Ghosts, Chilling Plots, and Skeletons: An October Reading List

October is the time for Spooky Reads, full of fog, thrills, and secrets. You might be surprised how many of these fun atmospheric reads show up on AP English Literature & Composition and AP English Language & Composition reading lists. This October, check out these fright-filled texts:

Haunting Novels & Plays

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This is the ultimate choice in gloomy Gothic Romanticism. Cathy and Heathcliff are the most enjoyable couple to hate. Against a backdrop of old manors and foggy gray moors, watch them make increasingly horrible, wretched decisions. (All of the Bronte sisters’ books have an autumnal sadness to them, especially my personal favorite Villette).

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

This play likely needs the least introduction of our suggestions. Hauntings, murders, plots for the crown, and a prince’s descent into madness. 

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

The witches in this play introduced the world to the now classic rhyme “double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” There’s a lot more to the chant, but you’ll have to read to find out!

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Not only does this vampire novel predate Dracula by 26 years, it also features two female leading ladies! I strongly suggest this for the vampire buff tired of reading the same rehashed cliches.

Medea by Euripides

Another witchy read from the time of Ancient Greek heroes and legends. Medea is intellectual and crafty, capable of brewing potions and carrying out her wicked plans. Arguably the goriest choice on the list, Medea should be the first pick for a fan of horror, gruesome description, and a fascinatingly flawed protagonist.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

The mother of modern science fiction writes the story of a father of monsters. My personal favorite on this list (and nearly any list), Frankenstein is the monster-making story that spawned so many spinoffs in literature, comics, and movies. 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

A children’s fairy tale gone horribly wrong. What could possibly happen when a bored, lonely little girl, newly moved into an old house, starts finding strange dolls and doorways to nowhere?


Grim Poetry

AP Lit. and AP Lang. don’t focus on novels and plays alone. Poetry is a key player too. Check out these authors:

Emily Dickinson

Though not as explicitly frightening as some other authors on this list, Dickinson does write some very macabre poetry. “I heard a Fly buzz- when I died” is a great place to start, combining sufficiently grim imagery with Dickinson’s signature quirks of punctuation and capitalization.

Edgar Allen Poe

While Poe is known for his terrifying short stories, his poetry also depicts eerie scenes and characters.  “The Raven” is a rhythmic marvel and “Annabelle Lee” conveys all the pains of a love lost before her time.

Remember that reading broadly has huge benefits, whether with standardized testing or with academic courses (beyond just AP Humanities courses); it can also be a great break from online learning. Just because Halloween is going to look a little different this year doesn’t mean you can’t find thrills and frights this season.

Happy Reading!

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