As we slide into September, we begin to think of fall with the sweetness of cider, crisp, smoke-tinted air, artfully piled pumpkins, and leaves crunching underfoot. It is not too soon to begin dreaming of crackling fireplaces, comfortable reading chairs and the slowly darkening days that entice us to lose ourselves in an enjoyable book.
For some folks, a good thriller, a suspenseful, twisty tale, or a horror novel is a guilty pleasure intentionally sought this time of year, while for others, these spine-tinglers are the preferred escapism year-round. Whatever your taste and degree of comfort with terror, the Scott County Public Library has something to fit your mood. Here are a variety of books and authors to collect for your fall reading.
If you like a little humor with your horror:
The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher is a wonderful place to start. Kara is newly divorced, and temporarily living with her uncle in his hilarious “Museum of Wonders” which is basically his collection of yard sale finds and weird collectibles. A hole in the wall leads her and the next-door neighbor friend into a strange world of creatures who hunt through thought. If you think about them, they can find you! It is bad enough these terrifying beings are separated from our world by just a bit of drywall, but what if the worlds start to blend? This novel is creepy, quirky, and wholly imaginative.
If you like mysterious and haunted:
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is an historical mystery with just a touch of the supernatural. Set on a Vermont farm, near a town full of legends and mysteries, thirteen-year-old Ruthie discovers a diary beneath the floorboards of their old farmhouse that connects to a strange disappearance from 1908. History appears to be on a loop when Ruthie’s mother Alice also disappears in eerily similar fashion to the events from the past. Can Ruthie keep history from repeating?
If you like a good vampire story, but you have read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot but are not into Twilight:
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons is from a master of horror fantasy. If you liked Netflix’s Stranger Things, then you might enjoy this tale set in New Haven, Illinois during the summer of 1960. A group of twelve-year-old boys is set to enjoy their summer when one of their classmates disappears. Soon they realize others are missing too, mysterious holes are appearing all over town, and a stranger is lurking dressed as a World War I soldier. A creepy rendering truck seems to follow them as they attempt to find the source of the evil and put a stop to it themselves.
If you like mind-bending plots, mysterious folk religions, and a book you can’t put down no matter how late the hour:
Try a couple of titles from Adam Nevill:
In The House of Small Shadows, a young lady arrives at a remote house to evaluate an antique doll and taxidermy collection. Not only are the collections creepy, but they also seem to animate in subtle ways, and the rest of the household is plain weird. Prevented from leaving and learning her childhood connection to this disturbing house makes this novel one you will think about long after you close the book. In The Ritual (also made into a motion picture of the same name), a group of friends hiking through a vast forest take a shortcut (we all know that is a bad idea) and find themselves taking refuge in a cabin in which a strange and ancient unknown cult is currently revered. Unfortunately for the travelers, the object of this cult becomes aware of them, and the remainder of their journey is one fraught with absolute terror.
If you like your scary plotlines in small-sized bites, try some short story collections:
Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars has a number of fabulously unnerving stories, one of which is “1922” in which a farmer murders his wife in 1922 with the help of his son. The resulting haunting is a la Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart but with atmosphere and tension only Stephen King can create. Another personal favorite is “Big Driver” in which a cozy mystery writer is attacked by an unstable semi driver and left for dead along a deserted highway she travels after a speaking engagement. The revenge she plans reveals the true monster may be inside herself.
We all know of Edgar Allan Poe, but a slightly later contemporary, Ambrose Bierce is also worthy of consideration. Bierce is famous for his American Civil War stories, which are heartbreaking and powerful, but he was equally adept at writing horror. On occasion, the two genres would touch lightly, as in the case of his story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” as a man to be hanged as a spy witnesses his last moments. If you never read anything else by Bierce, this one alone is worthy of your time.
Whatever your taste or interest in books that walk on the more frightening side of literature, your helpful library staff will be eager to help you find the best titles for you. If you wish to share your love of reading with others and join a casual book club to discuss your favorite scary tale or author, our Horror Book club meets monthly and welcomes you. This month they will be meeting Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. to chat about Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and exchange book suggestions for more happy horror reading.