So, if you’ve been reading my previous articles, you should know by now that although I love all things horror, I do not actually get scared by the movies and shows I watch or the books I read.
Writing an article like this is a bit tricky because not everyone gets scared by the same things. Are you afraid of clowns? Read or watch It. Are you scared of ghosts? Read The Haunting of Hill House or watch The Conjuring. By now you’re probably assuming that any book I put down on this list will really terrify you if I’m labeling it as a “scary” book to read. No. Well, maybe. Adding a novel to this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it legitimately scared me, but I’ll explain why I’ve added each item to this list as you read on.
Ready? Here we go.
•Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill
Rock star Judas Coyne likes to collect odd things, so of course he has to buy a ghost when he finds it for sale online. What could go wrong? The heart-shaped box that shows up at his door with a suit in it couldn’t possibly contain a ghost as well, right? Wrong. And, as you’ll find out if you aren’t too scared to read this book, Coyne knows the ghost and he is out for revenge.
This book is well-written. I should caution any potential readers about the foul language and the violence, but it is still spooky. Ghosts should not be this powerful, but this one was, and while I was not scared, this tale definitely has all the spooky feels.
•The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings by Edgar Allan Poe
This collection contains sixteen pieces of Poe’s, including not only short stories but also poetry. The poems like “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” are rhythmic and dark, while the short stories such as “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum” can be just as macabre.
Poe is one of the undisputed masters of horror. The tales are detailed and put the reader right into the stories, describing actions and settings in a way to really pull one into the world. The title piece “The Tell-Tale Heart” really lets the reader into the mind of the narrator and they can feel the narrator losing his grip on reality.
•The Shining by Stephen King
This book often makes it onto any scary reads list, and for good reason. First, though, I have to warn you to not judge the book by its film. In a Reelz special about Stephen King, it was said that the author was disappointed that the director “made Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining not Stephen King’s The Shining.” There are many differences between the two. If you were scared of the film, you will be scared by the novel. If you were not scared by the film, the chances are pretty good that you could be scared by the novel.
The book is about an aspiring writer, Jack Torrance, who takes a job as a caretaker of a resort that is closed for the season. Torrance and his family move into the hotel and become snowbound. What makes this read scary? There are supernatural aspects to the hotel and Torrance himself begins to lose his mind. The reader can follow his descent and fall with him, if they let themselves.
• Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
While Halloween vibes and movies are usually full of spooks and zombies, we cannot leave out vampires. This Gothic novel was published in 1872 and is an old vampire tale, coming before even Dracula.
Why should you read this one? If you’re a vampire fan, you have to read it to see how it influenced Dracula and other vampire tales coming after it. I think the draw of vampires is the same thing that makes them borderline creepy: if they love someone enough, the vampire can make the object of their affection theirs forever; they also have gifts that make them very powerful and could make them dominant over the object of their affection. In chapter 4, Carmilla says, “You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever.” Is it love or is creepy? Read it and decide for yourself.
Not a fan of fiction? Still not convinced any of these above novels will give you the creeps?
Sometimes nothing can be creepier than the truth. So why not try a nonfiction book this October? Independent filmmaker/author John Borowski has written several novels focusing on serial killers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His books include Dahmer’s Confession and The Strange Case of Dr. H.H. Holmes.
Why are these on the list? When someone is finally caught after committing such horrific crimes, people who are interviewed comment on how “normal” or “nice” they seemed. So while these guys are no longer actively killing, how many “nice” or “normal” people are in your life right now who could have similar tendencies?
Did your favorite scary read make the list? What would you suggest I read to scare me? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
Lead image credit: “The Shining” (1994) – Stone Arch Books