Let me just say right off the bat, I don’t do scary. I have a very vivid memory from when I was a child, hanging out with some friends and the beloved 80’s film, Predator was on TV. I was so uncomfortable that I physically turned my back away from the TV screen instead of watching some alien creature with night vision duke it out with Arnold Swartzenager in the middle of the jungle. My tolerance hasn’t changed much since then — if you want me to watch a horror movie with you, expect me to talk idly through the entire thing to avoid focusing on the gore happening on screen. I know, I am the perfect person to take to the movies.
Granted scary doesn’t necessarily, equal gore. With the right amount of tension, my heart and anxiety will race simultaneously. Part of what, I think, makes gothic novels so enticing is simple — the atmosphere and the anticipation of what’s about to happen are far scarier than what actually unfolds. Perhaps most share that sentiment.
This month TPM is recommending their favorite horror or gothic novels. Halloween (in the classic form of parties and trick-or-treating) may not be happening this year, but October does offer a great vibe for an engrossing book: foggy nights with clouds so low you can feel the rain in the air, the leaves start to fall from trees, covering what was once green grass (or concrete is you’re like us) and everything looks just a bit darker. As a fan of a good throw blanket, I very much look forward to the cozy nights to come. Comment below with some of your favorite, horror or gothic stories and if you like what you see, you can always purchase any of the books below by visiting our TPM Bookshop profile page. Be sure to check back again next month for some new staff recommendations, and if you’ve missed any, you can find all of our reading lists here. Happy reading!
Derick Dirmaier, Head of Product (with a hearty agreement from Jacob Harris, Front End Developer)
House of Leaves: Mark Danielewski
“It’s a haunted house book. Kind of. You’ll love it or hate it, but you won’t forget it.”
Kate Riga, Reporter
We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Shirley Jackson
“If you were in the mood for a deliciously slow burn treatment of agoraphobia and intense tribalism, this is the story for you. Everything Shirley Jackson touches is gold though, and I love her short stories too — my favorite is the ‘Daemon Lover.'”
Cristina Cabrera, Newswriter
John Dies at the End: David Wong
“This is a deeply unsettling book filled with ghosts, corrupted realities, and more than a little gore. It’s also got a sense of humor that actually meshes really well with the horror, and we’re talking about a book that describes people’s heads exploding in detail.”
Joe Ragazzo, Publisher
Rappaccini’s Daughter: Nathaniel Hawthorne
“As with many gothic tales, ‘Rappacinni’s Daughter’ is tale about a scientist who goes too far, and the unintended consequences of scientific advancement. As we march toward a world with artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the Hawthorne story remains as relevant as ever.”
Josh Kovensky, Investigative Reporter
Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Katherine Anne Porter
“This book is a series of three short novels, each quietly horrifying in its casual confrontation with death. But the one that left the biggest impression on me was the titular and final story, ‘Pale Horse, Pale Rider.’ It takes place as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic hits Denver. A mysterious disease stalks the city in the background of much of the book, as the main characters walk by people falling ill and funeral processions roving the city. The protagonists are mostly caught in desperation, surrounded by death at home and the specter of World War One, deprived of any sense that they’ll survive far into the future. And as the deadly flu takes hold the city, one of the characters makes the memorable observation that “the streets have been full of funerals all day, and ambulances all night.”
Jackie Wilhelm, Associate Publisher
Mexican Gothic: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
“An engrossing, page-turner, Mexican Gothic is more psychologically terrifying than gory. Just when you think you know how it’s going to end, Moreno-Garcia turns the whole situation upside-down.”
Nicole Lafond, Special Projects Editor
The Lovely Bones: Alice Sebold
“I read ‘Lovely Bones’ in middle school. It still haunts me, as a near 30-year-old and I think I have Sebold to thank for my unhealthy, albeit stereotypical, true crime obsession. If you didn’t destroy your innocence as a child reading this book, be sure to crack it open as an adult. Trigger warning: It is definitely not a story that children should be reading, but alas.”
Kate Riga, Reporter
The Shining: Stephen King
“I have a deep and abiding passion for all Stephen King books, but if you’ve not yet experienced his mastery, ‘The Shining’ is a perfect place to start. Infused with dread, it’s a pitch-perfect mix of tragedy and truly scary stuff. And no, you do not get to skip it if you’ve seen the movie because the movie is BAD — completely lacking in the nuance of the book, watered down ending, a total disservice to Wendy’s character and the little boy’s scared faces bug me.”
Joe Ragazzo, Publisher
Phantom of the Opera: Gaston LeRoux
“The world famous musical began as a novel by Gaston Leroux. Inspired by earlier gothic authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and the inventor of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Leroux began working on his own work. Based in part on a real-life ‘phantom’ said to haunt the Palais Garnier in Paris, the Phantom of the Opera still stands as a masterwork of gothic literature.”
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