Tag Archives: Horror

Three Halloween Horrors

Halloween goes hand-in-hand with great horror stories, so today I thought I might share the work of three of my own favorite scary scribes.  While three listings just scratches the surface, I hope the stuff you see below spurs you to consider some of your own favorites.  Feel free to share them in the comments section!

The Horror Stories Of Robert E. Howard / [editor, Rusty Burke] ; illustrated by Greg Staples — My two favorites from this collection include “The Touch of Death,” which I read at last year’s CLP Read to the People event to promote library awareness, and “Worms of the Earth,” a Bran Mak Morn tale that might just be the best thing Howard ever wrote.

Books Of Blood : Volumes One To Three / Clive Barker — English author Barker brings the pain in this collection of bloodcurdling tales, and “Midnight Meat Train” tops the list for this assemblage.  As an avowed proponent and user of public transit, this one really unsettled me.

At The Mountains Of Madness / H.P. Lovecraft — No tale better illustrates Lovecraft’s storytelling powers quite like this one.  The story is highlighted by this gorgeous Modern Library edition, whose cover features Michael Chabon’s ringing endorsement: “One of the greatest short novels in American literature, and a key text in my own understanding of what that literature can do.”

Now it’s your turn!  List a favorite scary novel or short story in the comments section–share the fear!

Thanks for reading!

–Scott

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Me Read Book

Usually, I don’t like to read hard books.  Fundamentally, it may be because I’m just lazy, but I think it has more to do with the escapism. I read books to immerse myself in another world and I often find myself gravitating to the books that most smoothly create this other world. But, occasionally I do enjoy something a little bit tougher and this is about two books that I found particularly challenging. Of course, this could just show how much of a Neanderthal I am when it comes to the written word. We shall see.

One of the most interesting and absorbing books I’ve ever read would have to be  House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I found out about this book from a conversation that I had with two friends one afternoon. Friend #1 read the book and found it to be creepy and weird and very rewarding. Friend #2 found the book to be too difficult to read and couldn’t finish it. Intrigued, I borrowed the book off of Friend #2 and proceeded to read it.  I can’t recall how long it took me to finish, but I remember it being a while.  Originally published and circulated by hand, the officially released book retains that DIY feeling.  When holding it in your hands, it almost still feels warm like a pile of pages straight off the copying machine. The book has three distinct levels to it and each level maintains its own unique shifting text and page layouts. Level 1 recounts the life of a young man who finds a dead blind man’s trunk that is stuffed with information meticulously describing a video that the blind man seems to have at some point watched.  Except that he is blind.  And the video never even existed. And neither did the family that the video is supposed to be made by. But that doesn’t stop him from describing it so complexly and completely that it becomes real and begins to affect his life. Level 2 consists of the blind man’s story that the young man is able to put together from his belongings.  Level 3 consists of the story of the family that the video is about, documenting what happens after they find that the interior of their home is actually bigger than the exterior.  Both Levels 2 and 3 begin to have terrifying effects on Level 1 as the young man delves deeper and deeper into the fictional mythology. Does that even make any sense? My point is that this book does what Inception wished it could have. It creates a revolving set of fictional worlds that weave throughout the story and forces the reader to physically manipulate the book in a variety of ways to finish it. I will admit that I didn’t read all of the footnotes.

The second book, I didn’t have as much success with.  After finishing the Invisibles, a genre and gender bending, weirdo punk rock comic series by Grant Morrison, I heard some rumblings about the Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.  It was to contain a lot of what made the Invisibles great. When reading, I got the distinct feeling that almost every contemporary conspiracy theory got its humble beginnings in these 816 pages, of which I made it to 786. I finished a paragraph in the middle of a chapter and just stopped. I couldn’t take it anymore. This isn’t to say that it is not good. In fact, I’d probably say that the book is great. Like House of Leaves, the history that it tackles is meticulously researched and outlined for the reader. Alternate viewpoints to actual historical events are complex and believable. The mythology of chaos and the religion of Discordianism are introduced with all the confusion that they represent. Perspective changes happen without warning and often times in the middle of a paragraph. Time and space are bent and broken, often times leaving the reader stranded in entirely unfamiliar landscapes. This book is not for the weak of mind. I failed at finishing this, but that shouldn’t discourage you. As pointed out earlier, I am a bit of a halfwit. Get out there and take the Illuminatus Trilogy challenge. Or you could just read the Invisibles and Sewer, Gas and Electric (The Public Works Trilogy) and call it even.

