By now, we’ve all binged the latest season of Stranger Things at least once. While season four has been confirmed, there’s only so many times we can re-watch the first three seasons while we wait!
So what about until then? Looking for a Stranger Things fix? We’ve compiled a list of books and graphic novels that tune into the spooky, supernatural nostalgia of the show. With a mixture of horror, dark fantasy, and plenty of nostalgic texts on the list, there is something for every fan.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism
In the late ’80s, two best friends in a sleepy South Carolina town end up tangled with the occult. After her best friend disappears in the middle of a sleepover under mysterious circumstances, high school sophomore Abbey becomes convinced that Gretchen may be possessed. The stakes start out small – with petty teen squabbles that turn into more and more malicious as the story progresses. Real-life high school horrors are front and center in this book, tackling everything from drugs, homophobia, and victim-blaming. The crux of the book centers on the friendship between the two girls and how far they’ll go for one another before it’s over.
Filled with nostalgia and pop-culture references that anyone growing up in the era can appreciate, My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a great read for anyone who loves the human elements of Stranger Things.
It would be impossible to leave Stephen King off this list, especially when the Duffer Brothers directly cite this book as one of their biggest influences on the show. It is one of King’s masterpieces. Seven adults return to their home in Derry, Maine to confront a monster from their childhood. The book runs two parallel timelines of the “Loser’s Club” – from their youth and then in present day. It’s a book about growing up, facing your past, and confronting the terrifying eldritch horror that slumbers beneath your childhood town.
If you’re here, it’s like you’ve already seen the 2017 film or the 1990 mini-series. Each adaptation varies from the source material, and it’s worth reading the original for a better grasp on what, exactly, Pennywise is and how the creature relates to the larger mythos of Stephen King’s work.
Beasts of Burden
Evan Dorkin(w), Jill Thompson(a)
Burden Hill looks like an ordinary suburb: perfect homes, perfect families, and perfect lives. But the beasts of Burden Hill know differently. This team of neighborhood dogs (and one cat) make up the most unusual group of paranormal investigators you’ll ever meet. They routinely face the occult threats that lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic community. From zombies, werewolves, witches, and all kinds of monsters, these pets have seen it all.
This comic has something for everyone: horror, humor, and a lot of heart. The story arcs are generally short, giving the reader glimpses into the world, but it works for the premise. The story feels more like a dark fairytale than any other animal-centric fantasy. It’s a little spooky – especially with Thompson’s gorgeous, atmospheric watercolors – and a whole lot of fun. My only warning? Be prepared to feel very strongly about these characters. You can even read some of the original comics at the Dark Horse website!
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the gang from Scooby-Doo met Lovecraftian horrors, this is absolutely the book for you. The Blyton Summer Detective Club disbanded years ago after the success of their last mystery, the Deboen Mansion, and the arrest of a conman posing as a monster. They were children then. They aren’t anymore. And now, something is calling them back to Blyton Hills.
This book is a wonderful homage (and subversion) of everything from Scooby-Doo to The Hardy Boys. It’s irreverent, clever, and delightfully weird. It explores the trauma of childhood in an empathic manner while still remaining lighthearted through the serious subject matter. With plenty of horror elements, Meddling Kids is a fast-paced romp through monsters, magic, and a whole lot of humor.
Brian K. Vaughn (w), Cliff Chiang (a), Matt Wilson(c)
It’s the morning of November 1, 1988, and the world is a little weird. Twelve-year-old Erin – out on her new paper route before the sun comes up – thinks it’s probably leftover from Halloween the night before … until she runs across a group of teenagers taking their costumes a little too seriously. When she meets up with a handful of other local paper girls on her route, the group realizes they may have stumbled into something much bigger than the holiday suggests.
This on-going series blends science fiction and spooky, otherworldly mysteries into a weird, genre-bending story that keeps getting better. The premise starts slow but the series lives up to its potential by the second volume.
The Southern Reach Trilogy
If the mythos of The Upside Down intrigued you, this series may appeal to your sense of weirdness. The books focus on a world very like ours except with one major difference. One day, a mysterious geographical region called Area X appeared. It’s been closed off for decades. The Southern Reach has been launching a series of expeditions into the unknown region. No one has ever come back – until now.
While the book is spooky, it’s not necessarily a horror novel. The first book in the trilogy, Annihilation, was adapted into a film in 2018. Both lean heavily into science fiction and weird fiction.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
This dark fantasy novel pits two young teenage boys — Jim Nightshade and William Holloway – against the temptation of a sinister carnival that appears in their town. The boys confront the horror in their town as well as the darker promises made by “Mr. Dark,” who offers them a chance for something every kid on the cusp of their teenage years want: the freedom of being an adult.
Something Wicked This Way Comes does a wonderful job exploring the transition between childhood and adulthood and the change that comes with it.
Written in 1962, this book is a classic. It’s a quick, easy read that maintains relevance even today. Bradbury’s work is heavily influential to most modern horror and fantasy writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and even RL Stine.
Troop 52 leaves for a long weekend of camping on an uninhabited island in the Canadian wilderness. In the middle of the night, an emaciated stranger staggers into their camp begging for food. When their unprepared scoutmaster tries to help him, he inadvertently unleashes a scientific experiment gone wrong, and the boys are soon left fighting for survival.
This book is terrifying. It’s a little bit Lord of the Flies and an equal amount of John Carpenter’s The Thing. It includes graphic body horror elements and may not be for more squeamish readers. Overall, the book is a chilling page-turner, and Cutter’s imagery will cling to you long after you finish the book.
Sawkill Rock, an island of beautiful horses, majestic cliffs, and crashing waves, carries terrible secrets within. For decades, girls have been disappearing from the island. No one understands how or why it happens. No one can stop it. Until now.
Marion, plain and unremarkable, moves to the island in the wake of her own family tragedy. Zoey, the pariah, is obsessed with solving the mystery of her friend’s disappearance. Val, beautiful and ruthless, hides her own secrets even as she rules as the town’s queen bee. Together, they may be the only ones who can face the evil lurking on the island, preying on girls just like them.
One of the few YA novels on this list, Sawkill Girls is a spooky exploration of women coming-of-age while coming into their own strength. The story of teenagers facing a much larger supernatural threat isn’t necessarily a new story. However, Legrand’s book packs a punch and manages to be filled with surprises along the way. There are plenty of gothic elements in this eerie, suspenseful tale.