Less than a week to go until Halloween, the best holiday of all time. Keep your fireworks, July 4th. I don’t need your candy canes, Christmas. I just want some candy corn, a scary movie, and the chance to see people wear crazy costumes and wander around.
I love a good scare. Admittedly, I go from zero to terrified pretty quickly and have been known to sleep with the lights on for days at a time when something really gets to me. But that’s never stopped me from going back for more.
I’ve said before (and maintain) that I’m looking for great horror novels. They’re not easy to find for a few reasons. There are no cheap scares in books—you can’t have a “gotcha” moment. So the suspense needs to be built, the discomfort seeded, and the terrifying aspects need to develop fully enough to stay with you as you turn each page.
As many folks know, House of Leaves is one of my favorite books. As the narrator begins to come apart, the narrative itself does as well. The author removes the safety net, and you realize that anything could happen. I still remember the act of reading one passage—how scared I was, and how hard it was to shake the feeling of being watched that the book implanted.
I’m also a big Shirley Jackson fan. Whether it’s the horror that people do in The Lottery or how convincingly spooky We Have Always Lived in the Castle is, she’s a master of unsettling.
Stephen King was pretty much my hero growing up. Looking back, some of his books don’t hold together as well as others. Let us never speak of Gerald’s Game. But when he’s on, no one can come near him. He has such an exceptional eye for what people are afraid of, and he can zero in on the most disturbing of our feelings. Whether it’s the viral fallout of The Stand, the killer clown of It, or the psychopathic fan of Misery, his great talent is in exploring (and exploiting) just what it is about these things that we find so terrifying.
What are your favorite scary books? And what’s the scariest?