Halloween may be over, but the dreary season is still around and can still cast a ghoulish glow over lonely evenings. If you’re the type of person who wants a really good scare, we suggest you read a book. No, not a movie or a TV show. We want you to sit in silence, hands between the pages of a good novel or anthology.
A movie can be terrifying, but true terror lies in the imagination. This is where books are advantageous. The scene can be as scary as your imagination lets it. And the best part? You are reading it in deafening silence, where the most mundane scratch or bump can feel like you are not alone. And chances are, you’re not.
Here are 10 books we recommend to keep you up at night:
1. “The Colour Out of Space” (1927) by H.P. Lovecraft
“The Colour Out of Space” is told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator, who introduces an area blasted by a meteorite, resulting in vegetation going foul-tasting and animals being deformed to grotesque shapes. The survivors go insane or die one by one. This short story remains to be one of H.P. Lovecraft’s best, and was his favorite short story. It was also published in the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.
2. Sphere (1987) by Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton may be known for his work Jurassic Park, but Sphere is an underrated gem. Here, a psychologist and a group of scientists examine a spacecraft discovered at the bottom of the ocean. It starts out as a science fiction story, but quickly transforms into a psychological tale that explores the true extent of human imagination.
3. Blindness (1995) by José Saramago
Like its title suggests, the book (and the film adaptation that followed) is about blindness. A city is struck with a mass epidemic of blindness, and it disintegrates quickly after. The horror is not the epidemic, but the lengths humanity can go to oppress the weak.
4. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1967), by Harlan Ellison
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream is a post-apocalyptic story set during the Cold War between China, Russia, and the USA. Each country built a super-computer called AM (first called Allied Mastercomputer then Aggressive Menace), which became self-aware and eventually wiped out the entire human civilization.
5. Haunted (2005) by Chuck Palahniuk
Haunted is a novel about a group of writers who join a secret writers’ retreat in an abandoned theater. They are locked in and encouraged to write a masterpiece, with each writer sabotaging a part of the theater to create drama for inspiration. The book is interspersed with the stories they write. Watch out for “Guts,” a short story about what can go wrong when you practice extreme forms of masturbation.
6. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003) by Lionel Shriver
This haunting book by Lionel Shriver attempts to examine how personality is formed. Is it because of parenting? Or is there something else? The story is told from the perspective of Eva, a mother struggling to raise her son Kevin. For some reason, they can’t develop a positive relationship, and you’re left to wonder who is at fault here.
7. The Shining (1977) by Stephen King
Yes, Stephen King may be the master of horror, but if there’s one King book you have to read, this might be it. The Shining tells the story of a recovering alcoholic and writer who is tasked to take care of an historic hotel. After a winter storm locks them up, the creeping silence and claustrophobia affects his sanity, and his relationship with his wife and young son.
8. American Psycho (1991) by Bret Easton Ellis
American Psycho details the materialism and consumerism of the ’90s, as an investment banker lets us in on his decadent lifestyle: entire chapters are dedicated to what his colleagues are wearing or his skincare regimen. Later on, his sanity is questioned as his psychosis shows bit by bit, and you’re left wondering if anything you’ve read is real or not.
9. Helter Skelter (1974) by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Helter Skelter is considered as the best-selling true crime book in history, and tells the infamous Manson murders. The Manson murders were prolific because the victims were influential people and the suspects were part of a cult led by Charles Manson. Bugliosi was the prosecutor of the 1970 trial, and the firsthand account of the novel makes it a gripping read.
10. Let the Right One In (2004) by John Ajvide Lindqvist
This may be a vampire story but it’s not the sparkly kind. Let the Right One In focuses on the blossoming relationship of a 12 year old and a centuries-old vampire, and the book tackles heavy themes such as existential anxiety, social isolation, divorce, bullying, and alcoholism. Throw in some genital mutilation, self-mutilation, pedophilia, and murder, and you’ve got one creepy book.
Do you have other recommendations? Share it below!
Follow @When in Manila Koji for more stories like this!