It seems like forever ago that I read the Buzzfeed Article of “18 Horror Novels Every True Fan Should Read Before Watching The Movie Version”. Before I read the list I thought that I was going to have read over half of the list but as I unfortunately found out I had only knocked off 5 of the total 18. Meaning there were 13 essential novels that I – a fan of horror novels and movies – had never read. I was a little ashamed of myself because some of them were so completely iconic that I couldn’t believe I had never taken the time to read them before. Things like Dracula, The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror are all essential horror novels that every fan should’ve read at some point, so you can imagine my shame when I realized that not only had I not read them, but they weren’t even on my reading list! (which ps. You can follow me on Goodreads J )
So I ordered the 13 books I had yet to read and I began reading them one by one over a six month period. Some of them I absolutely loved and regretted not having read them earlier. Others were absolutely terrible and I wonder who the Buzzfeed author was who recommended it to be on the list. Before I rank the 18 books (including the ones I had read years prior) I want to tell you what it was like reading nothing but horror novels for 6 straight months without a break.
First, you will be viewed as a crazy person. I think just about every person who saw me reading during my breaks at work or during lunch would say, in this order:
“What are you reading?”
“Oh my God how can you be reading that?”
“Doesn’t it scare you!?”
Every single time. Without fail. And to them I’d often have to explain, yes it scares me and yes it does give me nightmares. No I don’t know why I do this to myself. Yes I’m doing a horror book challenge. No I don’t know why I’m doing it if I’m afraid of the dark. Yes it is silly of me. Yes I would like to finish reading my book in peace.
Working in the social services has taught me that the majority of the people I work with read empowering, motivational, inspirational stories that are meant to change your life. So for this reason a lot of them couldn’t understand why I wanted to read about vampires, ghosts, girls locked in basements, serial killers and telekinetic blood drenched prom queens. Eventually I learned to just hide the book I was reading to avoid constantly having to explain my reading choices.
Second, I learned that reading nothing but horror for six months will make every thought you have a dark thought.
I was convinced that every random noise in my house was a demon. I was convinced that if I couldn’t remember my wife telling me something that a ghost had taken my form and presented itself to her. I was even convinced that Mr. Tumnus from The Chronicles of Narnia was secretly a demon! (He did have hoofed feet and he lured a child away through deception…..that one’s not a total reach). I began having nightmares on a frequent basis and if not nightmares then I’d have unsettling dreams. I became jumpy – as my wife can attest to every time she opened the door to the car when I picked her up. I would reference everything back to the horror novels and would bring it up every chance I had since it had basically consumed my life. Two books before I had finished the challenge I remember saying that I really really really needed to read some YA novels or sci-fi or fantasy or anything. I had so many more recent horror novels on my goodreads list but couldn’t picture myself reading any of them when the challenge was done as I needed something much lighter.
Third, I learned that not all horror is good horror. I was always of the mind that if you gave me a ghost story that chances were I’d like it more than anything else I was reading at the time. I mean with favourite writers like Joe Hill and Stephen King I figured that most horror novels could meet these standards. I was horribly horribly wrong. It turns out mediocre novels exist in every genre, and non-horror readers don’t often know the difference. I thought of other horror novel to film adaptations and thinking to myself – why wasn’t this included on the list when stuff like House was!?
Now mind you I haven’t read or even watched all of the things I’m about to list, some I have while others I’ve only heard good things. But things this list excluded were:
“I Am Legend” – Critically acclaimed novel and terrifying, action packed movie that I loved.
“Darkly Dreaming Dexter” – Insanely good read that was the foundation for the insanely good Season 1 (let’s just forget what happened past that)
“The Walking Dead” – I don’t watch the show as Zombies aren’t my thing, but it’s a critically acclaimed show and comic.
“Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” – Before you jump at me and say “it isn’t horror!” remember that Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho were on the list. Neither of them are traditional horror novels but rather psychological thrillers.
“Let the Right One In” – As is the theme with the other novels I listed, both the novels and films were critically acclaimed.
So with that all being said, I’ll rank the 18 novels from worst to best (in my opinion! I’m not saying this is the objective consensus, I just mean this is how I enjoyed it) and I’ll also suggest if you should read it or skip it!
- House: Skip it. Just don’t. It’s a mess of a novel with every horror cliché ever written and it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. Don’t watch the movie, don’t read the book just forget this book existed.
