The 50 Best Horror Books of All Time Will Scare You Sh*tless

Our number one pick has inspired generations of nightmares.

best horror books

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Horror is a broad church. Definitions abound.

For some, horror is a genre founded on trope and convention: a checklist of blighted houses and monstrous secrets, men in masks and women in white nightgowns. For others it hinges on atmosphere and tone.

This is before we even attempt a historical context. Scholars trace the legacy of literary horror back to the British Gothic fictions of the eighteenth century, when castles were haunted, monks were evil, and anywhere beyond the edges of Protestant England was tinged sinister. Others locate the genre’s origins in a slate of late-Victorian novels and their roster of horror icons. Dracula, Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll–these figures emerged from a culture in crisis, when twin anxieties about masculinity and modernity birthed urban nightmares. Contemporary readers may look no further than the horror ‘boom’ of the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. It was an era dominated by brand-name authors, with epic sales and matching page-lengths.

With such a weight of contention, any attempt at a list of ‘best’ horror novels is doomed to disagreement. That’s fine. All lists are subjective. We have, however, tried to celebrate the breadth of horror—to highlight those books that establish something about the genre or push it forward into new realms. It’s worth noting that we have confined our choices to novels. Short horror fiction has a parallel ­­but distinct history that would require a survey all of its own.

You will see some unexpected inclusions in this list, and some surprising absences. Certain big names are missing because their greatest contributions are in short form, or because their books tread ground better travelled by others. Equally, some of these choices may cause horror fans’ eyes to wrinkle in confusion. But perhaps, in the end, that’s the secret of horror: it’s personal. It’s about how it makes you feel.

Here, then, is our ranking of the best horror novels of all time.

Gallery / Saga Press The Loop

The Loop

You could argue that body horror is the purest horror. It taps into our basest fears: the vulnerability of our own bodies to infection, mutation, and destruction. In The Loop, a Pacific Northwest town falls prey to a parasite that transforms its youth into ravening fiends. After a short build-up, young adult sensibility blossoms darkly into scenes of extreme violence and bodily damage. The Loop is fiction’s closest equivalent to the films of David Cronenberg, with a jaw-dropping central set-piece that rivals the most fevered excesses of horror cinema.

Open Road Media Harvest Home, by Thomas Tryon

After quitting his career as a Hollywood star, Thomas Tryon turned to writing and gave us a pair of bestselling horror novels. The Other may be better known, but Harvest Home is the true chiller. In classic New England Gothic style, a nice family relocates to a Quaint Little Town™ only to discover hideous secrets about the corn crop. What follows is an ultra slow-burn of tightening anxiety, with a folk-horror finale that rivals 1973’s other pagan classic, The Wicker Man , or even Ben Wheatley’s 2011 shocker, Kill List. The final passages are as bleak as horror got in the ‘70s.

Atria Books The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris

At first glance, the terrors of The Other Black Girl appear slight. Harris’ workplace thriller spends ample time cataloguing the microaggressions endured by Nella, the only woman of color at a major New York publishing house. However, when Hazel, the titular other Black girl, joins the firm, the novel moves into more uncanny territory. The result is a scalpel-sharp instrument of social horror—a book that exposes monstrousness in the minutiae of office politics and the complacent evil of white privilege. It’s particularly telling that Harris wrote the book after working in New York publishing…

Valancourt Books The Auctioneer, by Joan Samson

The Auctioneer may be the bestselling horror novel that most people have never heard of. It sold a million copies on release, garnered praise from genre heavyweights, and was further distinguished by the author’s death soon after publication. Yet Samson’s novel remained in obscurity for decades until Grady Hendrix and Valancourt Press reissued it as part of the Paperbacks from Hell series. In the figure of the titular auctioneer, Perly Dinsmore, and the havoc wreaked by his manipulation of a rural New Hampshire community, Samson’s novel refers back to Shirley Jackson’s ”The Lottery,” and must surely be the inspiration behind Leland Gaunt, the malignant shopkeeper in Stephen King’s Needful Things.

G.P. Putnam's Sons The Hunger, by Alma Katsu

The Hunger takes one of the darkest incidents in American history and makes it more horrible still. Katsu’s retelling of the Donner Party’s catastrophic attempt to cross the Sierra Nevadas in winter begins with the death of a child and heads onward, like the wagon train, into deeper horror. It’s slow progress, too. The Hunger takes its time to get to the awful fate we know is waiting. Some people may buck at the pace and the way Katsu dangles the grisliest elements of the story just out of reach. But for those who appreciate authenticity and great character work, it’s a piece of historical horror that takes exactly the route it should.

Simon & Schuster Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

It’s hard to overstate Bradbury’s contribution to speculative fiction. His unique blend of horror and fantasy is a clear influence on later giants like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. But his macabre whimsy was never more powerful than in Something Wicked This Way Comes, a tale of romanticized boyhood in the golden decades of post-war America. Best friends Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade (neatly born on either side of the same Halloween midnight) confront the loss of innocence in the form of Mr. Dark’s traveling carnival. The scene in which the aging Miss Foley is granted her wish to become young again stands out as the most horrifically poignant moment in a novel obsessed with the boundary between youth and adulthood.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, by Eric LaRocca

At only 120 pages, Eric LaRocca’s novella is the shortest book on this list, but it may also be the most distressing. It is an epistolary period-piece—taking place in the internet chat-rooms of the early 2000s—in which two broken souls come together in a pact of extreme body horror and emotional degeneration. If that sounds fun, well, it isn’t. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke pulls not a single punch, offering perhaps the single most upsetting scene to be found on this list (The Little Christ—if you know, you know!) and a question for the ages: “What have you done today to deserve your eyes?”

Dark Valley, by Joe Donnelly

Joe Donnelly’s books arrived at the tail-end of horror’s paperback boom, all gaudy covers and pulpy premises. Yet his final horror novel is an almost unknown classic: an adolescent trial set on the West coast of Scotland, where five young friends on a camping trip encounter a child killer. The Scottish setting gives a different tone and a grittier vernacular to the oft-romanticized coming-of-age tradition. Think Stand by Me refracted through Trainspotting. It’s a violent story, with the rare threat that simply being a child is not enough to save Donnelly’s characters from a brutal end.

Ace The Red Tree, by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Caitlin R. Kiernan floats freely across the map of speculative fiction, from hard sci-fi to lyrical fantasy. The Red Tree is their purest horror offering. When Sarah Crowe relocates to an isolated cabin in order to write and grieve, she falls under the influence of a strange manuscript and the history of a nearby oak tree. The found document and faux-lore locate Kiernan’s novel in the arcane tradition of M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft. But a postmodern unreliability pervades, with doubts about Sarah’s sanity, as well as ‘editor’s notes’ complicating easy separation of truth and fiction. Narrative trickery aside, The Red Tree also contains the creepiest cellar in horror.

Penguin Classics The Monk, by Matthew Lewis

Horror’s roots extend far back into the 18th century Gothic tradition, beginning with The Castle of Otranto in 1764 and evolving in Anne Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho in 1794. It is Lewis’ novel, however, that first showcases the genre’s power to shock. Written when Lewis was still a teenager, The Monk relates the demonic corruption of the devout Ambrosio. Upon its release, the novel was considered a danger to society; even now, its details of rape, incest, murder, and black sorcery remain eyebrow-raising. If the scares are dulled by archaic language, some moments still hit hard, such as when the prioress’ body is mutilated by a mob “till it became no more than a mass of flesh, unsightly, shapeless, and disgusting.” Remember, this was written in 1796!

Open Road Media Experimental Film, by Gemma Files

Files worked as a film critic for years, and in Experimental Film, all that insider knowledge is put to uncanny use. She blends a verité blogging style with the story of cursed film footage from the early 20th century and a frightening Slavic demon named Lady Midday. As so often happens in Files’ fiction, things get very weird, but the industry detail coupled with biographical allusions grounds the high strangeness into something truly unnerving. This is a too-often overlooked postmodern gem, one of the best in a string of books about the spectral effects of film.

Vintage Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho may be the most controversial novel of the late 20th century, but Lunar Park is the more affecting horror story. Ellis’ faux-memoir slides from authentic early experiences into a fictional middle-age as reluctant husband and father. Out in the suburbs, reality and fiction collapse, ushering horrors into Ellis’ home. These include a version of Ellis’ infamous killer, Patrick Bateman, and—in the centrepiece scene—a doll that undergoes a truly terrifying metamorphosis. Readers are never sure where truth or sincerity lie. The novel could be a big joke, or it could, as is suggested in the scenes between Ellis and his make-believe son, be a yearning for a life not lived. If American Psycho is the book that made Ellis the enfant terrible of contemporary fiction, Lunar Park is the book that exposes his heart.

Tordotcom The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle

H.P. Lovecraft’s imagination endures in countless derivations of his Cthulhu Mythos, but his bigotry remains a cancer at the heart of it all. Most imitators borrow the lore, but ignore the ideology. In The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle takes a different approach, choosing to explore the events of Lovecraft’s notoriously racist “The Horror at Red Hook” from the Black point-of-view of Lavalle’s own protagonist, Tommy Tester. Though there are ‘Old Ones’ aplenty, LaValle’s retelling suggests that cosmic peril is of less consequence to the Black community than the threat of white power. After all, the book asks, “What was indifference compared to malice?”

Ecco Press Bird Box, by Josh Malerman

Some books have a conceit that makes other authors seethe for not thinking of it themselves. Birdbox , you would imagine, is such a book. There are monsters, and if you see them, you kill yourself. It’s a riff on the Lovecraftian notion that the human mind can only withstand a certain degree of otherness. Yet Malerman has none of Lovecraft’s pomposity. Instead, he examines everyday humanity under extreme, inexplicable pressure. Trapped in a house with strangers, our protagonist Malorie gradually hardens into a pitiless survivor. Her journey to possible refuge is a masterclass in sustained tension and sensory storytelling.

Pan MacMillan Apartment 16, by Adam Nevill

Each of Adam Nevill’s novels is imbued with an unclean disquiet, a grimly British social-realist horror stripped of all romance. It’s never more effective than this story of an exclusive London residence haunted by a fascist, occult-obsessed artist. Apryl Beckford quickly discovers the supernatural menace within Apartment 16, but the real nightmares belong to a secondary character, addled security guard Seth. His repeated failures to escape the building lead to a chokingly claustrophobic breakdown. People will tell you to read The Ritual, but Apartment 16 is the Nevill book that’ll have you looking at the corners of rooms to make sure the shadows are still where they should be.

Dell Lost Souls, by Poppy Z. Brite

There is no more ‘90s novel on this list than Lost Souls. I’m not sure a more ‘90s novel exists. Poppy Z. Brite’s lament for misspent youth is as pitch black as the kohl around the characters’ eyes, and saturated with the angsty existentialism that typified the decade. The teens of Missing Mile, North Carolina are damaged—by substances, by hard living, and abuse—and that’s before the vampires arrive. When they do, the novel explodes in a debauch of violence and sex. It’s a road trip, a love story, and a brutal horror odyssey in which a vampire taking his own son as his lover remains one of the less transgressive elements of the plot.

Ballantine Books Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice

Anne Rice died in late 2021, leaving behind a legacy that few modern horror authors can match. Her Vampire Chronicles spans over a dozen novels, with numerous offshoots. Everyone has their favorite, but Interview is where the intricate, baroque tapestry of her alternative vampiric history begins. The interview in question is with Louis, an 1800s plantation owner turned into a creature of the night by the vampire Lestat. Over the course of the novel, Louis relates the history of their immortal companionship, including the perverse family they form with child vampire Claudia. The later series develops in outlandish directions (Atlantis!), but Interview anchors itself in the romantic tragedy of eternal life.

Gallery Books The House Next Door, by Anne Rivers Siddons

Haunted houses don’t need to be old. That’s the revolutionary premise that makes Siddon’s novel so freshly disquieting. Through Colquitt Kennedy’s polite, hyper-observant narration, we watch as a sequence of families move into the newly-built property next door, only for tragedy to unravel their lives. There isn’t a history of murder to taint the land, nor a single disturbed grave—just a random malignancy that suggests modern walls are no guarantee of safety. It’s a souring of the American Dream that Stephen King called one of the best horror novels of the 20th Century.

Simon & Schuster The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks

Frank Cauldhame wanders the beaches of his isolated island home, killing small animals. He has built an elaborate mechanism to ritualistically kill wasps. We are told he has killed three children before he entered his own teens. Oh, and he is the hero of this story. The Wasp Factory was Banks’ first novel, and it has the provocativeness of all great debuts. It was acclaimed for its mixture of horror and the blackest of comedy, just as it was pilloried for its depravity. Both sound like good reasons to read it. Be warned, though, this one contains some truly disgusting scenes.

Scribner Tender Is the Flesh, by Agustina Bazterrica

In Bazterrica’s brutal dystopia, a lack of animal meat has resulted in state-sanctioned cannibalism. Marcos works in a slaughterhouse, where human cattle (or ‘heads’) are bred for slaughter, and where he tussles with his inner morality within the industrial normalization of the universal taboo. The plot focuses on Marcos’ relationship with a head named Jasmine; what ensues is as disturbing as expected, though it’s the wider world-building that makes Tender is the Flesh a truly dispiriting read. Through both gorgeous metaphor and blunt statement, Bazterrica drives home the realization that we are all either meat or butcher in capitalism’s grinder.

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28 Gripping Ghost Story Books

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If you enjoy paranormal and spooky stories, don’t miss the best ghost story books to read for thrills and chills.

Here at The Uncorked Librarian, we just love ghost stories, including those featuring haunted houses, schools, hotels, and cemeteries.

But with so many great ghost books out there, how do you choose?

Below, find our top recommended books about ghosts for adults, teens, and tweens – both published recently and a few classics.

While many of these ghost novels will fall into the horror, suspense, and thriller categories, others will showcase a much different type of ghost.

Enjoy historical fiction, short stories, translated literature, and more.

Keep reading for the best ghost books, and don’t forget to tell us your favorites in the comments. Let’s get started!

