,What are ghosts? The most traditional explanation is that ghosts are the souls of people who’ve died, or a form or energy that lingers following a violent event. In literature, ghosts frequently symbolize guilt, an inability to move on from the past, or repressed desires. Now is the perfect time for spooky stories, so what are the best books about ghosts?
The Turn of the Screw
By: Henry James
One of the most famous ghost stories, The Turn of The Screw is a novella originally serialized in 1898. It has a classic Victorian premise: a naive governess goes to a remote country mansion, where she must look after a young boy and girl. However, after some strange events, she starts to believe the children are seeing ghosts. She begins to fear that their very souls are in danger. Academics discuss multiple interpretations for The Turn of The Screw, but even someone who just picks it up one day can enjoy it. The story inspired several adaptations, most recently “The Turning,” scheduled for a 2020 release, and the upcoming season of “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
By: Mary Roach
If you want to know more about the science of the supernatural, the 2006 Spook is one of the best books about ghosts. Written with humor and curiosity, the book asks the question, “What happens when we die?” Roach brings her questions to all kinds of people from scientists to mediums to sheep farmers. It’s a great overview of opinions and thoughts from those who want to prove or disprove life after death. Spook explores topics such as reincarnation, spiritualism, ghost-finding gadgets, and court cases involving ghosts.
Lincoln in the Bardo
By: George Saunders
George Saunders may be best-known for his short stories, but his first novel published in 2017 earned him the Man Booker prize. The topic of his book? Abraham Lincoln. The experimental novel takes place over one evening as Lincoln grapples with his grief over the death of his son Willie. The word “bardo” is a Buddhist term referring to a space between death and rebirth. Saunders was inspired by a story his wife’s cousin related to him about Lincoln entering his son’s crypt to cradle the body. Brimming with ghosts, the novel deals with themes like change, loss, empathy, and acceptance.
The Woman in Black
By: Susan Hill
Though published in 1983, The Woman In Black is Gothic through and through. Set in a small English town, it tells the story of Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor. He’s sent to settle the affairs of a recently-deceased woman, but things aren’t quite what they seem. Arthur keeps seeing a mysterious figure dressed in black. Who is she and what does she want? The Woman In Black was adapted into a stage play and became the second-longest running West End play. It was also adapted into a TV movie in 1989 and into a regular film in 2012 starring Daniel Radcliffe.
By: Toni Morrison
Not only one of the best books about ghosts, but one of the best books ever written, period, Beloved centers on Sethe, a former slave, and the haunting of her house in Cincinnati. For those who aren’t yet familiar with the story, we won’t reveal who the ghost is, though it is one of the most heartbreaking reveals in all of literature. Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 and was adapted into a movie in 1998 starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
Stephen King’s books often feature ghosts, but if you don’t have time for one of his giant tomes, check out these short stories instead.