October has arrived! And we have been looking forward to pulling this particular conglomeration of books together for a very long time. We like all sorts of books. Heady/Smart books. Thriller books and clever twists. We enjoy autobiographies and even business management books. There really isn’t any category of books that we don’t get into. But one of our great guilty pleasures is our absolute love for downright scary books. Since we were kids we looked for really fantastic horrifying books. Not sure what that says about us… but regardless it is what it is.
Which brings us to today’s horrifying compendium of thrills and chills. Define scary. For one individual it might be a man on the roof with an ax. For another it might be Aliens with mind probes. And for an entirely different person it might be Ronald McDonald.
Others might find realism much much scarier. I remember when I discovered movies like Pacific Heights, Bad Influence, or maybe The House of Sand and Fog… I was blown away at how those ‘thrillers’ were more mortifying than any modern day “horror” movie. Similarly, in the book world, maybe you might find certain novels in the “drama” space more terrifying. Case in point, Dave Eggers is releasing a new novel entitled The Circle that holds a mirror up to our fascination with everything social and shows us the underbelly of our decisions. Maybe for some of you The Circle will be more arresting than any of these books listed here. I don’t know.
Regardless, what we have here is a mix of old stand bys that you will find any other list like this. But we have also dug deep into the newer horror piles in order to sprinkle some new life here. And then we have also found a few we are pretty certain you’ve never heard of. All in the interest of exposing you to some really amazing scares that will blow your mind:
1984 by George Orwell – George Orwell’s 1984 owns his own genre (Orwellian this Orwellian that) so tightly that most of these books on this list owe him some credit or other for their acclaim. 1984 is one of our favorite books of all time. And it has to be considered here, even if there aren’t any frights per se. Well, besides the ENTIRE BOOK FROM BEGINNING TO END, that is. But we digress. Great vision of the future that has become more and more a reality each and every passing day.
Blindness by Jose Saramago – Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Portuguese author absolutely nails it in this dystopian car crash. Helplessness? Check. Squalor? Check. Basically a modern Heart of Darkness. It predicts the human condition so perfectly as to be terribly depressing. And so we have scored it as a 3 only because the jump out of your seat level of fright just isn’t here. But it is so realistic that may leave King novels on this list in the dust for some of you.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy So this is Dystopia, round two. The Road by Mr. McCarthy is quite possibly the greatest post apocolyptic dystopian novel of all time. Big praise. The Road is just unmatched from a realism standpoint. The boy and his father have NO IDEA what happened to the world or why it all went pear shaped so fast. All they know is that there may be hope over that way, and so they begin moving in the midst of the nuclear winter. Oh, and is it scary? Yeah, yeah its scary.
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski – Since we originally read this book we realized we read it incorrectly on our poorly formatted e-reader. We have since corrected this error by rereading it with the correct “jacked up” formatting and have to say that it is way way scarier when read correctly. If you love hard to read, stories within stories, and you prefer found footage type movies and books – this will scare the crap out of you. Otherwise stick to the more straight and narrow books on this list.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis – In the 10th grade I asked a few dumb questions of my English teacher and was introduced to the writings of the Marquis de Sade. Ellis and Sade should be listed as synonyms of one another in your local Thesaurus in my humble opinion. A rich stock trader during the day and by night he is a monster. In Ellis’ defense we can easily say that he was showing society what a monster it was truly becoming. Right? Please tell us we are right.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson please, please, please don’t confuse the book with its lightweight movie companion. No offense Will Smith. But the book is nothing like the movie whatever. The ton is so 180 degrees different from the book that I wouldn’t even really consider them as having come from the same source material. But if you are looking for a quick read that will also give you some really good scare material and a really fantastic oppressive foreboding backdrop? This is your book.
Misery by Stephen King – We have polled our consensus (which is funny really because its just one of us here) and we would argue that Misery is the greatest King novel he has written. Tight plot and brilliantly rendered characters. The book is a wonder to behold. Most of his books don’t know how to end – but Misery sticks the landing so perfectly it stands heads and shoulders above the rest of his books. Oh and did we mention it was SCARY!? We couldn’t handle an ax for years without thinking about Misery.
The Passage by Justin Cronin – When we first read this book we couldn’t stop talking about it. Heck, we can’t stop talking about it now. End of the World Vampire outbreak and humans being kept chattels? Brilliance. Oh, and these vampires are not your Edward and Bella sorts of vampires. But rather your Ridley Scott Alien sorts o’ vampires. And if the lights go out at night, for any reason? You die. Even a hundred years later. Epic read.
Dr. Sleep by Stephen King – Let’s just be 100% honest here and say that if you enjoyed The Shining, which we did as you will soon see, then you will love how this book just picked right up where The Shining left off without missing a beat. It was like meeting an old friend again expectantly 20 years later. The back story is rich. The new characters are rich. The scares are rich. As Stephen King said, “Balls to the wall, lights on horror.” And yes. Steve. Yes, you are correct there sir. Well done.
The Ruins by Scott Smith – Attack of the killer plants? Just the silliest premise in the world. We get that. Perfect Suspense here though. Guy falls down well. Another guy goes down to wait it out. Long stretches of darkness ensue. And they keep seeing things. Or not seeing things. And there’s a draft coming from somewhere every now and again. Did you hear that? I didn’t say anything. The characters’ relationships are complex which multiply the effect of the horror perfectly.
IT by Stephen King – this book is preternaturally scary. Its Cosmic Crazy Clowns scary. Couple this wicked scary monster with a group of kids and what you have is the stuff of nightmares. We originally threw this book on the list towards the middle without thinking. But upon review? It could be quite possibly the scariest book ever written. And believe us, we won’t argue a bit if you wanted to make it number one on this list. Zero arguments here.
The Shining by Stephen King – This one? This one goes to 11. Let’s be honest, the 1st time we read this book we didn’t even finish it. Took us 10 years to finish actually. A family of three goes into the mountains to take care of an old hotel that closes through the winter. They are closed in until spring. Oh, and by the way, the hotel is haunted. And the father is an alcoholic of epic proportions. And then there is the son, who has these extra sensory powers that let him see and communicate with the dead. Definitely Stephen King’s masterpiece.