Yeah, the 80 degree weather in Minnesota throughout most of October might have put folks a bit off of any creepy, dark-of-night tendency that they might otherwise experience leading up to Halloween. Usually, you can cuddle up inside with a good book, while the wind whips leaves around the yard and the pumpkins catch a frost every night. But not this year. However, the weather is starting to cooperate as the spook day gets closer. Mmmm, that’s better…
All the more reason to indulge in a little bit of spooky reading. You can find many tomes to put yourself in a Halloween frame of mind. If you are into the classics, you can try the Victorian rendition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It does sometimes leave the modern reader gasping for a comma, but there’s nothing like an undead giant to make you start at every noise outside. All the more impressive that it was written when she was only 19, and it has stood the test of time well. Or go for Bram Stoker’s Dracula –- just in time to celebrate the author’s birthday on November 8.
Or you could lose yourself with spine-tingling modern creepiness. One of the best that has come to my attention lately is Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Yes, this is officially a YA novel, and told from the point of view of two very star-crossed teenagers. But it is well-written, suspenseful and original. And like any good YA novelist, Stiefvater has written a sequel, Linger. The series is called The Wolves of Mercy Falls, and it’s even set in Minnesota.
Shiver is the story of Grace and Sam. Grace meets a yellow-eyed wolf when she is attacked by a pack in her backyard as a child. What she doesn’t know is that the yellow-eyed wolf is named Sam, and as much as she is watching him, over the years, he is watching her too, from the woods behind her house. And for some reason, he is only there in the winter. Is it a horror story, or a love story? Well, there’s one very delicious way to find out. The first few pages will give you chills, and as you read this book, you might look at that treeline a little differently.
No, I have not read the Twilight series. Everyone says it is worth reading, if only to discover Meyer’s methods of characterization and setting. So if you like vampires, as opposed to werewolves, you might go that route. But I give Stiefvater five stars for not jumping on the Twilight bandwagon.
And if you just aren’t interested in vampires or werewolves, but you like the oh-so-spooky idea of death and cemeteries, then you must read Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry. I can’t explain the title (who can explain Audrey?), but it does concern a pair of twins, so maybe that’s it. The sisters inherit an apartment from their never-met aunt, which happens to be next to Highgate Cemetery in London. They meet her old boyfriend, who happens to be a guide at the cemetery and is writing a book about it. Let’s just say that their old aunt has some unexpected surprises for them. The aura of the book is so creepy and the resolution is so unexpected, I suggest you probably would not want to read this alone at night in front of a large window. It’s that creepy. But oddly satisfying, in the weird, off-beat way that Niffenegger can be.
And for a good old-fashioned ghost story, there’s The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb. Webb was on a panel at the recent Twin Cities Book Festival, and explained how she got the idea for the book. Nothing like a stranger coming out of the fog off of Lake Superior to put you in a ghostly state of mind. Called a “thrilling modern ghost story,” this book takes full license with the all-over vibe of its Lake Superior setting. Mary Sharratt, author of Daughters of the Witching Hill (another great Halloween read), calls it “a delicious ghost story, by turns chilling and heart-warming.”
If you’re looking for some post-apocalyptic Halloween chills, look no further than another YA novel that is sweeping the country, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This also has a sequel; hooray for the legacy of Harry Potter! Catching Fire and Mockingjay continue the story in the best YA fantasy/sci-fi tradition.
If you eschew YA novels (and why? Shame on you!), then head right to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’ve heard many people love this; I had to put it down halfway through. Sure to give you a new appreciation for hot showers.
So what are you waiting for? There are plenty of choices. Head to your local library or indie bookstore and get yourself some macabre, spooky, creepy fun.