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Table of Contents

28 Best Ghost Story Books

The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson book cover with water and home covering half of a person's face all hued gray

1. The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

If you’re looking for ghost story books, you really should start with the master of the genre, Shirley Jackson. Her classic gothic horror novels and short stories will send chills up your spine like no other.

The Haunting Of Hill House , first published in 1959, is still fascinating and terrifying readers for a reason.

The story revolves around a psychic researcher, Dr. Montague, who rents the haunted mansion Hill House for the summer.

He invites several friends, each of whom experienced supernatural experiences, to stay at the house, hoping to prove – once and for all – that the haunting is real.

You’ll also love The Haunting Of Hill House if you enjoy haunted house books . Read The Haunting Of Hill House : Amazon | Goodreads

The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg book cover with blue title on white background and illustration of an eye

2. The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg

Clare’s husband, Richard, was a horror movie buff – in fact, he was a horror movie scholar (what a cool job!).

Widowed and grieving, Clare attends the annual Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana, with the tickets Richard purchased before his death.

As she steps out of the movie he most wanted to see, Clare sees him, in a white linen suit he didn’t own in life, across the street.

The Third Hotel is one of the most subtle and striking ghost books you’ll find on the literary fiction shelf – not to mention it will have you desperate to book a flight to Cuba. Read The Third Hotel : Amazon | Goodreads

Hell House by Richard Matheson book cover with brownish yellow coloring with house and figure out front

3. Hell House by Richard Matheson

The infamous Belasco House in Maine is widely regarded as the most haunted house in the world.

In Hell House , millionaire William Reinhardt Deutsch hires a physicist, a spiritualist, and a medium to investigate the possibility of life after death, starting in the mansion where a supernatural presence works against them every step of the way.

Matheson’s 1971 novel incorporates all the best aspects of books about ghosts: a haunted house, malevolent spirits, a burning mystery, and a ticking clock.

Will the investigators he has hired get to the bottom of the mystery before Deutsch himself passes over to the other side?

See what other great books were published in the 70s .

Read Hell House : Amazon | Goodreads

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward book cover with purple like bird on red orange background

4. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

In Sing, Unburied, Sing , Jesmyn Ward’s third novel, stark Southern realism collides with the gothic to make one of the best ghost books of recent years.

The story begins on Jojo’s thirteenth birthday when he slaughters a goat in the hopes of proving to his grandfather that he is truly a man.

Pop tells Jojo stories as the goat cooks, about his time in prison as a teenager and the boys he met there.

One of the boys that Pop met in prison is dead, but his story isn’t over. It’s a visceral beginning to a story that will churn your insides all the way through. Read Sing, Unburied, Sing : Amazon | Goodreads

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz book cover with skull like head in middle of gray landscape

5. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz

If your passion for ghost story books started young, surely you remember Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark .

It’s well worth revisiting as an adult – if only to wonder what the heck the grown-ups were thinking, letting you read it after lights-out!

Alvin Schwartz drew on popular urban legends and long-held folklore to craft spooky stories, and the scare factor was ramped right up with the nightmare-fuel illustrations supplied by Stephen Gammell.

If you really want to go all-in, you can find more ghost stories in the two follow-up volumes, More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones . Read Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark : Amazon | Goodreads

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders book cover with brush and trees overlooking city

6. Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders

If you’re looking for ghost books outside the norm, you must try Lincoln In The Bardo .

Saunders was inspired by a story his wife had heard about Abraham Lincoln visiting the crypt of his son, who died aged 11 while his father was still in the White House.

Saunders’ story takes place in the “bardo,” a liminal space between life and death, and features over 150 ghosts, people caught in the in-between who don’t realize that they have died.

This is a hauntingly beautiful – if, at times, confusing and infuriating – novel, and one of the best ghost novels this century (so far).

With all of the different ghosts and voices, Lincoln In The Bardo makes for an incredibly enjoyable fantasy audiobook too. Read Lincoln In The Bardo : Amazon | Goodreads

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill book cover with foggy and dark forest

7. The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

If you’re looking for cozy but spooky ghost story books, check out The Woman In Black .

This 1983 gothic novel is set in the English countryside, which sounds like an idyllic escape… if it weren’t for the mysterious specter that haunts its residents.

The narrator, Arthur Kipps, was just a junior solicitor when he was summoned to the small town to settle the estate of a recently deceased widow.

At her funeral, he sees something unsettling, and he soon realises there’s more to the life (and death) of the elderly woman than he first thought.

Years later, living his best life in London, what he experienced still haunts him.

Travel back to the 80s with more great books . Read The Woman In Black : Amazon | Goodreads

Beloved by Toni Morrison

8. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Books about ghosts aren’t all spooks and silly scares: some of them hold a serious message in their pages.

Beloved is one such novel, Toni Morrison’s story of a former slave haunted by the child she was forced to kill.

The story is based on the real-life experience of Margaret Garner, an escaped slave who killed her own children rather than have them captured and re-enslaved under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Such trauma is unimaginable but beautifully rendered by Morrison’s skilled hand.

It’s an incredible metaphor for the inherited trauma that continues to affect the descendants of victims of the African slave trade.

Beloved is also a great book to make you think more deeply . Read Beloved : Amazon | Goodreads

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë book cover with water or ocean at sunset with pink and darkening sky

9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe.”

The classic novel Wuthering Heights might not be the first that comes to mind when you’re looking for ghost books, but this haunting story of love that persists across the divide is definitely one you need to read.

Volatile, brooding Heathcliff was adopted into a world of privilege, but never quite belonged there.

His heart is broken when his adopted-sister-slash-love-interest, Catherine, decides to marry the boy next door and is then broken all over again when she dies tragically young.

But will her spirit ever leave the moors that Heathcliff still calls home? Read Wuthering Heights : Amazon | Goodreads

City Of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab book cover with young person and cat walking away from cityscape

10. City Of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

This is Edinburgh like you’ve never seen it before!

In City Of Ghosts , Cassidy Blake’s ghost-hunting parents are the stars of a new TV show that takes them to the haunted Scottish capital.

She moves with them, and in her new city, she meets Lara, another In-Betweener who “helps” ghosts move permanently beyond the Veil.

Working together, they tackle the Red Raven, a sinister ghostly force that puts up an epic fight.

Sweet, spooky, and evocative, this is one of the best alternate-reality ghost books for young adults, and grown-up readers will get a kick out of it, too.

Travel to Edinburgh and beyond with even more great books based in Scotland . Read City Of Ghosts : Amazon | Goodreads

Ghost Story by Peter Straub book cover with skull over burning firepit

11. Ghost Story by Peter Straub

For 50 years, the Chowder Society has been meeting in upstate New York to tell stories. Four friends make up this group – but there used to be five.

Ever since the mysterious death of Edward Wanderley at a party, his remaining friends have been haunted, and the stories they share have taken a dark turn.

The King of Horror, Stephen King, called Ghost Story “one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century,” and it’s definitely one of the best ghost books to keep you up past your bedtime.

Bump up the spook factor by reading it with your own book club!

Travel to New York with even more books , and if you are looking for shorter scary books in a time crunch, be sure to peruse our spooky novellas reading list . Read Ghost Story : Amazon | Goodreads

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving book cover with illustrated person standing on cliff with flag and moon shining down

12. The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

If you’re looking for classic American ghost story books and devour folk horror stories , look no further than The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow .

Okay, technically it’s a short story, but it’s every bit as complex and evocative as the best ghost novels.

First published in 1819 (and popularised by the Disney adaptation in 1949), this surprisingly complex ghost story has had a long and lasting influence on popular culture.

In fact, the New York village once known as North Tarrytown – where many of the events in Irving’s story take place – has since officially changed its name to Sleepy Hollow.

Also, its local high school sports teams are the Horsemen in reference to the legend.

If you love the book, consider watching the popular folk horror film , Sleepy Hollow .

Read The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow : Amazon | Goodreads

Hotel World by Ali Smith book cover with pink hotel bedding, golden bed frame and deeper pink wall

13. Hotel World by Ali Smith

If you’re looking for inventive books about ghosts with serious literary chops, Hotel World is your go-to.

Ali Smith has crafted an intense postmodern masterpiece, for which she was awarded the Scottish Arts Council Book Award (in 2001) and the Encore Award (in 2002).

The story is told in five sections, from the Past to conditional futures, then weaving back to the Present.

The ghost at its heart is Sara Wilby, a young hotel chambermaid who tragically falls to her death in a dumbwaiter.

This is a powerful and moving meditation on grief and acceptance.

Find even more spooky books set at hotels . Read Hotel World : Amazon | Goodreads

Dark Matter by Michelle Paver book cover with water and foggy mountains

14. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

Jack Miller is in his late-20s, and stuck in a dead-end job, barely making ends meet. Plus, it’s 1937 London, so the dark clouds of war are looming overhead.

It’s hard to blame Jack for jumping at the opportunity to join an expedition to the Arctic, an adventure into the unknown with only four other men and eight Huskies for company.

It’s hardly a traditional start, but Dark Matter is unique among ghost books.

The chills are two-fold: the plunging temperatures of the approaching polar night, and Jack’s growing fear that they are not alone in the darkness. Read Dark Matter : Amazon | Goodreads

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15. The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco

If you want to dive into a series of young adult ghost story books, start with The Girl From The Well by Rin Chupeco.

It all begins with a restless spirit, Okiku, wandering the Earth and unable to move on after her murder.

She devotes her afterlife to haunting anyone who has taken the life of a child, a vengeance mission she pairs with helping the other ghosts she encounters move on to what should come next.

She figures this is what she’ll do for eternity until she meets Tark, a teenage boy covered in tattoos who changes everything. Read The Girl From the Well : Amazon | Goodreads

More Of The Best Ghost Books From Christine

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas book cover with illustrated two boys back to back with moon

16. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys is one of the best YA books about ghosts – spirits, in particular – especially if you are looking for LGBTQ+ books for teens and enjoy cultural “ witchy” storylines .

Yadriel has the ability to see ghosts – a gift from the goddess of death. In his community, women have the power to heal, and men help guide spirits to the afterlife.

As a trans boy, Yadriel is struggling with his powers as well as gaining acceptance in the Brujx community. Upon the death of his cousin, he is determined to prove himself a real brujo.

When Yadriel summons the wrong ghost, though, his role becomes even harder, especially since he’s falling for this ghost.

Who is murdering the members of Yadriel’s community, and what will Yadriel learn about himself along the way?

Inspiring and gripping, you’ll see what all of the hype about Cemetery Boys is all about. Find even more great LGBT fantasy books to read for adults and teens .

Read Cemetery Boys : Amazon | Goodreads

If you love books featuring spirits, you’ll find plenty of haunted happenings on our magical realism reading list .

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas book cover with woman in red dress walking away from house at night

17. The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Some of the best ghost novels are classic retellings, and 2022 new book release , The Hacienda , is for fans of Rebecca.

Head to Mexico after the Mexican War of Independence. Beatriz’s father is dead, forcing her to marry for convenience and money. It’s the only way to save her family.

Beatriz moves into Don Rodolfo Solórzano’s grand estate, but rumor has it that something terrible happened to his last wife within these very rooms.

Haunted Hacienda San Isidro not only requires an exorcism from a priest but also a few witch’s spells. Find a bit of romance in this gothic historical fiction ghost story.

Read The Hacienda : Amazon | Goodreads

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

18. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

You could easily put any of Simone St. James’ ghost books on this reading list, The Book Of Cold Cases , The Broken Girls ( dark academia ), Silence For the Dead , and The Haunting of Maddy Clare – just to name a few.

However, one of our favorite books of 2020 includes The Sun Down Motel , reigniting our love for suspense novels and ghost stories.

In 1982, Carly Kirk’s Aunt Viv disappears from The Sun Down Motel.

Now in 2017 and with the death of her mother, Carly heads to upstate New York in search of answers – and her aunt.

In an alternating timeline, meet the ghosts of the hotel – just don’t get locked in with the candy machine as you start to smell cigarette smoke.

Can Carly uncover the mystery of her aunt’s disappearance before that something sinister also gets her? Read The Sun Down Motel : Amazon | Goodreads

Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi book cover with two chairs, blue wallpaper, and cat on the ground

19. Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Translated into English by Geoffrey Trousselot

Before the coffee gets cold is more of a book with a ghost vs one of the top “ghost books” – but it’s an important one.

For Japanese fantasy lovers, head to a centuries-old, back-alley cafe in Tokyo, Japan . Once here, grab a cup of coffee, wait for the ghost to leave her chair, and travel back in time.

Four patrons are here for that particular reason, hoping to see someone for the first or last time. Each has unfinished business.

True to the title, visitors can only stay before their coffee gets cold. If they don’t finish their coffee and meeting in time, they are destined to become the new ghost in the chair.

Before the coffee gets cold is the perfect short read for time traveler lovers. This one will leave you thinking, but be forewarned that not everyone loved it as much as we did.

If you cannot get enough, there are two more in the series.

Read Before the coffee gets cold : Amazon | Goodreads

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

20. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Of course, Neil Gaiman has penned one of the best ghost story books that we especially recommend as a road trip audiobook .

After his parents are murdered, the ghoulish cemetery inhabitants help raise Nobody “Bod” Owens.

Bod makes friends and has adventures with both those living outside of the graveyard and the dead within, including a witch. Yet, not everyone is as friendly as they seem.

True to his human roots, though, Bod craves growing up like a living boy, including attending school. However, his parents’ killer is still on the loose and determined to fulfill a prophecy.

Can Bod finally become part of the living, and what will become of his ghostly friends and family?

Read The Graveyard Book : Amazon | Goodreads

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol book cover with illustrated girl with dark hair swirling in the air

21. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Nothing beats a good friendship story , even if that friend is a ghost…

An immigrant from Russia, Anya is struggling to fit in at school. She befriends a ghost at the bottom of a well, and this ghost, Emily, helps Anya attract the attention of her crush and the “cool” kids.

