Don't Read These Books Before Bed
Happy October! This is my favorite time of year, and not just because it's also my birthday (though I'd be lying if I didn't admit that was part of it). As someone who is typically cynical about things that get other people excited, Halloween is the exception for me. I get insanely excited about Halloween. It jives well with my soul (best expressed through the black heart emoji). I love all things spooky, creepy, and macabre, though honestly I can take or leave the whole costume thing.
Throughout the month of October, I do everything to honor that side of myself. I watch scary movies, eat lots of pumpkin and chocolate, have The Misfits on repeat, and light candles with pretentious names like "Pumpkin Peppercorn" and "Woodland Sage". But most importantly, I read a lot of horror novels, short stories, etc. Which brings me to this blog post, a list comprised of my most favorite horror reads of all time. I promise these will give you goosebumps and get you in the perfect Halloween mood.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
If you thought the movie was scary, good luck with the book. As someone who has read a lot of horror novels, trust me when I say this is probably the scariest fucking book I have ever read. I couldn't even leave the book in my room at night because it gave me the heebie jeebies (I'm not scared of a book. YOU ARE!). And while, no, you won't get the amazing visuals of Regan crab-walking backwards down the stairs, or see her projectile bright green pea soup, your imagination will surely make up for it. Plus, you know that incredibly disturbing masturbation scene? Yeah, it's longer and way more graphic in the book. Enjoy those visuals now.
Misery by Stephen King
In the interest of keeping this list a digestible length, I will say right now that obviously there are a ton of Stephen King books that will satisfy the fear-seeker's soul. In fact, I could make a whole separate post devoted solely to my favorite King books. Maybe I will (don't hold me to that). Anyway, Misery is particularly creepy because it involves absolutely no supernatural creatures, no special powers, and nobody rising from the dead. It's just a crazy fan who holds her favorite author captive and systematically tortures him once she finds out he's killing off her favorite character. And I thought I had an unhealthy obsession with books...
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
Haunted is unique book comprised of a series of seemingly unconnected short stories that make up a larger plot. 17 writers embark on a secluded writers' retreat, hoping the isolation will inspire their writing. Well, it turns the isolation does inspire them, maybe a little too much. The retreat starts out all well and good, until the attendees decide it'd be a fantastic, well-thought out idea (not) to deplete their food and supplies to make for a better story. As the situation gets more desperate, the short stories increase in desperation as well. It's disgusting, it's funny, it's depraved. It's pretty much everything you'd want in a horror novel.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Anne Rice's, or as I like to call her, the Queen of Vampires', debut novel, Interview with the Vampire, is the first in The Vampire Chronicles series, though it stands alone well. The series centers around vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (yes, Tom Cruise in the movie), so if you're interested in the character's backstory, it's worth checking out the other books. Minus a few logistical changes, the movie stays pretty faithful to the book, so if you like the movie you should definitely read it. But good luck shaking the images of Brad, Tom, and Kirsten from your head.
Nightwork by Christine Schutt
This book isn't so much a horror novel as it is a collection of shocking sexual experiences and relationships that will make your skin crawl. Chock full of incest, violence, and child abuse, the prose is so disturbingly beautiful you don't even feel gross reading it. Well, maybe you do, a little. This is not a passive read, so find a good place where you can focus, like a coffee shop, preferably curled up with a pumpkin spice latte, and let Schutt's words tap into the darkness of your psyche.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
I love classics. I love Victorian Gothic fiction. I love vampires (real ones, none of that glitter-in-the-sun bullshit). So obviously I love Bram Stoker's Dracula. Set in 1890s Transylvania, the titular character is charming, sexual, and grotesque all at once. And considering the insane amount of Dracula adaptations, it's only fair to respect the original. In fact, Dracula is the archetype for the modern vampire, including your precious Edward Cullen and Bill Compton. So seriously, honor Dracula, because he paved the way to allow for all your sexy vampire fantasies you know you have.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
My first introduction to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a scene in The Pagemaster, which simultaneously fascinated and scared the shit out of me. Fast forward 20 years, and I still can't read this book without getting visuals from that movie. And I've read it multiple times. For people intimidated by classics, this is a fantastic book to start with. The plot moves quickly, keeps you engaged, and the language isn't too dense. It's a classic story of the internal struggle between good and evil. Except, you know, there are potions involved in this one.
My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews
If you know V.C. Andrews, it's probably for her incest-heavy Dollanganger series (Don't lie, you know you read Flowers in the Attic in middle school). My Sweet Audrina is equally as creepy and twisted, minus the sibling love. Audrina tries so hard to be as perfect as her dead sister, the first Audrina, but there's a pretty fucked up secret about the first Audrina that no one is telling Audrina number two. As with all of Andrews' work, My Sweet Audrina is full of deceit, family secrets, and creepy sex. Is this the most insightful, well-written, challenging book you'll read? Absolutely not. Is it super entertaining and will you finish it and think "What the hell did I just read?" Definitely. I know this will be your next guilty pleasure, so, you're welcome.
Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Let's be real, we all know Poe was the original emo kid. I mean look how fucked up he was after the death of his beloved Lenore. And finally, a raven comes to hang out with him and keeps him company and what does he do? He bitches to the raven that it will leave him, just like all of his other friends and his hopes. Yes, even his hopes left him. Who cares if all the raven says is "Nevermore", at least he's chilling with you! If he's not the original emo kid I don't know who is. Poe is best enjoyed in front of a fire with a snifter of scotch. Or a pumpkin beer. Your call.
Zone One by Colson Whitehead
No Halloween booklist is complete without a good zombie story. Pulitzer Prize winner Whitehead uses his literary prose to transform a classic zombie narrative into a beautiful piece of work. Imagine New York City, hub of culture and home to a shit-ton of people, a desolate wasteland affected by the zombie apocalypse. Now imagine them using that as Zone One, the city where they will rebuild civilization. I literally could not put this book down. Note: the word "zombie" is never actually used, which somehow makes it even creepier.