By Blog Coordinator Meghan Randolph
If you’re like me, October means it’s Spooky Month! The holiday is not for everyone, but for those who like a heart-pounding book with your candy corns and pumpkin spice lattes, here are a couple of suggestions of classics to enjoy or revisit. There’s also a non-spooky, but equally absorbing, book for your reading this month. Enjoy (whether or not you’re into ghosts and goblins!)
Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Who hasn’t fallen for this insane, fascinating, alluring story? Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel, and invasion literature. The novel touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.
Available on Amazon for $7.00 and up, in many formats. Available at Madison Public Libraries. Click here to find branches that carry it. (It is available in several editions, so if your local library doesn’t have the one linked here, check with your librarian or search online, as there may very well still be a copy.)
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. I had seen this film a couple of times, but four years ago I picked up the book on a whim. The suspense and description in the book is incredibly compelling. While the movie has become iconic (for either being scary or silly), your imagination will leave you to a far more chilling reading experience, leading to an ending that will have you holding your breath! Originally published in 1971, The Exorcist remains one of the most controversial novels ever written and went on to become a literary phenomenon: It spent fifty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, seventeen consecutively at number one. Inspired by a true story of a child’s demonic possession in the 1940s, William Peter Blatty created an iconic novel that focuses on Regan, the eleven-year-old daughter of a movie actress residing in Washington, D.C. A small group of overwhelmed yet determined individuals must rescue Regan from her unspeakable fate, and the drama that ensues is gripping and unfailingly terrifying.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: This is my personal favorite horror novel, and one of my favorite novels of all time. Last October, I had the pleasure of attending the Frankenstein exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. The history of this book, the many offshoots, film adaptations, and imitators, and the way it has shaped literature and horror writing was fascinating. (They even had the original wig from the film “Bride of Frankenstein.”) Mary Shelley was one of a kind, and being a female author in her time to such stunning success is a remarkable achievement. The haunting and terrifying Frankenstein endures as one of the most terrifying and thought-provoking novels of all time and set the stage for the modern horror novel.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is about the young student of science Victor Frankenstein, who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823. Shelley had traveled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim which is just 17 km (10 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where two centuries before an alchemist was engaged in experiments. Later, she traveled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topics of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron, and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the story within the novel.
Available in many editions on Amazon from $7.25 and up. Also available at Madison Public Libraries. Click here to see various versions and various adaptations at nearby branches. As with the other books on this list, there are many editions, and this particular novel has spawned so many spinoffs that it can be tough just to find the original! Your librarian should be able to help you locate a copy.
My other favorite spooky books to grab: Bag of Bones, Pet Sematary, Revival, It, or any short story collection by Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, Hell House by Richard Matheson, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.
Your October non-spooky book:
Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell: Malcolm Gladwell, host of the podcast Revisionist History and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Outliers, offers a powerful examination of our interactions with strangers–and why they often go wrong.
How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?
Talking to Strangers is a classically Gladwellian intellectual adventure, a challenging and controversial excursion through history, psychology, and scandals taken straight from the news. He revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Penn State University, and the death of Sandra Bland—throwing our understanding of these and other stories into doubt. Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world. In his first book since his #1 bestseller, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell has written a gripping guidebook for troubled times.
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