I’m not sure at what point I realized stories that included ghosts didn’t have to be scary. I know when it came to stories I read when I was younger, it was when I began E.W. Hildick’s Ghost Squad series – a mystery series that had four child ghosts and a couple of live kids working together to solve the mysteries that came their way; in fact, being a ghost has its perks in the detective business! At any rate, the books on this list are not for anyone looking for ghost stories in the horror sense, though some of these titles have their spooky moments. However, they all feature ghosts significantly in the story as a character or plot point and are well worth a read!
Stroud’s London is a London long afflicted by a ghostly epidemic with which only brave children can deal effectively, children who are able to see the specters and who sometimes are talented beyond seeing. And Lockwood and Co. is unique among Psychic Detection Agencies, being run entirely by children, with young Anthony Lockwood at its head. Humorous and, at times, undeniably creepy, it is easy to get lost in this series and even forget the main characters are actually children. The Screaming Staircase is the first in the series.
A Study in Sable – Mercedes Lackey
This book is a recent addition to Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, a series which, to this point, has mostly retold fairy tales. As you might guess from the title, this book delves into the world of Sherlock Holmes. It also features a healthy dose of ghosts, since one of the main characters, Sarah Lyon-White is a medium. Sarah and Nan, a psychic, have been commissioned to help Dr. and Mrs. Watson on a few of their more occult cases and both their talents and their friendship are tested.
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Nobody Owens grows up in a Graveyard, raised by the ghosts who inhabit it and the mysterious Silas, who is neither living nor dead, after the murder of his family when he is still too young to remember. Unfortunately, the murderer is still out there and determined to finish the job once he tracks down the baby he failed to kill. Bod is only safe in the graveyard – but a growing boy can’t stay in a graveyard forever…
Ghost and Mrs. Muir– R.A. Dick
When Mrs. Muir is widowed at a relatively young age, she decides to exert her independence and moves her little family away from her in-laws – to a house haunted by the ghost of a sea captain with unfinished business. Striking a bargain with him, he allows her little family to live in the house in peace and their growing friendship will change Mrs. Muir’s life – and possibly even afterlife - forever. Readers who enjoy Gone with the Wind, for its writing style or the interaction between Rhett Butler & Scarlett O’Hara may especially enjoy this book!
Constable and Toop – Gareth P. Jones
Unlike the other books in this list, this book tells its story through the points of view of both the living and the dead interchangeably. Yet again set in London, this London’s ghosts are actually disappearing thanks to an infestation known as “The Black Rot”, which imprisons unsuspecting ghosts in haunted houses that have lost their ghosts. It’s caught the attention of both the Ghost Bureau and an undertaker’s son, Sam Toop, a “Talker” who can see and hear ghosts. Only by working together may they be able to push back the darkness and bring back harmony to their worlds.
The Mediator Series - Meg Cabot
Susannah Simon has been able to see, hear and speak to ghosts from a very young age. When her mother remarries and she moves with her across the country, Suze is hoping for a fresh start, one that doesn’t involve any ghostly business. But as she will soon learn, someone with her gift can’t set it aside so easily. She is a mediator, and it is up to her to learn the tricks of her trade, to protect the living and help the dead to move on. Shadowland is the first in the series.
Have other recommendations for those who want something ghostly to read that’s not too scary? Don’t forget to leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!
-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library