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.
This is the second part of our three-part series, compiled by Alex Mutter; part one is here.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Vintage, $14, 9780307745316). Written in the style of a 19th century gothic novel, Susan Hill's novel follows a young London solicitor who stays at the secluded house of a deceased client while trying to settle her estate. "While there, he hears echoes from the past: a horse and cart crash, a child crying in terror, and a rocking chair in a locked room," recalled the team at Bear Pond Books. "He also encounters a shadowy woman in black. Creepy."
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Vintage, $15.95, 9781400078776). A young woman named Kathy recalls her childhood at a sequestered English boarding school and gradually starts to piece together what was really going on there. Bookpeople of Moscow's Nick Brunsfeld recommended it as a suspenseful, disturbing, yet beautifully written book that slowly pulls back the curtain to reveal dark truths.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (Penguin Classics, $16, 9780143039983). In Jackson's 1959 novel, four people come to Hill House: a doctor in search of the supernatural, his assistant, a young woman who has been haunted by ghosts before, and the heir to Hill House. The force that inhabits Hill House quickly gets its hooks in one of them. According to the booksellers at Bear Pond Books, it's more than just an average ghost story. "Of course, the woman who wrote "The Lottery" is able to fill the story of a haunted house with dread and sinister psychology," they explained.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (Penguin Classics, $16, 9780143039976). The single most recommended book on this list, We Have Always Lived in the Castle tells the story of a twisted, isolate family and what transpires when a cousin comes to visit. Said Tracy Wynne, from Oblong Books and Music: "Jackson was the master of creating an eerie and unsettling atmosphere where her stories would unfold. Her writing makes you want to hold your breath until whatever that is has gone past your door." Maryelizabeth Hart from Mysterious Galaxy called Shirley Jackson "the maven of stories in which little is more horrifying in life than family." And Jen Catlin, also from Mysterious Galaxy, added: "This story has haunted me for years. It is one of the most compellingly creepy stories I have ever read."
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Modern Library, $3, 9780486266848). In James's 1898 classic, a young woman is hired to serve as governess to two young children, a little girl and a little boy, on an isolated estate in the English countryside. The governess quickly realizes that there are dark forces inhabiting the estate, and the children themselves are not as innocent as they seem. Recommended by the team at Parnassus Books.
Misery by Stephen King (Signet, $7.99, 9780451169525). In this Stephen King classic, bestselling author Paul Sheldon is held captive by a crazed fan who demands that he write a masterpiece just for her. "For anyone who likes to write and who works with authors on a regular basis, this is absolutely terrifying," said Candice Huber, the owner of Tubby and Coo's Mid-City Book Shop.
Needful Things by Stephen King (Signet, $8.99, 9780451172815). Bunny Hand from Mysterious Galaxy called Needful Things one of her favorites. "Mr. Leland Gaunt, who just happens to be Satan himself, opens a new shop in Castle Rock, Maine. You can buy anything that you really desire there, but at a price that will demand your heart and soul and often your body," she said. "Nerve-shattering reminder of what it is to be human and tempted."
The Long Walk by Stephen King (Signet, $7.99, 9780451196712). Written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, this Stephen King novel depicts Ray Garraty and 99 other teenage boys in a race called the Long Walk. Only one of the boys can win, and the losers get shot in the head. Recommended by the booksellers at Parnassus Books.
The Shining by Stephen King (Anchor, $7.99, 9780307743657). For multiple employees at Bear Pond Books, King's novel, about the dark forces inhabiting a hotel and the havoc they wreak on the isolated Torrance family, was a "grown up" book that gave them serious nightmares when they read it as kids. Candice Huber, meanwhile, felt that she'd be remiss if she didn't recommend a Stephen King novel, one whose reputation speaks for itself: "The Shining is one of his most well-known novels, and I'm sure I don't have to explain why I chose that one."
