With Halloween fast approaching, Shelf Awareness has put together a selective list of scary books--fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, kids' books and young adult titles, frontlist as well as backlist. This list is not meant to be exhaustive; it was compiled from the recommendations of many of our bookseller friends and represents their diverse tastes and interests.
Many thanks to Carol Spurling and her staff at Bookpeople of Moscow in Moscow, Idaho; Suzanna Hermans and Tracy Wynne of Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, N.Y.; Patrick Heffernan, Maryelizabeth Hart and their team at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego and Redondo Beach, Calif.; Mary Laura Philpott and the booksellers at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn.; Helen Jordan and her team at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt.; Jenn Northington and Molly Templeton from WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y.; Jeremy Ellis and his staff at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Tex.; and Candice Huber, the owner of Tubby and Coo's Mid-City Book Shop in New Orleans, La.
The first installment of our three-part series, compiled by Alex Mutter:
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (Pocket Star, $7.99, 9781416507697). The classic story of a Long Island family that moves into a house where an entire family was murdered a year before. George and Kathleen Lutz know what took place in their new home, but consider the price too good to pass up. Less than a month later, the Lutz family runs for their lives from supernatural forces. Said Carol Spurling, co-owner and manager of Bookpeople of Moscow: "Creepy. I finished it, but it put me off horror for the rest of my life, and I still can't see a Dutch Colonial home without a twinge of fear."
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (Mulholland Books, $26, 9780316216821). Lauren Beukes's follow-up to her thriller The Shining Girls begins with Detective Gabriella Versado examining a body in an abandoned Detroit warehouse that is half-human, half-deer. From there, the bodies only get more horrific, and the story also follows Gabriella's teenage daughter, a freelance journalist, and a homeless man trying to protect his family. Said Jenn Northington: "After reading Broken Monsters, you'll never look at Detroit, the art world or the Internet the same. I strongly advise that you not read it at night or near any reclaimed warehouses."
The Vintage Bradbury by Ray Bradbury (Vintage, $14.95, 9780679729464). This collection features 24 of Ray Bradbury's greatest short stories, including "Dandelion Wine," "The Illustrated Man," "The Veldt," and "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit." Recommended by Helen Jordan of Bear Pond Books, the book "lets readers see a world of sinister possibilities through Ray Bradbury's eyes. It's a haunting game of 'what if?'"
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks, $16.99, 9781402292187). Okiku, this book's narrator, is a ghost. For 300 years, she has traveled the world freeing the spirits of murdered children by brutally murdering their killers. Her after-life changes when she encounters a boy with a demon trapped in the tattoos on his skin and the boy's kind cousin. According to the booksellers at Brazos Bookstore, "this gorgeously written story reads like poetry--despite the demons and the violent deaths."
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (Ballantine Books, $9.99, 9780345538987). The booksellers at Bear Pond Books put this classic thriller, about an attempt to clone dinosaurs for an amusement park that goes horribly wrong, in their "Read Too Young" category. They explained: "Fighting for survival against an island of dinosaurs caught in an experiment gone wrong? Scary. Being a kid reading about not just grown ups but grown up experts who lose control with disastrous results? Very scary (and possibly a good life lesson)."
The Troop by Nick Cutter (Pocket, $7.99, 9781476717722). A group of Boy Scouts and a lone Scoutmaster get stranded on an island in the Canadian wilderness with a "hyper-evolving," genetically engineered parasite in their midst. Robert J. Crowther Jr., a bookseller at Mysterious Galaxy, called it "gruesome, relentless body horror.... Think David Cronenberg does Lord of the Flies."
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski (Pantheon, $21, 9780375703768). Reality quickly begins to unravel after a family moves into a house that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. Full of subplots told almost entirely through footnotes, different colored fonts and strange typesettings, the book is as much a textual puzzle as it is a horror novel. Nick Brunsfeld of Bookpeople of Moscow found it "absolutely terrifying" and had to stop reading it at night. The terror, he explained, is "increased by the gentle, Thoreau-esque title, which is entirely misleading."
