A Series of Unfortunate Events author Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) has rounded up 10 of his favorite Halloween-themed books for children and adults, including eerie picture books, whimsical middle grade, and dystopian literary fiction. Here, we collect Snicket’s picks, along with our own annotations.
The Three Robbers
By Tomi Ungerer (Roberts Rinehart, 1961). Three robbers terrorize the countryside until they are subdued by a charming orphan girl.
The Witches of Worm
By Zilpha Keatley Snyder (SS/Atheneum, 1972). Twelve-year-old Jessica believes that the cat she has found is under a witch’s spell and is responsible for her own unusual behavior.
The Magic Finger
By Roald Dahl (Harper Row, 1962). An eight-year-old girl turns her magic finger on a neighboring family.
By Susan Rich et al. (HarperCollins, 2009). This anthology of brief horror stories features works by an assortment of authors and illustrators, including Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Gaiman, and Jack Gantos.
The Blue Aspic
By Edward Gorey (Meredith Pres, 1968). Aspiring opera singer Ortenzia Caviglia gets her big break when a diva is mysteriously murdered.
Three Masquerades: Novellas
By Rachel Ingalls (Pharos Editions, 2017). Daniel Handler edited this collection of short fiction by Ingalls, which he writes in the introduction “has haunted me for years.”
The Lair of the White Worm
By Bram Stoker (Deodand, 1911). Relocating to England, a young man works beside his uncle to uncover a monster.
Devils in Daylight
By Junichiro Tanizaki, trans. from the Japanese by J. Keith Vincent (New Directions, 2017). After a sleepless night working on a manuscript for his editor, Takahashi receives a call from Sonomura, an old friend who suffers from an unspecified mental illness. Sonomura asks Takahashi to accompany him to witness a murder. In this story originally published in 1918, readers are never entirely sure what to believe.
By Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf, 2014). St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic tale begins with a performance of King Lear cut short by the onstage death of its lead. In the audience is a young actress, Kirsten Raymonde; Leander’s is only the first death she will witness, as a pandemic wipes out all but a few pockets of civilization. Twenty years later, Kirsten, now a member of a theater troupe, travels through a wasteland inhabited by a dangerous prophet and his followers.
Up Above the World
By Paul Bowles (Harper Perennial, 1966). What starts as a friendly meeting between an American tourist couple and their hosts, a young man and his mistress, soon takes on an atmosphere of horror.
This booklist was originally featured by the Boston Public Library, in celebration of Snicket’s appearance at the Boston Book Festival on October 28.