October Reads: Creepy Characters and Sinister Stories

This year, I have well and truly embraced the cosy-yet-creepy autumnal season. From the tiny pumpkins scattered on my window sill (well, technically squash) and the burnt orange duvet cover on my bed, to homemade spiced lattes and the steady stream of spooky movies on the screen, I have been enjoying the festive feeling. Of course, this had to extend to my reading for October!

As a fan of horror, thriller and anything sort-of-strange, I indulged myself this month and flooded my TBR list with new weird and wonderful books. Featuring forgotten folklore tales, atmospheric dark stories, creeping thrillers and out-and-out disturbing reads, my October reading has been perfectly set against the backdrop of dark night skies and the countdown to Halloween.

Take a peek at the books I read this month and what I thought of them. You might decide to pick one up and get some hair-raising reading in during Halloween – although all of these books will be great for the chilly months ahead.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Sisters is a beautifully written, claustrophobic and ominous book. It tells the story of two sisters and their tightly woven relationship that strays from sisterly love towards something more sinister.

There’s a constant lurking presence of something menacing to come which I loved. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 80% of the book but found that the end started to drag on a touch long, becoming too obvious where the rest of the book had been quietly foreboding and subtle. I still think it’s worth a read and especially good on audio book – Daisy Edgar-Jones lends a perfect voice to this story.

The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

The Diving Pool, translated by Stephen Snyder, features three weird tales with varying degrees of implied horror, lingering under the surface and sometimes bubbling up where you least expect it.

This is another gorgeous example of Ogawa’s signature style of creepy storytelling matched with sparse prose. Each of these gripping stories keeps you wondering what’s really going on the whole time as Ogawa mixes the mundanity of every day life with the threatening promise of something creeping upon you in the background. I am a big fan!

The Fisherman by John Langan

I don’t know why I slept on this book for so long. It was on my saved list for a while following high praise from the horror community. At first glance, I wasn’t sure it was quite right for me but I finally, and thankfully, decided to take the plunge and order this book. I am so, SO glad I did.

The Fisherman is about two men who turn to fishing in response to their individual grief, and the fantastical and horrifying tale that they find themselves a part of.

Reading The Fisherman feels like being huddled around a campfire, in the pitch black, listening to someone tell you a twisted tale. It’s incredibly atmospheric, the perfect combination of dark, descriptive writing and fantastic, vivid story telling. I loved the layered story, its changing landscapes and terrifying creatures. I will absolutely be reading this again!

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Has a book ever made your skin crawl?

Translated by Sarah Moses, Tender is the Flesh is easily one of the most gruesome, disturbing books I’ve ever picked up. It is set during a time when animal meat is deadly to humans and so they resort to cannibalism. The sale of human flesh becomes the new meat industry. This book is brutal and vivid, paired with some beautiful writing and painfully sad nostalgia for life as it was before.

I really enjoyed the fast pace of this book and despite being incredibly hard to stomach, it was a gripping read. I did struggle with the way people and women, in particular, were written about but it very much played into the overarching theme of this book and its violent imagery.

Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold by Various Authors

Hag is an exciting new collection of forgotten folktales from across Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England as retold with a modern, feminist twist by a diverse range of women writers including Daisy Johnson, Mahsuda Snaith, Kirsty Logan, Irenosen Okojie, Emma Glass, Eimear McBride, Natasha Carthew, Naomi Booth, Liv Little and Imogen Hermes Gowar.

These are dark, gothic tales that originate from oral storytelling and touch on important topics including miscarriage, domestic abuse, growing up as a queer person and the expectations placed on women by society. Although I thoroughly enjoyed some of the tales, I found the collection somewhat disjointed. I think this is a book that’s probably best enjoyed in the audio format, to get the real feel for its original format and the wide range of voices captured within it.

What’s next?

I’m not quite done with my spooky reads so I’m going to be choosing from the other books I, rather ambitiously, included in my TBR list. I’ll be picking from:

Have you read any of these books?

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have. I’d especially love to hear any horror/thriller book recommendations you might have for me! Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @HannahDurham_.

2 Comments

  1. You’re so welcome!! I hope you enjoy it, I’m interested to hear where it reads on your ‘creepy scale’ as a true horror reader.
    I’m thinking of extending my spooky reading to November…what else is there to do? I might also have to borrow The Fisherman and some Ogawa hehe. Left on my spooky reads list are Frankisstein & the rest of Hag.

    1. Thank you! I’m excited to start reading it. I think it will be my next pick.

      Yes, definitely extend it! I’m very happy to see you reading more spooky stuff. I think you’ll like Yoko Ogawa’s work!

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