Of course, being popular isn’t as glam as it looks, and Anya also starts to wonder what happened to Emily.

For YA ghost books in graphic novel form, this is a great selection for reluctant readers and those looking for a relatable high school experience.

From more conservative readers, though, Anya’s Ghost has been criticized for its mature content. Anya smokes, and some of the mean comments are rough.

Find even more powerful graphic novels for teens and tweens .

However, if you are looking for something scarier, find ghosts on this creepy graphic novels reading list.

Read Anya’s Ghost : Amazon | Goodreads

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll book cover with black and white woods and red sky

22. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods is a haunting short story graphic novel filled with gothic and macabre illustrations.

Bad dreams have the potential to kill, skin is the vessel for worm-like babies, and there are a plethora of murderers, ghosts, and body parts.

Do not walk through the woods late at night – although, in reality, there is no escaping evitable doom.

For ghost story books, the novel’s very intentional illustrations are the most appealing.

Eyes are grayed out or missing, implying the darkness that lies underneath. Claw-like hands tear through the pages. Red smears across the pages successfully integrate all five stories.

Through the Woods is one seriously spooky book.

Read Through the Woods : Amazon | Goodreads

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia book cover with Mexican woman wearing a maroon dress holding flowers

23. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

If you champion kick-butt women in historical fiction , travel to the Mexican countryside in the 1950s in Moreno-Garcia’s popular Mexican Gothic .

Noemí Taboada leaves for High Place to help her struggling cousin, Catalina. Part of the problem is that the estate’s walls are teeming with demons and death.

Noemí knows that something isn’t quite right, and with so many secrets, can the two women escape High Place alive?

For gothic ghost story books, Mexican Gothic is eerily atmospheric and rich in detail. Read Mexican Gothic : Amazon | Goodreads

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager book cover with chandelier glowing in a green light

24. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Popular books about ghosts sometimes have a twist, and Sager’s Home Before Dark won’t disappoint.

With the death of her father, Maggie returns to her haunted childhood home, Baneberry Hall.

Previously, her father’s bestselling story about the property changed all of their lives – and not necessarily for the better.

Did her father fabricate the ghostly tales of Baneberry Hall just to make a quick buck? Or, was Maggie’s father covering up for something much worse? 

Ghost thrillers don’t get any more dangerous and unnerving than this. You might just find yourself believing in ghosts. Read Home Before Dark : Amazon  |  Goodreads

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens book cover with water and sunset

25. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Who knew that a classic Christmas story would also become one of the best ghost books?

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol follows grumpy and greedy Ebenezer Scrooge, who has lost his way – and his heart, compassion, and empathy.

Visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, Scrooge learns from his deceased business partner, Marley, and these ghosts what his currently bleak future holds.

Can Scrooge change before it’s too late?

Read A Christmas Carol : Amazon | Goodreads

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen book cover with bright blue birds flying around a golden cage

26. Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Did you ever almost not finish a book because it started so slow, but then, decided to stay with it – and the ending was completely worth it? Kind of like Season 2 of White Lotus …

Well, that’s Asheville author , Sarah Addison Allen’s, Other Birds for us. Goodreads reviewers raved about this one, which is why we kept going.

Thank goodness; Other Birds ended up being one of our favorite 2022 book releases .

Set on Mallow Island in South Carolina, Zoey is about to start college.

With the death of her mother, her father and his new wife want little to do with her, except for transforming her former bedroom into the perfect Instagram office.

Charismatic Zoey starts charming the once-isolated and unfriendly residents of The Dellawisp into becoming friends and part of her newfound family.

However, when one of them dies, everyone’s secrets and ghosts of the past start to unfold and reveal themselves.

For slow-burn ghost story books, Other Birds might just have you in tears. There’s a bit of delicious foodie fiction here too. Find even more North Carolina authors to read on our sister site, Uncorked Asheville. Read Other Birds : Amazon | Goodreads

The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner book cover with pink and white flowers and white lit candle

27. The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner

If you are looking for 2023 ghost books and are intrigued by séances, Sarah Penner’s newest might just be for you.

Full disclosure that we are a little biased here at TUL as Sarah has also shouted us out in the acknowledgments of the book – we are so honored.

The London Séance Society follows spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire and her protégé, Lenna Wickes, across Paris and London in 1873 as they help families catch the murderers of their beloved deceased ones.

Having lost her sister, Lenna is even more invested in their upcoming trip to London as they work to see who is attacking members of this male-only club, The London Séance Society.

Told in dual perspectives, watch as Lenna overcomes her skepticism of ghosts while falling for the mysterious Vaudeline.

Something much more sinister is at play here – with some The Lost Apothecary vibes – and along with the sexy LGBT+ romance, find quite the suspense in one of the newer books about ghosts and séances.

While the beginning of the novel focuses largely on séances and setting the backdrop, the last 100 pages are quite action-packed.

Discover even more great 2023 book releases .

Read The London Séance Society : Amazon | Goodreads

Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda book cover with turquoise background and red title lettering

28. Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda

Translated by Polly Barton

For unique ghost story books based on Japanese folklore (and set in Japan ), Where the Wild Ladies Are will either check all of your boxes or not quite resonate; our readers either love it or don’t.

Meet a young woman trapped in the dating pool who decides to get laser hair removal after her recent breakup.

Beauty standards can be so biased against women, but her ghostly aunt soon reminds her to embrace her body and hair, causing quite the transformation.

Then, follow along as a man catches and falls in love with a ghost while fishing and another whose wife is forced to keep to sales ghosts away.

With themes of jealousy, identity, work, revenge, and family, embrace story after story filled with spirited women.

Where the Wild Ladies Are is for fans of translated literature, Japanese fantasy , short stories, and feminist retellings.

We certainly enjoyed some stories more than others and appreciated the explanation and inspiration behind each at the end of the novel.

Where the Wild Ladies Are is probably one of the most unique books about ghosts and monsters within us on this list.

Read Where the Wild Ladies Are : Amazon | Goodreads

Grab your favorite books about ghosts here :

Save These Ghost Books For Later:

Best Ghost Books And Ghost Stories Pinterest pin with ghostly woman walking up dark stairs and book covers for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Third Hotel, The Girl From The Well, Dark Matter, The Woman in Black, City of Ghosts, Wuthering Heights, The Graveyard Book

What are your favorite books about ghosts?

Which ghost novels have you enjoyed? Are there any that we should add to our growing TBR pile? Let us know in the comments.

You might also enjoy these castle books filled with ghosts, murderers, vampires, witches, and more.

More paranormal & fantastical reading lists:

  • Books With Vampires
  • YA Vampire Books
  • Salem Witch Trial Books
  • Books With Werewolves
  • Alien Books

“Ghosts” is also a theme for the 2023 Reading Challenge .

Sheree from Keeping Up With The Penguins, short black hair woman holding an orange stripped book, Frankenstein

Sheree Strange

Sheree (pronouns: she/her) is a writer and book reviewer living on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation (known as Sydney, Australia). She has been reviewing books on her blog, Keeping Up With The Penguins , since 2017. She reads books of all kinds and shares her thoughts on them all across the internet.

Christine Owner The Uncorked Librarian LLC with white brunette female in pink dress sitting in chair with glass of white wine and open book

Christine Frascarelli

Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge.

With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.

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21 haunting books to read this Halloween, from ghostly thrillers to paranormal romances

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  • Ghost books are often horror stories or paranormal thrillers, but can also be romantic.
  • Here are 21 of the best ghost books to curl up with this Halloween.
  • Want more books? Check out the best Halloween books and horror books .

Insider Today

I try to read a little bit of everything, from lovey romances to timeless classics , but I'm hopelessly obsessed with a good scare . When autumn comes around and Halloween is right around the corner , I can't resist pulling out the books filled with haunted houses, creepy twists, and — best of all — ghosts. 

When you think of ghost stories, you may think of a classic haunted tale, but ghosts are in all kinds of literary genres, from paranormal romances to creepy true crime tales . 

To make this list of perfect ghost books for Halloween, I looked at bestseller lists on Amazon and Audible , plus readers' favorites from Goodreads . So whether you're looking for a good scare or a fun read with a ghostly twist, here are some of the best ghost stories to read this Halloween. 

The 21 best ghost stories to read this Halloween:

A paranormal horror classic.

epic ghost books

"The Shining" by Stephen King, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.27

In what is considered by many to be Stephen King's best work , Jack Torrance is looking for a fresh start when he takes a job as an off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, hoping to focus on reconnecting with his son and work on his writing. When a winter storm traps Jack and his family inside the building, it becomes clear that something sinister is happening — and only his son, Danny, can see the secrets of the hotel's dark past.

An iconic ghost story

epic ghost books

"The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.27

First published in 1959 and considered one of the best ghost stories of the 20th century, "The Haunting of Hill House" is a haunted house classic from Shirley Jackson, who also famously wrote "The Lottery." "The Haunting of Hill House" is about four people who volunteer to participate in a paranormal study by staying in a haunted mansion that's more powerful than they ever could have imagined. 

The tale of a young boy growing up in a ghostly graveyard

epic ghost books

"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.27

"The Graveyard Book" is the young adult story of Nobody "Bod" Owens, who is a completely normal kid — except for growing up in a graveyard and being raised by ghosts. Bod's only rule is he must not leave the graveyard, as the dangers that lurk beyond the gates include the man who killed his family (and is waiting to finish the job). 

The story of a legendary ghost

epic ghost books

"The Girl From the Well" by Rin Chupeco, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.99

The girl from the well is dead, hunting child murderers like the man who killed her 300 years ago. When a strange boy moves into the neighborhood bringing something eerie with him, the two set off on a terrifying and wicked journey that takes them to Aomori, Japan in this young adult paranormal horror story.  

A ghostly historical horror story

epic ghost books

"The Deep" by Alma Katsu available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $14.99

"The Deep" is a historical fiction horror story set on the Titanic where the passengers believe something sinister is going on from the moment they set sail. Years after the Titanic sinks, Annie Hebbley survived the disaster and is now working as a nurse on the hospital ship Britannic when she comes across an unconscious soldier who she recognizes — but knows did not survive the sinking of the Titanic.

A powerful new ghostly thriller

epic ghost books

"Mapping the Interior" by Stephen Graham Jones, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.99

When a young boy is wandering his house at night, he sees a strange figure who resembles his father who died mysteriously before his family left the reservation. When he follows the figure through the doorway, he discovers the secrets of their house and their family and finds he must risk everything to save his brother in this powerful and emotional paranormal thriller.

A newly released YA ghost story

epic ghost books

"White Smoke" by Tiffany D. Jackson, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.19

In this new young adult thriller, Marigold is running from the metaphorical haunts of her old life when she moves to a Midwestern city with her new, blended family. Though their new house seems picture-perfect, strange things start happening, and when Marigold's younger sister can't stop talking about a friend who wants her gone, Marigold knows she must find out what's really happening in their home. 

The tale of a young girl whose best friend is a ghost

epic ghost books

"City of Ghosts" by V.E. Schwab, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.78

After Cassidy Blake nearly drowned as a young girl, she was rescued by a ghost named Jacob and left with the ability to see the spirits around her. When her ghost-hunting parents take her to Scotland for their TV show, Cassidy meets Lara, another girl who can see the dead and believes they have an obligation to send ghosts beyond the Veil — permanently.

A creepy mystery about a haunted hotel

epic ghost books

"The Sun Down Motel" by Simone St. James, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $14.40

In 1982, Carly's Aunt Viv was working as a night clerk at the Sun Down Motel when she mysteriously went missing and was never found. Now, Carly has taken the same job her aunt once had, determined to uncover the secrets around her aunt's disappearance before whatever frightening thing that haunts the motel can take her too.  

A spine-tingling ghost story set in Japan

epic ghost books

"Nothing But Blackened Teeth" by Cassandra Khaw, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $15.86

When a group of five friends reunite in Japan for a destination wedding and rent a Heian-era mansion, they discover the bones of a long-dead bride. The group soon learns that when the bride's fiance died on the way to the wedding, she had herself buried alive beneath the house, waiting for his ghost to come home. Each year after, another girl was buried in the walls to keep her company. In this horrifying thriller, the five ghost-hunting friends are thrilled by the adventure of uncovering this haunted history — until their fun night quickly devolves into a nightmare.

A ghostly nonfiction read

epic ghost books

" Chasing Ghosts: A Tour of Our Fascination with Spirits and the Supernatural" by Marc Hartzman, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $20.49

"Chasing Ghosts" is a nonfiction tour of the paranormal history of America, from notorious haunted sites to the public's obsession with famous supernatural figures. Covering a variety of ghost-related topics, this is a fascinating read for anyone who loves unique history or unsolved mysteries. 

A lighthearted tale about a newly dead ghost

epic ghost books

"Under the Whispering Door" by T.J. Klune, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.82

Wallace Prince finally knows he's dead when a reaper collects him from his own funeral and takes him to a tea shop in a small, peculiar village. When Wallace meets the tea shop's owner, Hugo, he begins to realize how much he missed in life and sets off on a quest to live a lifetime in the seven days before he must cross over into the afterlife.

A terrifying horror read about a vengeful ghost

epic ghost books

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.66

In this terrifying and nail-biting horror story, Judas Coyne is a rockstar obsessed with disturbing and morbid things. So when a ghost comes up for sale on an online auction site, Judas immediately purchases it. When Judas receives his haunted box, he discovers the suit inside belongs to the revenge-obsessed spirit of a man whose stepdaughter killed herself after being used by Judas. Merciless and out for blood, the spirit will stop at nothing to kill Judas — and anyone who tries to stop him. 

A young adult horror story about a teen who can see ghosts

epic ghost books

"The Taking of Jake Livingston" by Ryan Douglass, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.99

Jake Livingston can see ghosts around him all the time. Most are harmless and leave people alone, but when Jake meets a troubled and vengeful teen ghost named Sawyer, he must challenge everything he thought he knew about ghosts to stop Sawyer from carrying out his terrible plan in this queer, paranormal horror and romance read.

