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Meme: Top Ten Books for Halloween

The Top Ten Tuesday meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I expect a wide variety of titles from the participants this time around, since different things scare different people, but I predict that Frankenstein, Dracula, The Shining, The Haunting of Hill House and The Turn of the Screw will be mentioned on several lists.

I have tried to list only scary and spooky books, and not ones that are disturbing/creepy or disgusting without being scary, although on some levels the disturbing books are truly more horrifying than the merely scary ones. For example, I found The Wasp Factory by Iain M. Banks deeply disturbing, but it didn’t scare me one bit. This leads me to think I will have to list my top 10 most disturbing books at some later date.

Since I am already working on a list of short stories to recommend for Halloween reading, I decided not to feature short stories or story collections here, although it was tempting to put Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James and a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s horror stories on the list. You will, however, find three novellas on the list, all of which are sometimes featured in short story collections.

For the disgusting and visceral to be scary to me it also needs a psychological element, and while there are some pretty horrible scenes in some of the books below, I chose them for the psychological factors, the authors’ ability to awaken the creeping expectation that something horrible is about to happen and the ability to keep the readers on their toes, not only until the horror happens, but even beyond that.

In approximately the order I first read them:

  1. Psycho by Robert Bloch. Type of scary/spooky: Psychological – murder and madness. In retrospect it probably isn’t all that bad, but I was about 12 when I read it and suffering from very bad nyctophbia and nightmares, and this one caused me several sleepless nights, especially since I knew it to be based on a real murderer.
  2. The Omen by David Seltzer. Type of scary/spooky: Religious – the Anti-Christ.Wonderfully chilling and spooky atmosphere.
  3. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Type of scary/spooky: Religious – demonic possession. This is the last book that ever gave me nightmares. I was 17 when I read it, and although I was rid of the nyctophobia by then, it still made me afraid to fall asleep.
  4. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Type of scary/spooky: Psychological – serial killers. I found it scary in a way that I didn’t feel about The Silence of the Lambs. The atmosphere it captures is so very tense and oppressive and the crimes truly horrific.
  5. The Shining by Stephen King. Type of scary/spooky: Psychological and/or ghosts. Cabin fever in an isolated, creepy, big building during the winter.
  6. The Wendigo by Algernon Blacwood. Type of scary/spooky: Folk tale monster. Suffused with a deep sense of menace.
  7. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Type of scary/spooky: Supernatural/monsters. It’s like a childhood nightmare come true – the one where something horrible is chasing you.
  8. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Type of scary/spooky: Psychological and/or ghosts. Scary and disturbing, and you can never be sure whether it’s a matter of ghosts or madness (or both).
  9. The Willows by Algernon Blackwood. Type of scary/spooky: Threatening supernatural forces/malevolent natural forces. Truly, deeply scary. Nature has never seemed so threatening.
  10. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill. Type of scary/spooky: Ghosts. About a malevolent and vengeful ghost.


B said…
I've never heard of The Woman in Black but it sounds quite interesting! I just googled it and added it to my TBR.
George said…
Impressive list! The book that fits into the Halloween spirit is Dave Zeltersman's THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD just published by the Overlook Press. Spooky! And just about anything by H. P. Lovecraft would fit the bill.
Straylights said…
All the best books are made into movies. That's pretty sad for the movie industry! ;)

My Top Ten
Anonymous said…
Yeah haven't read the ones here... except Haunting of Hill House, which I remember definitely freaked me out. :)
Stephen said…
Stephen King seems popular today. ;)
I am putting all of these on my list of Books I Will Never Read. ;->

Just too scary for me....
Unknown said…
Great picks! Even though I am not familiar with all of them. I like your explanation on how you selected the books for this list.
Kayla + Cyna said…
The Haunting of Hill House is really popular this week :o I need to put it on my to-read list. Anything that scared so many people has to be worth a look :)
danya said…
Wow, I haven't read any of these but they all sound really creepy. From my experience with Bradbury's "The Veldt" I will not be going anywhere near Something Wicked This Way Comes!
Jamie said…
The Exorcist scared me sooo bad when I was younger. I kind of want to pick up the book!
Emily said…
What a wonderful list. I'm too afraid to read Red Dragon. I can handle monsters all day long, but serial killers really scare me. I love Bradbury. I have two of his books on my list, but I haven't read Something Wicked yet. I really need to get around to it. I have The Haunting of Hill House on my list too. the narrator was so unreliable I could never really tell what was real or not, which made it all the more creepy. I've heard lots of good reviews of The Woman in Black. I'll have to add it to my To-Read list.
George said…
MSN came up with this list of scary movies for Halloween:
10. "Eraserhead" (1977)
David Lynch's cult classic is the closest thing to being stuck in a nightmare: Not much makes sense, but you get the feeling that nothing is quite right. Lynch employs dinners that walk off the plate, eerie silences that become deafening and an infant that makes Rosemary's baby seem cute and cuddly. So chilling it's damn near unwatchable.

9. "The Exorcist" (1973)
The real terror of "The Exorcist" may not involve Satan and possession, but the helplessness of a parent trying to save a child. Of course, a ton of harrowing special effects and director William Friedkin's somber respect for the supernatural subject matter doesn't hurt either. It's horror for grown-ups.

8. "Halloween" (1978)
John Carpenter's film is blamed for the rash of slasher films that destroyed the genre in the '80s, but "Halloween" possesses a style and intensity that most of its copycats lack. From the opening sequence -- when we see through the eyes of little boy Michael Myers as he stalks and murders his sister -- onward, the film relies on suspense rather than sensationalism. Our fear is caused by what might happen rather than actual events, as Carpenter spends a good amount of time in darkness, making us see things that may or may not be there.

7. "Don't Look Now" (1973)
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie head to Venice to forget the tragic accidental death of their child. However, it's impossible to forget when the dead child keeps reappearing. Nicolas Roeg's labyrinthine film is rich in dreamlike atmosphere and works on a purely psychological level: It disorients, frustrates and builds to a horrible climax, reminding that tragedy can never be forgotten ... and neither can this film.

6. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974)
A group of annoying teens make a wrong turn on a road trip through Texas and encounter the most dysfunctional family imaginable. It's a teen exploitation flick shot like a documentary. Wonderfully grim, mean and inhumane, director Tobe Hooper's debut doesn't spill much blood, instead opting to giddily, relentlessly torture and chase its audience (much like Leatherface treats his victims) for 80 minutes. It feels like days.

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