These are the top books you need to read in October for Halloween.
Halloween is coming, and what better time to read some of the best horror books around?
Spooky season is filled with carving pumpkins, eating too many lollies, watching scary movies and reading some of horror’s literary finest.
Here are some of our favourite horror books at Bondi Beauty that you should read for Halloween.
“I am longing to be with you, and by the sea, where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.”
― Bram Stoker, Dracula
Genre: Classic Horror
Best for: Wanting to read an original Halloween classic
Dracula is the most classic horror book of all time. It has become the most popular book read that derives from vampire history. It’s read by schools, book clubs and universities worldwide.
Dracula is a massive read and one of the most well-celebrated and enjoyed classics. So many gothic and Halloween terms originated from this book, which was published 126 years ago in 1897. Terms like Renfield, the Winchesters, the concept of vampires and, of course, the traditional Dracula look, which has been immortalised through the ages.
The book starts with Jonathan Harker, who visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house. The longer he stays in the Count’s home, the more horrific discoveries he finds out about his client.
His partner, Mina, begins to worry about him while she stays in London with her best friend, Lucy Westenra.
He escapes, but not unscathed. After Jonathan’s experience with Dracula, bizarre events unfold in England; an uncrewed ship is wrecked off the coast of Whitby; a young woman discovers an odd puncture mark on her neck; and an inmate of a lunatic asylum starts acting strange, raving about the ‘Master’ and his anticipated arrival. A group of people work together to try and stop Dracula and his disastrous plans.
It is enjoyable in the way some of the characters develop, particularly Mina. She was such an interesting character and extremely smart. She knows how to write in shorthand and helps the group figure out how to capture and kill Dracula for good.
Dr. Seward is also a fascinating character, particularly the bond between him and Renfield, the inmate in the asylum. It was interesting to see the origin of Renfield, and it was fulfilling to see how the original character was portrayed.
The book mainly follows the structure of diary entries from the point of view of various characters, like Mina, Jonathan and Dr Seward. This structure was ambitious for its time and an exciting way to help the book switch perspectives quickly.
The story itself was just unique and intelligent. It’s easy to be a sucker for anything horror, whether a movie, book or TV show, so this book did not disappoint.
Bondi Beauty rating: 4/5
“Human nature could be so hideous, but it persisted in this ugliness by insisting it was good.”
― Danya Kukafka, Notes on an Execution
Genre: Fiction thriller
Best for: True crime lovers
This is a fascinating and good read for getting out of a reading slump. The concept was very cool and compelling. It centres around one man and three women. This man, Ansel, in his early 40s, in present time, is on death row, and in every odd chapter, it gets closer by days, hours and minutes towards his execution. Every other chapter is told through the perspective of three women in Ansel’s life—Lavender, his mother; Saf, the detective in his case; and Hazel, his sister-in-law. To summarise, Ansel is a woman-hating murderer.
An interesting point of view within the book is how the author addresses Ansel in his chapters as ‘you’, almost like the readers are reading it as if they are Ansel.
Ansel has this book with a theory he has written for years during his manhood. Jenny, his ex-wife, describes it as more of a list of questions. This theory’s purpose was to justify a person’s wrong-doings in this world because they exist in other worlds. It is saying it’s okay to be wrong or morally grey in this world because, in another world, he is a good person. His theory falls flat, as we see through the book’s development. We see him on death row within the book’s first pages, so his theory was obviously not trusted by other people.
The book delves into the details of Saf’s determination to show everyone Ansel’s evilness, from knowing him during childhood in the same foster home to working on a case that involved one of his murders.
The concept of having multiple lives from Ansel’s theory was an interesting addition to the plot. Seeing how it was played out and referenced throughout the book was addicting. What’s truly chilling is how much he justifies his actions. There are tones of sexism, misogyny and patriarchy through how Ansel got away with everything for so long, his relationship with women and Saf’s career in a male-dominated industry.
This book had many traditional true crime and murder elements, which proves to be an interesting read for someone who listens to and watches true crime podcasts and documentaries. It is genuinely like listening to a true crime podcast but with more perspective and in written form that makes it almost addictive to read.
This is a perfect choice if you want more of a thrilling true crime recommendation.
Bondi Beauty rating: 3.5/5
“The truth is like the waiting jaws of a monster, a more menacing monster than I’ll ever be. It yawns beneath your feet, and you can’t escape it, and as soon as you drop, it chews you to pieces.”
― Camille DeAngelis, Bones & All
Best for: Women who love disgusting horror.
Bones & All is a must for spooky season, especially considering there is a 2022 film adaptation by award-winning film director Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothee Chalamet and Taylor Russell.
The book is just as good as the movie. Teenage cannibal Maren is rejected by her family, and her mother leaves her stranded after being unable to deal with her lifestyle anymore. She is forced to live a life alone and constantly on the run until she meets someone special, Lee. Ever since Maren was a baby, she couldn’t control her cannibalism anytime someone cared for her too much, from her babysitting to her first crush.
