Tag Archives: horror fiction

Chills Abound With Horror Favorites

Since we’re two days out from Halloween, I thought it might be fun to talk up some of my personal favorite books of horror and ghost stories.

Books_BloodClive Barker (1952 – ) remains a modern master of horror and fantasy.  Mr. Barker blends modern themes, esoteric strangeness, and a dash of gore into a potent, fear-induing mixture that will keep you up at night.  While the general public might know him best for films like Hellraiser, I would point folks to his Books Of Blood for some truly chilling reading.

Casting_runes_covMontague Rhodes James (1862 – 1936) innovated the concept of the English ghost story by using antiquarian protagonists and narrators, and then placing them in situations where their seemingly mundane lives strayed into the worlds of the strange and the supernatural.  If you have to grab one M. R. James collection, go for Casting The Runes And Other Ghost Stories.  This copy features a wonderful intro from Michael Chabon.  I would argue that M. R. James helped set the stage for the next name on this short list of luminaries.

cthulhuH. P. Lovecraft (1890 – 1937) simply must be included on any list of horror writers that I assemble.  His creation of the Cthulhu Mythos inspired generations of horror writers and film makers. While his career abruptly ended as the result of a tragic suicide, his influence continues to this day.  The Call Of Cthulhu And Other Weird Stories will serve as an excellent introduction to anyone seeking the essential flavor of Mr. Lovecraft’s remarkable body of work.

Salem_lotKing, Stephen (1947- ) has earned mention from me before on this blog.  His work inhabits a special place in the collective minds of most horror fans.  While Mr. King’s long career and diligent work habits have graced his fans with plenty to choose from when it comes to horror favorites, Salem’s Lot stands as my personal number one.

So there you have my own short list of favorites.  Now let’s read about some of yours in the comments section!



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One of my favorite librarian duties is choosing books for discussion. For Dish! A Foodie Book Club (which meets tonight), I vary the subject month to month—memoir, history, food industrycultural aspects of food.

Selecting titles for Bound Together Book Club, a collaboration between Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, requires additional planning, since our mission is to create dialogue about art and literature.

House (1879, ink and watercolor on paper), by A. Charrie. Carnegie Museum of Art.

For our May 13 meeting, Bound Together’s focus is “Imagining Home,” title of the current exhibit of the Museum’s Heinz Architectural Center. To pair a book with this exhibit, I searched for fiction in which a house plays an important role, or could even be considered a main character.

I chose Sarah Waters’ horror novel The Little Stranger, with slight reservations. The thought of reading a thick (458 page) horror novel intimidated (and frightened) me, even though this haunted house story met the criteria of home as protagonist.

It’s frustrating that novels are categorized in reductive ways. Genre labels such as horror, romance, mystery, tell us where to shelve a book and offer a hint about storyline, but reveal nothing of literary quality.

The Little Stranger, however, came highly recommended. Sarah Waters previously penned three historical fiction novels, two of which were shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker prize. The Little Stranger landed on the Booker 2009 shortlist, too.

Just a few pages into The Little Stranger I relaxed, knowing I’d chosen well. Set in 1947 rural England, war rationing is still in place. The narrator, an articulate, likable middle-aged physician, answers a call to Hundreds Hall, a declining Georgian mansion he remembers visiting as a young child, when his mother worked there as a maid. Hundreds Hall and the family who live there gradually absorb, haunt, and finally possess his thoughts, time, and energy.

It’s a strangely beautiful novel, creepy, psychologically complex, atmospheric, one I’ll continue to ponder.


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