A Night of Literary Horror: Hosting a Spooky Book Dinner Party

A Night of Literary Horror: Hosting a Spooky Book Dinner Party

Now is the perfect time to host a horror-themed book dinner party. Your guests will love getting dressed up for the big night and you’ll enjoy playing the part of the charming, somewhat sinister host. 


Ensure that the night is a success by pairing spooky reads with an appropriately interesting menu. Consider planning some engaging activities, too, as this will get folks invested in the revelry and build excitement for a night of literary frights. 

Choosing a Book 

There are thousands of horror titles to choose from for your spooky book dinner party. However, if you plan on inviting more than a few guests, it’s probably best to stick with classics that you know folks will love. Rather than going for polarizing sub-genres like body horror, opt for iconic gothic horror titles like:


  • “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson 
  • Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • “White Is for Witching” by Helen Oyeyemi 
  • “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Anne Radcliffe
  • “The Monk” by Matthew Lewis


These icons of gothic horrors are considered “must-reads” for a reason. They’ll get folks thinking and are sure to elicit plenty of conversation at the dinner table. They also feature some rather spooky homes, meaning you’ll have inspiration to follow should you decide to decorate your space. Just be aware that some titles, like “The Monk” and “The Mysteries of Udolpho” are rather long. 

Decorating Your Space

Decorating your space is a must if you want to host a night of literary horror. Even subtle touches, like buying red LED lights and mock spider webs, can make a real difference to your space. If you really want to up your game, consider theming your decorations based on descriptions within the book you’re all reading. 


For example, if you’ve decided to read “The Haunting of Hill House”, consider setting up a few pulley systems around the house to open and close the doors from a distance. You can also set LED lights to a deep blue, replicating the night terrors that the characters in the novel experience. This is sure to elicit some laughter from your guests and will get everyone excited to discuss the book. 


If you decide to decorate your house, consider speaking to your homeowners association first. Dealing with your HOA can be notoriously tricky, as many neighborhoods have rules about when you can decorate your front lawn. Be polite and communicate early to maximize your chance of getting permission to install spooky fixtures on your drive. 

Setting the Menu

As a host, you’re responsible for feeding your guests. Fortunately, horror-themed parties are extremely popular, as spooky dinners are a staple of the gothic horror genre. Consider drawing inspiration from the novel you are reading, as folks want to get stuck into the world of the book you’re reading together. 


For example, if you’re reading “The Mysteries of Udolpho”, you may want to plate up a series of Italian classics. Risotto, ravioli, and polenta are classics of northern Italy and are extremely filling, too. 


Be sure to choose the right wine glass for the occasion, as your place setting is all part of the decor. You’ll likely want to opt for wide-brimmed glasses and serve red wines like sauvignon, merlots, and Bordeaux. Wider-rimmed glasses look great on the table and give you a chance to serve up bolder blends. 

Engaging Activities 

Discussing the book your group reads is always a lot of fun. However, you can spice things up a little by planning some engaging activities, too. Consider, for example, activities like: 


  • Bring Your Own Story: Have folks bring their own scary short stories with them. Your friends will love trading stories and will get a real kick out of reading them aloud. Give everyone a few ghostly writing tips and be sure to celebrate everyone equally. 
  • Call of Cthulhu (CoC): CoC is a tabletop role-playing system inspired by HP Lovecraft. You can run a one-shot CoC game for your night of literary horror, as a game can be completed in a single evening. 
  • Dungeons and Dragons (DnD): DnD is another tabletop classic that encourages folks to “play” a character. If you’re a veteran DnDer, run a one-shot based on the book you read. Alternatively, consider running the “Death House” from the Ravenloft setting. 
  • Murder Mystery: Clue is a classic, but you can always write up your own murder mystery for the evening. Plant a series of clues throughout the house and give folks puzzles to complete before the night is over. 


These activities will engage your guest’s imagination and get them invested in the evening. If you’re new to tabletop games, consider running a “practice” game with your family first. Be sure to take plenty of breaks, and top people up with wine, snacks, mimosas, or sodas. 


Hosting a night of literary horror is a great way to engage your book club and build excitement around your next read. Plan a few spooky activities and decorate your home using the book’s content as inspiration. This will help you create an ambiance that is sure to engage all of your guests. 


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