Nurture Your Creepy Inner Child
✔ Fairy tale fan
✔ Believe magic might exist
✔ Enchanted by magical wizards and worlds that grant wishes
✔ Attracted to descriptors like bleak, dark and disturbing
✔ Have a penchant for the macabre
✔ Delight in the shadowy, unsettling parts of your favorite fantasy worlds
Sound familiar? If so, these books -- which all combine darkness and light, magic and melancholy in differing measures -- might just be for you.
The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A sinister spirit takes the form of a family's trusted housekeeper, and only our seven-year-old protagonist knows the awful truth. Complete with three eccentric good witches down the lane and a magical childhood friend, this atmospheric tale is told through the lens of the adult protagonist's memory.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
What happens to all the children who come back to Earth after traveling to magical worlds through secret doorways, wardrobes, rabbit holes and tunnels? They are sent by their concerned families to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, where ostensibly they will learn to re-adjust to their normal lives. The worlds these kids have visited vary wildly -- some are logical, some nonsense; some are whimsical and some dark as death -- but the thing that they have in common is that for all their young travelers, those other worlds are home. A very fun read for adults who were once fans of Wonderland, Oz, Neverland and Narnia, this is the first in a series of slim, quick reads. The second in the series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, is a prequel that gets even darker and more grim.
Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt
If short stories are more your thing, check out this collection of ghost stories, tales spun from folklore, explorations of the human mind, fractured fairy tales, and magical realism examining the strangeness of contemporary life. Truly a master of this particular genre, Byatt received the 2018 Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award, which recognizes authors "whose genres or storytelling techniques show traces of Andersen's rich oeuvre."
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Seven vignettes all set in the same place (a dreamy Scandinavian island called Blessed) and different times (ranging from antiquity through the future) make up this 2014 Printz-Award winning volume. While billed as a young adult novel, this strange and sophisticated book featuring Vikings, ghosts, love, horror and ethereal world-building has lots of adult appeal.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
This horror classic is definitely for those who like straight-up scary stories, but the youthful protagonists and eerie traveling carnival setting -- including a mirror maze and a calliope-clad carousel -- create a juxtaposition of childhood innocence and dreadful layers of darkness similar in tone to the other titles on this list.
The Changeling by Victor LaValle
Rare books, a missing family, betrayal and violence, a mysterious stranger, a magical island: all of these fairy tale elements and more await you in this dark tale that Kirkus described as, "a tale of wonder and thoughtful exploration of what it means to be a parent. A smart and knotty merger of horror, fantasy, and realism."
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
This first in a trilogy and basis for the television series of the same name is, at its heart, a coming-of-age story about the disillusionment of growing up. Perhaps you can relate to the main character, a high school senior who is still captivated by his favorite childhood fantasy stories. What joy, then, when he discovers that the world in those stories is real and is to become a part of his real life. Only, the truth of the fantasy is much darker than he knew...
Here's hoping that creepy little weirdo inside of you will soon find delight in a book.