A mind-blowing paranormal thriller

epic ghost books

"Layla" by Colleen Hoover, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.99

Known for her gripping psychological and domestic thrillers, Colleen Hoover's "Layla" is a fast-paced and mind-blowing paranormal romance about Leeds and his beloved Layla, who survives an attack but is left with terrible emotional and mental scarring after weeks in the hospital. When Leeds decides to reignite their romance with a trip to the bed and breakfast where they first met, a series of unexplainable events occur as Layla's behavior takes an even stranger turn.

A queer ghost horror story filled with devastating secrets

epic ghost books

"Summer Sons" by Lee Mandelo, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $18.99

Andrew and Eddie were deeply bonded best friends until Eddie left for his graduate program at Vanderbilt, leaving Andrew behind. When Eddie dies of an apparent suicide six months later, Andrew is left to search through the secrets and rubble of his friend's life to find the truth as something paranormal lurks nearby. 

A terrifying ghost book

epic ghost books

"I Remember You" by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, available at Amazon and Bookshop from $14.99

"I Remember You" is a chilling horror story about three friends who discover a presence as they renovate a rundown house. In a nearby town, a young doctor investigates the suicide of an elderly woman who was obsessed with the doctor's missing son. The two stories collide into one terrifying tale in this ghost story perfect for anyone in search of a good scare.

The tale of one family's stay in a haunted house

epic ghost books

"The Amityville Horror" by Jay Anson, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.36

"The Amityville Horror" uses a journalistic style of writing to tell the Lutz's family story of 28 terrifying days living in an evil haunted house. In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into what seemed like their dream home, despite the gruesome murders that took place inside only one year prior. This book details their horrifying experiences and is great for any horror or true crime fan.

A queer ghost romance novel

epic ghost books

"Cemetery Boys" by Aiden Thomas, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $14.30

When Yadriels sets out to find and free the ghost of his murdered cousin in order to prove himself to his family, he accidentally summons the wrong ghost and is left with the spirit of Julian Diaz, a recently deceased boy from his school. Determined to find out what happened that could have led to his death, Julian asks for Yadriel's help in tying up his loose ends.

A YA horror book about a ghost hunting boy

epic ghost books

"Anna Dressed in Blood" by Kendare Blake, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.99

Cas Lowood learned how to hunt ghosts from his father, who was murdered by the very ghost he was hunting. Now, Cas is following in his father's footsteps, hunting for a ghost the locals call "Anna Dressed in Blood" when he encounters a curse and vengeful ghost more powerful than he's ever faced before.

A collection of classic ghost stories

epic ghost books

"Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories" by Roald Dahl, available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.89

First published in 1983, this book is a collection of 14 of Roald Dahl's favorite ghost stories. Though Roald Dahl is best-known for his magical and beloved children's tales, he personally loved the "spookiness" of a good ghost story and read nearly 800 tales before selecting the stories in this collection.

epic ghost books

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13 Epic Horror Books to Read While Quarantined

A devil's dozen epic horror tales to get you through these dark days.


Sure, the world outside can seem an awful lot like a horror novel right about now—when the current COVID-19 pandemic was still in its infancy, people were even making comparisons to Stephen King’s doorstopper epic The Stand . But sometimes the best antidote to real-life horror is some fictional horror that you can fall into and that will help you tune out the outside world for a while. Plus, with so many of us practicing social distancing and staying home during the outbreak, we have a lot more time to read than we otherwise might. So, here’s a devil’s dozen epic horror books—from sweeping standalones to a few of our favorite horror series—that can help you get through the next few days, weeks, or however long this quarantine lasts…

Want more horror books? Sign up for The Lineup’s newsletter, and get our most chilling recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Swan Song

By Robert R. McCammon

Boy’s Life may be Robert McCammon’s magnum opus, but Swan Song , considered by some to be his answer to Stephen King’s The Stand , is perfect reading for an apocalyptic moment. This epic tale of good and evil against the backdrop of an America devastated by nuclear war has been called a “grand and disturbing adventure” (Dean Koontz). For those who want intimate character portraits going up against horror on the grandest possible scale, McCammon has you covered.

Related: 12 Dark and Extraordinary Pandemic Books to Make You Feel Less Alone  

Song of Kali

Song of Kali

By Dan Simmons

Dan Simmons writes epic horror novels that are as filled with twists, turns, and terrors as they are thick with pages. The Terror was recently adapted to television by AMC, while Drood offers a fictionalized account of the life of Charles Dickens and Carrion Comfort tracks a cabal of powerful psychics throughout world history. Song of Kali was the book that catapulted Simmons to international renown in 1986, when it won the World Fantasy Award. Today, however, this tale of an editor’s search for a lost manuscript that leads to an encounter with the goddess of death is comparatively forgotten—and ripe for rediscovery!

The Monster Island Trilogy

The Monster Island Trilogy

By David Wellington

There are lots of zombie books out there, but few offer the scope of David Wellington’s Monster Island trilogy. It begins with Monster Island , which sees a UN weapons inspector and an all-female squad of African soldiers heading into the ruins of Manhattan, a city overrun by millions of zombies. Wellington’s trilogy then jumps to a prequel in the form of Monster Nation , which shows the beginnings of the plague as it ravages the American Heartland. Finally, in Monster Planet , humanity’s last stand against the zombie plague and its master, the Tsarevich, is brought to visceral life.

The Guardian

The Guardian

By Jeffrey Konvitz

Adapted to film in 1977, Jeffrey Konvitz’s The Sentinel has been called one of the most frightening novels since The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby . Fans of the film, however, may be surprised to learn that Konvitz also wrote a sequel. The Guardian returns to the hellish brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side as a string of eerie murders sets into motion a sequence of events that will rock the faith and risk the lives (and souls) of all involved.

Related: Satan at the Door: The Sinister Events Surrounding Jeffrey Konvitz's 1974 Cult Horror Novel The Sentinel  

Night Life

By Ray Garton

A Bram Stoker Award nominee, Ray Garton has been called a “horror maestro” by Publishers Weekly . Live Girls is one of his best-known novels, a gritty reimagining of the vampire mythos that finds Davey Owens reluctantly transformed into a creature of the night. In Night Life , the long-awaited sequel to that classic of the genre, the vampires that Davey failed to slay back in New York have tracked him to his new home in Los Angeles, and they intend to make him pay—in blood!

The Damned

By Tarn Richardson

World War I was already a dark era, but in Tarn Richardson’s trilogy, the “war to end all wars” serves as a cover for darker forces. Werewolves and satanic plots haunt the trenches, while the flawed inquisitor Poldek Tacit tries to protect the Vatican—and all humanity—from sinister forces, including the Antichrist himself. The Damned kicks off this blood-curdling series. 

quarantine reads

By Marisha Pessl

Cult horror filmmaker Stanislas Cordova hasn’t been seen in public for more than three decades. When his daughter is found dead in an abandoned Manhattan warehouse, however, an investigative journalist who once nearly exposed the reclusive director believes there’s something sinister at work. As the journalist is drawn deeper and deeper into the hypnotic world of the infamous filmmaker, the reader is brought along for the ride, into a dark, deeply imagined tale of modern-day horror from New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl.

Related: Here Are the 50+ Best Horror Movies on Netflix You Can Stream Right Now  

quarantine reads

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

By Stephen King

Perhaps no other author has written more epic horror novels than Stephen King—a man who needs no introduction, and whose name is synonymous with the genre. Any number of King’s books are perfect escapes for your quarantine reading. Tales like The Stand or Cell or Under the Dome have some obviously eerie echoes with our current situation, while It or The Shining are just classics, full stop. But for purely epic King reading, nothing beats his dark fantasy series The Dark Tower . 

Beginning with The Gunslinger , first published in 1982, this eight-book series was inspired by a Robert Browning poem, not to mention everything from Arthurian legend to The Lord of the Rings and Spaghetti Westerns. Ambitious even for King, the Dark Tower series literally connects all of Stephen King’s books into one massive, fantastical tapestry that has to be read to be believed.

quarantine reads


By Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation , the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s epic Southern Reach Trilogy, was adapted into a 2018 film by Alex Garland, starring Natalie Portman. It also won the Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards for Best Novel. An exploration of a strangely altered stretch of the American coast called Area X, and the even stranger people who roam it, the S outhern Reach trilogy landed on the New York Times bestseller list. It’s been called “creepy and fascinating” by Stephen King and “the most uncompromising—yet most rewarding—genre series” by Slate .

quarantine reads

Books of Blood - Volume 1

By Clive Barker

“I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker.” Stephen King famously uttered those words after reading Barker’s legendary, six-volume debut short story collection, Books of Blood . While Barker later went on to write plenty of long, epic novels that would make ideal quarantine reading— Imajica , The Great and Secret Show , and Coldheart Canyon all spring to mind—there may be no better place to get started with his fiction than with the short stories that made him famous. You won’t find many short stories in this article, since we’re listing epic reads; but Barker achieved something truly epic with the short form here, carving out a bloody new voice that has reshaped the face of horror forever.

quarantine reads

Interview with the Vampire

By Anne Rice

When it comes to epic, multi-generational tales of horror, there are few practitioners more synonymous with the form than Anne Rice. Her book Interview with the Vampire was adapted into a film starring Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise and spawned a series of hit sequels detailing the loves and “lives” of several vampires through the ages.

Related: Vampires, Witches, and More: The 9 Best Anne Rice Books  

quarantine reads

The House on the Borderland

By William Hope Hodgson

For fans of H.P. Lovecraft who lament that he didn’t write more novels, there’s William Hope Hodgson. An inspiration of Lovecraft’s, Hodgson wrote boatloads (sometimes literally, as his stories often deal with weird happenings at sea) of short stories and a handful of novels that number among the genuinely great long-form works of weird fiction. Of these, perhaps the most epic is the notoriously difficult-to-read The Night Land , but the best is probably The House on the Borderland , a tale of cosmic horror that takes place in a derelict house on the border of otherworldly dimensions.

weird fiction books ted klein the ceremonies

The Ceremonies

By T.E.D. Klein

“Klein has only two books and a handful of scattered tales to his credit,” critic S.T. Joshi once wrote, “and yet his achievement towers gigantically over that of his more prolific contemporaries.” Klein never did write more than that handful of stories and one novel, The Ceremonies , an expansion of his celebrated short story, “The Events at Poroth Farm.” That one novel is worth an awful lot, though, and Stephen King once called it, “the most exciting novel in the field to come along since Straub’s Ghost Story .”

weird fiction books ted klein the ceremonies

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4 New Horror Novels That Are as Fresh as They Are Terrifying

New books by Emily Ruth Verona, Jenny Kiefer, Christopher Golden and Tlotlo Tsamaase riff on classic tropes and deliver thrilling scares.

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This illustration is drawn in the style of a pulp horror movie poster. In the image, a woman’s face looks in horror as a green figure peeks through a crack in a doorway.

By Gabino Iglesias

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, editor, literary critic and professor. He is the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson award-winning author of “The Devil Takes You Home.”

Emily Ruth Verona’s MIDNIGHT ON BEACON STREET (Harper Perennial, 195 pp., paperback, $17.99) is a lot of things. It’s a taut thriller about a babysitter and two kids surviving one weird night. It’s a celebration of classic horror movies. It’s a creepy narrative that involves a ghost and late night home break-ins. And, most important, it’s a lot of fun.

The story takes place in October 1993. Eleanor Mazinski has a date, so she calls Amy, her regular babysitter, to look after her two children. Mira, age 12, is defiant and opinionated, and Ben, who’s 6, is sweet and shy. Both are grappling with larger family struggles, including a recent move, Eleanor’s financial stress and their father’s absence after their parents’ split. Amy’s evening with Mira and Ben starts like normal, but a visit from some surprise guests, followed by an unwanted appearance by the children’s father, derails the night, which ends with a body in the kitchen and a lot of blood on the floor.

In “Midnight on Beacon Street,” Verona plays with home invasion tropes by delivering a tale with multiple breaches, each offering differing types of frights. Verona also keeps the spirit of horror present through Amy’s obsession with movies like “Halloween,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Exorcist.” With its feverish pacing and startling plot twists, this is an impressive debut.

Another great debut is Jenny Kiefer’s THIS WRETCHED VALLEY (Quirk Books, 302 pp., paperback, $18.99) , a hallucinatory nightmare of a novel that blends adventure, horror and historical fiction, and isn’t shy about violence or strangeness.

The story follows a geology researcher, his assistant, a rock climber and her boyfriend as they explore a newly discovered cliff face in the Kentucky wilderness. The rock wall could mean good things for everybody’s careers, but what begins as an exciting expedition full of promise soon turns into a desperate race to escape the wilderness and the ancient evil it holds.

The novel opens at the story’s end, as the authorities find three bodies in varying states of decay in the woods. One of them, inexplicably, is just a skeleton with no flesh on it at all. Responders are baffled by the discovery, but the forensic investigation that follows generates more questions than answers. Then the novel jumps to the past to delve into what happened. Kiefer injects so much tension and fear into the story of this group’s mysterious demise that you can’t help getting lost in this creepy tale.

Putting a new spin on a demonic possession narrative is no easy task, but that’s exactly what Christopher Golden has done in THE HOUSE OF LAST RESORT (St. Martin’s Press, 292 pp., $29) .

The story follows a young American couple, Tommy and Kate Puglisi, who buy an old house in Becchina, Italy, for a single euro through a special town revitalization initiative. The move seems great — the town is full of flowers and cozy cafes, and it allows them to work from home and enjoy free health care. It also gives Tommy the opportunity to reconnect with his grandparents, who live in Italy, and whom Tommy’s father stopped visiting for reasons that were never clear.

The Puglisis want to help enliven Becchina, and they believe the catacombs under the town might be the perfect tourist attraction to do that. Unfortunately, it isn’t only mummified bodies and bones that lurk in the tombs. The Puglisis learn that their home, which the locals call the House of Last Resort, was used by the Vatican to house possessed people when exorcisms failed to help.

