This list of strange literary fiction is sponsored by Nightfire.
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Fall is a great time to read, period, and a well-written and weird fictional novel will leave you flustered and scared, that’s right in the spirit of Halloween. Personally, I’m not into genre fiction, so my spooky seasonal books don’t fall into traditional horror or mystery formats.
This is the best time of year to snuggle up with a truly spooky romance: more comfortable clothes, rainier days that turn into first nights… oh, and carbs. Pleasant and sleepy carbohydrates. It just makes me want to curl up under a beanbag blanket and read until I pass out in a soft sleep.
Here are my Halloween-inspired fictional suggestions, a list of eight weird novels that do a magnificent job of creating a haunting atmosphere. If you want my Halloween kids suggestions to be on, see them here.
The ghost club on Saturday night by Craig Davidson
This novel is a bit like Support me takes place on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, a coming-of-age story that’s both scary and a little sad. When Jake Baker was 12, he spent a lot of time alone; that summer he made his first true friends among the Billy and Dove siblings. Billy would become Jake’s lifelong friend after their various battles with boredom and bullies. Jake is particularly invested in nighttime escapades with his uncle Calvin, a loner obsessed with ghosts.
Things we lost in the fire: stories by Mariana Enriquez, translated by Megan McDowell
When the literature refers to the concept of the grotesque, it emphasizes the ways in which our bodies can be twisted and exaggerated. According to The masters’ review, think of it as “the distorted familiar” (what is more familiar to us than our own forms, after all?). This collection definitely falls into the grotesque and is violent and disturbing, so I wouldn’t recommend it for people with a fragile stomach or an overly tender heart. But this is not gore meaningless; Located in Argentina, Enriquez presents a place that still evolves under a severe dictatorship.
Dark tales by Shirley Jackson
There is an interesting rebound in Jackson’s writing, an unsettling gaiety that changes over time. Often the characters begin the stories in a cheerful and dignified manner, and the reader begins to feel troubled by the details of the character’s experiences. Its stories are a reminder that evil can seep into the most mundane moments – see the spectacularly villainous “What a Thought”, for example, where a boring night at home spawns a woman’s murderous fantasies.
Her body and other parties: stories by Carmen Maria Machado
Do you remember that childhood horror story about the girl who always wore a green ribbon around her neck? Personally, I have never forgotten it. It comes to me sometimes, just when I’m dreaming, and I think about the fact that it was a true story that I read as child. Crazy. Machado wrote his own version of this horrific childhood tale, and it doesn’t disappoint. These stories are commentaries on the brutalities often inflicted on women’s bodies, a feminist reading that will stay with you.
White is for the witch by Helen Oyeyemi
Mira suffers from an unusual eating disorder called pica, which is when a person eats non-food items. Let me start this description with the most fairytale phrase I will ever write: Mira lives with her twin brother and widowed father across from a cemetery in a house that is most certainly haunted. (Sometimes he even tells the story.) This coming-of-age novel mixes the supernatural with historical and cultural commentary, and Oyeyemi is a fantastic and devastating author.
The hole by Hye-yŏng P’yŏn
This psychological thriller was a bestseller in South Korea, and with P’yŏn’s masterful storytelling, it’s easy to see why. After a terrible car accident that kills his wife, Oghi wakes up paralyzed and mute. He moves in with his devastated mother-in-law who neglects and mistreats him. As Oghi wallows in grief and memories, the stepmother digs up her daughter’s beloved garden.
Swamplandia! By Karen Russell
Swamplandia! was once the premier attraction of the Florida Everglades, thanks to the Bigtrees, a family of alligator wrestlers. After their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, Ava, Ossie, and Kiwi struggle to keep the family business afloat. Until Kiwi defaults their main competitor and Ossie falls in love with a maybe-ghost. Ava must find a way to reunite the family and take care of their many alligators. This book will satisfy Katherine Dunn fans geek love, because it focuses on a strange family and their even stranger business. Not an easy read at times, but always engaging and whimsical.
Fever dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
I don’t quite understand this book, but I’m not crazy about it. Told through dialogue, the events unfold in sinuous and hallucinatory prose. Amanda is a young mother on her deathbed and sitting with her is Daniel, a child she barely knows. We don’t know why she is dying or Daniel’s connection, only that he’s trying to help her figure it out.
Turn on all your lights and get ready to have some company after those spooky and weird reads. Maybe just in time to don a costume and go to a Halloween party. Happy Halloween!