45 seriously spooky (but not quite scary) books.

45 seriously spooky (but not scary) books | Modern Mrs Darcy

I dreaded Halloween story hour as a kid. (Classic HSP.) The librarian inevitably read us too many ghost stories, and I’d spend the half hour with my fingers in my ears, humming softly to myself and trying not to hear. It never worked, and I’d have nightmares for weeks. My poor sensitive soul just couldn’t handle it.

Now that I’m an adult, I still hate scary stories. I don’t read horror novels, not ever. But I do enjoy a good creepy book. I love chilling mysteries and psychological thrillers: books that make my hair stand on end, but still allow me to sleep at night.

(It turns out you do, too: I asked you on facebook for your suggestions, and you provided an impressive list of books that are spooky, but not scary.)

If you hate horror but are still up for a spine-chilling read, these are the books for you.

Spine-chilling books I love

  1. In the Woods, Tana French. Definitely disturbing, but un-put-down-able. Tana French writes an amazing psychological thriller.
  2. 11/22/63, Stephen King. This would never be defined as horror, but it is spine-tinglingly creepy.
  3. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier. A modern Gothic page-turner.
  4. The Starbridge series, by Susan Howatch. Especially the later three books set in the 1960s. Seriously creepy supernatural elements.
  5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling. All the Harry Potters have their suspenseful elements, but this one was specifically mentioned the most.
  6. The Distant Hours (or anything else by Kate Morton). She’s wonderful at psychological drama.
  7. The Sea of Tranquility, Katja Millay. This gave me serious goosebumps. One of my favorite books of the year.

Creepy classics

  1. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  2. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  3. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  4. 1984, George Orwell
  5. The Telltale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe
  6. The Giver, Lois Lowry
  7. The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
  8. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (This link goes to the collection illustrated by Canadian artist Jacqui Oakley, who did the gorgeous covers for Anne of Green Gables and the additional L. M. Montgomery titles that appeared here.)
  9. The Nancy Drew collection (not the new Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series), by Carolyn Keene

Reader favorites:

  1. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
  2. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, R. A. Dick
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  4. Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
  5. Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
  6. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind
  7. Pines, Blake Crouch
  8. The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  9. Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson. (The movie with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman is hitting theaters on October 31.)
  10. Don’t Breath a Word, Jennifer McMahon
  11. The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova

Tales of the apocalypse

  1. The Road, Cormac McCarthy.
  2. World Made by Hand, James Howard Kunstler
  3. The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton
  4. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card.
  5. The Stand, Stephen King.

Creepy books I’m dying to read

  1. Among the Shadows, L. M. Montgomery. A collection of nineteen Montgomery stories, unlike anything else she ever wrote.
  2. The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield. Every Jane Eyre fan worth her salt has this on her reading list.
  3. Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve heard such good things about Ishiguro’s work.
  4. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel. The hook: Shakespeare + a global pandemic.
  5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson. I’ve wanted to read this ever since I heard about it on the Books on the Nightstand podcast.
  6. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie. Because I’ve never read a Christie novel (I know!) and I’ve heard good things about this one.
  7. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak. Because everyone says so.

Truth is scarier than fiction

  1. The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus, Richard Preston

“Creepy” might not quite cover it

  1. Flowers in the Attic, V. C. Andrews
  2. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
  3. Bag of Bones, Stephen King
  4. Shutter Island, Dennis Lehane
  5. Bird Box, Josh Malerman

What are your favorite spooky—but not quite scary—novels?

P.S. The next MMD newsletter is going out in a day or two. I’m talking about what’s saving my life right now, and sharing my favorite Halloween essay, ever. If you’re not on the list, sign up here.

Books that are really engaging, but easy to read.

Books that are really engaging, but easy to read. | Modern Mrs Darcy

The details on this ongoing project, and the factors I’m taking to heart.

Readers told me 3 books they loved, 1 book they hated, and what they’re reading right now. In turn, I’m recommending 3 books for each reader. (Or more, if I can’t help myself.)

This week we’re choosing books for Carrie. Carrie is pregnant, and was hospitalized seven weeks ago with preterm premature rupture of membranes at 21 weeks. After six weeks of bed rest, Carrie sent me an SOS request for literary matchmaking, saying the antsiness was beginning to undo her. (I can imagine!)