This novel shines. Golden’s frenzied tale of demons and exorcisms is fast-paced, his portrayal of the insidiousness of possession is unsettling and it all comes together in a thrilling closing act.

Tlotlo Tsamaase’s WOMB CITY (Erewhon Books, 405 pp., $28) is a fearless novel that probes ideas of surveillance, misogyny and class.

The story takes place in a technological dystopia in which consciousnesses are regularly downloaded into new bodies. Nelah is an entrepreneur who is married to a man with a good job, and she’s about to become a mother, after her daughter, who is developing in an artificial womb in an expensive government lab, is born. That’s not to say Nelah’s life is perfect: She’s in love with a man who’s not her husband and her business is struggling. Also, she’s not living in her own body, and she’s one of the “microchipped” because her body used to belong to a criminal.

Because Nelah is a microchipped person, the government can see and hear everything she does, and she must regularly pass tests to make sure she’s behaving and won’t commit crimes. When she does eventually violate the law, her life changes, and in the aftermath she’s haunted by the angry ghost of her victim and worried that those she cares about will suffer repercussions.

Despite a few instances of clunky writing and repetition, Tsamaase brilliantly tackles ideas of motherhood and autonomy. The author seamlessly blends a body-hopping ghost story about revenge with a narrative about the importance of memory. It’s such an original first novel, and I’ll be reading whatever comes next.

Explore More in Books

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One in four books sold in France is a graphic novel. Increasingly, the genre includes nonfiction works by journalists and historians .

Ghostwriting is a secretive profession. That made the Gathering of Ghosts, an event in Manhattan to schmooze and celebrate ghostwriters’ work, quite unusual .

Kaveh Akbar had a raging addiction and little reason to believe his life would turn out well. After finding success as a poet, he is releasing his debut novel .

In her memoir, “More,” Molly Roden Winter recounts the highs and lows of juggling an open marriage  with work and child care.

Want to help a child navigate grief? A picture book might offer some solace .

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Celebrate Black History Month with 100 Essential Books from the Past Decade

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epic ghost books

Ghosts of Culloden Moor Epic 16-Book Bundle Audiobook By L.L. Muir cover art

Ghosts of Culloden Moor Epic 16-Book Bundle

  • By: L.L. Muir
  • Narrated by: Andrew McDermott, Jenn McGuirk
  • Length: 52 hrs and 9 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 4

Soncerae, a young and formidable witch, has won the hearts and undying devotion of a band of Highland ghosts. She promises each of them two days of life and one last chance to prove their courage, but keeps the real prize a secret.

  • 5 out of 5 stars

Nice Scottish Fantacy

  • By Maizy Day on 12-15-23
  • Narrated by: Andrew McDermott , Jenn McGuirk
  • Series: The Ghosts of Culloden Moor
  • Release date: 09-28-23
  • Language: English
  • 5 out of 5 stars 4 ratings

Soncerae, a young and formidable witch, has won the hearts and undying devotion of a band of Highland ghosts. She promises each of them two days of life and one last chance to prove their courage, but keeps the real prize a secret....

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Ice Ghosts Audiobook By Paul Watson cover art

  • The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition
  • By: Paul Watson
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Length: 12 hrs and 23 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 448
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 396
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 393

Ice Ghosts weaves together the epic story of the Lost Franklin Expedition of 1845 - whose two ships and crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice - with the modern tale of the scientists, divers, and local Inuit behind the incredible discovery of the flagship's wreck in 2014. Paul Watson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was on the icebreaker that led the discovery expedition, tells a fast-paced historical adventure story: Sir John Franklin and the crew of the HMS Erebus and Terror setting off in search of the fabled Northwest Passage.

  • 3 out of 5 stars

Flawed Writing Dashes High Hopes :(

  • By Gillian on 03-31-17
  • Release date: 03-21-17
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 448 ratings
  • Ice Ghosts weaves together the epic story of the Lost Franklin Expedition of 1845 with the modern tale behind the incredible discovery of the flagship's wreck....

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Ghost Soldiers Audiobook By Hampton Sides cover art

Ghost Soldiers

  • The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission
  • By: Hampton Sides
  • Narrated by: James Naughton
  • Length: 5 hrs and 57 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 1,356
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 1,026
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 1,028

At once a gripping depiction of men at war and a compelling story of redemption, Ghost Soldiers joins such landmark works as Flags of Our Fathers and The Greatest Generation Speaks in preserving the legacy of World War II for future generations.

Ghost soldiers

  • By Zach on 09-07-03
  • Release date: 05-03-01
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 1,356 ratings
  • On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite US Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines...

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Samantha Moon: Including Books 1-4 in the Vampire for Hire Series Audiobook By J.R. Rain cover art

Samantha Moon: Including Books 1-4 in the Vampire for Hire Series

  • By: J.R. Rain
  • Narrated by: Virtual Voice
  • Length: 25 hrs and 21 mins
  • Overall 4 out of 5 stars 6
  • Performance 3.5 out of 5 stars 6
  • Story 4 out of 5 stars 6

Boxed set of four #1 bestselling "Vampire for Hire" mystery novels, starring Samantha Moon―mother, wife, private investigator... vampire! MOON DANCE (Vampire for Hire #1) Six years ago federal agent Samantha Moon was the perfect wife and mother, your typical soccer mom with the minivan and suburban home. Then the unthinkable happens, an attack that changes her life forever. And forever is a very long time for a vampire. Now the world at large thinks Samantha has developed a rare skin disease, a disease which forces her to quit her day job and stay out of the light of the sun. Working the ...

  • 4 out of 5 stars

The stories are very entertaining and relatable

  • By Bearwilleatyou on 01-24-24
  • Release date: 12-26-23
  • 4 out of 5 stars 6 ratings
  • Boxed set of four #1 bestselling "Vampire for Hire" mystery novels, starring Samantha Moon―mother, wife, private investigator... vampire! MOON ...

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Gilded Ghost Audiobook By Kyle Kirrin cover art

Gilded Ghost

  • The Ripple System, Book 3
  • By: Kyle Kirrin
  • Narrated by: Travis Baldree
  • Length: 21 hrs and 28 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 4,380
  • Performance 5 out of 5 stars 3,898
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 3,886

Now the site of EBO’s first completed Red Cathedral, the Onyx Delta has become the center of the virtual world, and the entire player base is descending on Ned’s city to try their hand at the fearsome new raid and reap the game-changing rewards within. At the same time, a powerful, menacing guild is running roughshod over the western continents, razing every city in their wake and winning Frank’s obnoxiously loud approval from afar. But Ned knows that it’s only a matter of time before their forces sail east to the delta and attempt to burn down everything he’s built.

Get Franked!!!

  • By Blake on 08-12-22
  • Series: Ripple System , Book 3
  • Release date: 08-08-22
  • 5 out of 5 stars 4,380 ratings

Now the site of EBO’s first completed Red Cathedral, the Onyx Delta has become the center of the virtual world, and the entire player base is descending on Ned’s city to try their hand at the fearsome new raid and reap the game-changing rewards within....

Knights of Ghosts and Shadows Audiobook By Ellen Guon, Mercedes Lackey cover art

Knights of Ghosts and Shadows

  • By: Ellen Guon, Mercedes Lackey
  • Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
  • Length: 13 hrs and 8 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 52
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 46
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 47

Eric Banyon, musician, is out playing the blues on his flute one day, but he couldn't have known that the desperate sadness of his music would free a young elven noble from the magical prison he has been languishing in for centuries - nor does he believe it! 

I first read this about 30 years ago

  • By Richard Barnes on 04-14-21
  • By: Ellen Guon , Mercedes Lackey
  • Series: Bedlam's Bard , Book 1
  • Release date: 02-09-21
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 52 ratings

Eric Banyon, musician, is out playing the blues on his flute one day, but he couldn't have known that the desperate sadness of his music would free a young elven noble from the magical prison he has been languishing in for centuries - nor does he believe it....

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Night Train To Murder [Dramatized Adaptation] Audiobook By Simon R. Green cover art

Night Train To Murder [Dramatized Adaptation]

  • Ishmael Jones, Book 8
  • By: Simon R. Green
  • Narrated by: full cast, Scott McCormick, Laura C. Harris, and others
  • Length: 5 hrs and 11 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 37
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 29

When Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are asked to escort a VIP on the late-night train to Bath, it would appear to be a routine case. The Organisation has acquired intelligence that an attempt is to be made on Sir Dennis Gregson’s life as he travels to Bath to take up his new position as Head of the British Psychic Weapons Division. Ishmael’s mission is to ensure that Sir Dennis arrives safely. How could anyone orchestrate a murder in a crowded railway carriage without being noticed and with no obvious means of escape? 

great acting

  • By Anonymous User on 05-17-23
  • Narrated by: full cast , Scott McCormick , Laura C. Harris , Shanta Parasuraman , David Coyne , Stephon Walker , Steven Carpenter , Bill Gillett , Steve Wannall , Nanette Savard , Matthew Pauli , Richard Rohan
  • Series: Ishmael Jones Mystery Series , Book 8
  • Release date: 11-14-20
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 37 ratings

When Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are asked to escort a VIP on the late-night train to Bath, it would appear to be a routine case....

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Ship of Ghosts Audiobook By James D. Hornfischer cover art

Ship of Ghosts

  • The Story of the USS Houston, FDR's Legendary Lost Cruiser, and the Epic Saga of of Her Survivors
  • By: James D. Hornfischer
  • Narrated by: Mark Cashman
  • Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 360
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 256
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 252

Renowned as FDR's favorite warship, the cruiser USS Houston was a prize target trapped in the far Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Without hope of reinforcement, her crew faced a superior Japanese force ruthlessly committed to total conquest. But the men of the Houston fought back with dignity, ingenuity, sabotage, willpower, and the undying faith that their country would prevail.

interesting read

  • By Laurie on 05-11-07
  • Release date: 10-19-06
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 360 ratings
  • Renowned as FDR's favorite warship, the cruiser USS Houston was a prize target trapped in the far Pacific after Pearl Harbor....

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Blood and Thunder Audiobook By Hampton Sides cover art

Blood and Thunder

  • An Epic of the American West
  • Narrated by: Don Leslie
  • Length: 20 hrs and 56 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,969
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,398
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,386

In the summer of 1846, the Army of the West marched through Santa Fe, en route to invade and occupy the Western territories claimed by Mexico. Fueled by the new ideology of “Manifest Destiny,” this land grab would lead to a decades-long battle between the United States and the Navajos, the fiercely resistant rulers of a huge swath of mountainous desert wilderness.

Publisher's summary does not do it justice

  • By Eric on 02-07-11
  • Release date: 10-09-06
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,969 ratings

From the author of Ghost Soldiers comes a magnificent history of the American conquest of the West....

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The Ghost King Audiobook By R. A. Salvatore cover art

The Ghost King

  • Forgotten Realms: Transitions, Book 3
  • By: R. A. Salvatore
  • Narrated by: Mark Bramhall
  • Length: 12 hrs and 33 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,989
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,642
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 2,648

When the Spellplague ravages Faerûn, Drizzt and his companions are caught in the chaos. Seeking out the help of the priest Cadderly—the hero of the recently reissued series The Cleric Quintet—Drizzt finds himself facing his most powerful and elusive foe, the twisted Crenshinibon, the demonic crystal shard he believed had been destroyed years ago.

  • 1 out of 5 stars

Horrible narator ruined an awesome trilogy

  • By Tgh on 10-13-15
  • Series: Forgotten Realms - Transitions , Book 3, Legend of Drizzt , Book 22
  • Release date: 10-07-09
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 2,989 ratings
  • When the Spellplague ravages Faerûn, Drizzt and his companions are caught in the chaos....

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The Ghost Mountain Boys Audiobook By James Campbell cover art

The Ghost Mountain Boys

  • Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea
  • By: James Campbell
  • Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
  • Length: 10 hrs and 46 mins
  • Overall 4 out of 5 stars 142
  • Performance 4 out of 5 stars 98
  • Story 4 out of 5 stars 101

New Guinea became the site of one of the World War II's most savage campaigns. Despite their lack of jungle training, the 32nd Division's Ghost Mountain Boys were assigned the most grueling mission of the entire Pacific campaign: to march 130 miles over rugged mountains and to protect the right flank of the Australian army as they fought to push the Japanese back to the village of Buna.

  • 2 out of 5 stars

painful reading

  • By richard on 10-29-09
  • Release date: 01-23-08
  • 4 out of 5 stars 142 ratings
  • The 32nd Division's Ghost Mountain Boys were assigned the most grueling mission of World War II's entire Pacific campaign....

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Ghosts of Sanctuary Audiobook By Robert J. Crane cover art

Ghosts of Sanctuary

  • By: Robert J. Crane
  • Length: 13 hrs and 40 mins
  • Overall 0 out of 5 stars 0
  • Performance 0 out of 5 stars 0
  • Story 0 out of 5 stars 0

After a thousand years, Cyrus Davidon returns to Reikonos, only to find things are not as he has left them. Hope has fled, and things appear darker than ever. Surrounded by old friends who have come with him and meeting new allies, Cyrus must confront the dark forces that hold his home city in their grip.

  • Release date: 01-10-24
  • Not rated yet
  • After a thousand years, Cyrus Davidon returns to Reikonos, only to find things are not as he has left them. Hope has fled, and things appear darker...

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Range of Ghosts Audiobook By Elizabeth Bear cover art

Range of Ghosts

  • The Eternal Sky, Book 1
  • By: Elizabeth Bear
  • Narrated by: Celeste Ciulla
  • Length: 12 hrs and 32 mins
  • Overall 3.5 out of 5 stars 75
  • Performance 3.5 out of 5 stars 64
  • Story 3.5 out of 5 stars 66

Multiple Hugo Award winner Elizabeth Bear enthralls fans with this compelling first book in the Eternal Sky series. In a world where wizards are unable to procreate, Temur, heir to his empire’s throne, flees to avoid assassination. Once-Princess Samarkar, formerly heir to her own empire’s throne, gives up everything to seek the wizards’ magical power. Drawn together by fate, Temur and the Once-Princess must stand against a cult inciting strife and civil war in all the empires.