California by Edan Lepucki (Little, Brown, $26, 9780316250818). In the post-apocalyptic near future, Cal and Frida have managed to escape what's left of Los Angeles and eke out a comfortable enough existence in an isolated house in the wilderness. That all changes, though, when Frida discovers that she's pregnant, and they decide to risk contacting the nearest community. "I found the prospect of being pregnant and living in the wilderness at the end of the world absolutely terrifying," said Mary Laura Philpott of Parnassus Books.
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin (Pegasus, $14.95, 9781605981109). After a young couple moves into an old apartment building in New York City, their eccentric, older neighbors take a bizarre interest in their affairs. Her actor husband lands a role on Broadway and shortly afterward Rosemary becomes pregnant. As Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated by both her husband and their neighbors, she begins to fear for herself and her baby. "There's so much more to a brownstone building than you ever want to know," remarked Mysterious Galaxy's Patrick Heffernan.
Little Star by John Aljvide Lindqvist (St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, 9781250037190). In Little Star, the fourth novel by the Scandinavian author of Let the Right One In, a baby girl is found left for dead in the woods. She is rescued, and as a child entered into a national, televised singing competition. From there she attracts the sinister attention of another young girl. Said Emilio Florez from Mysterious Galaxy: "A sociopathic child goes on a killing spree. What more could you want?"
Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin (Bantam, $7.99, 9780553577938). Published long before A Song of Ice and Fire became famous worldwide, Fevre Dream is the story of a struggling 19th-century riverboat captain who is commissioned by a wealthy vampire to take him up the Mississippi River. Mysterious Galaxy's Patrick Heffernan called it "chilling and poignant."
They Thirst by Robert McCammon (Out of print: Pocket, 9780671735630). Andre Palatazin and his mother barely manage to escape from their tiny Hungarian village after Andre's father is turned into a vampire. Years later, long after they've found their way into the United States, Andre is a policeman in Los Angeles. Soon, the vampires that haunted him in Hungary find their way to him in L.A. Recommended by Linda Tonnesen at Mysterious Galaxy.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage Books, $15, 9780307387899). Cormac McCarthy's stark, harrowing novel about a father and son fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. "The general consensus was that anything by Cormac McCarthy qualifies as scary and disturbing, but the one of his that popped to mind as his scariest is The Road," said Carol Spurling.
Beloved by Toni Morrison (Vintage, $16, 9781400033416). Morrison's harrowing novel follows Sethe, a former slave who escaped from the slave plantation Sweet Home to a life in Ohio. Sethe and her family are haunted by the ghost of her child Beloved; shortly after the vengeful spirit is forced out of her house, a young woman calling herself Beloved appears on Sethe's doorstep. Before long, Beloved has Sethe in her clutches, and has no intentions of letting her go. A recommendation from the team at Parnassus Books.
1984 by George Orwell (Signet Classic, $9.99, 9780451524935). Although the year 1984 has long since come and gone, Orwell's dark vision of the future remains as powerful and striking as ever. A classic dystopian tale that coined the terms doublethink and thoughtcrime, 1984 was recommended by booksellers at Parnassus Books.
The Best of Poe: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, The Cask of Amontillado, and 30 Others by Edgar Allan Poe (Prestwick House, $5.99, 9781580493871). This collection includes 33 of Poe's best poems and short stories. "We all agreed that for purely scary stories, no one can top Edgar Allan Poe," explained Carol Spurling. "I can get shivers just thinking of The Cask of Amontillado and that brick wall in the cellar, decades after reading it."
Haunted by Tamara Thorne (Kensington, $4.99, 9781420129946). A bestselling author in need of inspiration moves into a supposedly haunted house with his teenage daughter. Intending to write a masterpiece of horror, he finds his plans are quickly derailed when it turns out the house is even more dangerous than the urban legends say. Gordon Van Such at Mysterious Galaxy called it "just plain scary."
John Dies at the End by David Wong (St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, 9781250035950). A spoof of the horror genre that is itself rather scary, John Dies at the End focuses on Wong, his best friend John, and a paranormal drug called soy sauce. "It's a weird book, but I give it a lot of credit for being different," said Sam Griffith from Mysterious Galaxy. "If you can get past the somewhat immature humor, then the experience is unique, funny and terrifying."