It’s October 2, officially one day late for starting Poe-tober, aka my annual immersion in all things dark and scary. But don’t worry – it’s not all horror stories! My definition of Poe-tober also includes true crime, mysteries, and a few adorable creatures that go bump in the night. If you’re looking for true literary horror, check out the latest issue of Coffin Bell.

Since this blog focuses on books, I’ll start with things to read. I’m including a variety of options, including a horror novel, some YA, and a few short stories.

This post is the first in a 3-part series of media for you to read, watch, and hear as we creep up on Halloween.

The Corset (Laura Purcell): If this new release is anything like the author’s last novel, The Silent Companions, I expect nothing less than chills. I can’t remember the last time I was so freaked out by a piece of fiction. I’m definitely looking forward to this gothic horror involving a teenage seamstress who is either mad or a murderess. Or both?

The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin): This YA novel is a lot of fun. There’s nothing too horribly frightening about it; It’s just a fun mystery. Neighbors try to solve the riddle in a reclusive rich man’s will and the winner will inherit his vast fortune. The story is full of colorful characters and some good humor. I’ve read it several times and plan to read it again this month.

Witch Elm (Tana French): Tana French is a master storyteller and I really enjoy her Dublin Murder Squad series. This suspense novel is a standalone story about a man who suffers a home invasion and then begins questioning his memories about a separate childhood incident. This is another October release I plan to add to my shelf.

The Trial (Franz Kafka): I’ve never read anything by Kafka but I bought two of his books on a recent trip to the Czech Republic. A man is on trial for a charges that nobody will explain to him. My guess is that would make it hard to mount much of a defense?

Wait Til Helen Comes (Mary Downing Hahn): I recently reread this and was surprised to find that it mostly holds up to my memories from when I read it 30 years ago. The story involves siblings who move into a rural church with their mom, step-father, and step-sister. The step-sister befriends a vengeful ghost and it’s up to big sister Molly to save them all.

The Black Cat (Edgar Allan Poe): Despite my love of Poe and black cats, I was not aware of this short story until last October. It’s a crazy mental ride as the protagonist and his feline tormenter battle. (The full text is available several places online, including

The Yellow Wallpaper (Charlotte Hawkins Gilman): This short story features a woman locked in a room by her doctor-husband. Many unanswered questions leave us wondering about her circumstances as she slowly unravels while staring at the design in the wallpaper.

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories (Audrey Niffenegger): This collection of short stories is curated and illustrated by Audrey Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveler’s Wife). I found her notes and illustrations to be the least compelling part of the collection, but the stories were mostly very good. The book includes Poe’s The Black Cat (see above) and I found several new authors to investigate.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Alvin Schwartz):  You must, must, MUST read the version illustrated by Stephen Gammell. The original illustrations were later replaced by perfectly acceptable artwork, but the chill factor suffers a major downgrade. I read these in elementary school, probably 4th grade, and I was terrified. As an adult, some are really silly and none are super scary, but they always make me feel nostalgic.

The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis (Karen Russell): This short story was recommended by a member of my writing group. It’s an interesting take on schoolyard bullies with a supernatural twist. (You can read it for free online.)

Let me know what you’re reading this month!