Bite down solid fantasy.

  • By Christa on 08-31-12
  • Series: Eternal Sky , Book 1
  • Release date: 04-26-12
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars 75 ratings
  • Once-Princess Samarkar, formerly heir to her own empire’s throne, gives up everything to seek the wizards’ magical power....

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Ghosts of Gold Mountain Audiobook By Gordon H. Chang cover art

Ghosts of Gold Mountain

  • The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad
  • By: Gordon H. Chang
  • Narrated by: David Shih
  • Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 116
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 103
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 103

From across the sea, they came by the thousands, escaping war and poverty in southern China to seek their fortunes in America. Converging on the enormous western worksite of the Transcontinental Railroad, the migrants spent years dynamiting tunnels through the snow-packed cliffs of the Sierra Nevada and laying tracks across the burning Utah desert. Their sweat and blood fueled the ascent of an interlinked, industrial United States. But those of them who survived this perilous effort would be pushed to the margins of American life and then to the fringes of public memory.

Very inspiring, educational, and enlightening!

  • By Amazon Customer on 06-25-19
  • Release date: 05-07-19
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 116 ratings

A groundbreaking, breathtaking history of the Chinese workers who built the Transcontinental Railroad, helping to forge modern America only to disappear into the shadows of history until now....

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Ghost of the Shadowfort Audiobook By T.C. Edge cover art

Ghost of the Shadowfort

  • The Bladeborn Saga, Book 2
  • By: T.C. Edge
  • Narrated by: Steven Brand
  • Length: 26 hrs and 29 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 593
  • Performance 5 out of 5 stars 547
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 545

War rages in the north. As the Varin Knights march to join Tukor in their conflict against Rasalan, Elyon Daecar finds himself embroiled in a world of secrets and lies. Saska has one goal: to assassinate Lord Kastor. Posing as a captured servant girl, she infiltrates the Kastor warcamp to face her demons, but before long finds herself hopelessly out of her depth. Enemies close in, old and new…and history has a habit of repeating itself.

Good story.

  • By Dedra Storts on 11-17-21
  • Series: The Bladeborn Saga , Book 2
  • Release date: 09-28-21
  • 5 out of 5 stars 593 ratings

War rages in the north. As the Varin Knights march to join Tukor in their conflict against Rasalan, Elyon Daecar finds himself embroiled in a world of secrets and lies. Saska has one goal: to assassinate Lord Kastor....

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Ghost of the Truthseeker 2 Audiobook By Strungbound cover art

Ghost of the Truthseeker 2

  • A LitRPG Adventure
  • By: Strungbound
  • Narrated by: Daniel Wisniewski
  • Length: 20 hrs and 1 min
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 78
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 42
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 42

Triumphant over Anthony Ricci, Alistair now holds the title of Earth's second strongest human, his name etched on the leaderboard. His territory, the Northeast Freehold, stands as a bastion and sanctuary for humankind in the eastern United States. Backed by formidable allies, he is ready for the battles ahead.

another winner

  • By Jarred Scoopie Allen on 08-28-23
  • Series: Ghost of the Truthseeker , Book 2
  • Release date: 08-25-23
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 78 ratings

Triumphant over Anthony Ricci, Alistair now holds the title of Earth's second strongest human, his name etched on the leaderboard. His territory, the Northeast Freehold, stands as a bastion and sanctuary for humankind in the eastern United States....

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Sabbat Martyr Audiobook By Dan Abnett cover art

Sabbat Martyr

  • Gaunt's Ghosts: Warhammer 40,000, Book 7
  • By: Dan Abnett
  • Narrated by: Toby Longworth
  • Length: 10 hrs and 35 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 1,307
  • Performance 5 out of 5 stars 1,153
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 1,150

Saint Sabbat has returned, and she is being hunted by the deadliest of assassins. Gaunt's Ghosts must fight to protect her - but can they defend against treachery from within? It's the culmination of a massive story arc that sees tragedy strike even as the Sabbat Worlds Crusade is given new hope with the reappearance of the Saint herself. Mysticism and warfare collide, with compelling results.

Another book finished within a week

  • By Damon Barley on 01-04-22
  • Series: Gaunt's Ghosts , Book 7
  • Release date: 12-18-21
  • 5 out of 5 stars 1,307 ratings

Saint Sabbat has returned, and she is being hunted by the deadliest of assassins. Gaunt's Ghosts must fight to protect her - but can they defend against treachery from within....

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The Ghosts of Sherwood Audiobook By Carrie Vaughn cover art

The Ghosts of Sherwood

  • By: Carrie Vaughn
  • Narrated by: Angele Masters
  • Length: 2 hrs and 21 mins
  • Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars 34
  • Performance 4.5 out of 5 stars 32
  • Story 4.5 out of 5 stars 32

Robin of Locksley and his one true love, Marian, are married. It has been close on two decades since they beat the Sheriff of Nottingham with the help of a diverse band of talented friends. King John is now on the throne, and Robin has sworn fealty in order to further protect not just his family, but those of the lords and barons who look up to him - and, by extension, the villagers they protect.  

One of my favorite 2020 listens

  • By K. Horn on 12-23-20
  • Series: Robin Hood Duology , Book 1
  • Release date: 06-09-20
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars 34 ratings

Carrie Vaughn's The Ghosts of Sherwood revisits the Robin Hood legend with a story of the famed archer's children. Everything about Father is stories....

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Straight Silver Audiobook By Dan Abnett cover art

Straight Silver

  • Gaunt’s Ghosts: Warhammer 40,000, Book 6
  • Length: 9 hrs and 52 mins
  • Overall 5 out of 5 stars 1,381
  • Performance 5 out of 5 stars 1,204
  • Story 5 out of 5 stars 1,196

On the battlefields of Aexe Cardinal, the stalwart forces of the Imperial Guard are locked in a deadly stalemate with the dark armies of Chaos. Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his regiment, the Tanith First and Only, are thrown headlong into the living hell of trench warfare, where death by an unseen enemy is always just a moment away. The only chance for Gaunt and his lightly armed scouts to survive is to volunteer for a mission so dangerous that no one else dares accept it.

  • By Brandon on 06-26-21
  • Series: Gaunt's Ghosts , Book 6
  • Release date: 06-19-21
  • 5 out of 5 stars 1,381 ratings

On the battlefields of Aexe Cardinal, the stalwart forces of the Imperial Guard are locked in a deadly stalemate with the dark armies of Chaos. Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and his regiment, the Tanith First and Only, are thrown headlong into the living hell of trench warfare....

River Road: A Wyatt Thomas New Orleans paranormal mystery (French Quarter Mystery Book 5) Audiobook By Eric Wilder cover art

River Road: A Wyatt Thomas New Orleans paranormal mystery (French Quarter Mystery Book 5)

  • By: Eric Wilder
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Bizarre New Orleans Death Ceremony Ends in Murder French Quarter paranormal investigator Wyatt Thomas meets a new client at an bizarre death ceremony in a revamped Canal Street movie theater. The man gives Wyatt a bag of cash and a single clue: a solid gold Krewe of Rex, 1948 Mardi Gras doubloon. His only request is for Wyatt to find the person or persons who murdered his mother. The case isn't simply cold, it's 50-years old. When his client is shot dead on the way out the door, Wyatt must go into hiding, solve both murders, or suffer the same fate

  • Release date: 01-19-24
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  • Bizarre New Orleans Death Ceremony Ends in Murder French Quarter paranormal investigator Wyatt Thomas meets a new client at an bizarre death ...

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Screen Rant

Ghost machine #1 is the epic start to 2024s hottest imprint (review).

Ghost Machine #1 brings a murderers’ row of talent in an anthology that showcases some of the most promising new comics to come later this year.

  • "The Unnamed" introduces a vast universe with heroes spanning American history, including the immortal fighter Simon Pure. Intriguing and great-looking story.
  • "Rook: Exodus" combines sci-fi and environmental themes but could have used more pages to fully develop its premise. Shows promise for the Ghost Machine imprint.
  • "Family Odysseys" brings laughs and charming family dynamics with The Rocketfellers and Hornsby & Halo. Cute stories that set high expectations for future comics.

Warning! Spoilers ahead for Ghost Machine #1! 2024’s most exciting imprint under Image Comics shows off its upcoming best stories with Ghost Machine #1 . The new venture made waves at last year’s New York Comic Con with the announcement that several comic book legends such as Geoff Johns , Gary Frank, Peter J. Tomasi, Bryan Hitch and others were uniting for a creator-owned media company. Ghost Machine has big plans for 2024 and it all starts with Ghost Machine #1 , an intriguing 64-page special that goes all-out and offers every comic fan something they’re sure to enjoy.

"The Unnamed" is an Intriguing and Gripping Universe-in-Progress

The first section of Ghost Machine #1 is dedicated to The Unnamed Universe, a sprawling world that builds off of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s work in Geiger and Junkyard Joe . "The Unnamed" tells the story of heroes throughout centuries of American history from the days of the American Revolution to the post-apocalyptic future of 2050. This chapter reintroduces Johns and Frank’s nuclear hero Geiger in a brand-new story while expanding on a character introduced in Geiger 80-Page Giant #1 : the immortal fighter Simon Pure, aka Redcoat.

Joining Johns to tell Pure’s story is fellow Ghost Machine exclusive creator, Bryan Hitch. Unlike the stoic and thoughtful Geiger, Redcoat is a shiftless loudmouth who has made enemies out of some of the greatest figures in history. Redcoat has been fighting since the birth of America and his immortality has caused him more trouble than it’s helped him. But Pure takes his numerous deaths and resurrections in stride in a short story that’s sure to please fans of snarky, mystical rogues.

In addition to the story by Johns, Frank, and Hitch, fans are also treated to a timeline of the Unnamed Universe which helps establish the scope of the overall story. There are also profiles to prepare fans about the most important characters in Ghost Machine’s soon-to-be-released books. While "The Unnamed" might be a bit more rewarding for people who already have a vested interest in books like Geiger or Junkyard Joe , the creative team here does a fantastic job of crafting an intriguing and great-looking story.

"Rook: Exodus" Has Strong Ideas, But Needs More Time

The next section of Ghost Machine #1 follows an independent story called "Rook: Exodus" by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok . This six-page story is an epic sci-fi tale set on a terraformed world where animal life is controlled by Wardens, people who wear helmets to influence various species. Rook, a former farmer, is desperate to get off of Exodus and return home. Unfortunately, the parts Rook needs to repair a ship are hard to come by, and evil forces are seizing control of the planet.

“Rook: Exodus” is an interesting idea for a story that combines sci-fi with a primal ‘man vs. nature’ theme and critiques of corporations ravaging the planet. Unfortunately, it’s a premise that needs a bit more fleshing out than six pages can provide. To this chapter’s credit, it also contains profiles to elaborate on the series’ main characters. But this story could have used a few more pages to really enthuse readers. That said, it’s a story that shows promise for what Ghost Machine has to offer .

Family Odysseys Stands Out with Adorable and Humorous Stories

Unlike “The Unnamed” or “Rook: Exodus”, Ghost Machine’s Family Odysseys chapter is all about laughs and family dynamics. This section showcases two upcoming series, The Rocketfellers by Peter J. Tomasi and Francis Manapul and Hornsby & Halo by Tomasi and Peter Snejbjerg. “The Rocketfellers” short centers around a family from the future forced to hide out in the past after being placed into the Time Zone Protection Program. Meanwhile, “Hornsby & Halo” centers around a pair of angel and demon pre-teens unknowingly a part of a cosmic truce.

“The Rocketfellers” is an immensely charming tale. Roland Rocketfeller is a simple man who just wants to keep his family together amid this trying period of their lives. Tomasi and Manapul are a fantastic team with this story. Tomasi nails the voices of the family as they talk back and forth while Manapul makes a family trip out to eat a thrilling and engaging car chase. “The Rocketfellers” is a cute story that really sets the bar high for its eventual full-length comic.

Similarly “Hornsby & Halo” has a fascinating premise that’ll hook readers almost instantly. Rose Hornsby is a demon and Zachary Halo is an angel, and they were traded to one another’s families to keep the cosmos in order. Fans who loved Tomasi’s Super Sons will be pleasantly surprised at how much this series captures the same tone. But Snejbjerg’s delightful art helps give “Hornsby & Halo” an identity that really helps it stand out from the pack. Readers who’d prefer a more pleasant kind of read aren’t going to be disappointed by Ghost Machine’s Family Odysseys line.

"Hyde Street" is a Terrifying Glimpse at Ghost Machine's Future

For readers who need a real scare, “Hyde Street” offers plenty of unsettling teases for the publisher’s future Halloween debut. Geoff Johns, Lamont Magee, Ivan Reis, and Maytal Zchut bring their most disturbing in Ghost Machine #1’s final chapter . This section includes a splash page of old-school advertisements such as X-ray specs or trick gum. However, these ads aren’t for the fun novelties of yesteryear, but rather, items that bring pain, misery or terrible fates to those who use, or simply encounter them.

“Hyde Street” holds its cards close to its chest and doesn’t give away too much about the eventual full-length story. While that’s a respectable gambit, it also prevents readers from getting a good idea of what the story’s about. That said, while the details are slim, it’s a very captivating closing chapter and is no doubt going to really appeal to horror fans. Ivan Reis also flexes hard in this chapter , especially when he shows off the horrors to come when Ghost Machine releases Hyde Street later this year.

Ghost Machine #1 is a Powerful Start to a New Endeavor

In just 64 pages, Ghost Machine #1 offers a wide variety of content, from heroic tales to sci-fi adventures and even comedy and horror. Granted, some of these previews are a little too short and a few more pages probably would have benefited stories like “Rook: Exodus” or “Hyde Street”. But despite the shorter content, these stories serve their purpose and excellently showcase the fantastic line-up Ghost Machine has up its sleeve. New lines can always be a little risky, but Ghost Machine swings for the fences and sets out to be Image Comics’ best new comic venture in 2024.

