Selah Janel Top 5 Reads For Halloween

Like a lot of horror and dark fantasy authors, I’m inspired by Halloween. I also have books that have been a punch in the face or a welcome home hug. These are the books that continue to remind me of what can be done with the darker genres, of how rich those fields really are if you just take the time to wander through them. These range in content and intensity, but they’ve all spoken to me at some time or another, and hopefully they won’t stop begging to be read or whispering in my ear.

1. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury – Not only is Bradbury my favorite author, but I make it a point to read this title every October. It’s a wonderful coming of age story that’s suitable for any age, as well as a succinct and magical story of the history of Halloween. It brings it to life through ancient Egypt, the dark ages, the catacombs of Mexico, and the cathedrals of France. It reminds me that there is a light side to the shadows, and that death may be a mysterious neighbor with a magical tree and a history lesson.

2.  From Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury – Another title from the king of the October Country. This book is actually a collection of short stories drawn together to form a longer narrative about a haunted house in a small town and its collection of inhabitants. At one time Bradbury was friends with Charles Addams so this is sort of the equivalent of the Addams family put through the Bradbury filter. There’s Cecy who travels through mind powers and wants to experience love, Grandmother who was once the queen of the Nile, Uncle Einar with his amazing wings, Mother and Father who are unlikely adoptive parents of Timothy, the human boy. This is a beautiful, bittersweet book about family life, tolerance, and finding your place in the world.

3. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – This book literally gave me chills. It’s so easy for me to connect to the loneliness and occasional desperation Eleanor has to belong. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what the nature of Hill House actually is. This isn’t like the most recent movie. You really don’t know if the hauntings are real or if it’s all in her mind. The ending nearly made me drop the book in shock and made me tear up at once. This is the consummate creepy house story and I always jump to recommend it, especially because it was written by a woman and smashes the notion that horror is a testosterone-driven genre.

4. The Books of Blood by Clive Barker – These are recent reads for me, and I’ve made it through volume three. I’ve also read more of Barker’s fantasy work before this, so it’s fun to go read his earlier horror stuff. I like the expanse of the stories – there’s a wide range of terror here from Cthulhu-esque stories to ghostly offerings to outright gore. For me, personally, it isn’t as over-the-top as I expected, and I find them fun, entrancing reads when I’m craving the creepy. Can’t wait to finish the series.

5. The Sonja Blue Series by Nancy A. Collins – This was my first foray into the realm of splatterpunk. The original three books were a gift from a friend, and although it was a bit of a culture shock, I appreciate everything she has going on. The urban fantasy elements are awesome and a bit ahead of their time (True Blood has nothing on this series for me). The journey of Sonja is an emotional roller coaster of vengeance, frustration, temptation, and a million other things. The vampires are violent, bloodthirsty, and hardcore in their emotions and manipulations. The other creatures are primal and base according to their nature. It is extremely graphic, but it suits the nature of the story and makes for a fun read if extreme horror is your thing. Again, I also really love that this was written by a woman.

As a writer, to me Halloween means possibility. It and the horror genre are a playground for those that dare to explore the darker aspects of life and fiction. It’s a healthy way to wander through the shadows and learn about ourselves. After all, you can’t have light without a little dark. You can’t have life without death. Halloween symbolizes and celebrates both aspects, and I think a good horror story does that, too. It makes you realize how glad you are to be alive and appreciate your own situation just a little bit more. Horror may be a dark exploration and some feel that Halloween may be a macabre holiday, but it’s a joyous one. I can relax and stretch as Halloween approaches, and really write to the full range of my imagination. It’s also probably why I like horror so much. There really are no limits; I’m restricted only by the limits of my imagination.

If you are an author and would also like to be featured with your five favorite horror/Halloween books, email me at



  1. Nice to meet you Selah.
    I like all of your picks. I am going to have to check out the Sonja Blue series. Haven’t heard of them.
    I also will be reading Mooner. The description on amazon grabbed me!

  2. Awesome list, Selah! The Sonja Blue series is one of my favorites, but anyone who has hopes of writing speculative fiction should have Bradbury on their shelf. Great post!

  3. This is a great list. I would have placed “The October Country” above “From the dust Returned” though. “Home Coming” and “Uncle Einar” appeared in “October” first. Halloween reading is souch a tough choice since there is actualy so little Halloween fiction been written. I love all the Halloween short stories written by Paul Melniczek. Or the Halloween (not the films) novels by Al Sarrantonio. “October Dreams” is also a wonderful Halloween themed anthology that i tried to stretch out over as many years as possible. It’s that huge of a collection.

    take care.

  4. […] Want to know my top five reads for Halloween? I talked about them at A Knife and a Quill HERE […]

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