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (Vintage, $15.95, 9780375713347). Dunn's 1989 novel is about a carny family called the Binewskis, who attempt to breed their own freak show and take their act across the United States. The booksellers at Brazos Bookstore called it "a jaw-dropping epic that falls somewhere between Flannery O'Connor and Karen Russell.... Gritty, bizarre and an absolute page-turner, Dunn's story will make you laugh with horror."
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Morrow, $14.99, 9780062255662). In Neil Gaiman's most recent novel for adults, a man in middle age recalls a long-forgotten portion of his childhood, in which he befriends a family of powerful female witches and contends with a malevolent spirit that takes control of his own family. Helen Jordan of Bear Pond Books said "Gaiman's writing prowess pulls us so thoroughly into his twisted worlds that we're highly susceptible to fright," and Jesica DeHart of Bookpeople of Moscow said she had to put the book down when worms started coming out of the bottom of a character's foot. Her husband, though, assured her that it gets even creepier after that.
The People on Privilege Hill by Jane Gardam (Europa Editions, $15.95, 9781933372563). Gardam's most recent, wide-ranging collection includes stories about ghosts, a story about an old mansion converted to a home for unwed mothers, a story set in a hospital during the Blitz in World War II, and a story about a woman who falls in love with a gorilla, among many others. Carol Spurling was surprised by how suspenseful she found these stories--and how unsettled she was by them. She explained: "That these feelings were completely out of the blue--somehow I expect every story from a white-haired Englishwoman to be cozy--made them all the more enjoyable."
Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit, $10, 9780316081054). The first book in the Newsflesh series, Feed is set 20 years after the outbreak of an engineered virus that turns people into zombies. It follows Georgia and Shaun Mason as they seek to uncover the truth behind the end of the world. Mysterious Galaxy's Emilio Florez recommended the book, calling it a "political thriller set during the zombie apocalypse."
Complete Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Margaret Hunt (Canterbury Classics, $24.95, 9781607103134). Although these stories are ostensibly meant for children, the team at Bear Pond Books had trouble recommending this collection of the original, much-darker Grimms' fairy tales for kids. "Yes, technically we think of fairy tales as being kids' stories, but there's a reason why we retell the Grimm brothers' stories to kids--the originals are bleak, violent, disturbing fare," they explained. Like Jurassic Park, this collection received their "Read Too Young" label.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman (Plume, $16, 9780452296299). In the first book of Grossman's Magicians Trilogy, Quentin Coldwater is admitted to a secretive college of magic in New York State after assuming for his entire life that magic isn't real. And although he's learning extraordinary things, magician's college is not a fairy tale. Described as a dark, nuanced Harry Potter for adults, The Magicians was recommended by the team at Parnassus Books.
House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Dover Thrift Editions, $4.50, 9780486408828). Gordon Van Such from Mysterious Galaxy called Hawthorne's classic story about a cursed house and the doomed family that lives within it, a "good first journey into the horror genre."
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (Morrow, $14.99, 9780061944895). Hill's debut novel was met with widespread critical acclaim at its release. Jude Coyne, an old, bitter rock star, buys a haunted suit off the Internet and fights for survival against the ghost that inhabits it. "The ghost of a withered old man with scribbled-out eyes hypnotizes his victims with a gleaming straight razor before separating their souls from their bodies," said Robert J. Crowther Jr. from Mysterious Galaxy. "Made my jaded, horror-junkie skin crawl."
Horns by Joe Hill (Harper, $7.99, 9780062360021). A year after the murder of his girlfriend, Ignatius Perrish wakes up with demonic powers and horns growing from his forehead. He decides the best course of action is to use those powers to take vengeance on the person who killed his girlfriend. "A revenge tale like no other," said Emilio Florez from Mysterious Galaxy.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (Morrow, $17.99, 9780062200587). In Hill's 2013 novel, Victoria McQueen attempts to rescue her son from Charles Talent Manx, a soul-sucking vampire who abducts children and imprisons them forever in a horrific place called Christmasland. Mysterious Galaxy's Robert J. Crowther Jr. described Christmasland as a "carnival of horror where it's Christmas every morning, only gorier." He added: "You'll discover the horror of gingerbread-scented air freshener."