Stories For Ghosts

Literary Horror for Everyone

My September 2015 Reading List

There are so many great books out there, and hardly enough time to read them. On top of that, it’s hard to find them. The bestseller lists, though full of great choices, are only a small sampling of the available books. Those lists aren’t terribly diverse either, which can make for some stale reading lists.

In an effort to combat this problem, I thought I’d try something new this month and share my September 2015 reading list!

Every month, I’ll post a list of the books I plan to read (I may not get to all of them–life happens). I’ll include a brief description and a few thoughts. Feel free to comment with any recommendations for my future reading list!

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  1. Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

Where should I start? It’s somehow not enough to say that it is a legendary novel with not one, but two iconic villains—Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter and Francis “The Great Red Dragon” Dolarhyde. This novel was the first appearance of Dr. Lecter, one of the most captivating and terrifying serial killers in western literature. I think it’s safe to say that Harris created a genre-defining serial killer with this novel and the rest of the series, which have influenced all subsequent serial killer stories that followed.

Having just wrapped up Hannibal, NBC’s television adaptation of this book series, I’m really looking forward to reading the novel. I’ve seen the other two adaptations of this novel: the 1986 film Manhunter and the 2002 film Red Dragon. Hannibal Lecter is such a commanding, dark figure, it’s hard not to be completely transfixed by him. It doesn’t hurt that each adaptation has secured gifted actors to portray him on screen. I’m looking forward to finding out if he is as menacing, cruel, and cultured on the page as he is when Anthony Hopkins or Mads Mikkelsen is playing him.

I don’t think I’ll be disappointed, especially when contemporary reviews for the novel remarked on the engrossing nature of the novel. The New York Times declared that “Red Dragon is an engine designed for one purpose – to make the pulses pound, the heart palpitate, the fear glands secrete.” The Plain Dealer out of Cleveland called it “A gruesome, graphic, gripping thriller, extraordinarily harrowing.” And the New York Daily News called it, “An unforgettable thriller.”

This should be more than enough to help me with my separation anxiety about the end of NBC’s Hannibal.

 

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  1. Necropolis – Jill Alexander Essbaum

I had to include Necropolis because 1) the few poems I’ve read from this collection are gorgeous and incendiary and 2) Essbaum is a native Texan. In this collection, published in 2008, Essbaum fearlessly confronts questions of death and spirituality, weaving together erotic and religious imagery. Her ultimate goal is to use her art to explore the power and limits of faith, and to further define the importance of art in spiritual growth. She isn’t afraid of the darkness that swirls around our hearts.

Her poems are haunting, dreamlike, and meticulously crafted. Here’s an excerpt:

Into hands unknown, my spirit is condemned.

I will grow into a black pear, globular

and entwined by long tendrils and a cardioclast sorrow.

A vinedresser will cut away what might have been

my bounty. He will feed me to his animals.

Wild wheat and christ-thorn will spring up

from my burned and bitter seeds.

–Jill Alexander Essbaum, “Cemetery Road

I might be looking forward to this book the most.

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  1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan

I don’t tend to gravitate towards Young Adult fiction, but I’ve heard really good things about this novel. It was a New York Times bestseller upon its release. Critics loved it. The novel even made several “Best of” lists, including earning the American Library Association’s designation of “Best Book for Young Adults.”

More important, however, is the simple fact that this book is about zombies. In the not-so-distant future, a mysterious disaster has transformed the vast majority of humans into mindless, savage zombies. The protagonist, Mary, lives with her family in a small village, a fenced-in settlement on the edge of the titular forest. Within the forest, the zombies roam unchecked. A rigid, dystopian society controls everyone and everything in the village. As Mary begins learning the disconcerting truth about life in the village, the teaming masses within the forest threaten to destroy everyone she loves.

Also, that title is amazing. I wanted to read this book on the strength of the title alone.

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  1. I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down – William Gay

This short story collection isn’t straight horror fiction, but it certainly has horrific elements. I’m a sucker for southern gothic, the darker the better. Don’t have any doubts about how dark these stories get—William Gay more than delivers. If you like William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy, you’ll love William Gay.

Be warned. These stories are not for the faint of heart. Entertainment Weekly declared, “Like moonshine and hemlock, these heart stompers are best taken in shots, separated by plenty of recovery time.” I have to agree, because even though I love creepy short stories, I can only digest one of Gay’s stories at a time. If you’re not convinced, just read “The Paperhanger,” a masterful little slice of pitch-black southern gothic nastiness. If that story doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, you might want to check your pulse. It was like a punch in the gut. A luscious, richly written punch in the gut.

 

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  1. Forgiving Judas – Tom Piccirilli

Tom Piccirilli knew his poetry. Back in 2000, he won the very first Bram Stoker Award for his collection of poems titled A Student of Hell. His most recent volume of poetry, Forgiving Judas, won the 2015 Bram Stoker Award for Best Poetry Collection.

In addition to poetry, Piccirilli published over 300 stories and 25 novels across multiple genres, like mystery, suspense, thriller, and science fiction, in addition to horror.

I haven’t read any interesting “horror” poetry since Edgar Allen Poe, so I’m intrigued by what Piccirilli’s contribution looks like.

 

What do you think? Have you read any of these titles? Do you have any recommendations for next month?

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2 Comments

  1. Great list. I love book recommendations. Especially horror/dark book recommendations. I’ll have to check these out for sure. Thank you.

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