The best books to warm your heart and freeze your soul

Who am I?

Ever since I was a little kid, I've loved scary stories. But more than the thrill of being afraid, I was drawn to the notion of befriending the ghosts, of making the frightening familiar, of finding meaning and comfort in the horrific. Maybe that's why I'm now a queer old goth, and maybe it's why my favourite themes to both read and write are those of identity, belonging as an outsider, and the 'monstrous' elevated to the beautiful.

I wrote...

Spirit Houses

By Die Booth,

Book cover of Spirit Houses

What is my book about?

How far would you go for your career? How far would you go for love? How far would you go for the truth? When Manda’s lab partner Daniel goes missing, presumed dead, it’s just another normal day at University Hospital. But the circumstances of his disappearance aren’t quite as straightforward as they seem and take Manda and her colleagues at the Department of Paranatural Medicine on a journey across planes and to the fringes of death to find the truth. Spirit Houses, a supernatural tale of action, adventure, and excellent Scotch, is Die Booth's first full-length novel.

This book is available for purchase here.

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The books I picked & why


By Clive Barker,

Book cover of Cabal

Why did I love this book?

This is one from my teenage years, and one of the first examples I read of 'monsters' having more humanity than a lot of humans.

On the surface, it's a good, pacey horror story about an institutionalised man who has been convinced that he's a murderer. But the themes of exclusion and belonging really speak to me, especially as a queer man who lives with anxiety and depression. The authority figures aren't to be trusted. The 'monstrous' is welcoming. The 'unnatural' is natural. Barker’s prose is flat-out gorgeous in places: "They were what the species he'd once belonged to could not bear to be. The un-people; the anti-tribe; humanity's sack unpicked and sewn together again with the moon inside." It still gives me shivers; oh, how I wanted to join them in Midian!

By Clive Barker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fabulous journey through the mind of the master of dark imaginative fiction, Clive Barker.

The nightmare had begun....

Boone knew that there was no place on this earth for him now; no happiness here, not even with Lori. He would let Hell claim him, let Death take him there.

But Death itself seemed to shrink from Boone. No wonder, if he had indeed been the monster who had shattered, violated and shredded so many others' lives.

And Decker had shown him the proof - the hellish photographs where the last victims were forever stilled, splayed in the last obscene…

The Ghost Drum

By Susan Price,

Book cover of The Ghost Drum

Why did I love this book?

The first in a trilogy from vastly underrated author Susan Price. This is on the surface a charming kids’ book, but moved me more and has haunted me for longer than most 'adult' novels (and is also remarkably dark.) Set in a fairy-tale some-when, somewhere in a blizzard-scoured kingdom, the young witch Chingis seeks to rescue a czarevitch from the tower in which he's imprisoned.
When I first read this book, I cried publicly on a train, it got to me so much. I'm envious of Price's skill at using simple language so exquisitely to conjure vivid, jewel-toned worlds and invoke both deep dread and soaring joy. It's a deceptively simple little tale of freedom, choice, destiny, privilege, responsibility, and love.

By Susan Price,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ghost Drum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alone in a world of darkness and ice, a shaman and a prince long for an end to loneliness.

In the darkest hour of a freezing Midwinter, a night-walking witch begs a slave-woman to give away her new-born baby.

The witch carries off the baby in her house on chicken legs. She names her Chingis and teacher her the Three Magics.

Chingis grows into such a powerful witch that she rouses the jealousy of Kuzma, the bear-shaman.

The Czar of this cold realm fears his new-born son, Safa, will out-do him, and so imprisons the baby at the top of…

The Haunting of Hill House

By Shirley Jackson,

Book cover of The Haunting of Hill House

Why did I love this book?

There's a reason that this is considered a classic.

My best friend sent me a copy of this many years ago and I was absolutely transported by the captivating, atmospheric prose and just how horribly relatable I found Eleanor to be. Nothing has skewered my heart quite as much as "Insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again." That really sums up the whole book for me: yes, it's a subtly done yet frankly terrifying plummet into the psychology of fear, but it's also very much about finding your own way and your own place in the world - no matter where that may be or what it might cost you.

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

27 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…

The Passion

By Jeanette Winterson,

Book cover of The Passion

Why did I love this book?

"What you risk reveals what you value." This struck me so deeply when I first read it that I quote it to this day.

The Passion is a gorgeous, baroque, desperate symphony of a book. A love story spanning time and place, against the odds. The writing elevates the grotesque and disturbing to art. It leads you by the hand through the giddy, opulent confusion of Venice at Carnival and freezes you in the wintery depths of Napoleonic despair. It was one of the first books I read in my teens that was overtly queer and played with gender identity. It holds a very special place in my heart.

By Jeanette Winterson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the frozen Russia of Napoleon's campaign, to the canals of Venice, this novel journeys through curious waterways of war and chance, where destiny and the heart cannot be forgotten - nor passion which is to be found somewhere between fear and sex passion, somewhere between God and the Devil. Jeanette Winterson is author of "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit" which was winner of the 1985 Whitbread First Novel Award.

Book cover of The Repository of Lost Souls: Twelve Tales from the Heart

Why did I love this book?

I read this tiny collection of stories after chatting to the author on social media, and it's what got me reading again after two years of barely reading a thing.

Nostalgic, atmospheric, and vivid, these stories are sometimes stomach-churningly brutal. Even though a lot of them deal with the supernatural, it's the most mundane of situations that are the most anxiety-inducing. They took me right back to my own Northern childhood, with all the mystery, boredom, wonder, and terror it entailed. A very emotional collection with as much heart as heartbreak, wrapped up in chiming prose.

By Jane Roberts-Morpeth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Repository of Lost Souls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to The Repository of Lost Souls. A place for tales – and the people who walk within them – to step inside and rest their weary heads. Meet the vengeful mermaid, the weary ghost. The sibling vampire and the curious child. The family damaged by war. Join the final journey of the Bone Queen.Follow the hare.The Repository of Lost Souls is the debut short story collection of Jane Roberts-Morpeth. Twelve short stories of birth, life, death and beyond, that draw on personal experience and the North East of England, where she lives. Some have a ghostly or paranormal element…

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