|A bad picture of some of my horror collection. Some of these books were complete and utter crap, but I'm still keeping them because I can't seem to part with them.|
This blog post will be the third and last one in anticipation of Halloween. If you're curious as to what I will be doing this year, I won't be baking or reading or even playing board games - shocking, isn't it? I have an excellent reason though, as I will be in London during the weekend and on Halloween night I'll be attending a Voltaire show in Camden Town. Let me know if you're going too and please come say hi!
Autumn is the absolute best season to cuddle up with a hot beverage, a comfy jumper, some blankets and pillows and most importantly, piles and piles of books. I'm not sure what it is about Halloween that just makes me want to read all the time, but I just can't help myself. Obviously, there's only one genre that's really fit to read around Halloween and that's terrifying, blood-curdling horror (don't worry, some light-hearted spooky novels will do fine). If you're new to creepy literature or are just looking for some reading inspiration, this might be just the post for you.
The Complete Fiction
I can't help recommending anything and everything written by Lovecraft. He has created more than a few stories that make my hair stand on end every single time I read them. Lovecraft's writing style does not exactly make for effortless reading but I promise that actually making the effort will be worth it. The stories are not merely horrible blood-and-gore-wise, but they reach deep into the unconscious and shake the reader on a psychological level; the atmosphere gets to you. The focus of most tales is fear of the terrible unknown.
Good stories to start with are At the Mountains of Madness, The Call of Cthulhu, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Shadow over Innsmouth or The Colour out of Space.
The King in Yellow
Robert W. Chambers
If you have already read and enjoyed anything written by Lovecraft, you should probably give The King in Yellow a try; Lovecraft himself was heavily influenced by this collection of short stories. Chamber's The King in Yellow revolves around a play that makes any of its readers insane - much like our beloved Necronomicon. Every single one of the stories in this book has something to do with insanity, making the reader unsure of the narrator's intentions and goals and especially of his trustworthiness. It is a shame that Chambers is not being read as much anymore, because his writing is at least as good as Lovecraft's, if not better.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
You might remember the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark novels as the scariest tales you have read as a child but now they are just good fun and drenched in nostalgia. I have very fond memories of these stories as even here in tiny Belgium, some of them were favourites at sleepovers and other children's parties, which means they were told every time our parents had closed the door and wished us 'good night'. For an adult the tales are not exactly terrifying, but they are definitely fun to reread and maybe even to tell your own children.
The Complete Tales and Poems
Edgar Allan Poe
To be completely frank, I did not like half of Poe's stories. Many of them were boring and long-winded and not even written that well. However, those few fantastic tales are more than worth it. If you have time to spare, be sure to dig through Poe's complete tales and decide for yourself which ones you like. However, if you don't feel like skimming through a book of a few hundred pages long, I can recommend some of my personal favourites: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar all left me with shivers up my spine.
I seem to include Neil Gaiman in every single list I draw up, sorry about that. The Graveyard Book tells a simple but endearing, and at times quite scary story about a boy who lives in a graveyard and gets raised and taught by its inhabitants. Although the concept is cute and quirky, the story does get darker and bleaker as the plot progresses.
Little tip: the audiobook is fantastic and read by Neil Gaiman himself; don't hestitate if you can get your hands on it.
J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Carmilla in my eyes is one of the absolute classics every vampire literature lover should read, as the protagonist of the same name can be considered the original female vampire. Carmilla is a short story from a collection named In a Glass Darkly and can easily be read in a couple of hours. Those of you who have also read Dracula might find it interesting to detect clear similarities and discover where Bram Stoker got some of his inspiration from; and if you want to know more about the history of vampires in (pop) culture, pick up Our Vampires, Ourselves sometime; it's a fascinating read.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Seth-Grahame Smith, Jane Austen
If you are a fan of some tongue-in-cheek humour and don't take your classics too seriously, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies might be the novel for you. Think 18th century England, romantic intrigues and fabulous balls, with added zombies and martial arts - because Elizabeth Bennet still doesn't need a man to save her.
Most of Seth-Grahame Smith's adaptations of classic works of literature are quite enjoyable, although the concept does get old after a while; don't read all of his novels in a row because you will suffer from a serious overdose.
Finally I would like to recommend both Cthulhurotica and The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Even though I own both, I haven't had the chance to read them myself. Both books are collections of (short) horror stories, for those among us who don't want to commit to a single book and want to read more than just one author.
I hope you enjoy some of these as much as I did (or more than I did, for some cases). I have tried to lay off the classics because I am sure most people have heard of Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, The Monk, Mysteries of Udolpho and The Castle of Otranto by now (look at me sneakily mentioning them anyway). That does not mean that they are not some of my favourite novels - but don't touch any of Bram Stoker's other works. No seriously, don't.