BOOK PERSON | Vol. 31 Spooktacular!
Whether you're in the mood for gore or psychological horror, I have a scary book for you.
I’ve been on an unplanned BOOK PERSON break this month, due to a busy period of work, parenting, and other projects. Many of my evenings have been devoted to a profile that will be published late next month, as well as an interview series with young Indigenous climate activists, which you can read here.
As a result I haven’t been chasing down any avid readers to share their favourite books. (If you’d like to tell me yours, send me an email!) So I thought I’d offer a little Halloween special and share some of my favourite spooky books with you.
I am a total baby when it comes to horror movies but I do enjoy reading scary things, which is also why I will routinely read the Wikipedia entries for horror movies that I will never, ever watch. If you’re in the mood to be festively freaked, I’ve got something for you below:
The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones. Jones is a Blackfeet horror writer whose books employ Indigenous mythology to pleasurably gruesome ends. I’m currently reading his newest book, My Heart is a Chainsaw, but The Only Good Indians thrilled me last year when I was in the mood for something dark and bloody. Don’t be fooled by the slow burn in the first half; it gets very, very gory.
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson. A classic for good reason! The first time I read this, I finished it at 1:00 AM and had to go to sleep with the lights on because I was so spooked. Jackson is the master of gorgeously creepy writing; the very first paragraph of this book will hook you.
Come Closer, Sara Gran. A spritely novella about a woman possessed by a demon that is ruining her perfect life, which is also about desire, the allure of self-destruction, female rage, and insanity. Sometimes you just need a quick hit of terror!
The Quiet Boy, Nick Antosca. Not a book but a short story on Guernica, and recently adapted into a movie by Guillermo del Toro, who seems to have made some regrettable decisions to appropriate the wendigo myth into a story that was flawless without it! Skip the movie; read the story; tremble in fear.
Slade House, David Mitchell. Mitchell has written a lot of great books, which increasingly fit together to form a meta-narrative of immortal spirits and “soul carnivores.” This is a little tiresome, actually, and feels like one of the rare situations where the sum of his grand vision is less than the individual parts. (If there are any other Mitchell fans out there who want to talk with me at length about this, please get at me! I need an outlet.) But! Slade House is a great little horror novel that operates with the twisted dream logic of a nightmare. Like his Cloud Atlas, or its inspiration, If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller…, it uses nested narratives to great effect.
Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin. Speaking of nightmare logic, this Argentinian horror novella about the anxieties of parenting and climate destruction is terrific and compulsively readable. I don’t know that I’d recommend it to parents; I read it before my daughter was born and think I would find it unbearable now.
House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. Disclaimer: I read this 15 years ago, in a single weekend where the weather was bad enough that I decided to read a 736-page novel about a shapeshifting house that drives its occupants insane. I have no idea if this book would be enjoyable if you were spreading the experience of reading it across several weeks, at a sensible pace; it requires a level of immersion to keep track of the convoluted plot and multi-page footnotes. But if you want to read some very experimental fiction that will also haunt your dreams for months, this is it.
Do you have a favourite scary book? Or a favourite horror movie Wikipedia page, for that matter? I’d love to hear about it.
Stay spooky! xo Michelle