DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jan 25 2016

The Things That Scare You…

by Dea Anne M

And I hope that title doesn’t scare anyone out of reading this post! I’m thinking about scary books today because of an article on the site Bustle called “11 Books That Scared the Master of Horror…” with said Master of Horror being no less an expert than the author Stephen King. Some of the titles fall squarely within the horror genre (although that category encompasses many different types of styles and stories in my opinion) while others might seem a bit surprising, Big Little Lies and The Girl On the Train among them. In any case, it’s a thoughtful and unusual list from a writer I’ve always found more deeply thoughtful than many people give him credit for being. Of the 11 titles, DCPL owns the following:

headfullofghostsA Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Accident: A Novel by Chris Pavone

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

Considering King’s list unleashed some memories about books that have scared me in the past, let me hasten to add here that I am one of those people who love being scared–not, of course, in real life and by things that are genuinely frightening–but through books or movies. If you’re that kind of person yourself, then you know what I’m talking about. If you aren’t that sort of person, then you may find this preference completely baffling–but I’m willing to bet that you know more than one person like me…maybe even your own partner or child!

What scares me in a book or movie? Well, gore and slasher epics leave me a little cold. Nor do zombies or vampires give me that delicious tingle of fright (while ensconced on my perfectly safe living room couch of course). I generally hate the sort of movie, or book, where the menace just won’t stay down and keeps popping up again and again. My private name for that sort of conclusion is “The End…or is it?”

I think the scary books that I have found the most effective are those in which the menace can’t be seen and either never really reveals itself or when it does it’s simply too late. I have read many, many books in my life, but of the stories that have really and truly scared me only three stand out. All three of these had me sleeping with my lights on for many nights in a row and, to be honest, I don’t think that I want to go back and re-read any of these again. Even for me, they were far too scary. Given, I was a teenager when I first experienced them. Still, I think I’ll play it safe and let them stay on the shelf for others to experience in their own way.  They are:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty – a very scary novel which also explores questions of faith in a surprisingly deep fashion.

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences by Truman Capote – a classic of true crime writing and completely chilling. Capote transcended the genre with this one and the story of his writing the book is as fascinating as the book itself.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – mesmerizing and unsettling in a way that more overt attempts at horror will never approach, this is an utterly singular novel.

Are you a fan of scary stories too? What are some of your past and current favorites?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Camille January 26, 2016 at 5:56 PM

Dea Anne, I’ve had Big Little Lies on my shelf for several weeks trying to get around to reading it, now I’m really curious, and you’re certainly right about the surprises, mine came especially with The Girl on the Train, a perfect example of what you said about the menace not revealing itself until it’s too late.

Hope L February 18, 2016 at 9:49 AM

Dea Anne, I love to be scared by television, books or movies as well. “Helter Skelter,” Vincent Bugliosi’s 1974 book, really scared me years ago, and for some reason “The Blair Witch Project” was one of the movies that has scared me the most.

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