I’ll admit it. I only have time to read about two novels a month. I wish I was reading more but honestly between my kids and my day job and my writing, two books a month is about all I can manage. Because I’m not getting to read as many books as I’d like, choosing what books I do spend my time with is important to me.
Especially in October.
In December I don’t give a fuck about reading anything Christmas related and I sure as shit don’t reach for romance paperbacks in February. But for some reason I always want my October reads to feel like the haunting season.
I don’t just mean horror. Horror novels and short stories make up the bulk of my reading so it doesn’t feel particularly Halloweeny. My October reads need to be set in the spooky season and be rife with jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treaters, and party-goers. (Why are there so many hyphenated Halloween words? Anyone?)
I start thinking about what books I’m going to read in October well ahead of time. This year I knew which two books I’d be reading during the Halloween season way back in the spring. I’ve just been waiting for the time to sink into a hot bath, pour a cup of hot pumpkin spice anything, and get spooky.
This year I am planning to enjoy something old and something new, which, honestly, is the way I typically do it. I like to pair a tried and true Halloween favorite with a new-to-me freaky adventure.
I am starting with a re-read of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree. I read this for the
first time in high school, which is when I was really reading a lot of the titles that strongly influenced my tastes today. Reading The Halloween Tree was a very different experience than I was used to having in that it didn’t scare me but still came across as being super creepy. This is one of the first times I remember being really aware of the atmosphere of the book and how much of an impact it had on my reading experience. I still haven’t managed to write anything with an atmosphere that you can taste like that but, man, I want to.
I feel like I learned a lot from reading The Halloween Tree the first time, which also differs from my typical fiction reading experience. Bradbury has filled the book with little tidbits about this time of year that actually opened my eyes to why I love it so much. Being a teen and even a kid and having all my friends be excited for candy while I felt a true connection to the witching season was always kind of a mind fuck. After reading The Halloween Tree for the first time, I felt like I understood the season and myself better.
“A pumpkin tree,” someone said.
“No,” said Tom.
The wind blew among the high branches and tossed their bright burdens, softly.
“A Halloween Tree,” said Tom.
And he was right.
The one that will be new for me this year is Kealan Patrick Burke’s Dead Leaves. Burke is quickly climbing to the top of my favorite authors list for a million reasons. His fiction hooks me every time. His intros are comparable only to Stephen King’s in that they’re as well written and thought provoking as the stories and make me laugh (read: breathe through my nose a little harder) more times than I’d like to admit. His online presence on social media is horribly strange and dark. And he looks like he should be on the cover of something that is best selling in the erotica section. You know what? Maybe I’ll start reading Burke in October and February.
Both Dead Leaves and The Halloween Tree have jack-o-lanterns on their covers and even looking at them together has really gotten me in the mood for the spooky season. I’m so looking forward to chilly October evenings spent wrapped up in these novels. As always, I’ll report back with my thoughts on Dead Leaves but honestly I am anticipating it being another rave review and too many of those in a row can get very boring. I need something to rip up on every once in a while.
Maybe next month.
I was completely finished writing this blog post, had checked it off my mental to-do list, when I recalled seeing on the back cover that Burke’s book included a recommended Halloween reading list. One of my favorite things about Secret Faces was Burke’s intro, which also included a recommended reading list. So I realized that I was not, in fact, finished with this post until I had done my due diligence and checked out Burke’s list.
So the whole thing was supposed to come together when the second book had a recommendation for the first book inside it but nothing I do is ever neat and tidy like that. While Burke must not have had The Halloween Tree on his shelf when he was jotting down his recommendations, he did include Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes- another absolutely phenomenal Bradbury title wherein the atmosphere is my favorite part. And choosing my October reads next year should be easy- I’m just going to choose from the back of my read this year.