Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Horrifying Books I've Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly linkup of book bloggers hosted by The Broke and The Bookish! With Halloween around the corner, it's fright season. I enjoy a good pumpkin patch and seeing the neighborhood kiddos in their costumes, but actually scary things like haunted houses have never been for me (I don't like corn mazes either because being lost makes me panicky). I don't read much in the way of "horror", but I do read things that creep/freak/wig me out more often than you'd think for someone so jumpy. Here are ten favorites:

Go Ask Alice: Huge caveat here- I thought this was horrifying when I first read it at like, 11. A young teenager tries drugs and before you know it's she's getting sexually abused and runs away from home (I think, I can't really remember it very clearly) and it was supposed to be a true account of someone's life. Even though I think of it as laughably overblown now, I somehow was surprised when I found out recently it was complete fiction written by someone who's done a lot of these "scared straight" books.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ann Rule was a volunteer at a suicide hotline in Washington, and often worked the late shift beside a likeable young man named Ted. They became friendly, and sometimes spoke of what was then front-page news in Washington State: a series of murders of pretty young women. Ted, of course, was Ted Bundy...the serial killer who was committing all those murders. Realizing how little we actually know about other people is definitely frightening to consider.

In Cold Blood: The horror of this one comes from the sheer unpredictability of the gruesome murders of the Clutter family of Kansas, and Truman Capote's rendering of how their murderers came to them. The Clutters were just sleeping in their beds, minding their own business, when their home was broken into and they were brutally slaughtered. That's so scary to think about.

The Hot Zone: We've all heard, after the Ebola scares that happened fairly recently in America, about what that virus can do to you: bleeding out internally is not a pleasant way to go. But before those few cases that developed on American soil, there was another close brush with Ebola: an outbreak of a strain among imported monkeys just outside Washington, DC. Ebola-Reston turned out to be a version that didn't infect humans, but how easy it would be for a pandemic to spread in our globally linked world freaks me out to think about.

Under The Banner of Heaven: This is not really a book about Mormonism (even though there's a lot of interesting historical information in there), it's a book about fundamentalist religion. As a lady person, the treatment of women is especially awful.

Devil In The Grove: You learn about Jim Crow-era injustices and violence and lynching and the profound mistreatments of African-Americans in school, but it's sanitized. Reading this book, about four young men on trial in Florida for raping a white woman, doesn't sanitize anything. The actual constant threat and terror of black existence in the South during Jim Crow is eye-opening and just gut-wrenching.

The Pianist: The Holocaust is flat-out horrifying. There aren't words for it. Of the Holocaust memoirs I've read, this one's elegant-but-unsparing prose hit me the hardest.

The Shining: I don't read much traditional horror, hence this mostly-nonfiction list. But I love the Kubrick movie, and even though the original Stephen King book is almost entirely different, I love it too. Like most of the rest of this list, it's mostly about the monster inside of a man (the malevolent hotel plays a role, too, but it's Jack Torrance's internal demons that are the root of the issue).

The Stepford Wives: I've tried to keep the politics to a minimum here on this blog (we're here for books, after all), but I will never keep my passionate support for women's rights, including rights to control our reproduction, to myself. This quick-read satire makes you wonder, particularly in this election cycle, what men really do want from women.

The Circle: I read this very recently, so there's no review up yet, and it's problematic in a lot of ways. But the picture it paints of a world in while we give up more and more privacy to the internet is really scary to consider, because the slipperiness of that slope is real.


  1. I was so close to adding The Stepford Wives to my list this week. I really should try it.

  2. The Ted Bundy book totally freaked me out!! I had trouble sleeping! How crazy that she actually worked with him while he was killing people...and then she ends up being a top crime writer!

    Under the Banner of Heaven too....

    Also - I received All the Kings Men - thank you so much!

    1. You're welcome! I picked up Under The Banner of Heaven on a whim at the airport during law school, and basically didn't put it down until I finished it...it was so scary and strange and fascinating. I can't quite get over the irony of a serial killer working at a suicide prevention hotline, myself.

  3. I love the books that you chose! I had a similar take on the prompt. I've been wanting to read The Circle, I love Eggers, this was just the push that I needed!

    1. I'm interested to hear what you think about it! From an ideas perspective, I loved it and got a lot of food for thought out of it (especially about my own use of social media). But as a work of literature, I thought it was mediocre, even bad at points. It was a total mixed bag for me!

  4. I’ve read a lot of these. I added The Stranger Beside Me to my TBR list after seeing in on so many Halloween recommendation posts this month. It sounds interesting.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. It definitely is! I've always enjoyed true crime, but thinking about working regularly next to a serial killer and having no idea...makes you wonder how much you don't actually know about the people you "know"!