Ghost Machine #1 is available now from Image Comics and Ghost Machine.

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In the shadow of Red October

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The portrait with the holes

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He is staring at me. I feel it. ­­­

His pale blue eyes are cold and penetrating.

But it is his expressionless face that is most unnerving - a face disfigured by bayonets. Daylight seeps through holes that have been gouged into his cheeks and forehead.

This portrait of the Russian Emperor Alexander II transfixes me. The Austrian artist Heinrich von Angeli painted it in 1876. Russian revolutionaries ran their bayonets through it in 1917 when they seized the Winter Palace in Petrograd - as St Petersburg was then known - a sign of their hatred for the old Russia they were sweeping away.

Ever since, the painting has been hidden in the vaults of the State Hermitage Museum housed in the Winter Palace. For the 100th anniversary of the revolution, the damaged portrait is being displayed in Russia for the first time. I am given a private viewing.

It is only a painting - just oil and canvas. But the pockmarked face of Emperor Alexander conveys the drama and the brutality of Russia’s revolution more powerfully than anything I have seen.

There were, in fact, two revolutions in 1917.

The February Revolution deposed the monarchy. The imperial Winter Palace became the seat of the Provisional Government.

The second revolution imposed Bolshevism on Russia, creating the world’s first communist state.

The Great October Socialist Revolution – as it became known – actually took place on 7 November. But in 1917 Russia was using a different calendar from the West, according to which the date was 25 October.

Soviet propaganda would portray what happened as a mass uprising of workers, peasants and soldiers who – led by the Bolsheviks – stormed the Winter Palace to seize power for the people.

That was the picture dutifully painted by Soviet cinema. A decade later, film-maker Sergei Eisenstein re-enacted the revolution for his epic entitled October.

Filmed on location at the Winter Palace, it depicted Red October as Russia’s Bastille moment, with thousands of people breaking down the gates of the palace and pouring inside. The cruiser Aurora was accorded a starring role - firing the shot that signalled the start of the uprising.

The Aurora

It was a magnificent spectacle. But it wasn’t true. The Winter Palace is widely believed to have suffered more damage from Eisenstein’s film crew than from the actual revolution.

In 1917 there was no dramatic storming of the Winter Palace. Most of the Red Guard revolutionaries who had got inside did so through an unlocked door.

As for claims of a mass uprising, this was fake news from the Bolsheviks. Red October was a coup. Vladimir Lenin’s party had seized power in Russia.

Its slogans, though, were attractive to people trapped in poverty: “Land to the peasants! Factories to the workers!”

American journalist John Reed witnessed the Bolshevik takeover of Russia. In his book Ten Days That Shook the World he described the chaos before the coup.

“The peasants… were burning manor houses and massacring landowners. Immense strikes and lock-outs convulsed Moscow, Odessa, and the coal mines of the Don. Transport was paralysed; the army was starving, and in the big cities there was no bread.”

But the revolution plunged Russia into the bloodiest period of its history. Civil war, world war, famine and Joseph Stalin’s Great Terror would claim tens of millions of lives.

“It is our historical fate,” Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky tells me of his country.

“We make experiments. We show how things shouldn’t be done. Just having a good goal or a good idea doesn’t mean the results will be good. We gave a lesson to the world.”

The Bolsheviks wanted to do more than just teach the world. They wanted to change it. They believed their coup would set the dominoes tumbling and spark a global uprising of workers.

“Proletarians of the world, unite!” was the rallying cry of communism.

The new world was to look very different. Portraits of tsars gave way to posters of factory workers . Newborn babies were given revolutionary first names, like “Barricade”, “Kim” (short for “Communist International of Youth”) and “Ninel” (“Lenin” backwards).

The new world would sound different, too.

In a tiny St Petersburg art studio, Petr Theremin demonstrates the exotic instrument his great-grandfather Leon invented soon after the revolution. Without touching it, Petr is producing haunting tones, simply by moving his hands up and down near two antennae. Invisible electromagnetic waves conjure up a sound reminiscent of a lilting voice or violin .

The theremin was one of the world’s first electronic instruments. The Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin was captivated by it. He enlisted the machine and its maker in his campaign to spread electricity across Russia. Lenin gave Theremin a free pass for the railways, so the inventor could display his masterpiece - and promote electrification – across the country.

Once the Bolshevik leader requested a private demonstration in the Kremlin.

“Lenin decided to try out the instrument himself,” Petr tells me. “My great-grandfather took Lenin’s hand and moved it around the theremin. He helped him play The Lark by Glinka. There was a joke at the time that Leon Theremin was the only man in the world who could control Lenin.”

By the time Stalin was running the USSR, there was little to joke about. Lenin’s successor was a paranoid dictator, who unleashed a wave of terror against his own people.

In 1939, after returning from a trip to America, Leon Theremin was arrested, accused of being a counter-revolutionary and sent to a labour camp.

We needed democracy. What we got was a catastrophe.”

Millions of people were arrested in Stalin’s purges and repressions. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Soviet citizens were shot. Leon Theremin survived the gulag. While still a prisoner, he was transferred to a secret research laboratory in Moscow to work with other top scientists plucked from the labour camps.

“There were, of course, some positive results from the revolution,” concedes Petr. “Like the spread of literacy and electrification. But the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks was a tragedy for the country. We needed democracy. What we got was a catastrophe.”

In St Petersburg a century on there are few banners or advertising hoardings celebrating the anniversary of Red October, and there are no official commemorations on the scale, or style, of a French Bastille Day. For if modern France still identifies with the ideals of its revolution – “liberty, equality, fraternity” - modern Russia, particularly its government, is hesitant about 1917.

Like Russia’s national symbol - the double-headed eagle - the Russian authorities are torn two ways over the events of 1917. On the one hand, Red October gave birth to the Soviet Union, a superpower President Putin has often praised. The Kremlin leader once described the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest geo-political catastrophe” of the 20th Century.

Yet an armed uprising against the government is not the kind of example the Kremlin wishes to promote - especially in the light of Russia’s economic problems.

“The attitude of the authorities to the Russian Revolution is radio silence,” says historian Sergei Podbolotov. “One of the revolution’s main ideas – the abolition of private property - is totally alien to the current regime. So is the idea of taking up arms and attacking police.”

But the revolutionary cocktail of a century ago - food shortages, an unpopular war and widespread disillusionment with the government – does not exist today.

Despite Western sanctions against Russia, the supermarket shelves of St Petersburg are well-stocked. The coffee shops and trendy bars of Nevsky Prospekt are packed with young Russians chatting on smartphones or glued to their tablets.

Many of these people were born after 1991, the year communism collapsed and the Soviet Union crumbled.

Nevsky Prospekt

Nevsky Prospekt

Bathed in the sunlight of a late Russian autumn, the “Venice of the North” looks like an oasis of calm. But political discontent still stirs.

In a St Petersburg park, named after Mars, the Roman god of war, hundreds of people have gathered for an anti-government protest . Many are supporters of opposition leader and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny , who wants to run for president next March. But convictions for fraud, which Navalny claims are politically motivated, bar him from the ballot. The suspicion that the Kremlin is not playing fair has brought people out on the streets.

“I want to live in a Russia that is fair to all its citizens,” one of the protesters, Olga, tells me. “And I want a leader who listens to his people. Vladimir Putin doesn’t.”

“Personally, I don’t think that Navalny would be a good president,” another protester tells me. “But I believe elections should be democratic – not what we have now.”

No-one here is calling for a 21st Century Russian revolution.

“Revolution means blood and deaths,” Katya tells me. “We want honest elections, not revolution.”

The authorities are taking no chances. There is a heavy police presence. Through loudhailers, police are asking the crowd to disperse, declaring this an unsanctioned gathering. The protesters believe they do not require permission to express an opinion.

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Some of the protesters decide to march off through the city centre. It is Vladimir Putin’s birthday. The crowd is about to spoil the president’s party.

“Putin is a thief!” they chant.

“Russia without Putin!”

“Send the tsar to the labour camp!”

Riot police with truncheons line up across the road. Minutes later, they start dragging people from the crowd. Police buses quickly fill up with detained protesters.

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At night a few dozen protesters appear outside the Winter Palace. They hold up signs with Alexei Navalny’s name and chant sarcastically “Happy birthday!” to the president.

Their protest is a faint echo of those 1917 revolutionaries who seized the palace and dug holes in Emperor Alexander’s portrait.

Yet these young people are not here to make a revolution. They are making a point - that the government should listen to the people.

The Russian authorities often brush off protesters as a tiny minority. But with real incomes falling and 20 million Russians living below the poverty line, any signs of dissent make the Kremlin nervous.

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The fallen idol

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I see the ghosts of communism past.

Philosopher Karl Marx is here. He looks deep in thought.

Dictator Joseph Stalin is here, too. He looks sinister.

Once communist idols, these giants of history – or rather their statues – have been put out to grass in a park near Moscow.

Here, too, stands the leader of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known to the world as Lenin . Indeed, there are lots of Lenins here. In one pose, he is the great thinker, with hand on chin. In another, he’s chatting to children. A third statue has Lenin toiling away at his desk.

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A recent study calculated that there are more than 14,000 Lenin statues across the former Soviet Union . It used to be that wherever you went in the USSR, you could be certain there was at least one Lenin looking your way.

In life, Lenin was a charismatic revolutionary. In death he was transformed into communism’s first personality cult. As well as the statues, his face stared down on Soviet citizens from billboards; his portrait was carried at communist parades; he was praised in songs and poems. The cradle of the Russian Revolution, St Petersburg, was renamed Leningrad in his honour.

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Lenin taught generations of Soviet children to read. On a trip to the USSR, I once bought a reading book for nine-year-old school kids to practise my Russian. Here is my translation of page 149:

“Lenin’s name is in everyone’s heart!

“We always remember Lenin, We think of him so dear. We consider that his birthday, Is the best day of the year.

“We learn to serve the motherland, Just like Lenin would, To love labour and value friendship, Like only Lenin could.”

Accompanying the poem is a picture of two children gazing religiously at Lenin’s portrait.

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It is one of the ironies of the Russian Revolution that the man who led it, who waged war on the Church and declared all religious ideas “an abomination” ended up the closest thing communism had to a god.

At the heart of this cult was Lenin’s final resting place - the macabre mausoleum on Red Square, where his embalmed body was displayed and worshipped like a Soviet saint. A whole scientific institute was created to preserve the corpse . To keep Lenin looking like Lenin, the team of scientists has had to replace some skin and flesh over the years with plastics and other materials.

In communist times people would queue for up to six hours to see the body of the "vozhd", or "great leader". Not today. To many in modern Russia, Lenin is more a museum piece than an object of adoration. Curiosity still draws foreign tourists. But the much shorter queues suggest that Russians have lost interest in him.

1950: The queue to see Lenin's body stretches across Red Square

1950: The queue to see Lenin's body stretches across Red Square

Today there is a new cult in town. True, I have yet to see a statue of Vladimir Putin in Moscow. But the souvenir shops here are full of Putin busts. You can also buy Putin mugs, fridge magnets, T-shirts, smartphone covers, even Putin chocolates. You name it, Putin’s face is currently on it. I have counted at least five different Putin 2018 calendars on sale in the newspaper kiosks. They all feature various pin-up poses of Russia’s action-man president.

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While Brand Putin sells, Bolshevik Lenin is under fire. And it is the Orthodox Church, increasingly influential in Russia, which is leading the charge against him.

“One lesson of the revolution is we should not allow society to be shaken by people coming from abroad with a special task,” Metropolitan Hilarion, head of external relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, tells me.

Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church: The Bolshevik revolution was a “criminal” act

Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church: The Bolshevik revolution was a “criminal” act

“The Bolshevik revolution started with the arrival of Lenin and more than 200 other revolutionaries who came by train through Germany. Their trip was sponsored by Germany, which was at war with Russia. This indicates the whole affair was criminal.”

In other words, with Lenin’s help, a foreign power orchestrated regime change in Russia in 1917. The argument has a contemporary ring to it. In recent years Moscow has accused Western governments of plotting social unrest in Russia.

The Russian authorities also link the West to the so-called “coloured revolutions” that have deposed pro-Moscow regimes, from Ukraine to Georgia. Russian officials often refer to Red October as “the first coloured revolution.”

So, if Vladimir Lenin is a fallen idol, is it time to remove him from the mausoleum and bury his body?

Despite Lenin’s declining popularity, it is a controversial question. When debating it earlier this year, a popular Russian TV talk show descended into a shouting match.

“Remove Lenin, he’s a criminal,” shouted one nationalist politician.

What’s the point?” retorted a communist MP. “Will that make food prices any lower?”

A nun chimed in: “Who brought us Lenin? The Germans did in a sealed train. I say put his body back in the same train and send it back to them!”

Among the guests taking part in that raucous TV show was businessman Stanislav Svistunov. I visit him at his factory in the north of Moscow.

Stanislav’s company decorates plastic products, including funeral accessories. Plastic coffin handles and crucifixes go into the machines and when they emerge they are sparkling with a golden coating.

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There is an irony to Stanislav being in the business of religious appendages.

He shows me a book. It is the family history of Vladimir Lenin - the communist who declared war on the Church.

“I am Lenin’s great-great-grandnephew,” declares Stanislav, pointing to a family tree. “My great-great-great-grandmother, Sophia, was the sister of Maria, Lenin’s mother.”

Stanislav assures me that only once did his family benefit from their famous relative. One year back in the 1930s winter was so cold that his great-grandfather and great-grandmother had to burn some of their furniture to keep warm. Out of desperation they wrote to the authorities mentioning the family connection.

Stanislav Svistunov - related to Lenin

Stanislav Svistunov - related to Lenin

“Some people came to check their identity papers. Shortly after, a lorry arrived with firewood. My great-grandfather was sworn to secrecy about it.”

As for what to do with Lenin’s body, Stanislav assumes it will be up to the Kremlin to decide.

“Only one man can take the decision to bury Lenin - our president,” Stanislav tells me.

