Living With Books 06: Books Are Spooky, Too

For lovers of books, their display is part of a home’s design aesthetic. This is no less true when Hallow’s Eve has haunting at hand.

Aren’t books the magic potion that reveal all the greatest spooky stories? The dark wizardry of reading a well-told tale, hunkered down under the covers on a blustery October night? 

No surprise, then, to see books claiming their place in decking homes out for Halloween festivities. Welcome to this special holiday edition of Living With Books, featuring do-it-yourself tips for using books as you decorate your haunted manor.

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Classic Betty Grable pinup, getting spooked in style.

DIY writer Chris Nease features spells and ghost stories as centerpiece for a girls-glam Halloween party. link: (commercial site)

SouthHouseBoutique on sells these spook-themed book jackets to dress your books in their own holiday costumes. (link not available)

Because we have such riches on our shelves, we can readily decorate with books on hand. This, from the blog Young House Love. link: steals my heart with their vintage Halloween decorations, several featuring books and writing. Do click to view: steals my heart with their vintage Halloween decorations, several featuring books and writing. Do click to view:

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Throughout the web*, decorators and crafters offer tips for decorating for Halloween, using books.

  • Prop open a copy of Edgar Allen Poe, open to “The Raven,” beneath candelabra draped with cobwebs and a silk raven lurking.
  • Damaged or cast-off books can be aged further by scorching their edges or dampening until they curl. Coffee or tea add the perfect aged cast. Paint covers black, or uneven brown (try shoe polish) to simulate aged leather or wood. Embellish with spooky titles — there’s the ordinary Spells and Potions, or get creative: Anatomy of a Monster, Forbidden Secrets, Rattling of Bones. Display on a drape of velvet or moss, with props like potion bottles and bones.
  • Use the loose pages of damaged books as background to Halloween artwork.  Roll them into scrolls (tie several around a form to make a haunting wreath) or use them as the backdrop to silhouettes of bats, mounted in a frame.

Of course, don’t forget the best part: if you have them, be sure to put your best spook tales on display:

  • Leave out a tub of Halloween stories for entertainment throughout the season or a quiet activity at a children’s party.
  • Move all tales of haunting and witchcraft to center stage on your shelves. Bring forth your Stephen King, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Harry Potter and Alice Hoffman.
  • Murder and mayhem count: don’t forget that set of Agatha Christie or John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
  • Check secondhand book shops for copies of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Henry James’ Turn of the Screw.
  • Not really spooky tales? When stood together, spines of provocative titles are good enough to evoke your theme.  Sure, think Something Wicked This Way Comes. But also: Manuel Puig’s The Kiss of the Spider Woman, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion or Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits.
  • Age makes anything spooky. A vintage typewriter, old hat or leather bound books of any title turn spooky when mixed with a skull, flying bats or tumble of spiders.
  • In need of a graveyard tale? Try Nathan Englander’s Ministry of Special Cases or Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

*For more great Halloween decorating ideas, check out my Halloween board on Pinterest to find lots of links.

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For more from my series Living with Books:

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Coming next:

  • October Fiction Challenge 5: Where & How Do You Write? – Part 2
  • Writing Character: Challenge of Writing the Character Most Like Yourself – Part 2


Filed under Living With Books

4 responses to “Living With Books 06: Books Are Spooky, Too

  1. Veronica Roth

    Some fantastically great ideas Elissa. Time to relocate my Agatha Christies out of the library I think. :)


    • elissa field

      Veronica, seriously – why had I not thought to move my A Christies to the forefront until I was typing this post? Certainly books are the source of Halloween’s greatest themes! Thanks for reading and posting!


  2. Love it! And the comments. The mystery writer in me likes a bit of dark fun.


  3. elissa field

    Reblogged this on elissa lauren field and commented:

    Decorating for Halloween with my boys this weekend has me looking back on the 6th edition of Living With Books: Books are Spooky, Too, on great ways to use books in decorating for Halloween.


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