The best novels about ghosts

Kevin Brockmeier Author Of The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories
By Kevin Brockmeier

Who am I?

I’ve written and published one hundred very short ghost stories, plus a handful of longer ones, and have spent a lifetime reading and watching and thinking about stories of ghosts and the afterlife. My expertise, such as it is, involves ghosts as beings of narrative and metaphor. I’ve encountered great numbers of them on the page and on the screen—nowhere else—but I confess that I would love someday (though don’t expect) to encounter them in the flesh. My flesh, that is to say; their fleshlessness.


I wrote...

The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories

By Kevin Brockmeier,

Book cover of The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories

What is my book about?

A spirit who is fated to spend eternity reliving the exact moment she lost her chance at love, ghostly trees that haunt the occupant of a wooden house, specters that snatch anyone who steps into the shadows, and parakeets that serve as mouthpieces for the dead—these are just a few of the characters in this extraordinary compendium of one hundred ghost stories. Kevin Brockmeier’s fiction has always explored the space between the fantastical and everyday with profundity and poignancy. Like his previous books, The Ghost Variations discovers new ways of looking at who we are and what matters to us, exploring how mysterious, sad, strange, and comical it is to be alive—or, as it happens, not to be.

The books I picked & why

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Ghosts

By César Aira, Chris Andrews (translator),

Book cover of Ghosts

Why this book?

Aira is one of the most interesting novelists alive today, a writer whose wit, energy, and unfailingly restless imagination ensure that his books never follow a straightforward path, and thus always surprise you. Ghosts, my favorite of those books, presents the story of a half-constructed luxury apartment complex, the ghosts who wander its beams and its floors, and the adolescent girl to whom they call. Recommended if you like your ghosts circumambulating and avant-garde.


A Fine & Private Place

By Peter S. Beagle,

Book cover of A Fine & Private Place

Why this book?

Beagle is best known for his novel The Last Unicorn, but A Fine and Private Place, written when he was just nineteen, is even better, I think. It takes place in a Brooklyn cemetery, where two recently disembodied spirits meet, fall in love, and resolve not to sink into oblivion. Recommended if you like your ghosts wistful, lyrical, and romantic.


Alive in Necropolis

By Doug Dorst,

Book cover of Alive in Necropolis

Why this book?

This, Dorst’s first novel, adopts the trappings of a police procedural but is at heart a character drama seasoned with elements of the supernatural. It follows the fortunes of a rookie cop in the “cemetery city” of  Colma, California, whose charges, he quickly discovers, include both the living and the dead. Recommended if you like your ghosts eerie and your human beings haunted not only by wakeful spirits but by their own personal blunders and false starts.


With

By Donald Harington,

Book cover of With

Why this book?

Harington was one of the great unheralded—or at least under heralded—novelists of the last fifty years, bursting with stories and whole populations of flawlessly captured human voices, and With was one of his highest achievements. It follows the fortunes of a kidnapped girl in the Arkansas Ozarks who befriends the woods’ menagerie of animals, as well as the ghost (or, as Harington would style it, the “in-habit”) of a twelve-year-old boy whose body did not die but moved away and abandoned him. Recommended if you like your ghosts warm-hearted and aching for home.


Guestbook: Ghost Stories

By Leanne Shapton,

Book cover of Guestbook: Ghost Stories

Why this book?

One of the most inventive novels of recent years, Leanne Shapton’s Guestbook uses prose, photographs, and illustrations to find thirty-three ways of approaching the ghost story. The book moves swiftly and exhilaratingly through its pages, which are knit together by a sense of what it means for spirits to fasten themselves unexpectedly to people and what it means for people to feel haunted. Recommended if you like your ghosts both abundantly imagined and abundantly pictured.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in ghost story, ghosts, and Northern California?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ghost story, ghosts, and Northern California.

Ghost Story Explore 78 books about ghost story
Ghosts Explore 94 books about ghosts
Northern California Explore 11 books about Northern California

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Tamsin, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe, and The Bewitching of Aveline Jones if you like this list.