Scary Books for Every Reader on 'All Hallow's Read'
Halloween brings with it not only thrills and scares, but also one of our favorite book holidays: All Hallow's Read. Author Neil Gaiman established the tradition in 2010, based on this simple premise: Every Halloween, give a friend a scary book. We know that it can be just as tricky to get someone to pick up a scary book as it is to drag a friend (or yourself) to a horror movie. With that in mind, the Bookish editors have compiled this list of scary books of all kinds--fiction, memoir, young adult--based on non-horror books you and your friends already like. Consider it our All Hallow's Read gift to you.
While Rainbow Rowell's "Attachments" takes place entirely over a newspaper staff's inter-office email, the protagonist of "Sharp Objects" is out in the field--in her hometown investigating the murders of several local girls, that is. The grisly details may give you goosebumps, but let's face it--you pick up books about journalists to see them actually solve crimes.
If you were charmed by Lauren Groff's "Arcadia," about a little boy growing up on a '60s-era commune headed up by a hippie musician, pick up Vincent Bugliosi's true-crime classic, "Helter Skelter." Charles Manson was a free-thinking musician, too--but also a cold-blooded killer.
Strip away the wands, lose the butterbeer and board up Hogwarts--then what's left? A group of childhood friends who take on a Big Bad who embodies their worst fears. If you like reading about childhood ties that bind (and not just with spells), this terrifying book with a group of misfits-turned-heroes at its core is the horror read for you.
Truman Capote didn't just write for the society pages: For seven years, he gave himself over to chronicling the grisly murder of the Clutter family by two ex-cons. Despite challenges to the true crime book's veracity, the atmosphere of suspense that Capote establishes is all real.
If you like "Cloud Atlas," try this scary book: "Blindness"
If you dug how David Mitchell tackled dystopian themes in "Cloud Atlas," you'll get even more bang for your buck with Jose Saramago's "Blindness," which offers an eerier vision of what lies ahead for humanity: A plague has rendered all civilians blind, forcing the characters--and reader--to rely on their deeper instincts for survival.
If you're a sucker for John Milton's epic poem about Satan's fall from heaven and Adam and Eve's travails in the Garden of Eden, spice things up with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." The language is just as magnificent and the doomsday scenario McCarthy depicts is more harrowing than Milton's.
It's not such a big leap from the absurd adventures of Mrs. Jewls, the three Erics and the other students on the 30th story of Wayside School to this collection of macabre tales about haunted graveyards and ominous strangers. Plus, there's a chance that these urban legends are actually true.
In 1888, in London's East End, serial killer Jack the Ripper terrorized the neighborhood's working-class residents. Fans of late-Victorian "slum" fiction--including the work of Charles Dickens, W. Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling and English novelist Arthur Morrison, whose "A Child of the Jago" was published in 1890--will find Patricia Cornwell's "Portrait of a Killer" equal parts fascinating and chilling.
Do you hold L.M. Montgomery's classic tales close to your heart but secretly wanted to see more obstacles for orphan Anne Shirley? This V.C. Andrews classic covers rape, murder, hypnosis and a seriously screwed-up family dynamic--more twisted intrigue than "Anne of Green Gables," but also more nightmare fodder.
If you like "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," try this scary book: "Room"
If quirky child narrators are your thing, add some suspense to the mix with Emma Donoghue's "Room." Like Mark Haddon's protagonist, "Room's" five-year-old narrator, Jack, has an idiosyncratic perspective shaped by circumstances outside his control. As the novel progress, and Jack's grave circumstances come into focus, the reader is forced to navigate the novel through his unique but hopelessly innocent perspective.
Jeffrey Eugenides' debut about how a string of teen-girl suicides within one family shakes a neighborhood has plenty in common with Alice Seybold's magical-realistic take on a young girl's murder and its aftermath. High school-era rites of passage abound in both, and some might say the "horror" book in this matchup is actually the less scary of the two.
My favorite childhood librarian recommended John Bellairs' Gothic horror middle grade books to me when I was 10--and, despite the fact that reading them made my heart pound, I couldn't put them down. Lemony Snicket fans will realize just how easy the Baudelaire children had it in comparison.
If you're already a horror buff, why don't you keep with the All Hallow's Read spirit and recommend the Bookish editors some scary reads in the comments?