Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone is having a good Halloween so far. In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd share some of my favorite spooky reads with you. Well, some are spooky. Others just fit the holiday spirit but don't provoke terror, which is nice, too. Here are some of my favorite Halloween-ish reads:

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski: This strange novel is definitely one of the creepiest books I've ever read, possibly the most creepy. It's a slow treatise on the psychology of fear, a meditation on the value and failures of narrative, and a haunted house story all in one. It's a hard read, with its stories-within-stories and it's endless footnotes. But when I read it late at night, it took me forever to fall asleep. If you want to really work for your terror, this is the book that'll do the trick.

Salem's Lot, by Stephen King: There are lots of people who claim Stephen King is actually not that scary to read, but whatever. When I read this horror novel, I couldn't sleep facing my bedroom window for weeks. I'd never want to see my vampiric best friend floating outside my window wanting to come in....

"Stone Animals," by Kelly Link: This short story from Link's collection, Magic for Beginners, isn't scary so much as it is deeply unsettling. I can't read it without my skin crawling for no discernable reason. Nothing actually scary happens, but the idea of things and people becoming "haunted" makes me feel weird inside. And the end...well, quite frankly, I have no idea what's up with that.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman: By now, you all know my love for this coming-of-age novel exceeds bounds. But it really does make a great Halloween read, what with all the ghosts and the werewolf and the vampire guardian. Not to mention the super-weird ghouls and the clever, lovelord witches. Such an awesome and emotionally-satisfying little book!

"Requiem for a Friend," by Rainer Maria Rilke: This long, challenging elegy for a dead friend is both beautiful and scary. Rilke writes with an authority about the dead that no other writer has ever quite mastered, and this poem may be his greatest treaty on the subject. In the poem, Rilke pleads with his friend (the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker) to stop haunting him, leaving him to his mourning. The poem is creepy, but it's also extremely moving. His grief is so immense you can't help but feel it yourself.

World War Z, by Max Brooks: Well, here it is: the book that made me fear the living dead. This fake oral history on the worldwide war against a zombie outbreak is surprisingly literary and imaginative, even as it piles on the scary and unsettling. For me, the memorable moment takes place when a woman recounts the night she and her family looked out a sliding glass door to see a zombie standing on their back deck. Not long after, her husband is dead and her hometown is completely plagued by the virus. But that early moment when the terror is just beginning to invade is really where the horror lies.

I hope you all enjoyed the list. Feel free to recommend your favorite Halloween reads. And to get everyone in the mood, here's one of my favorite Halloween songs, Saint-Saens's fantastic orchestral piece, Danse Macabre.

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