Books That Haunt Us

UNP staff members are always reading, both within our list and outside of what we publish. This Halloween, we’re feeling especially haunted. For this month’s staff reading list, we’re discussing the books we can’t forget, whether because of its subject, its ingenuity, or just one, vivid scene. 


October Staff Reading List



The Power

Naomi Alderman

“The book follows several story lines as girls, and then women, suddenly have the ability to emit electricity from their hands. This becomes a worldwide phenomenon, and the narratives explore the effects of the power-balance between women and men as it shifts quickly and dramatically. At one point, a mob of newly-empowered women surround an old woman on the street. One grabs the old woman’s hands and ignites a flicker of the power within. The old woman weeps, and the crowd moves on. It is a peripheral scene with unnamed characters, but it catches in my throat every time.” —Heather Stauffer


house of leaves

House of Leaves

Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves makes you spiral into madness and terror along with the characters in the book. The haunted-house trope is combined with a fear of the dark, the winding, limitless unknown, and the un-seeable monsters lurking there. I’ll only ever read it the one time (it was a least seven years ago), but what a ride.” —Abigail Stryker




Carolyn Turgeon

“This magical retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson story ‘The Little Mermaid’ includes many of the darker elements from the original fairy tale but creates two memorable and likable female characters at the center. The author’s choices in the details of the human world and mermaid world are equally dynamic, including the food choices of mermaids who snack on the fish that happen to be swimming by.” —Rosemary Sekora




Marilynne Robinson

“Absolutely haunting.” —Andrea Shahan



We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s

Richard Beck

“This book takes an exhaustive look at the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, in which concerned parents nationwide reported their children were abused by demonic cults at daycares, planting the blame for the hoax squarely on well-meaning but deluded investigators, police and child psychologists of the time. The book is fascinating and deeply disturbing, with the most haunting passages detailing the cruel and misleading ways investigators led children to create elaborate accusations against innocent women in a chilling repeat of the New England witch hunts. While so many passages of the book are genuinely haunting, Beck does make a case that the flawed reporting and psychology of the ‘80s eventually inspired much more inclusive and responsible practices today.” —Jackson Adams


skeleton man

Skeleton Man

Joseph Bruchac

Skeleton Man was the first scary story I ever read, and now whenever someone asks me what my favorite book of my youth was, I say Skeleton Man, the story of where a man ate himself. The book as a whole is a bit different, but I will never forget the picture in my head when I imagined someone being so hungry that they consumed their own flesh. Who knows, maybe this was the story that sparked my interest in Gothic literature.” —Mikala Kolander



How Winter Began

Joy Castro

“As a student worker at the Press years ago, I was packaging galleys of this book for a giveaway. I flipped to a random page in the middle of the book, a scene where the narrator describes the time she stabbed her boyfriend—’and he lived, he was fine.’ Between her vivid description and her character’s sharp, straightforward tone, I’ve never been so caught up in a scene I had no context for.” —Anna Weir





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