-Christopher

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Curiosity/Satisfaction: Notes From A Reading Life

‘curiosity killed the cat.’ A very familiar proverb that seems to have been recorded only as far back as the early 1900s. Perhaps it derived somehow from the much older (late 16th century) care killed the cat, but there is no proof of this thus far.” — The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 4th ed.

I

I am a mediocre poet who lives in a city of very good poets, some of whom sit next to me at the reference desk on a regular basis.  Despite my inability to craft a suitable sonnet or a voluptuous villanelle, I find myself drawn again and again to the poetry section; if I cannot create this particular brand of magic, I can, at least, drown myself in it, hoping I will gain something from repeated dunks.  Gills, maybe.  A mermaid’s tail.

So, too, I devour David Orr’s Beautiful and Pointless.  It’s a guidebook for the uninitiated, everybody who fears that s/he’s just not cool enough for poetry.  Orr’s essays soothe me, make me snicker; who knew the New York Times‘s poetry critic could be so darned frank and funny?  I want to give this book to everyone who has ever felt they weren’t smart enough to read or write poetry, so we can tear down our misconceptions and misgivings together, start all over again.

“As everyone knows, all the best poets eat at Taco Bell,” Orr assures me. I smile, and believe him.

II

Vampires are sooooo ’97 (by which, of course, I mean 1897).  It is, however, hot, and a little fluffy fiction would not be amiss.   I pick up By Blood We Live and fall into a plush, posh, well-written collection of short stories culled from masters of the horror genre.  Neil Gaiman and Stephen King are here, and rightly so.  There are, however, many new-to-me authors, such as Barbara Roden, Nancy Holder, Carrie Vaughn.  Gleefully I scribble authors and titles into my to-read notebook, marveling at how one good short story anthology can lead to hours of further entertainment and discovery.

III

Because I’m usually reading multiple books at once, serendipitous moments frequently pop up.  I learn, for example, that both Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife and Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City contain tiger symbolism.  One is telegraphed, the other covert; both are delightful surprises.  It is, however, Obreht’s interweave of medicine and magic, nested as it is in a narrative reminiscent of those cunning Russian dolls-within-dolls, that keeps my attention.  As much as I pity Lethem’s tiger, I have far less sympathy for his wealthy, indolent characters, and I cannot wait a few hundred pages for their redemption, no matter how well-written and charming they are.

I parcel out Obreht’s novel slowly, in paragraphs, to make it last longer.  The delicious suspense is killing me, but I do not want this book to end.  I will probably stay up late to finish it the night before it is due, imagining the impatient toe-tapping of everyone else on the waiting list.  “Relax,” I want to tell them.  “It’s worth it.  You’ll love this.”  Like a mother reassuring her children that the long night’s sleep before Santa will, most assuredly, be worth it in the morning.

IV

My best friend and I are getting pedicures; I have never had one, so I’m a little embarrassed about my feet.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that they are the ugliest feet ever seen in North America, so to hide my embarrassment over what I’m convinced will be inevitable ridicule and banishment from the spa, I turn to the table next to me, grab a random book and hide behind it, mortified.

Said book turns out to be I Love Your Style by Amanda Brooks.  It’s a how-to-dress guide for those of us who could use a little help, fashion-wise, and  unlike other books in this oeuvre I’ve furtively glanced at, the author actually appears to be on my side.  Rather than foisting a list of dos and don’ts on the hapless reader, Brooks gently makes suggestions about how you can create your own signature look based on what makes you feel pretty.  My reservations about this whole girlie-girl thing lift somewhat.

