The best books not just about ghosts but what it means to be haunted

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author living in northeastern Massachusetts. I've always been fascinated and delighted by ghosts and ghost stories, whether in books or the sharing of personal experiences. Ghosts are so utterly human, and yet … not. We're unnerved by the idea that we can stand in a seemingly safe place, e.g. home, not knowing that in a different time, some unexplained, traumatic event occurred there. A ghost is a bridge between people, times, and places, a memory with form and shape, a ready-made mystery, many times without a satisfying explanation. But sometimes the most powerful ghosts are the ones we hold inside. Sometimes the place contains a ghost because we ourselves brought the haunting. 


I wrote...

The Ocean in Winter

By Elizabeth de Veer,

Book cover of The Ocean in Winter

What is my book about?

The three Emery sisters’ lives changed forever when their mother drowned herself in the bathtub of their home in northeastern Massachusetts. Now the sisters are adults and each one is at a crossroads: oldest sister, Alex, rushes home from roaming in India to inherit an old house – which seems to be haunted; middle sister, Colleen, is coping with her failing marriage. The youngest sister, Riley, seems to be living the dream as a model in New York, but the truth is she’s an addict and her career is on the edge. She keeps many painful secrets from her sisters, but she’s cut herself off from the family. Will Alex and Colleen find Riley in time to keep her from reliving their mothers’ fate? 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Haunting of Hill House

Elizabeth de Veer Why did I love this book?

This might be the all-time best ever book about a haunted house that infects its visitors with unexplained grief and vitriol even before they walk inside. In the name of science, a scholar invites a group to stay in a haunted house. The story that follows is told with classic horror elements including bloody writing on the wall; but in the end, it’s the subtle way that the house is simply strange: badly designed, peculiar characters who fade inexplicably in and out, and the odd, off-kilter way the characters interact. So much is just off, leaving the reader feeling thoroughly unsettled. And in the end? Well, the house always wins. 

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

32 authors picked The Haunting of Hill House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by Academy Award-winning director of The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro

Filmmaker and longtime horror literature fan Guillermo del Toro serves as the curator for the Penguin Horror series, a new collection of classic tales and poems by masters of the genre. Included here are some of del Toro's favorites, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Ray Russell's short story "Sardonicus," considered by Stephen King to be "perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written," to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and stories…


Book cover of The Graveyard Book

Elizabeth de Veer Why did I love this book?

The main character, a baby, survives when his family is murdered by a shadowy man. The baby makes his way to a graveyard where he is adopted by a kind, childless ghost couple and given the name Nobody, or Bod, for short. From there, he is enveloped into the community of ghosts and ghouls who inhabit the graveyard, many of whom become a caring, protective, supportive family to Bod, some of whom are frightening and other-worldly. But the character who causes the most trouble in the story is abjectly human, a killer with an extraordinary sense of smell referred to as “the man Jack.” In the end, Bod is haunted by his family’s murder and the human who perpetrated this crime, not by the ghosts. 

By Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Graveyard Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing his entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him - after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod's life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man?


Book cover of The Shining

Elizabeth de Veer Why did I love this book?

Jack Torrance is an alcoholic who is abusive toward children, including his own young son who is sensitive, psychic, and clairvoyant. But since this is another masterful work from Stephen King, the details are pulled and pushed until all the elements crash together in a terrible fever dream. Jack accepts a job caring for a giant man-eating hotel in the middle of an unending blizzard. The ghosts in this story are real, physical, and out for blood. 

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The Shining as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Before Doctor Sleep, there was The Shining, a classic of modern American horror from the undisputed master, Stephen King.

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around…


Book cover of Rebecca

Elizabeth de Veer Why did I love this book?

The outside of the story is a cliché – older, handsome, wealthy man meets young, penniless, (ahem, nameless and orphaned) girl and, after a whirlwind romance, marries her and brings her to his mansion in England. But the good part is inside, gooey, messy, and sharp like the cherry inside a chocolate. It’s death by subtlety: man’s first wife – the aforementioned Rebecca (she gets a name) – haunts the mansion, not as a specter, but as an indelible memory to all who knew her. We never encounter Rebecca in any direct way, but the shape of her character, who was loved, worshipped, and reviled, comes into sharp relief, standing over our heroine, making conditions impossible. Best absentee ghost story ever written. 

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked Rebecca as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…


Book cover of Beloved

Elizabeth de Veer Why did I love this book?

Sometimes the ghost takes physical shape and stands up to force us to reckon with the many and varied horrors of a profoundly traumatic past. This is what the ghost of the child, who goes by the name Beloved, for it was all her mother could afford to have carved in her headstone, does. Beloved is not an easy read, partly because it focuses on one of the ugliest, most horrific chapters of American history, and partly due to the intricate literary style that intermingles past and present plus quickly shifting points of view. In the end, there is redemption, but even after the book is done, ghosts of racism and the legacy of slavery will continue to haunt the reader, as well they should. 

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

37 authors picked Beloved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Toni Morrison was a giant of her times and ours... Beloved is a heart-breaking testimony to the ongoing ravages of slavery, and should be read by all' Margaret Atwood, New York Times

Discover this beautiful gift edition of Toni Morrison's prize-winning contemporary classic Beloved

It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her…


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The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

Book cover of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

Kathryn Betts Adams Author Of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I was first a clinical social worker and then a social work professor with research focus on older adults. Over the past few years, as I have been writing my own memoir about caring for my parents, I’ve been drawn to memoirs and first-person stories of aging, illness, and death. The best memoirs on these topics describe the emotional transformation in the writer as they process their loss of control, loss of their own or a loved one’s health, and their fear, pain, and suffering. In sharing these stories, we help others empathize with what we’ve gone through and help others be better prepared for similar events in their own lives.

Kathryn's book list on Memoirs illness aging death moving vivid prose

What is my book about?

The Pianist's Only Daughter is a frank, humorous, and heartbreaking exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her mother, an English scholar and poet, and her father, a pianist and music professor. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' newly single father flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Their daughter watches in disbelief…

The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

What is this book about?

Grounded in insights about mental health, health and aging, The Pianist’s Only Daughter: A Memoir presents a frank and loving exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her English scholar and poet mother and her pianist father. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' father finds himself single and flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with…


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