I have to admit: horror is not my go-to genre. I really love horror, it’s just that I personally feel that horror works better as a film. That said, I have read a decent amount of horror novels and stories. And since we’re celebrating Horrortober again, ‘m giving you some Horrortober books to read next to a cozy fire. Or maybe just when it’s still light out. You know, just in case.
Classical gothic horror
I can only start this list with one book. OK, I could have started with Frankenstein but, I didn’t read that one. So the classical gothic horror for this list is obviously Dracula. Vampires are my favorite mythical creatures and Dracula is the one vampire to rule them all. I mean, he even had a part in Buffy. I actually read Dracula in high school. All the other kids had to read a Jane Austin novel, but me and my classmates convinced our cool teacher we needed to read Dracula. And we got what we wished for. So even if it’s been a while (ahem), I still remember really liking this classic novel. I also have fond memories of seeing the film adaptation with Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder. I recommend seeing the film as well this month, while your at it. But if vampires are your thing and you haven’t yet read the mother of all vampire novels, pick up a copy of Bram Stoker’s novel.
The one with the bird
I once tried to memorize The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, because that’s obviously what I’m talking about here. I failed miserably, but I can still recite the first couple of lines. It’s one of those feats that will win me absolutely nothing. I’m not saying you have to read The Raven per se, but I do say you have to read some Poe, since he is one of the must-read authors if you like horror and weird stories. I have a lot to read by him still but my TBR list is never empty. I’ll get to his stories eventually.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
All hail Cthulhu
That other classical must-read author whose influence can still be felt in the world of horror is obviously H.P. Lovecraft. He is the creator of The Call of Cthulhu and other famous works from the Cthulhu mythos. For those of you who aren’t that familiar: Cthulhu is a Great Old One, who are a loose pantheon of ancient, powerful deities from space who once ruled the Earth and who have since fallen into a deathlike sleep.
I still really want to finish the epic tabletop rpg The Masks of Nyarlathotep someday; which is a setting that wouldn’t exist if not for Lovecraft. Or what to think about A Study in Emerald, a story by Neil Gaiman in which the Cthulhu mythos and the world of Sherlock Holmes collide. It also gave us a very cool board game with the same name. So again, if you like horror, read some Lovecraft now and then.
My favorite Stephen King horror novel
With Poe and Lovecraft gone, there is only one current Master of Horror and obviously that’s Stephen King. I love his novels and short stories. And while I haven’t read them all and probably never will, I did read a lot by King. So I had a lot to choose from, and that’s why I decided to pick a novel and a short story. So, my favorite horror novel by King is without a doubt IT. Same as Dracula, I read this in high school for my English reading list. IT is as frigging MASSIVE book roughly the size of a brick. So I only read it once. I had already seen the miniseries from the nineties and was surprised how much more depth there is in the book. But, I was also surprised by how well this adaptation was done. It stayed really close to the source material. Yeah, there are some disturbing bits in the book. But it is a modern horror classic and if you ever feel like reading a book that size, go and read IT.
And my favorite Stephen King horror story
This was a tougher decision for me. King has written some amazing short stories. My all-time favorite is Dolan’s Cadillac, which isn’t a horror so I can only mention it like this. The horror story that always stayed with me was The Jaunt. You can find this in the short story collection Skeleton Crew. This book also contains my number two for this category: The Mist. So I highly recommend reading Skeleton Crew as a whole.
The Jaunt takes place in the future, where ‘Jaunting’ is a commonplace form of teleportation. It makes it possible to travel long distances, even through the solar system. The main characters, a family of four, are about to Jaunt to the Mars colony. While waiting for their teleportation, father Mark tells his children the history of Jaunting. And that’s all I’m going to say, as you should read this amazing story without any spoilers.
Even Neil Gaiman wrote some horror
A mentioned above, Gaiman gave us the very cool and Lovecraftian-inspired story A Study in Emerald. He also wrote two books, Coraline and The Graveyard Book, both of which could be seen as horror for children/middle graders. Especially Coraline is very creepy and a highly recommended read. Gaiman also wrote a lot of other short(er) stories, besides A Study in Emerald. Like Stephen King, those works are also bundled, like in Trigger Warning. From that collection comes Click-clack the Rattlebag, a pretty short but pretty scary story. And the best part? You can read it online right now! I do recommend picking up a copy of Trigger Warning though, there are some very cool stories there to find. There are two stories in it that were published on their own: The Sleeper And The Spindle and The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains. The story Making A Chair is also features in Gaiman’s new book Art Matters.
The boy looked up at me from the shadows by the door, where he was waiting. “Do you know any stories about Click-clack the Rattlebag?”
Enjoy your Horrortober books!
I could go on and include other favorite books like The Strain trilogy (so much better and creepier than the TV-series) by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro, or The Passage by Justin Cronin. Or maybe even some lighter, YA books like The Darkest Part of the Forest or The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Or maybe you’ll like the overhyped book Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt better than I did. There’s a horror story or horror book for everybody, even if you’re usually not really into the genre. So maybe step out of your comfort zone and read something spooky for this month. Or, if you are a big horror fan, share your own tips with us!