As I flip through the pages, I read random tidbits to my more stylish friend, who listens indulgently.  “Look, minimalism is TOO a style,” I crow, pointing to pictures of the black-clad, no-nonsense Sofia Coppola.  An hour later, purple polish drying, I teeter home on flip-flops and verify that I can indeed check this book out of the library.  Haute couture, for the win.

V

Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction, they say, brought that cat back.  However, I am still sifting through the murky backwaters of the internet–and kicking up heaps of dust in print resources–trying to find a derivation for this phrase that will satisfy the librarian part of my brain.  This chunk of grey matter insists, despite our brave new content-creation world, that there are still certain standards for what is true in any given situation.  A bunch of people on the web saying something is true does not necessarily make it so.

[And yet, I have, as of right now, nothing better to go on, and precious little time to devote to what is currently a matter of interest to me and me alone.  Then again, if somebody should call the reference department tomorrow and want to know “the truth” about the origin of this phrase, I would have a reason to go on.  Hint hint.]

On a grander scale, curiosity is what brings us to the written word, and satisfaction is what brings us back. We read for all sorts of reasons: to lose ourselves, to learn new things, to kill boredom or its variants, which include “time in airports” and “waiting in line at the coffee shop.”  We read to satiate our hunger to know, even if it kills us, the things we do not know.  We come back, again and again, because the only thing knowledge truly kills is ignorance, and the satisfaction we feel–learning the facts, exploring the new subject, discovering the unfamiliar genre–is more than enough to counterbalance any pain that takes place during the process.

What are you curious about today?  What brings you back to the library, again and again?

–Leigh Anne

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Miscellanea

I’ll admit it – my attention span overheats at about 80 degrees.  I’ve abandoned my latest crochet project, I’m not quite ready to commit to a 700+page post-apocalyptic horror novel, and I don’t even think I can sustain a narrative long enough to write this blog post.  So instead, here is a random sampler of things that have made it onto my radar.


The Last Apprentice – Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son, and his Mam’s always been special, too.  That’s why he’s been apprenticed to the local Spook, whose job it is to hunt down and deal with dark creatures.  One day, Thomas might just be the best Spook the County’s ever seen… if he can survive his training.  This series is in the children’s and teen collections, but appeals to the same broad range of ages as Harry Potter.

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer by Van Jensen

Soon after the original story ended, vampires moved into the area and killed Gepetto.  Of course, nobody believed Pinocchio, so he took vengeance into his own hands, and became a vampire slayer. You see, to drive a stake through their hearts, all he had to do was lie…

Cats Are Weird: And More Observations by Jeffrey Brown

If cat things are your thing, you will thoroughly enjoy this graphic novel.  Then you’ll probably pass it around to all your friends who also like cat things.  You might even discuss it the next time you all get together.  Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Thank You Notes: 40 Handmade Ways To Show You’re Grateful by Jan Kelly

Sometimes, the inventory at the local drugstore fails to perfectly express your gratitude.  Consider designing a custom “Merci Bucket,” or  a thoughtful “Thanks A Latte” coffee card holder.

Ready, Set, Walk! Challenge

Once again, I’m participating in the neighborhood summer walking challenge.  You may be too late to get a free pedometer, but there’s a weekly drawing for all walkers, and a grand prize is awarded to whoever logs the most steps.


If you’re similarly distracted by the heat, why not drop by the Summer Reading Extravaganza this Sunday?  We’ll have plenty of activities and performances through which you can wander, outside as well as in the library (in case you find yourself needing a few minutes with the air conditioner and a cool beverage).

-Denise

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Lists, Lists, and More Lists!

Did you know that librarians like to make lists?  I’m not talking about grocery lists or to-do lists. (Although I am fond of both of those.) I’m referring to booklists.

Part of our job, and one we find quite enjoyable, is developing lists of books our readers might find interesting. We make lists of new books. We make lists of fiction and non-fiction titles. We compile lists of mystery, science fiction, and romance books. There are lists of cookbooks, no matter what your eating or drinking preferences. We make lists of books we liked and some we may not have, but that other people might. There are lists of books for people who want to travel far away and for those who stay closer to home. We make lists that recommend other authors based on who you already like. And there are lists to tide you over until that book you’ve been waiting for actually arrives.

