I love to read and I love to be scared, so I have read quite a few scary books. Since October is the perfect month for a scary read, I thought I’d share some of my favorite scary reads over the years. My love of scary books began in high school and it began with
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Yes, before there was a movie, there was a book. This is often the case. This book was published in 1971. I read this in high school, though it wasn’t required reading at my Catholic school. I finished reading it a few months before the movie hit the local theater.
This book is based on a case of demonic possession and exorcism that took place in 1949, about the time that Blatty was attending Georgetown University, another Catholic school with a sometimes great basketball team. The story involves an actress who eventually seeks the help of a priest to help her daughter who appears to be possessed. The priest, Father Karras, is having a personal crisis of faith. Another priest, Father Merrin, is appointed to perform the exorcism with Karras’ help and all sorts of hell ensue.
Jaws by Peter Benchley. This book about a great white shark terrorizing a seaside resort on Long Island was published in 1974. I read the book in high school, shortly before the movie was released in 1975. This gripping book is much darker and has a different, and I think, a much better ending than the film. It also made this Florida native who loves the beach and salt water pause before entering the water the next time I was at the beach.
The Shining by Stephen King. This book, published in 1977, was my first Stephen King novel. I read it while I was in college. This book tells of an aspiring writer, Jack, who accepts the job as winter caretaker at an isolated Colorado hotel. He, his wife and young son move in to the old hotel which has its own personality. Soon after, Jack begins his descent into madness.
This was a very scary read. My friend, Deb, and I went to watch a screening of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead that was being shown on campus as part of a course on horror in film and literature. (Yes, it was possible to get college credit for watching Night of the Living Dead.) While we were waiting for the movie to begin, I told Deb about the book I was reading and said, “It’s so scary, I’m almost afraid to turn the page, but I gotta find out what happens.” Deb replied, “If you think that’s scary, you need to read Salem’s Lot.”
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. Published in 1975, this was King’s second novel and the second book of his that I read. This book about a small town in Maine with a vampire problem is the scariest book I have ever read. Deb lent this book to me and I read it over spring break. I slept with the lights on for a week. I was very close to buying a crucifix and I’m not Catholic.
Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. This chilling book details the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders and subsequent prosecution of Charles Manson and the Manson family members who were convicted of the crimes. Bugliosi was the prosecutor on the case.
This is another book that I read in college. It was towards the end of finals week and most of the residents, including my roommate, had already vacated the dorm. I stayed up late reading this book. When I fell asleep I had a dream that Susan Atkins was chasing me. She was dressed in a white dress and had a huge butcher knife. Somehow I was able to get the knife away from her and I started to stab her. Her dress turned red from all the blood, but she didn’t die. She didn’t even fall down. She just stood there and started laughing. Then she took the knife from me. I woke up screaming.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King. This book was published in 1983. It is one of King’s creepiest books. It tells the tale of a family that moves to a small town in Maine. Their house is on a busy road and in the woods behind their house lies a pet cemetery and beyond that lies an ancient Indian burial ground. The opening lines of the final chapter gave me chills and I still get chills when I think about it.
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. This bio-thriller was published in 1994 and details the origins and incidents of hemorraghic fevers paying particular attention to ebola. It is a riveting book revolving around an outbreak of a strain of ebola virus at a primate quarantine facility in Reston, Virginia.
A few years ago, I spent a few days at DJ’s house and found this book on her bookshelf. I devoured this book in just a few hours. This book is scary in a this could really happen way, and in fact, it is a nonfiction book. It really did happen.
The Passage by Justin Cronin. This book was published last year. This book is set in the future and spans nearly a century. It begins with the development of a new drug that is supposed to boost immunity. Of course, that doesn’t go well. Instead, the drug becomes a new virus that turns some humans into vampire-like creatures leaving the surviving humans to fend for their lives. It is action packed and adding to the fear factor is a lack of detail about the vampires’ physical appearance. All you see are their glowing orange eyes before they rip you into pieces.
Many of these books were made into movies, but as any reader will tell you, the book is always better than the movie. So if you’re in the mood for some chills this October, crack open a scary book. And if you have some reading suggestions for me, please leave a comment.