.
What makes this young adult novel great for the month of October is the supernatural element of the Boggart itself. Those of us who are familiar with paranormal elements, whether through experience, research, or sheer fascination, know that Boggarts are mischievous spirits who thrive on creating chaos upon the world around them, and the novel really sets the scene and readies you for the impish tricksters that may grace your doorstep.
7) The Island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells
What other kind of novel screams Halloween than one that boasts of a deserted island, a mad scientist, and wild hybrid animal-man creatures? If you can find one, then I’d love to hear what it is so I can read it.
Published in 1896, and in true HG Wells fashion, there was much talk about the novel regarding the degeneration and experimental live cutting on lab animals. So much talk that two years later, many interest groups gathered together to address, not only the issue of vivisection and live cutting on animals for experimentation, but also the prediction of future ethical issues that the novel could bring.
Like his other novels, Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau is a science fiction work, and very much worth the time it takes to read it.
8) The Book of Hallowe’en by Ruth Edna Kelley
Like that of Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, Kelley’s The Book of Hallowe’en is a classic exploration of Halloween history from year-end rites of the ancient Celts, the autumnal reign of Samhain, the coming of Christianity and “All Saints Day,” and the early 20th century Halloween beliefs and customs of the British Isles, France, Germany, and America. Published in 1919, the Book of Hallowe’en is filled with poems, stories, games, and tried and true ancient methods for divining the future. It gives todays Halloween-loving individuals a fascinating look at the history of one of the world’s most beloved holidays.
[Writer’s Note: Unfortunately this book will probably be the only one I list that will not take you to a used book website when you click the title above. This book is very hard to acquire, and sometimes can be expensive depending on the version you are looking for, but it is well worth the read.]
9) The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
For me, October is the one time of year where I can curl up with a great fantasy novel, and I don’t feel like I am trying to read to keep up with a television series, or a movie deadline. I like to read fantasy and science fiction as Halloween creeps closer because I can easily get into the monsters, the creep motifs, and the macabre language, setting the mood for Halloween.
This isn’t one of those novels, though.
The Hobbit, published on September 21, 1937 (another reason to love it: it shares a birthday with me) began a grand adventure that Dwarves, Hobbits, Humans, and Wizards alike can enjoy. The first novel that ends up being the Lord of the Rings franchise, Toilken writes of a Hobbit named Bilbo and of a great quest he takes with thirteen Dwarves in order to assist them in reclaiming their mountain home of Erebor.
The great thing about The Hobbit is that this novel is a perfect companion for any time of year, not just for the month of October, and definitely not just for Autumn either. The fantastical works of JRR Tolkien transcend any point of time and can be paralleled with the experience of your own. I just simply like to curl up in a comfortable armchair with a cup of tea and a warm fuzzy blanket and let the pages sweep me away as brisk winds whip outside.
10) Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Really? Did you think I could even complete a book list like this without mentioning anything written by the “King of Macabre” himself? What do you take me for, a schmuck? Absolutely not! In fact, my college professors would have my head if I managed to leave Poe off this list of things to read this month.
Edgar Allan Poe has been credited with having initiated the short story, as well as the genre of psychological horror, and not to mention being the source of the modern poetic revolution. The whole span of Poe’s works embrace satires, fantasies, science fiction, crime dramas, and psychological horror, and leads the way for a new wave of Gothic literature in America. Many themes seen in his work reflect questions of death, live burial, reanimation of the dead, decomposition, and many other morbid thoughts that the mind can dream up.
Tales like The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Masque of the Red Death are renowned favorites of literary scholars, book lovers, and Halloween enthusiasts alike. Poe’s poetry also embraces the macabre themes of the short stories, and the rhyme scheme along with his twisted wit, makes Poe an indomitable force in horror and gothic literature, thus making his poems such as The Raven and Annabelle Lee a perfect backdrop for setting the tone for your scary Halloween.
There you have it, fellow monsters! Those are my Top Ten Books to Read for a Memorable October. Leave me a comment below if there’s a certain book you like to read to prepare you for Halloween, or if you like to read a certain genre to hype you up for something because I’d love to know what drives you to keep reading.