Thursday, October 6, 2011

Halloween books for all ages

Tis the season to be scary!...

Updated on 10/5/12:

With Halloween coming up in a few weeks, I know a lot of people are ready for some spooky stories.  Here are a few books I would recommend to anyone looking to get into the spirit of Halloween.

This is the first book in Del Toro's Strain Trilogy.  If you want a unique twist on the traditional vampire tale, I recommend that you give this book a try.  The vampires in this novel are violent, infectious, and seriously evil.  You will not find anything resembling the Twilight books here.  The Strain is followed by The Fall, and the final book in the series, The Night Eternal, was released on October 25, 2012.

This book is so well-written and incredibly entertaining, especially if you like historical fiction.  Kostova did quite a bit of research about the origin of the Dracula story for this novel.  Most critics believe that Bram Stoker's Dracula was inspired by Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes), so while this is a fictional novel, lovers of European history will enjoy this book as well.  The Historian is not short (600 + pages), but it's a fast read.  Kostova includes elements of history, folklore, myth and mystery to create a unique representation of a very old story.  Plus, she grew up here in Knoxville...

If you read my review of this book a few weeks ago, then you already know how much I enjoyed it, and while I think this book could be appreciated any time of year, the elements of sorcery and magic make The Night Circus perfect for Halloween.

Stiff is subtitled "The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers," which sounds gross, but this is a very interesting book.  Roach provides readers with a highly-researched, scientifically accurate account of what happens to human bodies after they are donated to science.  This book also includes a discussion of the history of autopsies and medical research on human bodies.  Kinda creepy at times, but it's a great non-fiction alternative for those wanting a more realistic approach to guts and gore.

Ok. I know this book has received very mixed reviews after a recent readership surge, but it will always be one of my favorite novels of all time.  Yes, it is a vampire story, but it's more about loneliness and human interaction than anything else.  It may creep you out that the main characters are children, but this twist offers a unique point of view.  If you'd rather watch the movie than read it, make sure you watch the original Swedish version from 2004 rather than the American film from 2010 entitled Let Me In.

Technically this is a children's book, but I re-read it a couple years ago and still find it entertaining.  In The Witches, a young boy must fight the forces of evil witches who are posing as regular humans and have a diabolical plan to destroy all the children in the world.  Parts of it could be a little scary for kids under 9 or 10 (it is a frequently challenged book for this reason), but it's still a great book for this time of year.  The Witches was adapted into a wonderful movie in 1990, starring Anjelica Huston and Rowan Atkinson.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a collection of illustrated horror/folklore stories for kids, but just as a warning to parents: This book is seriously scary at times.  Take it from someone who read it in the 4th grade and couldn't sleep alone for a's scary.  Overall, it's a great collection and I still pick it up from time to time, but if you're reading it with anyone under 10, you might want to edit a few of the more graphic parts in advance.

Creepers by David Morrell
In this appropriately titled horror novel, five "urban explorers" embark upon an expedition to explore an old, abandoned hotel.  For years, rumors have swirled about why the hotel was abandoned and whether or not the building is cursed or haunted.  But after only a few hours in the decrepit, spooky hotel, it becomes undoubtedly clear that they are not alone.  Someone or something is watching their every move, and the subsequent events are, well, creepy.  I read this book in one sitting because I could not look away, but I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who will be traveling and hotel-hopping anytime soon!  Check out the full review of Creepers here.

Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly
Technically this book is intended for children/YAs, but I'm gonna go ahead and admit that, if I read this as a child, I would not have slept alone for weeks.  In Priestly's novel, young Edgar pays a long-overdue visit to his lonely, elderly (and super creepy) Uncle Montague.  Throughout their visit, Edgar notices a few peculiarities about the house and decides to ask his uncle a few questions about the house and the strange objects found within.  But Edgar never expected Uncle Montague's stories to be quite so frightening, and quite frankly, neither did I.  Check out the full review here...if you dare!!!

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Ok I know this one is kind of obvious, but Shirley Jackson is the absolute master of Gothic storytelling, and this book is quiet, but powerful.  At first, you'll notice a few goosebumps on your arm and maybe the back of your neck.  Then, you may experience a few shivers, but eventually, you will not want to be alone in your own house because EVERYTHING IS HAUNTED!!!  Even if you've seen the movie, the visuals on screen just don't match up to Jackson's expertly spooky prose.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Marier's classic Gothic tale is no blood-bath, but, like Shirley Jackson's writing, Rebecca relies on psychological subtleties to inject tiny bursts of fear and suspicion into the minds of readers.  Mrs. Danvers is one of the most sinister characters in literature, and the plot is unpredictable and penetrating.  I'm not a huge fan of classic lit, and I avoided reading this book for a long time until my sister forced me to do so, but I'm very glad she did!  Even if you read this book in high school, there's no better time than October to re-read such an imaginative and piercing novel.