Halloween reads

If you follow me on Twitter (@arbitraryreader, y'all), you will have seen that I'm trying to watch 31 horror films over October. It's been fab, but it has taken a chunk out of my reading time. For those of you who aren't compelled to take part in arbitrary challenges, may I make some recommendations for scary books to take you through the Halloween period:

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Modern Classics) by [Jackson, Shirley]THE CLASSIC: I love reading classic literature as it often provides an insight into the ideas and tropes that influence our modern favourites. This is particularly true of horror. Can you imagine the genre without Stoker's Dracula or the gothic psychological horror of Poe? It's just so important. My choice here is not quite that old, but I think it contains imagery that all horror fans will recognise, imagery that has particularly influenced the way haunted houses look on the big screen. It's The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It's got psychological horror, a creaky old house that seems to change shape, and questions over the sanity of the characters involved, making it the absolute archetype of the haunted house story. And, in my opinion, it has rarely, if ever, been bettered. 

The Girl With All The Gifts by [Carey, M. R.]THE YA ANGLE: One of my favourite recent books (and, indeed, recent films) is The Girl With All The Gifts by MR Carey. It manages to be scary and emotionally engaging at the same time, putting a fresh spin on the zombie genre that has been such a big part of popular culture over the past few years. It's a YA book, which I know is an immediate turnoff for some readers, but it has a depth to it and covers a range of themes that readers of all ages can enjoy. The film does deviate at points from the book, and both are well worth spending time with. I've got Carey's next book, Fellside, sat on my shelf, and I CANNOT WAIT to get into it.

The Fireman by [Hill, Joe]THE MODERN CLASSIC: The Fireman by Joe Hill may not be the scariest of his books, but I think it is the best-written and the most important one so far. Like the work of his father (see below), there is a scope to Hill's work that makes it utterly immersive. It's impossible to put this book down! If you read and enjoyed The Girl With All The Gifts, The Fireman makes a wonderful companion piece. Both look at a world ravaged by an epidemic that is killing millions and both (in different ways that I won't spoil here) follow a sufferer of that disease who is managing to create a new life for herself. The imagery of the Dragonscale disease is beautifully realised and the wide cast of characters become family very quickly. When this is developed into a film, I will be first in line.

Duma Key by [King, Stephen]THE INEVITABLE STEPHEN KING ONE: My favourite King novel changes in different seasons - sometimes I can't see beyond the epic scope of The Stand; sometimes, the ending of The Dark Tower seems like the pinnacle of his work - but Duma Key is the one that scared me the most. Although not one of his better-known works, it has such a dark, claustrophobic atmosphere that I found it exceptionally tense to read. A man goes to a small island off Florida's coast to rehabilitate after losing an arm in an accident and becomes haunted by some supernatural visions and an unexpected desire to paint. As he gets further caught up in this new passion, the strange events begin to escalate... One of King's greatest strengths is that he can create memorable characters and vivid landscapes, and the imagery of Duma Key is some of the strongest I've ever encountered. 

Let's Go Play At The Adams'THE HORRIBLE ONE: Let's Go Play At The Adams' by Mendal Johnson is a seriously fucking horrible book. Perhaps reading this was the point at which I decided having kids wasn't for me... A story about the way childhood is a period of both innocence and intense cruelty, this goes places I was genuinely not prepared for. A group of children are left alone with their young babysitter for a few days and decide to play a game with her (as in, physically with her...). What starts off as a mild diversion quickly turns into something more sinister, leading to a conclusion that I doubt I will ever forget. You want scary, here it is. But, be warned, it is seriously nasty.


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