The power of the best spooky tales is that they prompt the reader to imagine—imagine what it would be like if you had a ghost who followed you, or if a loved one, long dead, returned to life, or to be raised by ghosts. While not jump-at-you scary, all of these books prompt the spooky side of the imagination and offer a range of thrills and shivers.
- The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (Vintage). In Brockmeier’s lyrical novel, the dead occupy the city until they fade from the memory of those still living. When a virus sweeps across the globe, the city is quickly depopulated, save those who are connected to Laura Byrd.
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins). After the murder of his family, 18-month-old Nobody Owens toddles into a graveyard. There he is raised by ghosts (charmingly from different time periods) and largely looked over by Silas, a mysterious guardian figure, which is a good thing since the murderer’s deeds are not yet done.
- The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin (Doubleday). Blending ghosts with hard-boiled crime, Irwin conjures a riveting postapocalyptic landscape in which each person living is accompanied by their own personal ghost, a world in which that ghost can be a person’s excuse for murder.
- The Returned by Jason Mott (MIRA: Harlequin). In this finely crafted novel, the dead return to their loved ones in a global wave; Mott explores the void death leaves in our lives and the surprising and chaotic repercussions of those gaps made whole.
- Help for the Haunted by John Searles (Morrow). Infused with a gothic tones and spooky details, Searles’s novel unfolds in loops of time as Sylvie, the 14-year-old daughter of ghost hunters, seeks to discover who murdered her parents in a church basement.