She also said that she needed “something really engaging to help pass the time, but at a reading level that’s not too difficult because I have trouble concentrating right now. (Could be a general pregnancy thing, but it’s also a side effect of bed rest. Ugh!)”

With that in mind, Carrie’s books are:

Love: The Happiness Project, On Rue Tatin (“I’m a big Francophile”), Little Women

Hate: Gone Girl

Last read: To Kill a Mockingbird

My picks: 

An outstanding French memoir: My Life in France by Julia Child

A fun, not terribly challenging novel: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

A new book about happiness: The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

Wonderful kid lit: Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

Also recommended: any breezy novels or kid lit selections from the MMD reading guides

I sincerely hope Carrie has already read My Life in France because it’s absolutely perfect for her. If she hasn’t, this should be her #1 choice (and I don’t use the word “should” very often when I talk about reading, so that’s saying something!) Even if you’re not an avid Francophile or foodie, it’s a wonderful book: Child is warm, wise, and laugh-out-loud funny.

I chose The Princess Bride because it’s entertaining and engaging, but not a difficult read, and Carrie’s likely already familiar with the story. (If you’ve seen the movie, it’s worth reading the book. They’re both good, and very different.) I’d also recommend any number of breezy novels as found in the summer reading guide, which are fast and easy-to-read, but not dumb.

I chose The Happiness of Pursuit because of Carrie’s love for The Happiness Project. I’m reading this new release right now, and am enjoying it enough to recommend it as an engaging nonfiction pick.

Kid lit is an obvious solution to Carrie’s requirements: this would be a wonderful time to read or re-read any of the wonderful series by authors such as Noel Streatfeild, Maud Hart Lovelace, L. M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and more. I chose Rose in Bloom because it’s a wonderful, though lesser-known work by the author of Carrie’s favorite Little Women. (It’s also free for Kindle.)

What books would YOU recommend that are really engaging, but not difficult?

(AN UPDATE: Carrie delivered baby Josiah Levi at 27 weeks. His doctors say he seems more like a 29 week-er. The doctors say they’re not worried about him, but they both still have a rough road ahead of them. Thoughts and prayers appreciated.)

View all the literary matchmaking posts here.

Books so gorgeous they just might turn me into a collector.

In Bloom collection Rifle Paper Co

I love books, but I’ve never been much of a collector.

Until now.

The universe is clearly conspiring to turn me into a collector of gorgeous classics.


Of course—like so many book lovers—I’ve always admired beautiful collections of classics. I adore the Penguin clothbound collection, and their Drop Caps series. Barnes and Nobles puts out a lovely classics collection, and I’m over the moon for anything from The Folio Society.

I could never decide on which series to start with, so I never did.

But recently, I’ve discovered several smaller collections that are so drool-worthy I had to snatch them up. Or at least add them to my Christmas list.

Anne of Green Gables Carmichael's

It started with this beautiful edition of Anne of Green Gables I saw at our local children’s bookstore. I was overcome with Book Lust.

Then I found out it was part of a small collection of classics done by Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Company.

I came home and ordered the whole set.

Puffin in Bloom stacked

(After all, Jack was about to start Anne of Green Gables in school, and Sarah was about to start Heidi. We were already halfway there….)

Anne of Green Gables flyleaf

the inside cover of Anne of Green Gables. Anne and Diana! little picket fences for Josie Pye to walk! Gilbert Blythe!

But then.

Then I asked the library to send me The Blue Castle, because my copy is AWOL and I was itching for a re-read. (Two words: we moved.) The library fulfilled my request with this gorgeous new edition.

I was intrigued.

I did some digging, and found out the cover was done by Canadian artist Jacqui Oakley. She’d been commissioned to do new covers for The Blue Castle and several other L. M. Montgomery books, and they were released last April.

Montgomery covers

I want them all, but I only ordered Jane of Lantern Hill. My justification: it was the one book of the series I hadn’t read, even though several fans I know cite it as their favorite Montgomery novel. Despite their devotion, it had been out of print until these editions rolled off the presses last April. I’ve never read it, and the library doesn’t have it.

(Sometimes, a book nerd has to do what a book nerd has to do.)

