Some years it just isn’t enough to write about creepy books all alone. Indeed, “all alone” are words that create anxiety and fear in many stories, reflective of real life. In a year when increased isolation is the norm, it’s a short trip back and forth between the real and the fictional.
Susan Todd and I decided to write the creepy books column together to give readers the perspective of two creepy book aficionados. We put together our list of Top Ten Creepy Books with the caveat that, like all favorite books, the list might be different next week. Since both of us have a Stephen King book on the list, let’s start with his idea of what’s creepy.
In 1981, King wrote a non-fiction book, Danse Macabre, about the horror genre and what scares us. To summarize King, it is when the ordinary falls out from under our feet – when the predictable veers off course, when our beloved grandma turns out to be that clown peering out from the sewer grate, when what is safest at our personal core isn’t, and reality is an elusive concept.
We believe these ten books fit that category.
Susan: The first truly creepy book I ever read was The Shining. When a recovering alcoholic and his family move to an off season, isolated hotel with a grisly past for a caretaking job, his young son’s psychic abilities bring danger to everyone. From the beginning the reader can feel the bad energy of the Overlook Hotel.
Roz: When King was still using the pen name Richard Bachman, he published a small novel, Thinner. An obese lawyer accidentally kills a gypsy. The gypsy’s father takes his revenge by cursing him, pointing his finger and declaring, “Thinner.” Some forms of vengeance are more creative than others. Extremely creepy.
Susan: Thirty-six years after The Shining, I read NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, King’s son. This book centers on Victoria who finds that, by using a portal, she can locate lost items and go anyplace she wants.The villain is a predator who kidnaps children and takes them to Christmasland, a Christmas themed amusement park. (This is not Frankenmuth!) The story is chilling.
Roz: Ruth Ware’s The Girl in Cabin 10 is one of the rare good books playing on Gone Girl’s title. An exhausted travel writer boards the Aurora, a small luxury cruise ship, and sails through Norwegian fjords. Did she witness a murder, an accident, or nothing at all? This book has a carefully crafted ambivalent ending throwing everything in question.
Susan: Speaking of Norway, The Chestnut Man by Soren Sviestrop is pure Scandi Noir. A psychopath leaves little men made of chestnuts at bloody murder scenes. There is a connection to the missing child of a government official. It is dark and disturbing with a dash of gore.
Roz: Psychological thrillers are part of creepy books and often the two genres are linked in one story. Gillian Flynn’s first book, Sharp Objects, involves three family members who have all suffered or are suffering a variety of mental ailments and a couple murders. It doesn’t hurt that the setting is a Victorian mansion.
Susan: Chris Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers begins with a plane crash with lives lost. The pilot and his family move to a Victorian house in New Hampshire with a mysterious padlocked door in the basement. Add some herbalists, who are very welcoming to the family, especially the twin daughters, and we get an unsettling end as difficult choices are made.
Roz: Tana French’s In the Woods is creepily atmospheric. A Dublin Murder Squad officer revisits the murder of his two childhood friends twenty years later when a similar crime occurs. The woods are right up there with Victorian houses for creating a sense of the spooky.
Roz: Reaching back, it’s time to read or re-read the long short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Is there such a thing as being loved to the point of insanity or is this a haunted (Victorian) house story? You decide.
Susan: October should always include a good ghost story. The Invited by Jennifer McMillan provides a different twist on the haunted house. A young couple in Vermont build a house from salvaged items that connect with the past. Things go bump in the day and the night.
The run up to Halloween gives us all a good chance to scare ourselves with a fine spooky book or two.
Please note that the library has now unlocked the doors, counting on all patrons to follow Covid 19 etiquette. Check our website, blog, or FB site for details.
We and the entire library staff have many suggestions to get your creep on. See you at the Library!