In support of Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read initiative, and with Halloween coming up on Monday, here are some of my top scary book picks:
Written in 1845, and containing some glaringly un-PC sections when viewed through the lens of modern society, Struwwelpeter is one of the only children’s picture books that I would call terrifying. Full of morality tales, Hoffman depicts children suffering dismemberment as a punishment for thumb-sucking, immolation as a consequence of playing with matches, and affliction with a wasting disease as a result of not eating what’s been given to them. I’d class this one as more of a curiosity for teens and adults than as something I’d give to children the age it was originally written for.
The Radleys By Matt Haig
Not your typical blood-sucker novel, The Radleys follows a pair of suburban-dwelling vampires who raise their children to believe that they are human. When their daughter gets into a physical altercation resulting in bloodflow, all is suddenly and tragically revealed, with very complicated consequences; a great story about the line between morality and denying your true nature.
The first truly impressive zombie novel to hit my radar, World War Z documents the human war against the infected from many perspectives, in many nations. Politics and cultural differences are interwoven throughout, making World War Z the must-read zombie novel for history buffs and current affairs enthusiasts.
Traditionally zombies do little besides eating human flesh and groaning “braaaains, braaaains.” But when you spend all day shuffling back and forth, entrails hanging from your lips, not remembering who you were, or even what your name was, what happens when you meet a human girl and suddenly start to care if she lives or dies? Can purpose cure you? Told from the zombie’s point of view, this fantastically different take on the Z word is really a thought-provoking discussion about the dangers of apathy.
I don’t usually read short story collections, but this one, compiled by many talented writers of Young Adult literature, is both captivating and somewhat tongue-in-cheek. The stories are alternately zombie and unicorn-centric, with both sub-genres well represented. In the end, however, I’d have to say that zombies win the day.
An All Hallow’s Read list would be incomplete without at least one title by Gaiman. The Graveyard Book, like Coraline before it, brings creepy to a younger audience. Because the main character, Bod, grows up among ghosts, with the real dangers of the novel lying outside the gates of the cemetery, The Graveyard Book manages to be dark while also making traditionally scary things feel safe.
I don’t want to go into this last one too much because it seems like an obvious choice, but I should mention that Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is the only book that has made me, a determinedly non-religious individual, go to bed wearing a cross. To be fair, I was still a teenager at the time and was home alone with a fat and scary novel, a windy night, and a very creaky house.
Happy All Hallow’s Reading Everybody.