November is one of my favorite months! I live in Texas, so November is when it finally cools off a bit. It rains more, the sky is gray and cloudy, and I can finally drink hot cocoa without feeling weird about it. My mood gets a little bit more chill, a little darker, and little more pensive. I don’t mind the gloominess. Actually, I kind of relish it. As Cyril Connolly once wrote, “Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils.”
With all that being said, I love to curl up in my armchair with a cup of tea and a good, eerie story. This November, I’ve picked out the following books to enjoy during cool, rainy evenings. I hope you are inspired to pick up any one of these and enjoy your own November evening. Check out my november horror reading list!
1. The Vampyre – John Polidori
Remember the legend about how Frankenstein was written? During a cold, gloomy summer in 1816, Lord Byron and his personal physician, John Polidori, traveled to Lake Geneva to hang out with Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The foursome gathered together on a night of rough thunderstorms to tell ghost stories. Frankenstein was born that night, as was the novel’s lesser-known sibling, John Polidori’s The Vampyre.
The work itself has been hailed as particularly well-done melodrama—a young man, Aubrey, encounters the mysterious Lord Ruthven while both are circling through London high society. Lord Ruthven is tall, dark, handsome, and completely dangerous. He never met a pretty young socialite he didn’t want to seduce and drain her of blood. Aubrey tries his best to avoid getting sucked into Lord Ruthven’s evil ways, but he finds himself unable to escape the control of the vampire.
I’m really excited to read this book! The Vampyre has been credited with pushing the evolution of the vampire archetype from mindless folkloric monster to the wealthy, cunning aristocrat that dominates vampire literature today. Would we have Dracula without The Vampyre? Carmilla? What about Salem’s Lot or Interview With The Vampire? The Hunger? Think about modern portrayals of vampires (even conscious departures from the archetype) and tell me this can’t be traced to The Vampyre.
On less intellectual, gossipy level, this novel is all about how much Polidori hated Byron and resented the daily abuses he was forced to endure as Byron’s employee. He also hated Byron’s celebrity and the way Byron sucked all the energy out of any room he was in. So this book was Polidori’s revenge, a way to get out from under what he saw as Byron’s corrupting influence. But, in a terrible twist of fate, The Vampyre was mistakenly attributed to Lord Byron upon publication. Ultimately, this error was corrected, but still, it seems as though Polidori would never be able to fully escape Byron.
I find it sadly hilarious that the modern vampire was created as a result of personal beef between these two men. Can’t wait to read this!
2. The October Country –Ray Bradbury
I’ll admit it, for someone who loves literature, I haven’t read near enough Ray Bradbury. I mean, he’s a cultural and literary giant! Everyone knows about Fahrenheit 451, and most people would say it’s an extremely important American novel. It is. But he didn’t just write science fiction.
Which brings us to The October Country. Bradbury’s collection of nineteen stories explores themes of isolation, the manipulative dynamics of relationships, and the grotesque. The stories themselves are tightly woven and pack a punch. Sam Weller, writing for the Paris Review, noted that the collection examined horror and the supernatural in “a new, unpredictable, and wholly original fashion.”
This seems like a no brainer for me, especially when the collection opens with prose like this:
“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”
3. Slade House – David Mitchell
This is the most recently released book on my monthly list, but it’s getting some good reviews and David Mitchell is an established heavy-hitter. I loved Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks made the long-list for the 2014 Man Booker prize.
Slade House is substantially shorter than Mitchell’s previous efforts and has a tighter plot. Essentially, the novel revolves around a pair of soul-sucking vampire immortals who occupy a creepy, physics-defying house. Every so often, the house allows an unsuspecting person into its secret, inner space to sustain the immortals. Each of the victims is lured away by a seemingly sweet child, but is that child really so innocent? And what about the fate of the victims, something worse than death? What could it be?
It’ll be interesting to see what Mitchell does in one of his thinnest novels. Hopefully it will be well crafted and scary!
4. The Collector – John Fowles
I really like this book, so much so that I periodically re-read it, despite how much it creeps me out.
The debut novel from John Fowles, The Collector tells the story of Frederick, a lonely and odd man, capable of focusing intently on his hobby of collecting, killing, and pinning butterflies for displays. It’s also the story of Miranda, a posh art student with her own struggles with men and her family. Frederick is obsessed with Miranda but has never spoken to her. But once Frederick unexpectedly comes into a large sum of money, he sets into motion a demented plan to kidnap Miranda and keep her in the cellar of his secluded country home. Once there, Frederick is convinced that she will get over his actions, come to like and respect him, and eventually fall in love with him.
Of course, you can imagine that this is not what happens. Miranda is not persuaded and tries everything she can think of to escape. While she is a smart and resourceful girl, Frederick is just as cunning.
The book is unsettling for numerous reasons, one of which is that this very thing happens with such frequency as to make a person give up on humanity. Jaycee Dugard, Elizabeth Smart, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus went through hell because of their kidnappers. Being a modern reader, knowing about those horrible real-life cases makes The Collector infinitely disturbing because there are real men who think that kidnapping and torturing women is acceptable behavior.
On a narrative note, the dual narration of the book adds to the novel’s creepiness. Frederick isn’t some raving, dehumanized lunatic—he narrates the first half of the book in startling honesty. Sometimes I feel kind of sorry for the guy, because he’s just that socially awkward, and other times I have to take a break from reading because he gets so possessive and intense. And by the time I get to Miranda’s side of things, which she narrates with all the fear, anger, and resentment you’d expect, I already know how things end. The horror there is knowing more than Miranda does and being unable to help her.
It’s an excellent, morbid book that is very well written and thought provoking.
I hope you decide to check out some of these novels! You won’t regret it. If you’ve read any of these or if you have suggestions for the future, leave them in the comments!