This Autumn I set myself a challenge to read some spooky books to get into the spirit of the season. And since we’re quickly racing towards December and the festivities, I guess I better wrap up the challenge and let you know how it went!
As you can see from the reel below, I initially picked out 5 books from my shelf to read but then a few new books came my way (naturally) so in total, I’m talking about 8 books that I read across October and November.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I kicked off my reading challenge with an old favourite. I remember taking this book out from my school library a couple of times because I loved it so much. I wanted to see if it held up many years later…and it did! The Lovely Bones is about a 14-year-old girl called Susie Salmon who was murdered on her way home from school. As she adjusts to afterlife in heaven, she watches life on earth continue without her – her friends, her killer, her grief-stricken family unravelling. I could remember the plot but I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the personality of Susie’s narration and the way that the book imagines heaven. Definitely a recommendation from me and (if you must) you should definitely read before watching the film because the book is way better.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I thought it was about time for me to read the OG of dark academia and it didn’t disappoint. There’s a reason this has become a modern classic. I listened to the audiobook of this one and I was so drawn to it, I didn’t really want to turn it off. Even though there isn’t really a likeable character in the book I found myself so curious and intrigued to see what the heck they were up to. In this book, Richard starts studying at Hampeden College and becomes part of a clique of rich kids who study Ancient Greek and then some shit goes down. It was really fun to read this and recognise so many things that have been referenced in pop culture (I definitely felt bits referenced in Gossip Girl and Skins).
The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton
On a Sunday fun day I went browsing in Oxfam and was determined not to buy anything because I still have so many books to read but when I saw this little gem, I couldn’t say no. It’s a wee book filled with fun illustrations and weird little stories, which is not surprising given it’s written by Tim Burton. I think this would make a lovely little gift for the right type of person – I really enjoyed it.
Different Seasons by Stephen King
Honestly, it’s quite wild that I hadn’t read any Stephen King before so I started with this collection of novellas recommended to me by my sister. There’s a short story for each of the four seasons; The Shawshank Redemption, a story about a young boy who becomes obsessed with and blackmails a Nazi war criminal, a story about four boys who walk through the woods in search of a dead body and, finally, one about a mysterious gentleman’s club and a doctor who delivered a very violent birth. Each of the stories felt really distinct and them being shorter split up what seemed like a chonky book. Shawshank was a nice, familiar read (the film is very faithful), but the highlight for me was Apt Pupil (the one about the Nazi) because it was pretty disturbing and has stuck in my mind. But hey, that’s what King is for.
I’m definitely up for reading more King so if you have specific recommendations of his books, please do let me know.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
A very popular book from a couple of years ago, I actually found this one in a Little Free Library in Edinburgh. The story is narrated by psychotherapist Theo dealing with a patient who turns mute after allegedly murdering her husband. It was an easy and rapid read, as you might expect from a thriller. There is a twist that was interesting but didn’t blow me away. Not bad.
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Right, this was a surprising gem of a book. We follow Eva through a series of letters to her husband as she dissects their relationship and their parenthood trying to figure out what went wrong. After her son commits mass murder, she seeks to find an answer to the ultimate question of nature or nurture. This makes it sound like it’s super gory but really his murdering is only a suggestion until the end of the book and mostly it’s about unpicking the mind of a really complex character who is seeking understanding. I liked that there weren’t clear cut answers regarding the overall ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with the mother and the blame doesn’t firmly land anywhere. I appreciated that Kevin was not given the clichéd characteristics which made it feel really curious but also seemed more genuine. I actually really loved this book.
And to the people who have only seen the (terrible) film, you won’t understand what I’m talking about but I’d recommend giving it another try and reading the book.
Twilight of Empire by Greg King and Penny Wilson
Now over to non-fiction! I was gifted this by my mam because at work we’re about to stage a ballet version of this story. It explores the scandal surrounding the suicide of Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary in 1889 and the death of his mistress Mary Vetsera. The book outlines a bit of the history and background, the facts of what happened and then speculates on the various rumours and conspiracies that developed in the wake of the royal family’s secrecy. Was it a suicide pact or was Prince Rudolf a murderer? There are so many things we’ll never know because they happened behind closed doors. A decent read if you’re into true crime and/or history.
Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
Another non-fic – this one about how they set up the Behavioural Science Unit in the FBI. John Douglas tells stories of how he and his team interviewed some of America’s most notorious serial killers to develop psychological understanding that would allow them to profile serial killers in order to find and stop them. Honestly, the level of intuition he describes seems like magic, it’s fascinating how they’re able to gather and organise information based on patterns in seriously messed up brains. I had been meaning to read this one for a while and it was definitely worth it – a strong recommendation if it sounds like your kind of thing. The TV series is also great.
So, there you have it! I’m feeling slightly delicate mentally after reading so many dark things and am well ready for a new season filled with joy, warmth and festivity!
Setting myself a theme was a really fun way to decide on what to read next so I’m definitely up for trying that again. If you have any ideas for reading themes I could try next, I would love to hear them!
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