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Time to get spooky! With the best holiday of the year close at hand, it’s time to talk about how book lovers can celebrate Gay Christmas by doing what you love best: reading! Below, you’ll find enough Halloween reading challenge ideas and book suggestions to fill a plastic pumpkin bucket — and then some.
Let’s face it: When you get too old to go trick-or-treating, having fun on Halloween becomes a different ballgame altogether. You’ve got to buy your own candy and costume. The whole itinerary becomes your responsibility. It can be a real pain.
(That goes double for the introverts and COVID-conscious folks forgoing this year’s Halloween parties.)
Luckily, there’s nothing a good old-fashioned readathon can’t fix. No bookish costumes or Halloween decorations are required — but if you want to bust out your Log Lady costume, my log will not judge.
Since we’re talking about the creepiest holiday on the calendar, I’ve stuck exclusively to horror and horror-adjacent recommendations to go with these Halloween reading challenge ideas. But if scary stories just aren’t your thing, that’s OK! There’s no reason you can’t read your preferred genres instead. Feel free to take what serves you from this list and leave what doesn’t.
Here are some fantastic Halloween reading challenge ideas that will suit any kind of reader.
Halloween Reading Challenge Ideas for 2023: Readathons
Read a Book, Then Watch the Screen Adaptation
Scary movies are a tried-and-true Halloween tradition, so folding them into your Halloween reading challenge just makes sense. Thankfully, we’ve had a lot of really great page-to-screen adaptations come out in 2023.
Here are a few pairings to consider:
Read as Many Books as You Can
A holiday reading challenge is a great time to clear out your TBR clutter. If you’ve got a bunch of short horror books taking up space on your reading list, now’s the perfect time to knock them all out at once.
This approach also works well for anyone who’s behind on their annual reading challenge. If you don’t have any short books in particular in mind to read this Halloween, try these on for size:
Read — or Listen — Around the Clock
Maybe you want to do a bonafide readathon this Halloween: 24 hours of nonstop reading. (You could also do 13 hours for spooky flavor.) That’s a huge commitment, but listening to some creepy audiobooks could help you reach your goal.
Here are a few horror audiobook pairings — each adding up to at least 13 hours of playtime — that will really set the mood:
Set a Page Goal — With a Theme!
I’m in love with the idea of a Halloween challenge that aims for a holiday-relevant number of pages — think 1,031 or 1,313 — read during the last week of October. You’ll most likely need multiple titles to accomplish this one; aside from our dear Mr. King’s oeuvre, there just aren’t that many doorstopper horror novels out there.
With that in mind, here are some themed book bundles, each adding up to 1,000 pages or more, to inspire your Halloween reading challenge:
- Haunted House Stories: The Spite House by Johnny Compton, Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt, and Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury
- Historical Horror: Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas, All Hallows by Christopher Golden, and The Fervor by Alma Katsu
- Lady Killers: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin, Maeve Fly by CJ Leede, and Sister, Maiden, Monster by Lucy A. Snyder
- Media Horror: Episode Thirteen by Craig DiLouie, The Handyman Method by Nick Cutter and Andrew F. Sullivan, and Mister Magic by Kiersten White
- Stories About Grief: Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez, Monstrilio by Gerardo Sámano Córdova, and The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias
Halloween Reading Challenge Ideas for 2023: Spooky Short Fiction
Read an Inktober Challenge List
Since 2009, artists have eagerly awaited the release of the annual Inktober challenge list: 31 prompts for daily drawings during the month of October. Build your own Inktober challenge by finding a scary short story that corresponds to each item on the list below — or one from another year of your choosing — and reading through them before November rolls around.
Read One Issue of Your Favorite Horror Mag
Let’s get serious for a moment. Amazon’s decision to end Kindle subscriptions for the majority of speculative fiction magazines in September 2023 dealt a major blow to SFF/H publishing. Some publishers have already had to scale back the size of their endeavors, while others have made the difficult decision to shutter. Short-fiction magazines are the backbone of the SFF/H world, and they need your support.
For this reason, I’m challenging you to read — and hopefully purchase — one issue of your favorite horror publication. Don’t have one? Allow me to recommend any of the following:
Read One Horror Collection or Anthology
Reading short stories is one of the best ways to get your literary fix when you’re too busy — or tired, or distracted — to commit to a novel. That doesn’t mean you have to give up the cozy feeling of holding a full-sized book in your hands, however. Anthologies and collections offer whole smorgasbords of reading fun in digestible pieces.
If you’re new to short fiction, consider using one of these titles for your spooky reading challenge:
Halloween Reading Challenge Ideas for 2023: YA and Kid Lit
Read a YA Horror Novel
YA horror novels are having A Moment right now. If you’re not on the bandwagon, you totally should be. Take advantage of the opportunity and pick out a horror book for the teenage set to read this Halloween, or make it a family affair and get your kids or younger siblings in on the fun.
Here are a few YA horror recs to get you started:
Read a Children’s Horror Classic
Children’s media doesn’t get the respect it deserves a lot of the time, but let me tell you: some of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, some of the scariest movies and TV shows I’ve ever watched, have been made for children.
Not convinced? Pick up one of these creepy kid’s classics to read before the month is through:
Introduce a Child to Scary Stories
Speaking of kids, why not get the young’uns in your life into horror this Halloween? Pick up an age-appropriate new release to enjoy alongside them this holiday season. Here are a few of the 2020’s most exciting:
Recap: All Reading Suggestions
Here’s a list of all the books mentioned in this piece:
Need more horror to fuel your spooky Halloween reading challenge? Browse through these trans and nonbinary witch books, Halloween-related nonfiction, and spooky holiday books for adults to find your next read.