Every year, the online bookish community throws itself into the autumn spirit. Even before we hit the spooky month of October, Instagram feeds are often filled with flatlays featuring candles and the first hot drinks of the season. It seems that the community is more excited than ever this year: no doubt due to the escapism that October projects and reads can provide from the reality of 2020.
The most popular bookish content creators can be found on YouTube, with channels such as paperbackdreams and Noelle Gallagher championing the horror genre with their reviews all year round. One of my favourite booktubers this year is bookswithchloe – her reading vlogs and overall aesthetic are the epitome of celebrating the creepiness of October without being too scary.
As many book lovers did, I delved into the depths of bookstagram during the UK lockdown to share my enthusiasm for what I was reading with other literary fans. Since the beginning of October I’ve turned to posting darker photographs and gloomier edits on my feed, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. One wonderful creator who focuses on the horror genre and my new favourite genre, dark academia, is @longingforliterature. For those in search of cosier pictures on their feed, I absolutely recommend @supernova_reads.
It’s such a joy to see users pushing creative boundaries, and being involved with the community this year has inspired me to prioritise reading more. I have an ambitious October TBR (to-be-read) pile, but before I turn to that I’d like to recommend some of the best gothic tomes I’ve devoured so far this year.
If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio is one of the best books I have read this year, regardless of genre. It’s a creepy dark academia novel with a wonderful atmosphere and a murder mystery, and is accessible to even the faint of heart. If We Were Villains is a dramatic piece that follows a group of students who go to an elite arts college, and plays with the concept of what happens once Shakespeare enthusiasts begin to play the parts of their characters offstage.
The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling is a thrilling and claustrophobic debut novel. It follows a caver who is undergoing a secretive project with only the guidance of a lone, questionable handler. It’s not overly scary, but has chilling moments that made me hold my breath.
Rules For Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall is a YA horror novel that is told in a faux documentary style. Switching between prose, interviews, and video footage, Rules For Vanishing tells the story of a town where a path appears in the forest just one night a year. Sara, whose sister went missing the prior year, is determined to follow the road and retrieve her sibling, whatever it takes. I was impressed by how much this creeped me out.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid is a short novel that you’ve probably heard of due to the release of the Netflix adaptation last month. It’s a philosophical, at times nonsensical, account of a woman and her boyfriend going to visit his parents for the first time. The general consensus is that this novel will haunt you long after reading it, with many readers sharing that the anxiety induced in the second half of the book made them step away for a while.
This October, I hope to continue the flow of enjoyable dark reads. I’ve already read The Devouring Gray duology by Christine Lynn Herman, which is extremely reminiscent of Stranger Things but with a witchier twist. I plan to read dark academia staples The Secret History by Donna Tartt and The Furies by Katie Lowe, and expand my horror reading by exploring Stephen King’s The Institute. One of my most anticipated reads is Rory Power’s sophomore novel Burn Our Bodies Down, after I adored her debut Wilder Girls, which is an amalgamation of dystopian fiction and exquisite body horror.
I hope October brings you a month of spooky reads and cosy autumnal evenings! I’ll most likely be found curled up with a book, or trying new techniques for my photos, which will be posted @hatterellreads on bookstagram.