Some thrilling discoveries.
Winter is coming! It’s time to up your sweater game and get ready for country fairs, harvest festivals, and Halloween-themed activities. If you have plans to curl up with a page-turner after planning terrifying outfits, then bookmark this list. We’ve gone beyond the usual suspects (Frankenstein, The Shining, Dracula) to bring you intense, thrilling, suspenseful novels to match the feeling of mystique that spins around October. Some aspects of real-life horrors have also made it here—the chills sent down your spine may have nothing to do with the weather.
Top Picks for You
Jodi Picoult’s book Nineteen Minutes was published in 2007, but more than a decade later, it is still relevant. In 19 minutes, a town changes forever when a high school student shoots his classmates, but it isn’t as straightforward as you may think. The trial and the story reveal what pushed him over the edge and why it’s an emotionally complex situation. The psychological thriller focuses on bullying, gun violence, and abuse, along with the themes of parenting and justice. It’s a difficult book to read and a grim subject that’s a reality in the U.S., much to the horror of parents, students, and teachers.
The Handmaid’s Tale
This dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood is another bone-chilling read. It narrates the story of Offred, a handmaid in the totalitarian Republic of Gilead. She remembers a time when she had a name, her own money, a husband, and a child. Now she’s in servitude. She walks to the market once a day, lays on her back once a month as the commander rapes her as part of “The Ceremony,” and hopes that she gets pregnant. She has no autonomy, no identity, no rights—the handmaids are a vessel in this tale and women are dispensable in this regime. It’s a horrifying book (and TV series) and you can also read its sequel, The Testaments, which is set 15 years after the events of this book.
My favorite quote in the book is a mock Latin phrase, “nolite te bastardes carborundorum,” which means “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” It’s a feminist calling, encouraging Offred (and millions of others in the real world) to fight oppression.
Hercule Poirot: The Complete Short Stories
If you’re a fan of the beloved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, then this book is for you. It has more than 50 short whodunit stories written by Agatha Christie with Poirot using his gray cells to uncover crimes. It’ll give you a great laugh as the confident (and cocky) detective goes around solving crimes that leave Captain Arthur Hastings and others dumbfounded.
The novelist has many bestsellers to her name, including Murder On The Orient Express (also starring Hercule Poirot) and And Then There Were None, but this collection of short stories has short and crisp mysteries that make for a delightful read.
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators
Journalist Ronan Farrow’s book reads like a spy novel, but it’s a real-life account of his investigations into Harvey Weinstein. Farrow won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for his story on Weinstein that broke in The New Yorker in 2017—he shares the award with Jodi Kantor and Megan Trowley, who also reported on decades of sexual assault by Weinstein and helped launch the #MeToo Movement.
In his book, Farrow follows the whispers heard in the industry about Weinstein and continues to dig. He finds lies, conspiracies, non-disclosure agreements, and many, many silenced survivors. But he isn’t allowed to air his evidence at NBC because the top-level executives are in on it. Negative stories about Weinstein are bought and killed to protect his image, and non-disclosure agreements offer another shield to the sexual predator. Like the survivors, Farrow is intimidated, threatened, and even followed by Israeli spies. Men in powerful positions are protecting Weinstein and it’s frustrating to see how far this corruption has spread.
What happened to Weinstein is not a mystery—he was convicted and sentenced to 23 years in jail. More than 100 women have accused the infamous producer of harassing and assaulting them. What’s disturbing is that it was known in the industry that he preyed on women and yet he remained a powerful figure for decades, while his victims were discredited and shunned.
HBO has released Farrow’s interviews as a six-part docu-series.
The Silent Patient
Author Alex Michaelides’ debut novel is a gripping psychological thriller. In this book, Alicia Berenson shoots her husband five times in the face and goes silent. She doesn’t utter a word during the investigations or trials. Then enter criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber who wants to get her to talk and treat her in the psychiatric facility where she’s placed. Until the very last pages of the book, you won’t find out the reason Alicia is silent and why Theo is so deeply obsessed with this investigation.
The Count of Monte Cristo
This one’s a classic by French author Alexandre Dumas published in 1844. Our hero is Edmond Dantes, a wrongly imprisoned man who plots revenge against the men who conspired against him.
A 19-year-old Dantes is happy in life, with the woman he loves and a father he looks up to. Then, the young man is sent to jail for 14 years, incarcerated in a small cell for something he didn’t do. As he starts to lose hope, his life takes a turn again. He breaks free, finds a treasure on the Isle of Monte Cristo, and reinvents himself as the Count of Monte Cristo. He not only destroys those who ruined his life, but also helps those who were kind to him. His journey is long, filled with suffering and isolation, but this road to justice is worth a read.
The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town
Well, now that we’re talking about an innocent man, how about a real story of someone who was wrongfully convicted? This true-crime book was written by John Grisham, who is known for his legal thrillers.
It takes the readers to Ada, Oklahoma, where Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz are wrongly convicted of rape and muder of Debbie Sue Carter. It follows the story of their exoneration after spending 11 years in jail. It’s particularly haunting because Ron suffers from mental health issues and the psychological trauma he suffers after being on death row is irreversible.
It is also a docu-series on Netflix.
The Forest of Enchantments
October is the advent of the festive period in India. If you are familiar with the great Hindu epic of Ramayana, then you may know what happens. Here’s a brief recount: Lord Rama is the perfect man; devoted, loyal and just. He marries Goddess Sita, who is kind and generous. After a series of events, Sita gets abducted by Ravana, rescued by Rama, but later exiled because her chastity is questioned.
It’s a deeply tragic love story and author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni retells the tale from the point of view of Sita. In addition, the author also sheds some light on other women characters in the tale and the result is a book that speaks about the injustices done to women and the imbalance of power that favors men—in myth and in reality.
Another myth retold from the point of view of a woman! Circe by Madeline Miller has made it to popular lists and has been recommended by celebrity book clubs—it’s also a bestseller.
The protagonist is the infamous witch of Homer’s Odyssey, Circe. Greek mythology weaves tales of love, suffering, wars, jealousy, power, and magic, and the retelling of Circe is no different. The sorceress is depicted as a flawed immortal with her own share of tragedies. She is isolated and lonely, seen as weak and ungainly, and is banished to an island where she meets other mythical creatures. But she’s a powerful witch, a singular and complex character who builds herself up against all odds and challenges gods and monsters.
Even if you know little to nothing about Greek mythology, this is an epic book to read. HBO is adapting it into an eight-part series.
A Treasury of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales
This hardbound is a keeper. Ireland has a rich tradition of folklore and folktales. For centuries, these oral tales have been told in the country and you’ll still find people who believe in myth and magic. In this book, there are more than 200 stories of fairies, banshees, ghosts, witches, saints, and devils. All imaginative and engrossing; these have been adapted from a variety of sources, and feature an introduction from famous Irish poet W.B. Yeats.
May I also suggest the "Stoker's Wilde" series. Spooky fun as Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker put their differences aside to put down a vampire cult bent on taking over the British Empire. Great mix of humor, history and horror.