Thrills and Chills: What to Read at Halloween
With Halloween approaching, we asked faculty members in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) to recommend a haunting tale.
Some books are comforting or relaxing. Others send a shiver down your spine. With Halloween approaching, we asked faculty members in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) to recommend a haunting tale.
Fierce Kingdom: A Novel
By Gin Phillips, Penguin Books (2017)
“As someone who often does research in supernatural horror fiction (Bram Stoker’s Dracula is still one of my favorite books), I’ll say that this perfectly plausible story of a mother and her four-year-old son is one of the scariest books I’ve read recently. The two are trapped in a zoo after hours and hunted by two psychopaths who have already killed a number of other people.
Phillips explores the profound love between a mother and son and her desire to protect him both physically and psychologically from the terrors that haunt her. It also reveals the panic that accompanies the failure of technology (in this case her dying cellphone) and the disorientation of being in a dark and familiar/unfamiliar setting (the zoo at night is not the same zoo they visit during the day). As someone who spends a lot of time reading Gothic literature, I admired Phillips' ability to transform traditional Gothic tropes into something entirely plausible and ‘ordinary.’”
—Carol Senf, director of Undergraduate Studies, LMC
Young Goodman Brown
By Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story is included in Mosses from an Old Manse, Modern Library Classics (2003)
“My usual recommendations would be something traditionally Halloween-ish like I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, or else some of the very interesting graphic horror novels that have come out of the past decade or two (e.g. Infidel by Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia; The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman; Uzumaki by Junji Ito). But for the past three or four years, I keep coming back to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s very short and very disturbing story, “Young Goodman Brown,” written in 1835. It’s a brief description of a newly married man who, while traveling through the woods one night, stumbles upon a Satanic mass, attended by more or less everyone from his hometown, including his wife — and then he wakes up. The story itself isn’t particularly terrifying, but the larger point of the story — the man is left shattered by the idea that his neighbors all privately hold evil beliefs, loses his faith in society, and spirals into bitterness and resentment — is hard to shake, and actually quite scary, particularly given the divided and distrustful nature of the country right now.
—Aaron Santesso, professor, LMC
The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood, McClelland and Stewart (1985)
“This futurist novel describes Gilead, an imagined totalitarian, theocratic republic where religious fundamentalism enslaves women by forbidding them access to money, careers, and relationships. Some are executed outright, others are imprisoned in households as breeders or domestic workers serving elite male leaders, while elite women are wives managing households or ‘Aunts’ who train girls and women to accept their subservient status. Atwood’s description of gender discrimination enshrined in law is chilling as readers observe legislatures attenuating women’s reproductive rights today.”
—Carol Colatrella, professor and associate dean for Graduate Studies, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
The Blood of the Vampire
By Florence Marryat, Valancourt Books (2009)
“There are so many Victorian Gothic novels and ghost stories that come to mind as we approach this season of spookiness. One I would recommend is The Blood of the Vampire (1897) by Florence Marryat. Published in the same year as Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which I'd also recommend!), Marryat presents us with a very different vampire. Instead of being a bloodsucking creature who bites, Marryat’s vampire is a beautiful and vivacious character who unintentionally drains the life out of those she loves without close physical contact. She is an energetic vampire whose victims slowly wither away and die. Like many Victorian figures, Marryat was interested in mesmerism, channeling, and life beyond death and claimed to be a medium herself. The Blood of the Vampire is creepy in the way it explores capacities of the mind, energies that cannot be seen, and ways that dangerous forces can be at play beyond the physical realm.”
—Narin Hassan, associate professor, LMC
Lovecraft Country: A Novel
By Matt Ruff, HarperCollins (2016)
“Lovecraft Country follows the adventures of African American army veteran Atticus Black as he joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father. Along the way, Black and his traveling companions find they must battle both the natural horrors of American racism and the supernatural horrors of the Elder Gods. Ruff’s book is an absolute page-turner that will fascinate anyone (and everyone!) interested in weird fiction, horror, or American history — especially as that history reveals the utter strangeness of our country’s racial legacy. And creepy monsters! Did I mention the creepy monsters? They are something else. (Ah, but do I speak of the human or inhuman monsters here? You need to read it for yourself to find out!) For those who prefer their horror in visual form, I’d note that HBO is turning Lovecraft Country into a miniseries that is already being touted as the next Game of Thrones. I know I can't wait to check it out!”
—Lisa Yaszek, professor, LMC
By Damien Kempf and Maria L. Gilbert, British Library (2015)
“We often project the scary backward into the past, periods whose superstitions we think we have overcome. In fact, the Dark Web, and 8Chan, etc. are our contemporary equivalents of the monsters that scared (and sometimes delighted) our forebears in the age of Alessandro ‘il moro’ de Medici and Joan of Arc. If you want to satisfy your curiosity about demons, mythical monsters, and other creatures captivating the imagination of women and men alive only 30 to 40 generations ago, this lavishly illustrated book from the British Library is the right seasonal choice.”
—Richard Utz, chair and professor, LMC
Note: Faculty and staff can have books delivered through the Georgia Tech Library. Visit library.gatech.edu/lends.