Given all of these lists and the fact that we add new lists every month, we have great book recommendations available 24/7, only a few mouse clicks away.

Do you have any ideas for booklists you would like to see ?  We do take suggestions . . .

-Melissa M.

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An Introduction to Some Great Contemporary Horror Short Story Writers

Horror seems to be best in short form. Sure, we’ve got Stephen King and The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby as shining examples of the success of the novelization of horror, but the really great stuff, the stuff that lies in wait beneath the mainstream, the stuff you can be pretentious about, comes in the form of the short story.

Great short horror is usually also the stuff you have to discover or be introduced to. Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen come to mind as examples of classic horror short story writers that I stumbled upon or was told about.  I’m writing now to introduce you to a few great contemporary horror short story writers — via examples of their short story collections — that have stood out as I’ve purchased books for the New and Featured Department’s horror collection:

Tales of Pain and Wonder by Caitlin Kiernan — I’ve probably mentioned Kiernan’s novel The Red Tree at least fifty times while writing for this blog. Sometimes, I feel like every blog post I write should be about that book. Yes, it was that good. It was a revelation. However, among underground horror aficionados, Kiernan is probably best known for her short stories. Tales of Pain and Wonder is filled with short stories that are dark and violent, yet beautifully written.

Occultation by Laird Barron — The first short story of Barron’s I read was “Catch Hell,” which is collected in another great horror short story collection, Lovecraft Unbound. That story reminded me of Lovecraft meets The Wicker Man. Indeed, Barron does a great job of mixing Lovecraft with a kind of pagan revelry; just check out the cover of Occultation to get a feel for what I mean.

Tempting Providence and Other Stories by Jonathan Thomas — Here’s a book of horror short stories about Providence, RI, the hometown of the man himself, H. P. Lovecraft. See those tentacles twisting around the cover of the book? That’s a good sign that Thomas knows what he’s talking about. But seriously, the Lovecraft inspiration aside, this is a strong collection of short stories from Hippocampus Press, which is a very important independent horror publisher to pay attention to. I first learned about them because of the next book . . .

Seven Deadly Pleasures by Michael Aronovitz — . . . which Hippocampus published and which really freaked me out while I was reading it on a creepy, overcast fall day last year. The stories in this collection feel, in a lot of ways, like episodes of Tales from the Darkside, or some similar dark, episodic horror television show. Every story, that is, but the last one, “The Toll Booth,” which was so terribly realistic that I still think of it and feel disturbed.

Consider this a sample of all the great short story collections and writers the New and Featured horror collection has to offer. Are there any other great horror short story writers or collections you’d like to introduce me to?

–Wes

Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance at today’s prize in the 29 Gifts giveaway.  Daily winners will be contacted by e-mail.

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Revisiting Movies for Groundhog Day

Since today is officially Groundhog Day, I decided to revisit Melissa’s idea of revisiting the stories we love.  And I’m going to start with a story of my own.

Once upon a time, the First Floor experimented with a “New and Featured Film and Audio” section, including a librarian’s desk and a TV.  We were allowed to run a movie on the TV, on mute with closed captioning.  But it had to be from that room and rated PG.

There weren’t any children’s titles in the room, and the newest and most interesting titles were always checked out.  So I usually ran the same four or five movies repeatedly.  (Okay, I’ll confess — I slipped in the occasional PG-13 during the low-traffic early hours.)  Fortunately, I was busy enough that I wasn’t paying attention most of the time, and I never really got sick of them.

Yes, one of them was…

“What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”

But I also spent a lot of quality time with…

“A shark ate your eye?”

“In Okinawa, all Miyagi know two things: fish and karate.”

“More amazing than the time Michael Jackson came over to your house to use the bathroom?”

The Blob (motion picture)

“I wouldn’t give much for our chances, us running around in the middle of the night, looking for something that if we found it, it might kill us.”

Of course, everybody’s got a few movies they could recite on command.  Outside of my time in that department, I’m notorious for never watching movies, and even I have a list–

“It’s in that place where I put that thing that time…?”