I also discovered that Oakley was commissioned to do new covers for all the Anne books (well, all but Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside, which is a shame: I would love to see how she would draw Rilla!)

Oakley Anne of Green Gables

I’m still swooning over these, but I haven’t ordered them—yet. I’m still waiting for my Anne books to turn up. If they don’t, and maybe even if they do, I’m snatching up this collection for my personal bookshelves.

I would tell you I’m not really into “stuff,” and I’m not much of a collector, but reading—and displaying—these gorgeous classics has been all kinds of delightful. I’ve always said I’m not a book collector, but maybe that’s because I hadn’t met the right books. These small but perfect collections are making me change my mind.

Luckily, Christmas is coming. Because my wish list is filling up fast.

I know many of you are book lovers, and some of you are collectors. I’d love to hear your thoughts about collecting—the good, the bad, and the ugly—in comments. 

My new little book page pumpkin.

How to turn a paperback novel into a book page pumpkin. This is a highly satisfying DIY: fun, fast, easy, and the results are adorable.

(Warning: if you’re horrified at the idea of ripping a book to shreds in the name of a cutesy DIY project, you should maybe stop reading right about now.)

As a book lover but not a literary purist, I’ve been wanting to try my hand at some kind of book art for ages. I have my sights set on beautiful (and intimidating) Christmas creations, but somehow the stakes seem much lower for fall crafting.

Fall, as a general rule, is forgiving. And pumpkins are round-ish. And with those two encouraging thoughts, I dove in.

I started by picking up a copy of Shopaholic Ties the Knot at my library’s book sale for $0.25. My first choice—based on size, shape, and my visceral reaction to gutting a perfectly decent paperback—was a trashy romance novel. But then I realized that even if you hack a book to pieces and stretch it like a fan, you can still read the words. My little book page pumpkin could very well end up on the kitchen table if it turned out cute enough, and I didn’t want my kids reading sex scenes—even fragmented ones—over breakfast.

(I still haven’t read anything by Sophie Kinsella, but I fully intend to one of these days. Sounds like summer reading to me.)

How to turn a paperback novel into a book page pumpkin. This is a highly satisfying DIY: fun, fast, easy, and the results are adorable.

Once I had my book in hand, I free-handed a pumpkin template, based on that little ceramic pumpkin in the picture above.

Then it was time to get started in earnest.

I splayed the book out wide, right down the middle, and traced my pumpkin template onto the book’s pages. Working 10-15 pages at a time, I used sturdy craft scissors to cut out the pumpkin shape.

(Note: remove the book’s cover first. I didn’t, because I expected the cover to give my pumpkin shape and body. It turns out that the cover just gets in the way.)

How to turn a paperback novel into a book page pumpkin. This is a highly satisfying DIY: fun, fast, easy, and the results are adorable.

It worked just fine, but took longer than I thought it would. If you’re the planning-ahead sort, I highly recommend a little $4 X-acto knife instead of scissors.

(Related: I found you can really manhandle the book and it still won’t fall apart.)

When I was done cutting, I stood the pages on end and fanned them out to form a globed shape, then used a hot glue gun to secure. (Basically, I used the hot glue to attach page 1 to page 300.) Photo squares or glue dots would also work just fine for a book this size.

My newly-formed pumpkin looked a little lopsided at this point. I fluffed it a bit by using my fingers to spread the pages out evenly, then reinforced my work in a dozen or so places with thin lines of carefully applied hot glue.

To tint it gently orange, I gave it a quick spray with Krylon spray paint (in Bauhaus gold, because that’s what I had on hand).

After I finished with the spray paint, I grabbed a twig out of the backyard, snipped it down to size, and attached with hot glue. Then I added a bow for good measure.

This little pumpkin is now happily sitting in my entry, with a velvet pumpkin and a real one from Trader Joe’s, on a little demilune table the Nester inspired me to drag up from the basement. (I am loving her 31 days series on vignettes. This is my favorite post so far, for obvious reasons.)

How to turn a paperback novel into a book page pumpkin. This is a highly satisfying DIY: fun, fast, easy, and the results are adorable.

Now I have Christmas book crafting on the brain. Trees, angels, and ornaments here I come. Wish me luck?

Have you seen any book are projects? I’d love to hear all about them in comments.

Linking up with Thrifty Thursday.