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 last part of our three-part series, compiled by Alex Mutter; see part one and part two.
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi (Norton, $16.95, 9780393322231). In Helter Skelter, Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecuting attorney in the Charles Manson case, tells the story behind the Manson family murders and Charles Manson's desert cult. The justification for putting the book on this list was simple: "Nothing that scary should be real," said Mysterious Galaxy's Christine Van Such.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Vintage, $15, 9780679745587). Capote's exhaustively researched true-crime classic documents the murder of Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan., in 1959, and the manhunt for and apprehension of the two men responsible. "Any nonfiction book that brings readers vividly into the events of a terrible crime is by definition a scary book," said Helen Jordan of Bear Pond Books.
The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard by Stephen Jimenez (Steerforth, $16, 9781586422264). In 2000, Jimenez, himself a gay man, traveled to Laramie, Wyo., with the intention of writing a book about the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998. He, like many others, assumed the Shepard story was an open-and-shut case. Over the course of a 10-year investigation, however, he discovered many dark, unreported truths about what happened. According to Candice Huber of Tubby and Coo's Mid-City Bookshop, Jimenez's findings "will make you question everything you thought you knew about this case. Society can be truly scary."
The Other Side by Lacy Johnson (Tin House Books, $15.95, 9781935639831). More than a decade ago, Lacy Johnson was kidnapped by an abusive ex-lover. He imprisoned her in a soundproof room, intending to keep her and rape her there until she died. Johnson eventually escaped, and now, years later, has written about the experience. "Scary, yes, and not easy to read, but we do know that the author escaped and survived to tell the compelling and insightful story," said Jesica DeHart from Bookpeople of Moscow.
Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn (Liveright, $25.95, 9780871404510). In Blood Will Out, Kirn discusses his longtime friendship with a man named Clark Rockefeller. Rockefeller is eventually unmasked as a serial imposter, conman and murderer who has been living under a false identity for decades. Recommended by the team at Brazos Bookstore, who called it "simultaneously a page-turning true crime narrative and a powerful rumination on the nature of identity, truth and belief.... A riveting and unsettling read that will leave you questioning just how much you can trust anyone."
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhaut and Sara Corbett (Scribner, $16, 9781451645613). In her 2013 memoir, Lindhaut, who backpacked through Latin America and much of Asia before beginning a career as a television reporter in the Middle East, recalls her 460-day captivity at the hands of a group of kidnappers in Somalia. Lindhaut's descriptions of that time are harrowing and unflinching. Recommended by the booksellers at Parnassus Books.
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (Abrams, $17.95, 9781419702174). Backderf knew Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer, rapist and cannibal, when the two were in high school. In this graphic novel, Backderf "tells the story of a young Jeffrey Dahmer, who was just another nerdy kid in school, and how and why he transformed into the notorious serial killer we know him as today," said Candice Huber. "Haunting and offering profound insights into how society ignores tell-tale warning signs, this book will keep you up at night."
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books, $21.99, 9781442465954). Through the Woods is a collection of five graphic stories--the webcomic hit "His Face All Read" plus four original tales. "If you're squeamish or easily spooked, maybe you should keep the lights on; this book will make you shiver," said Molly Templeton of WORD Bookstores. "In her debut graphic short story collection, Carroll melds art, fairy tales, and fear into a perfect witching hour read."
From Hell by Alan Moore (Top Shelf Production, $35, 9780958578349). Moore blends fact and fiction in this stark, brutal retelling of the Jack the Ripper story. "From Hell rates right up there as one of the scariest and most amazing stories ever told," said Carol Spurling. "This comprehensive look at a madman is sure to keep you looking over your shoulder for a long time to come."
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët, translated by Helge Dascher (Drawn and Quarterly, $22.95, 9781770461291). The beautiful watercolors of artist Kerascoët belie the darkness at the core of this French graphic novel. Although Beautiful Darkness looks as though it's meant for children, it is anything but. "Like many fairy tales, it starts off pleasantly enough, with a prince and princess, then quickly darkens, with blood, guts, death, and cannibalism," said Carol Spurling.
Young Adult and Children's Books:
That One Spooky Night by Dan Bar-el (Kids Can Press, $8.95, 9781554537525). Jesica DeHart called That One Spooky Night "a perfect fall book for elementary school age kids." The graphic novel/short story collection "is an hilarious glimpse into what can happen when there are more tricks than treats on one mysterious Halloween night."
The Diviners by Libba Bray (Little, Brown, $11, 9780316126106). In this young adult novel set in 1926, a young girl with supernatural powers leaves her hometown and travels to New York City. At first ecstatic to be there, Evie quickly becomes embroiled in an occult murder case and begins the hunt for a supernatural killer. A recommendation from Parnassus Books.
Heap House: The Iremonger Trilogy: Book One by Edward Carey (Overlook, $16.99, 9781468309539). Heap House tells the story of Clod, a young Iremonger who lives in an alternate world made up of London's lost and discarded artifacts called the Heaps. After a young girl arrives in the Heaps from London, Clod begins to discover some dark, scary truths about the world in which he lives. This book was recommended by a member of Bookpeople of Moscow's Kids Advisory Board, who said: "It was hilarious, odd, suspenseful, and unlike all the other books. It has dark mysterious drawings that spooked you. It was great."
Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories by Roald Dahl (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $15, 9780374518684). Dahl sifted through hundreds of scary stories to put together this collection of 14 ghost stories, which was recommended by both the teams at Bear Pond Books and Parnassus Books. Said Helen Jordan: "We believe he was correct. These are the spookiest."
Coraline by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins, $6.99, 9780380807345). Coraline is at first thrilled to find a secret door in her house that leads to an alternate version of her home complete with an alternate family. But before long it becomes clear that her new family does not intend to let her leave, and she may never be able to return to the life that she took for granted. Bookpeople of Moscow's Jamaica Ritcher said her children "both loved and were freaked out by Coraline." The book was also recommended by the team at Bear Pond Books.
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal (Ember, $9.99, 9780375843297). This young adult novel is about a boy named Jeremy Johnson Johnson who lives in a fairy tale town called Never Better and is watched over by the ghost of Jacob Grimm. After a young girl eats a bewitched cake and falls in love with him, Jeremy begins to learn of the evil lurking in Never Better. A modern take on fairy tales and a National Book Award finalist, Far Far Away was recommended by Bear Pond Books.
Just a Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book by Yuyi Morales (Chronicle Books, $15.99, 9780811837583). Just a Minute is a somewhat unusual picture book in that it deals with the subject of death, and turns it into something not so terrifying. A favorite of Jesica DeHart's, it is about Grandma Beetle, who puts off death indefinitely with a long list of tasks she needs to accomplish before he can take her away.
In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer (HarperCollins, $3.99, 9780064440905). Candice Huber remembers her teachers reading this collection to her in school, and being terrified by the stories. "In particular, there's a story called 'The Green Ribbon' that has stuck with me to this day," said Huber. "It just sends chills up your spine. This is the perfect book to read to kids at Halloween!"
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz (Scholastic, 9780590431972). Schwartz's classic collection was recommended by both Parnassus Books and Bear Pond Books. The stories themselves are scary enough, especially when read out loud, and the iconic illustrations add an extra level of creepy.
A Shocker on Shock Street (Goosebumps #35) by R.L. Stine (Scholastic, 9780439568449). Another pick from a member of Bookpeople of Moscow's Kids Advisory Board, A Shocker on Shock Street finds best friends Erin and Marty trapped in a theme park and contending with giant bugs. Marissa, a fourth grader on the advisory board, called it "a thrilling, scary and exciting tale, which is great for older elementary school kids."