If you can read only one non-fiction horror genre book this year, first I strongly suggest you examine your priorities. Second, I highly recommend you pick up Annalee Newitz's Pretend We're Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture. I warn you, you will need to really think while reading this book, but that is one of the pleasures of discovering fresh insights into the inner workings of what makes horror go bump in the night.
Mind you, I didn't say you will need to agree with everything Ms. Newitz posits in this exhaustive examination of sociological and economic forces on the cinematic realizations of the undead (zombies), the indifferent (serial killers), and the insane (mad doctors). But if you disagree, you better be prepared to argue why as well as she does.
"I'm a zombie, you're a zombie, we're all zombies too." Repeat these words over and over again to the tune of Dr. Pepper playing in your head. Now you're ready.
If you work in a corporate office, you will understand Ms. Newitz' ideas. If you have to work in a dull gray cubicle for a pittance begrudgingly allotted to you while CEOs walk away with your retirement fund, you will understand her reasoning.
If you've gone through the demeaning and demoralizing experience ironically called the performance review (given by the company-is-my-life divorced drone alienated from his kids, who will gladly stab you in the back to make a sawbuck or to move on up the shaky corporate ladder), you will nod your head in agreement with her arguments.
For that dog biscuit we roll over and play dead every day in order to survive the dullness, the inanity, the humiliation of our daily work life. Well, at least most of us - those who are low on the corporate success ladder. While we get the golden shaft, those higher up the ladder get golden parachutes. So is it any wonder the monsters we see on the golden screen are the products of our collective economic misery or that they pursue their psychotic and body count careers with such workmanlike aplomb?
Ms. Newitz's discussion spares no contemporary horror icon. From serial killers and mad doctors to the annoying undead, robots, and mass media monsters -- all are fodder for her unwavering gaze. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you will agree or disagree, but one thing you won't be able to do is put the book down easily, or read it just once.