“We got five thousand dollars, we got five thousand dollars!”

“It’s one of my personal favorites, and I’d like to dedicate it to a young man who doesn’t think he’s seen anything good today.”

“No ticket.”

So even though I’m not a big movie person, I’m always up for some comedy, action, or horror.  What movies could you watch a hundred times?

-Denise  (with a little help from my friends)

Leave a comment on today’s post for a chance at today’s prize in the 29 Gifts giveaway.  Daily winners will be contacted by e-mail.

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Scary Haunted House Stories

When I was a boy, my great-grandmother filled my head with excellent ghost stories that she or someone she knew personally experienced. One, for instance, recalled the headless ghost that hid on the side of the road near her house –before the pavement, cars, and street lights– and jumped out at horse-drawn carriages as they drove past. It happened to a friend of hers one night.

But her best story was about the haunted house she lived in as a young girl.

It was on Farview Mountain, and it sat precariously close to the train tracks that carried coal down the mountain to the weigh station in Waymart, PA, my hometown. So close, in fact, that the sparks emitted from the train tracks would burn out right on their front yard. Other than that, everything about the house was quaintly normal when she and her parents first moved in.

And then the knocking started.

KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK. Always three knocks, never more nor less. It was impossible to know their origin; they echoed throughout the entire house. My great-great-grandmother, I was told, contemplated calling out “What do you want?!” to the knocker, but was too afraid she’d get an answer.

Then there was the blood on the basement stairs. Just a few drops, easy enough to clean up. But no matter how often and how hard they cleaned it, the blood would reappear.

My great-great-grandfather decided to investigate the origins of the specter. The locals hinted that a few years earlier two kidnappers on the run with their victim, an infant boy, broke into the house one night while it was vacant. They killed the boy there, and buried his body in the dirt basement. My great-great-grandfather dug up every square inch of the basement, but never found any bones.

Frustrated but not deterred by the disturbance, my great-grandmother and her family stayed in the house for a while. But then the knocking picked up in frequency –KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK, KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK– several times an hour, throughout the day and night. Eventually my great-great-grandfather had enough, packed his family’s bags, and moved into a new house that would one day become my childhood home.

Just a few days after my great-grandmother and her parents moved from the haunted house, a spark from a passing train landed on its front porch. The house caught fire, and burned to the ground in minutes. Much later, my great-grandmother heard a story that another house had earlier stood in the same spot. It also burned to the ground from a flying spark. Tragically, a school teacher lived in that house, and died in the blaze. Was the knocking the school teacher’s warning? That was my great-grandmother’s theory, though she never confirmed the story of the other house or the teacher’s death.

What is it about haunted house stories that people find so interesting? I think the answer lies in what makes scary stories in general appeal to so many people: the corruption of the safe and mundane. Whether it’s a serial murderer who invades the sanctity of summer camp“reliving” dead loved ones, or the invasion of one’s home by a ghostly presence, scary stories, whether told in books, films, or by great-grandmothers, create a version of the world that’s an easy escape from the banality of the day-to-day. At the same time, they help us appreciate the day-to-day by making us think “I’m glad that’s not me being chopped up” or “I’m glad my wife isn’t a zombie.”

Oh, and of course there’s always the awesome gore.

Regardless of what makes scary stories appealing, take a moment this Halloween to appreciate some. Here are some more good haunted house stories to get you started.

By the way, a few years ago I found the site where my great-grandmother’s haunted house once stood. The trains no longer run there, of course, but the tracks remain. And just beyond the lot where the house’s crumbling foundation peeks quietly from the ground, hidden amongst some brambles I found an old tombstone with a death’s head carving, and a barely discernable inscription that read “Ida May Smith, 1893-1915.” Ida May Smith was one of Waymart’s first school teachers…

–Wes

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New and Featured Horror

As the horror collection maestro in the First Floor: New and Featured Department, I’ve recently pruned the collection a bit to highlight some of the great new releases that we’ve received in recent months. Here are a few of the more recent additions to the collection that should make your summer reading just a wee bit scarier:

Blood Oath: The President’s Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth — Blood Oath adds a new twist to the emerging presidents and vampires horror sub-genre: a 140-year-old vampire serves the president of the United States as a top secret weapon against supernatural forces that seek to destroy the nation. Conspiracy buffs should like this one (was 9/11 an act of supernatural aggression?). And if you like your books to have some cred, then you might like the fact that Blood Oath was recently mentioned in the New York Times.   

Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O’Neill — Each story in this collection of gritty/urban/realistic/dark fantasy short stories takes place in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. If you like to spend your summers indoors contemplating the dearth of joy in this world, then this book will be right up your alley. If my word doesn’t matter, then consider that the book won the 2009 Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, and also received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror edited by S. T. Joshi — This beautifully bound book collects amazing stories by fantastic horror writers like Ramsey Campbell and Caitlin Kiernan. It’s like a pretty Necronomicon, but just as scary. Indeed, this is a book that you will want to buy for your personal library after you’ve gently perused our copy and carefully returned it within the allotted timeframe. 

This is just a snippet of some of the great new horror books that are available at CLP. In the next few months, you can look forward to the addition of even more great horror, including Caitlin Kiernan’s Ammonite Violin and Others, Stephen King’s Blockade Billy, and Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Lost Souls.  

Stay tuned!

–Wes

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Up Late, Reading

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the words “yawn” and “coffee”

Lately I’ve been reading some truly gripping fiction, the kind of novels you simply can’t put down for an archaic, old-fashioned notion like “bedtime.” If you’ve ever tried to resist the power of a page-turner, you know that the temptation to finish “just one more chapter” frequently leads to bleary-eyed, yet satisfied, book-finishing, usually around 3 or 4 a.m. And while you may find yourself at a temporary disadvantage the next day, the satisfaction of having read an excellent story usually makes it all worthwhile.

Here are a few of the books that have recently kept me up late, reading:

VeracityVeracity, Laura Bynum. In the wake of a pandemic, the government places electronic implants in citizens’ necks and shocks anyone who utters forbidden words. Fueled by the mythic “Book of Noah,” a resistance group struggles to create a government where speech is truly free again. Caught between her lofty government position and her daughter’s freedom, Harper Adams decides to flee. A must-read for fans of dystopian sci-fi and freedom of speech.

Under the Dome, Stephen King. Those of you wondering whether or not it’sUnder the Dome worth even beginning such a hefty novel can take comfort in King’s familiar style and delivery. Cut off from the rest of Maine by a mysterious, transparent dome, the people of Chester’s Mill begin to reveal their worst natures in ways that are all-too-plausible. King delivers a scathing commentary on the decline of both liberty and civility in American culture in the guise of a horror novel…or maybe it’s just a book about capricious aliens.  Either way, you won’t be able to put it down.

Catching FireCatching Fire, Suzanne Collins. Having burned through The Hunger Games in several hours, I picked up the sequel with high hopes. Happily, I was not disappointed. Katniss Everdeen gets to return home after the Hunger Games, but even though the cameras have been turned off, the real games are just beginning. As accustomed to dystopian fiction as I am, I was completely shocked by Katniss’s further adventures, and mightily impressed with Collins’s plot twists. Grab these now, immerse yourself in Katniss’s nightmare world, and then jump in line for the third installment, Mockingjay, which will be released on August 24, 2010.

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski. Experimental fiction soars to newHouse of Leaves heights in this multi-layered novel about a mysterious house in Virginia, the documentary its owners made about it, the book about the documentary, and the diary of the young man who found the book. Confused yet? It gets better, as the physical text mirrors the narrative by playing with visual representations that frequently force the reader to flip back and forth, turn the book upside down, and engage in other contortions. Replete with footnotes, color-coded text conventions, poetry, madness, nightmare and heartbreak, this is truly the novel to end all novels (sorry, James).

One person’s meat being another person’s poison, what constitutes an up-all-night read for me might not be your cup of tea! When was the last time you had a close encounter with a book that simply wouldn’t let you sleep? Leave us a comment and let us know what kinds of books you simply can’t put down.

–Leigh Anne

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