He raises an interesting point. If Lenin’s body is removed from Red Square, does that mean all the other bodies interred there should be taken away, too?

There are lots of them. More than 200 revolutionaries lie in a mass grave on Red Square. Also buried beside the Kremlin are dozens of Soviet leaders, scientists, military commanders and cosmonauts.

“One idea may be to bury Lenin inside the mausoleum,” suggests Stanislav. “This would partly satisfy those people who say his body should be in the ground, and those who want him to stay on Red Square. I back this option.”

The Orthodox Church takes a different view.

“He should be buried. Not because he deserves a Christian funeral - he was anti-Christian. But because this symbol of the revolution should find its proper place - not on Red Square and not in a mausoleum,” says Metropolitan Hilarion.

“I regret his burial was not conducted in the early 1990s, when it would have been easier to do. It is more difficult now. There will be protests. The Communist Party is strongly against this. But I believe it is only a matter of time before he is buried. This should be done sooner or later.”

“Lenin lived! Lenin lives! Lenin will live!” proclaimed a famous Soviet slogan.

In a way, he does live on - in the thousands of Lenin statues, Lenin Avenues and Lenin Squares that exist in Russia to this day; in his mausoleum beside the Kremlin; in the hearts of committed communists. But the shadow he casts over Russia is fading. Whether or not his body remains in Red Square, to most Russians now the man who made the revolution is like those statues I saw in the park - a ghost from a lost world.

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The sainted family

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Outside Yekaterinburg, autumn has carpeted the forest with golden leaves. All around me, silver birches seem to be whispering, as their leaves rustle in the breeze.

It is so beautiful here - like walking through a Russian fairy tale.

Then, through the trees, I spot something that jars with the magical setting - an Orthodox cross. It marks the place of a grim discovery - the remains of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family. The Bolsheviks had murdered them, mutilated their bodies, and disposed of their victims in a shallow grave in the forest.

Pensioner Vladimir Kotlyakov is sweeping leaves and twigs away from the cross. He comes every day to keep this place tidy.

Vladimir Kotlyakov

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Nicholas II believed he had a God-given right to rule Russia. But frustrated by food shortages and setbacks in World War One, his subjects reached a different conclusion.

Following the February Revolution, Nicholas was forced to abdicate. His brother refused the throne - three centuries of Romanov rule were over.

Nicholas, his wife Alexandra and their five children - Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei - were placed under house arrest near St Petersburg. Later they were moved to Siberia and, a few months after the October Revolution, transported to Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.

They were locked inside the Ipatiev House. The Bolsheviks referred to it, ominously, as the House of Special Purpose. Around midnight on 17 July 1918, the Romanovs and four of their most loyal servants were taken down to the basement - for their own safety, they were told. There they were shot and bayoneted by a Bolshevik execution squad . It was a brutal, bloody end to the most powerful dynasty in modern European history.

The Soviets demolished the Ipatiev House in 1977 - an attempt to erase the memory of the tsar. But on the spot where the house stood, modern Russia has built a church.

The tsar’s killers saw themselves as gods. This sickness of the mind became the fever of the 20th Century.”

Painted on the walls of the Church on the Blood are scenes from Tsar Nicholas’s life, such as his coronation. At the front of the church an icon bears the faces of the tsar, tsarina and their children. The Orthodox Church has elevated them to sainthood.

“The calamities Russia endured, the civil war, the 1930s terror, World War Two, they were all a punishment for what happened here,” Bishop Yevgeny of the Urals diocese tells me.

“Emperor Nicholas understood that God was above him. But the tsar’s killers saw themselves as gods. This sickness of the mind became the fever of the 20th Century.”

In the 1990s, a Russian government commission concluded that the bones exhumed in the forest belonged to Nicholas, Alexandra and three of their children - Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia. They were laid to rest in St Petersburg.

In 2007 what were believed to be the remains of Maria and Alexei were found . The Russian Orthodox Church demanded further tests and has yet to recognise these as the remains of the Romanovs. But when I spoke to him in Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion indicated that there was “a very strong chance” the Church would do so in the near future.

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In a building next to the Church on the Blood, I attend a children’s choir rehearsal. Looking down from the wall is Nicholas II. His portrait provides inspiration to the young choristers.

“The tsar and his family set us a moral example that we try to follow,” Alexandra explains. “They believed in God so much, they suffered for it.”

“I always think of him as the captain of a big ship called Russia,” says Anastasiya. “He was on this ship till the very end, till the country ended. He was so brave and I admire him.”

Anastasiya: “[Tsar Nicholas] was so brave and I admire him.”

Anastasiya: “[Tsar Nicholas] was so brave and I admire him.”

It is an idealised and somewhat distorted image of Russia’s last tsar. For, if Nicholas II was the captain, does he not bear some responsibility for the sinking of imperial Russia?

It was the tsar’s soldiers who fired on peaceful protesters outside the Winter Palace in 1905. It was Nicholas who brought the mystic and faith-healer Grigory Rasputin into the royal court. As a private adviser to the Romanovs, the renegade monk interfered in matters of state and further damaged the prestige of the monarchy.

Illustration portraying Bloody Sunday, January 1905, when tsarist soldiers fired upon unarmed marchers in St Petersburg

Illustration portraying Bloody Sunday, January 1905, when tsarist soldiers fired upon unarmed marchers in St Petersburg

Nicholas’s decision to take personal command of the tsarist army in World War One proved disastrous. And ever the inflexible autocrat, the tsar was incapable of steering Russia clear of revolution.

The Provisional Government that took over from him made mistakes, too. But ultimately, the Bolsheviks seized power in a country that had been weakened by years of imperial mismanagement.

In post-communist Russia, it is not only the tsar who is enjoying a revival. So is the Church. In 1989, Russia had 6,000 Orthodox churches. Today there are more than 36,000.

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Formerly a pillar of tsarist autocracy, Orthodoxy once again enjoys a close connection to the state. As the Kremlin strives to shape a new national ideology around patriotism and ultra-conservative values, the Church is playing a key role .

In a school playground on the edge of Yekaterinburg, I watch children practising traditional Cossack sword-spinning. The school, which has built its own church, is one of several in the area where education is centred on piety, patriotism and a glorious past.

“We are rediscovering our culture of a century ago, not just with swords, but with songs and dances,” 14-year-old Nikolai tells me. “But for me, faith is the most important thing in life - it is the reason we are here.”

I talk to the school director, Alexei Solovyov. He recalls that in Soviet times, when atheism was an official state doctrine, only one church was open in Yekaterinburg, or Sverdlovsk, as it was known under communism. It is a city of more than a million people.

“Outside the church there were always police in civilian clothes,” recalls Alexei. “They didn’t harass the old people. But any young people that went up to the door were taken aside for a conversation.”

Yet communism failed to replace God in Russians’ hearts.

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“My great-grandmother was a communist,” Alexei recalls. “She worked as a cook. She even cooked for Tsar Nikolai’s killers in the Ipatiev House. But in the 1930s she was a victim of Stalin’s purges. She spent five years in the gulag for being a ‘Trotskyite’. When she came out, she ditched all that revolutionary hype and turned to religion.”

But if Russians are looking to the past to shape their future, might they decide to restore the monarchy? That is unlikely.

“Monarchy is a good way of governing,” schoolteacher Olga tells me. “But times have changed. Anyway, our president is a man who kind of governs the way the tsar tried to govern. He is a real ruler, a real patriot. He doesn’t allow other countries to humiliate our citizens.”

Back in the forest, where the bones of Nicholas II were found, Vladimir Kotlyakov seems confused.

“Russia needs a tsar. I’m fed up with disorder here. ‘President’ isn’t a Russian word. ‘Tsar’ – now that’s a Russian word! Let the people choose a tsar.”

My trip to Yekaterinburg has reminded me that Russia is a country of extremes.

It is a country that can leap from “Down with the Tsar!” to “Saint Nicholas”; from destroying churches to building them; from communism to capitalism; from freezing winters to boiling hot summers.

It is a country of contradictions.

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October's son

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The Russian Revolution hadn’t even happened when Lev Lipovich was born.

By the time the Bolsheviks had seized the Winter Palace, Lev was already seven months old.

A hundred years of Russian history are etched into his face.

Lev Lipovich

Lev Lipovich

“I fought in four wars, and I survived three famines,” Lev tells me with a hint of pride.

We are sitting in his tiny apartment in the city of Khabarovsk, the capital of the Russian Far East. Out of the window you can see the point where the two great rivers of eastern Russia meet - the Amur and the Ussuri.

On the roads here there are few Russian-built cars - it is cheaper for people to buy right-hand drives from Japan. The border with China is just 25km from here.

Red Square feels a world away. And we are more than 6,000km (3,700 miles) from the cradle of the October Revolution, St Petersburg.


“I am a son of October,” he explains. “To me, Revolution Day - 7 November - is my second birthday because I see that as the day the USSR was born.”

Lev was born in the Crimea in April 1917. When he was 11, his parents sent him to a factory boarding school.

“For my first 20 years my motherland fed me, clothed me, put shoes on my feet. It gave me an education. When I joined the army, I started to repay my debt to my country.”

At the age of 15, Lev learnt to fly. He became a fighter pilot. His first experience of battle was the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland; he fought in World War Two, what Russians refer to as the Great Patriotic War; in 1945 he flew missions against Japan and in North Korea.

He concedes he is lucky to be alive. While battling Nazi Germany, he was shot down over the Baltic Sea.

“The shell hit my right engine,” he recalls. “No sooner had I catapulted out, the plane burst into flames. For four hours I struggled in the water. Then a Soviet submarine spotted me and pulled me out.”

In peacetime Lev switched to civil aviation. In his 47 years as a pilot, he recorded an astonishing 36,000 flight hours - the equivalent of four years in the air.

Lev opens a folder and takes out a faded certificate - it is an official letter of thanks to him from Joseph Stalin. He speaks fondly of the Soviet dictator.

Lev's letter of thanks from Joseph Stalin

Lev's letter of thanks from Joseph Stalin

“On the side of my warplane were these words: 'For the motherland! For Stalin!'

“But what about the repressions?” I ask. “What about Stalin’s terror?”

“You don’t understand,” he says dismissively. “Stalin was a patriot. He was an intelligent, modest, iron man.”

He tells me how he thinks Russians have survived a century of drama and bloodshed.

“Because our people are strong; we are patriotic; we love our land and we are ready to die for it.”

Lev talks at length about the USSR’s military encounters with foreign powers. Yet when he was a child, Russians were fighting Russians. The civil war that followed the revolution divided families across the country - it was bloody and brutal. Forces loyal to the Bolsheviks, the Reds, were battling the opponents of communism, the Whites. Not until 1922 did the Bolsheviks finally establish control over the Far East.

The decisive battle of the civil war took place near Khabarovsk, on a hill by the village of Volochaevka. When the Reds won, the victors did all they could to make sure that history would record them as the heroes.

Soviet artists produced a 43m-long panoramic painting of the battle to proclaim the victory of communism. It was celebrated in song, too. A military march about Volochaevka became one of the most popular numbers in the Red Army Choir’s repertoire.

On the battle site, a museum was built to honour the heroism and sacrifice of the pro-Soviet soldiers. A memorial plaque referred to 118 Reds in a communal grave. There was no mention of the Whites who died here.

The monument marking the battle at Volochaevka

The monument marking the battle at Volochaevka

Yet as post-communist Russia begins to look more critically at the revolution, the official interpretation of the civil war, too, is changing.

On Volochaevka hill today the museum is closed; the building is crumbling. The Orthodox Church has erected a small chapel here - a sign that this area is no longer a communist shrine.

At the local high school, children are taught that the civil war was a tragedy for all Russians, with no “good guys” or “bad guys”. The school museum recounts the battle of Volochaevka in neutral tones. On display here are rusting bayonets, bullet casings and guns from the battle, found by students in the forest.

“It would be wrong to show a bias for the Reds or the Whites,” teacher Alexei Zaitsev tells me. “We try to find a middle way and recount this historical event through facts.”

The school museum is open to the public. But not all the visitors appreciate the revised history.

“It wasn’t that long ago that the Soviet Union disappeared,” Alexei reminds me. “Some of our visitors still support the USSR and don’t like what we say now about the Whites.”

Like shifting sands, the past in Russia seems to change right under your feet. One moment Russians are being told to praise “Great October”; the next they are being told the revolution was not so great after all. One day religion is the “opium of the people”; the next it is the life and soul of Russia. So often here the past is rewritten, reinterpreted, reshaped, depending on who is in power.

“Every 50 years everything changes here. We cope.”

Back in Khabarovsk, I meet three generations of one family strolling in the park: 13-year-old Sofia, her mother, Anna, and grandmother, Nina.

“It’s difficult when history changes,” Anna tells me. “It’s hard for youngsters to understand what is good and what is bad. TV says one thing, parents say another and teachers say something else.”

“Yes,” says Sofia. “It’s hard to know which opinion is the right one.”

“Then again, it’s always been like this in Russia,” reflects Anna. “Every 50 years everything changes here. We cope.”

On the banks of the Amur river, I chat to pensioner Alexander Vasilievich. He is clearly struggling to make sense of Russia’s past.

Alexander accuses the man who led the October Revolution of hoodwinking the people.

“Lenin promised land to the peasants and factories to the workers. But he didn’t deliver.”

He remembers how empty the shops were in Khabarovsk in Soviet times.

“I used to fly to Moscow to buy shoes,” he admits. And yet Alexander is nostalgic about the communist past.

“I want it all back as it was. Back then I always had a job and a decent salary. Workers had more social protection, too, than now.”

“Not under Stalin, surely?” I reply. “What about the terror?”

“Who on earth knows who was right back then and who was wrong?” he answers.

“Who on earth knows…?” is not the kind of question you will hear from 100-year-old Lev Lipovich. I suspect he will always see himself as a “son of October” and retain an iron belief in the revolution and its ideals.

But on my journey across Russia I have met many people who feel confused and disoriented by the current reinterpretation of history. For life is not easy in a country where not only the future is unpredictable, but also the past.

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