The author, Camille DeAngelis, is unironically vegan and says the world would be far safer if we as a society took a hard look at our practice of flesh-eating and its environmental and spiritual consequences.
It’s an even more interesting angle to look at when finding Camille’s history of veganism, and we think it makes the read all the more bizarre and chilling.
There is an intimate exploration of relationships in the book with people like Maren, including Lee and Sully. Maren goes looking for her father after her mother abandoned her at 16, and she finds out more about herself than she bargained for during the journey.
After meeting Lee, he teaches her how to live and survive with what they have. It’s a journey of self-discovery and relationships within a thrilling plot. While it is a story centring on cannibalism, it seems unlikely that anything could make it almost beautiful. Still, Maren and Lee’s relationship is something to admire and critique due to their situation.
The book does go beyond what you’re reading, which is why it’s an interesting Halloween read. After finishing the book, it’s interesting to notice the hidden lessons about not being ashamed and the importance of relationships. But as far as the plot goes, it’s perfect for October.
It is an enjoyable book with depth and horror; an easy recommendation for anyone.
Bondi Beauty rating: 4/5
“Picture houses are built for dreams, lies and fantasies. The plaster creatures clinging to the walls and ceilings, the fairground effect of all those lights and mirrors can only be accessory to the wildest illusions…”
– Camilla Grudova, Children of Paradise
Genre: Contemporary Horror
Best for: Movie lovers
If you’re a movie lover, you’ll love this book. This a short read at less than 200 pages, so it’s perfect for a Halloween night read. Each chapter is named after a well-celebrated film like Midnight Cowboy, A Matter of Life and Death, Ms. 45 and Taxi Driver.
The protagonist, Holly, applies for a job at one of the city’s oldest cinemas, the Paradise. It’s squashed into the ground floor of a block of flats, and Holly thinks it’ll just be like any other type of shift work.
Her job is to clean toilets, sweep up popcorn and avoid the aggressive, old owner. Her co-workers ignore her, who also seem to be rotting with the building’s fraying carpets and eternal grime. Weeks and weeks passed by, and she finally achieved the approval of her oddball co-workers. Holly slowly becomes part of the Paradise like everyone else – unearthing its secrets, learning its history and haunting the corridors after hours.
The elderly owner passes, and the cinema is sold to a popular theatre chain. The cinema’s past starts to be stripped away as the theatre chain starts to renovate. So, it’s no surprise that violence and anger strike, and the group begins to go astray.
Holly’s blunt energy towards everything in their life is perfection. It adds a comedic tone to the book that perfectly complements the darkness of it.
The book implies that the cinema’s haunting history is catching up to everyone who works there. But slowly uncovers that the workers are the ones haunting. For Holly and the others, their story becomes unpleasantly unstable, and reality and fantasy start to merge together.
Grudova is an extremely gifted writer, and her jagged commentary on work hierarchies and zero-hours contracts makes it a tortured read.
Bondi Beauty rating: 4/5
“Winter never lets you forget you’re alive. Maybe that’s why it makes people sad.”
― Ainslie Hogarth, Motherthing
Best for: People who prefer psychological horror.
Motherthing is easily a favourite read of the year. It is completely unique and fun in its concept and a perfect choice for a psychological thriller read.
The book follows the protagonist, Abby Lamb, after she and her partner, Ralph, move in with his mother, Laura. Abby hopes this is the perfect opportunity for Laura and herself to finally connect after a few rough years of not getting along. Abby’s traumatic childhood makes her desperate to have a mother figure, mainly because Abby and Ralph are trying to become parents themselves. With Abby having so much love to give, it’s a struggle when Laura is venomous and cruel, particularly towards Abby, making her life a living hell.
When Laura takes her own life, this isn’t the end of her hellish reign on Abby’s life. Laura starts to haunt Abby and Ralph, but not in the traditional possession ghost way you see on film. Ralph enters a deep depression, and Abby is terrorised by a force dedicated to destroying everything she loves, including her relationship with her favourite resident at the long-term care home she works at, Mrs Bondy.
The way Ainslie writes about Abby’s experience after Laura leaves is so addictingly haunting, and the readers follow every plagued decision she makes. After Mrs Bondy’s daughter threatens to remove her from the home, Abby comes up with a chilling plan to deal with it all.
Motherthing is a genius telling of a relationship between a daughter and a mother and the dire need for a mother figure. It perfectly mixes Mona Awad’s haunting words and Ottessa Moshfegh’s unforgettable, crazy plots.
Abby’s perspective is so chilling that putting the book down is difficult. This book was truly terrifying and disturbing but nevertheless very well-written and addictive.
Bondi Beauty rating: 4.5/5
Check out last month’s book story here.