Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Ten Books for Halloween

This week's Top Ten list is...well, just read the title. ;-)

1. The Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling

Autumn does not truly arrive in Alabama until late October, for summer's heat and humidity have a long life near the Gulf. I associated autumn with Halloween, and Harry Potter with autumn for mot of the books pick up at the start of another school year. I first read Potter in the fall, but the series is particularly appropriate for Halloween given its lighthearted treatment of witches, ghosts, vampires, and other such things.

2. In the Forests of the Night, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

I read this in high school, lured by the title borrowed from Blakes' "Tiger, Tiger":  I had never before read fantasy, and Atwater-Rhodes' world of vampires fascinated me. In the Forests of the Night is the story of Risika, once the young daughter of a Puritan farmer and now a vampire who  makes her home in Concord
but hunts the streets of  20th century New York.  Atwater-Rhodes' vampires are streamlined, free from Victorian myths  and modern vampire whining angst, and my own copy is battered from many re-reads.

3. (The) Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson 

This book sprang to mind the moment I saw this week's topic, though it's been almost a decade since I actually read the book -- and then, just the Great Illustrated Classics version. The Strange Case concerns the experiments of a Victorian gentleman who wanted to free his civilized nature from more savage impulses, and who instead found he delighted in drinking a potion to become a man wholly savage, unfettered by morality or standards of conventional behavior.  Ultimately, it destroys him.

4.  The Millennium Trilogy, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

The Millennium Trilogy is more an apocalyptic thriller than a jeepers-creepers story, but as a young teenager,
it certainly got under my skin. The trilogy opened with the discovery of two men who had been killed when they were transported into the body of the station itself, their bodies fused with the metal of the hull: from there it turned into a nightmarish religious war that destroyed the Klingons, Borg, and Earth. Things just got disturbing once the universe ended.

5. Sleep No More, Greg Iles

John Waters' life got a lot more interesting when a strange woman  named Eve passed him by on a soccer field and whispered a phase known only to him and his college girlfriend Mallory -- Mallory, who was both manipulative and abusive, but who Waters could never quit.  His obsession for her died only with her rape and murder in New Orleans by strangers those many years ago, but the arrival of Eve brings the old obsession to new life again, and he finds out that it isn't just the memory of Mallory that's haunting him when Eve claims to be Mallory, in a new body.

6. Christine, Stephen King.

Dennis Guilder knew there was something wrong with the rusting ruin of this 1958 Plymouth Fury the
moment he saw it, but it infatuated his buddy Arnie, who buys it from a hateful old man. Arnie's devotion to the car changes him: a once-timid nerd gains confidence and pride as he restores the wreck to its former glory, but as the months pass Dennis notes Arnie appears to be speaking with another man's voice -- a hateful, bitter, spiteful voice.  Despite Christine's pristine condition, the instant reaction from most people to her is repugnance: they sense there is something wrong with the car. It smells of death, and it haunts close close to Arnie. When Dennis digs into the history of Christine, he finds it a car possessed by implacable maliciousness -- and those who cross paths with it are destined to a grisly fate.

Horror usually bores me, but King's Christine was utterly spellbinding and creepy.

7. The Stand, Stephen King

Again, more science fiction apocalyptic thriller than horror novel -- but the fantasy element becomes more pronounced as the book matures. When human civilization is devastated by a new plague,  survivors are compelled to make journeys to Boulder, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada for a showdown between good and evil. The devastation wreaked by the plague itself was more effectively creepy to me than the Evil Floating Cowboy who is apparently one of King's key characters.

8. The Fear Street series, R.L. Stine

My sister and I used to read these as children and teenagers, though given that most of the plots involved teenagers being murdered, I have no idea how we managed to get them past the radar of our censor-happy parents. I'd like to re-read the books in which some of the characters are thrown into the 1930s, but I cannot remember the names of them...

9. Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Mary Roach

This is a bit of nonfiction,  actually, but the topic -- dead people -- is quite seasonable. Roach combines science and humor to dig into what the bodies of dead people do for the living.

10. Hamlet, William Shakespeare
"If thou didst ever thy dear father love, avenge his most foul and unnatural murder!"

Many years ago I had the experience of hearing William Daniels perform* part of Hamlet, and the experience was effective enough to make me regard the play as somewhat creepy ever since. For those not familiar, Hamlet is the story of a prince who is called on by the ghost of his dead father to see justice done.

*Starts around 6:20.
Incidentally, the Reduced Shakepeare's Company's performance of Hamlet is a riot. I literally fell out of my chair laughing -- and by literally, I mean I fell over, hit the printer's stand, and then had the printer fall on my head.


  1. Great choices! And who doesn't love R.L. Stine for a good dose of horror? ;)

  2. I LOVE Greg Isles...and I forgot all about him for this list. If you have not read DEAD SLEEP, you need to. An "eccentric" artist collects women...paralyzes them and immortalizes them in his art...seriously freaky stuff!!

  3. @ Baley: He's been a favorite since childhood. ;)

    @ Peppermint:

    That sounds downright disturbing. Iles must not like to be tied down to ordinary mystery/legal thrillers! Thanks for the heads up; I'll see if my library carries it. My next Iles read will be Devil's Punchbowl, though. :)

  4. Good list, although I must admit that I found Stiff more informative than frightening.

  5. @Bibliophile: Same here! I thought it just creepy enough to make for good Halloween reading, though.

  6. Yes, Stiff was very creepy. Reading about the cosmetic surgeons who used the donated dead bodies to practice on almost deterred me from donating my body to science after death.

    Here's my TTT:

  7. YES! In the Forest of the Night is one of my favorite books, and the mood is great for Halloween :D My copy is pretty well-worn, too.

    Haha, Fear Street is pretty popular this week, but for good reason. Stine's writing was mediocre at best, but as a kid, those stories can be terrifying :)

  8. The Prom Queen was a great one! I remember that! I really want to check out In the Forest of the Night! I've seen it before but never knew anything about it. Great list!


Thank you for visiting! Because of some very clever spambots, I've had to start moderating comments more strictly, but they're approved throughout the day.