- Ring: It was fine. Some parts were certainly creepy – namely the ghost’s backstory – but for the most part it was told from the point of view of an investigative journalist who didn’t always present things from the scariest perspective.
- Rosemary’s Baby: As I said in my review, it’s a creepy idea but it’s kind of an outdated one as satanic witchcraft isn’t quite the public menace it once was. It ranks up there with Communism and being slapped while your eyes are crossed.
- The Woman in Black: It’s an incredibly quick and scary read, but its short length makes it hard to compete with some of the other novels on this list that scared me for 300+ pages. That being said it’s a great ghost story.
- Dracula: A classic and certainly a scary book, but it dragged and dragged at certain parts and it being told from the perspectives of journals removed any immediate fears or concern over character’s lives as they would tell the story after the fact.
- 30 Days of Night: A great Vampire story, however it’s ranked low due to the incredibly short nature of the comic. Even by comic book standards it’s short and it kind of feels rushed at times. Overall a great Vampire story though.
- Carrie: An incredibly fascinating read that makes it clear how Stephen King got famous, but it’s not the scariest of the list and certainly not the scariest of SK books. Worth a read though and it’s less than 300 pages so it’ll take you no time.
- Frankenstein: I actually really love this book and read it in no time when it was assigned for school. The Monster’s backstory was without doubt my favourite part of the novel – which incidentally was the least scary. It’s ranked so low on here because I didn’t view it was a particularly scary book rather it was just a good classical book.
- Ghost Story: Before you get angry with me let me say, this book was a little unnecessarily long and didn’t get properly scary until about the 200th page. Once it got scary it got super scary but it’s tough to rank a book higher when I was a little bored throughout the first 1/3 of it.
- Interview With The Vampire: An absolutely amazing Vampire novel that every true Vampire fan should read. I’d rank it higher but it was actually my least favourite of the original 3 Vampire Chronicle Books. Had Queen of the Damned been on this list then that would without question be my #1.
- It: One of the scariest books/movies of my childhood. The book is absolutely terrifying and so interesting. The thing that makes it ranked lower is the countless filler chapters about the town’s history that made you groan every time you got to those chapters – those lengthy, lengthy chapters.
- Psycho: An amazing and terrifying read that was legitimately scary and creepy. I didn’t think I’d like it as much as the movie but I think I liked it more! The only downside is that you’ll read it in a day so the horror doesn’t really stay with you.
- The Amityville Horror: One of the scariest books I’ve ever read and one of the best ghost stories ever. If they had left out that entire subplot with the plagued priest then this would have been ranked a lot higher.
TOP 5 TIME!
- The Exorcist: A terrifying book with no filler, boring subplots or cliché hauntings. The backstories were gripping and the hauntings themselves were vulgar, horrifying and violent. A true horror classic.
- American Psycho: Never have I been so obsessed with a book. Patrick Bateman taught me all about the wonders of fine dining, personal grooming and style. He also taught me what an absolutely psychopathic killer was like and appeased the Criminology Major in me.
- Silence of The Lambs: Everything about this book was amazing, two well-written villains, a great heroine, a race against time and a man who truly understands criminal psychology as the author. I’d re-read this again and again.
- The Shining: In my mind there will never be a better ghost story than this one. I read this in broad daylight and was scared. Never before has a book made me (or my brother who doesn’t get scared) so legitimately scared.
- The Girl Next Door: WHAT!? Who saw this being my number 1…….I did. And really this wouldn’t be anyone else’s number 1 so I know it’s weird that it’s mine. But honestly I loooooooved this book so much, it had a touch of boyhood in it that made it so personal for me as I could relate to the growing pains of a shy kid at age 13. The villain was one of the most psychotic and sadistic villains of this entire list and you’re gripped from page 1. The fact that I finished this at 3am and was ready to start again at page 1 tells you something. It was the most unique book of this entire list and I recommend it to any horror lover.
So that’s it! My challenge is officially done! Since finishing my challenge I’ve read the 3rd Softwire book and I’m halfway done the 4th, and the Library just e-mailed me telling me that Magnus Chase is in so I’m going to tackle that after! Then maybe, just maybe I’ll be ready to return to the world of horror novels, I just hope this time it’s without the nightmares!