A spooky book for a spooky season

Thursday, October 30, 2014

One of the traditions I have never had is to read something spooky or scary for Halloween. The idea has always enamored me, and why not? Reading ghostly books during Halloween, Christmas books in December, and romance books around the Valentine's day season simply enhances the holiday experience. Sure, there's nothing spooky about Halloween in the real world, but if the make-believe worlds in books and movies and TV shows are to be believed, then ghouls and ghosts are just waiting for a reason to rise from the dead and send the still-alive people running for their lives.


(Original photo here)

It's not that I haven't ever wanted to read horror fiction. It's just that I have had very little success with this genre. When I was a kid, my family used to watch all kinds of horror movies and TV shows, and I would watch with them. They would cover my eyes every time something nasty (or sexy) would happen on screen. Of course, that only made the genre scarier than it should be. So most of my memories of these horror-laden years include bodies buried in walls (to this day, I have an urge to go knocking on walls to make sure there are no spots that sound different and hence could have a body hidden behind), dogs ripping apart people's bodies by clawing through their stomachs (and splattered stomach goo matter for added effect), invisible men who can regain their bodies only by eating human flesh, entire families murdered and drained of blood by their vampire-in-residence landlord, and several other ghastly details that I won't regale with you yet. Even though today's horror movies and TV shows are just as spooky, they appear almost laughable to me, compared to my memory of the horror of whatever I watched during the 80s and 90s.

Considering how jumpy I can be when I am around this genre, I have mostly strayed away from horror books as well. Still, a few years back, I chanced upon David Morrell's Creepers, which wasn't a particularly good piece of literature but boy, was it creepy. That book kept me up at nights and made me highly sensitive to unexplained sounds. It took a while for the effects of that book to wash away. Since then, I haven't read a genuine horror fiction (The Walking Dead and other dystopia don't count).




So that brings me here. I do want to read something horror. Sure, it may keep me up at night, and sure, I may not read another book from this genre for a few years. But if I can read a book that's very good, even if it is very scary, and if I can say at the end that the book was well written and well-constructed, that would be worth it. I have a strong desire to read Stephen King, as he is considered the king of horror novels. When I checked the popular horror fiction list at Goodreads, 14 of the top 15 were books by him. His books can be very long though. Two other books I have been considering reading are Horrorstör and We have Always Lived in the Castle. But I'm also curious to know what other horror books have been particularly good - something YOU would recommend, something genuine and believable, something that has possibly kept you up, and made you feel as if you were experiencing it. I know I am asking for trouble here by looking for a book that's going to make me feel all the horrors that my 12-year old self watched. But, I realize that it's time my adult self revisited this genre and experienced it from a (hopefully) grown-up perspective.

What is the scariest book you ever read?

7 comments:

Diane D said...

When I was young I use to watch the old black and white scary Frankenstein type movies with my father with the lights out. LOL

I think American Psycho was one of the scariest movies I've ever seen or read.

JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing said...

I thinkThe Woman is Black by Susan Hill is the best ghost story ever!

bermudaonion(Kathy) said...

I don't read horror but do want to give one of King's horror novels a try. He is such a good storyteller.

Randall Harris said...

I am in the middle of Horrorstor right now and can highly recommend it (so far) -- but it is INTENSE and not for the faint of heart! I also recently read Horns by Joe Hill and it was excellent.

Ti Reed said...

American Psycho is probably the scariest and most disturbing book I've read but it's not your everyday ghost story which I think is what you are looking for here. Some of King's shorter books have that creep factor but don't require the commitment of a large chunkster. His book from last year, Joyland was short and had all the elements but it was subtle.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Oo, oo, scary books, I got this! I'd go with The Haunting of Hill House rather than We Have Always Lived in the Castle for proper horror, and then also, White Is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi. ALSO, the horror stories of Roald Dahl. Those stories are SCARY.

literaryfeline said...

I am not a fan of horror movies in general--but not because they are scary. For some odd reason I have trouble suspending my disbelief. I often end up laughing and making fun of the movie instead of being afraid. The same is true for most of the hard core horror novels. I am very particular about the type of horror books I read. Most I imagine fall under thriller or dark fantasy more than they do actual horror. Give me a psychological thriller over a bloody/gory horror novel any day. Or something subtle and not in your face. I think that's why King is a hit and miss for me, depending on the book. And honestly, the books that have scared me the most--I mean really scared me--tended to be nonfiction. What human beings can do to other human beings . . .



You might give Dracula a try, if you haven't already. It's not a long book and it's more subtle than most horror novels. I was surprised at how much I liked it.