Celebrate the witching hours

Drop Dead Gorgeous
Reads and Recs

Content Warning: Please note some of the book recommendations below mention triggering topics including violence and abuse.

I’m biased, but reading is one of the best and most accessible ways to celebrate any and every holiday, especially the American pastime we call Spooky Season! The sweet spot between Meg Ryan Fall and Diane Keaton Winter is best commemorated with stories that go past the traditional gotcha of a theme-park-haunt-night.

To tie you over until it’s appropriate to re-read Little Women 100 hundred times in 31 days, below are some book recs and Forty Winks pairings that are perfect for embracing the season of the witch—or, if you’re just looking for something atmospheric as we greet the colder and darker days ahead.



An Eerie Longing

mexican gothic

by
silvia moreno-garcia

Taking all the best parts of the gothic genre and imbuing them with sensuous exposition and contemporary themes, Moreno-Garcia’s novel of surreality, dread, and control might leave you as disturbed as its protagonist.

Set in 1950s Mexico and paced like a del Torro horror, Mexican Gothic tells the story of Noémi, a young woman begged and beckoned by her cousin for help: she believes her new husband is trying to kill her. In honoring this bond of family and friendship something much more sinister than just a potentially homicidal husband is revealed.

This high drama story demands a high drama look: deep colors and luxe detailing will have you feeling like you're in the lustrous countryside that serves as the background for this haunting read, mercifully without the psychological terror.



at home haunted houses

in the dream house

by
carmen maria machado

Like your new favorite lounge set or a pair of silk pajamas, In the Dream House is essential no matter the season. Machado’s memoir reinvents the medium with her haunting and heartbreaking retelling of loving and leaving her abusive ex-girlfriend.

Katy Waldman described this memoir as a haunted carnival ride: each chapter jerks into a different genre in its retelling of domestic violence. Through using such a wide variety of styles and genres to paint a vivid, frenetic picture of what happens when your dream turns into a literal nightmare, the book can sometimes feel like fiction in its illusory atmosphere.

With generous candor and precise self-awareness, In The Dream House is also an examination of queer identity in a one-sitting read that is anything but comfortable.



for all the witches
in the struggle

circe

by
madeline miller

Considered by some as history’s first witch, Circe is brought to life by the brilliant Madeline Miller in this retelling of ancient legends through modern dilemmas.

A novel about trauma, survival, rage, and forgiveness; Circe may be an immortal witch but she is human in her condition. Miller unpacks Circe’s relationship with her father Helios—and her siblings and the other gods and non-mortals of her youth—as well as her post-exile run-ins with vicious sailors, and Odysseus and his men through romantic and lyrical prose that’s often reminiscent of a spell you might recite under a full moon, in grounding layers of luscious fabrics.



dark and dangerous

the perfect nanny

by
leila slimani

Calling this book a plain old thriller does it a disservice: Slimani’s killer-nanny novel will stun you with its plot and prose.

This read is not for the faint of heart: Inspired by the 2012 murders of two young children by their babysitter, The Perfect Nanny opens with a mother at the crime scene of her dead son and daughter. Knowing the outcome of this family as we go back through the origin of their relationship with their nanny, Louise, makes the novel all the more fraught, tense, and terrifying.

Slimani is a prolific writer whose penchant for investigating the dynamics of caregiving and power in family manages to shine through brilliantly in this genuinely terrifying and eerie read. The Perfect Nanny is the perfect fit for francophiles that love an accent collar and lace trimmings.



friction and fiction

my sister, the serial killer

by
oyinkan braithwaite

A morbid and hilarious novella set in the vibrant Lagos, this a-typical thriller combines a slasher fest with a love triangle, and dialogue and a sense of humor Patrick Bateman couldn’t even dream of.

Protagonist Kayode is constantly cleaning up after her sister...like literally cleaning up her crime scenes because she is a serial killer. The power dynamics of sisterhood, familial bonds, modern romance, and the parasocial nature of social media are examined in Braithwaite’s searing commentary that paints this short but sometimes-sweet book.


Fledgling

by octavia e. butler

I really don’t like to yuck anyone’s yum but whether you’re a Twihard or Fanpire, you really should be reading Fledgling instead. Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction vampire story was her final novel and combines all the things Butler fans love most about her work: stringent demands of her reader to immerse themselves in her immaculately constructed worlds and the allegories told through evocative and philosophical prose. Channel your inner vamp while you read this non-traditional vampire novel in something velvety from Undress Code.


carrie

by stephen king

Now we couldn’t get through Spooky Season without a Stephen King recommendation! For a novel written by a st*aight m*n—his debut novel, nonetheless!—its preoccupation with the nuances of puberty from a female perspective is sincerely astute. This terrifying and brilliantly paced horror novel is a classic, so it’s best read in a foundations collection piece or two.


ninth house

by Leigh Bardugo

Modern magic meets collegiate secret societies and murder mystery in the first of Leigh Bardugo’s YA series about anti-hero Alex Stern. Ninth House is best read in soft modals on a foggy night to really lean into Bardugo’s deftly constructed world of ghosts, snobs, sleuths, and heartbreak.


author bio

Maddie Coleman is a sometimes writer, reader, and recovering New England resident, currently avoiding direct sunlight in her hometown of Los Angeles. She is the excessive exclamation points behind the monthly-ish newsletter, Wait, Have You Read This? the internet’s #1 source for unsolicited book recommendations, coming back to your inboxes next month-ish.