Give me a scary book, however, and I can totally handle it. When I'm in the right mood, I love reading a book that gives me the chills and makes me listen for spooky sounds around the house. And, like Joey from Friends, if I get too scared, I can just close the book and hide it in the freezer. Here are a few of my favorites (all images from Goodreads):
Gerald's Game - Stephen King
Stephen King is, I think, not given enough credit. Literary snobs scoff at his work, thinking him long-winded, cliched, and unoriginal. But I think he is really great at what he does. I love most of his novels: Needful Things, Misery, The Green Mile. But while most people think that It or The Shining are his most terrifying, I was much more terrified by the psychological twistedness of Gerald's Game. In this thriller, Jessie and her husband Gerald have gone to their lake house for a getaway of sorts; Gerald handcuffs his wife (with real, legitimate handcuffs) to the bed to enjoy a little BDSM fun...and then proceeds to have a heart attack and die on top of her. It all sounds like very dark, slapstick comedy at this point, right? But Jessie's struggle to find some means of escape is pretty brutal, especially when there is literally no one around this time of year except for a very hungry stray dog. Her helplessness and fear is described in painful detail, and the anxiety I felt while reading it was pretty intense. This is just great storytelling from King.
If you like King's books, you should also try The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon. It is in the same vein of psychological thriller as Gerald's game, only it's directed more towards a YA audience. It's about a young girl who, during a hike with her family, becomes lost in the woods for days on end, and she doesn't seem to be alone... Gave me the chills!
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
I know, I know, I know. This book is overrated and everywhere. But I have to write about it because it was the book of 2012, and it was also pretty damn good. Again, this is definitely more of a psychological thriller about how much one can actually trust their spouse. It is the day of Amy and Nick's 5th wedding anniversary, and Amy has disappeared. All evidence points to Nick being involved somehow, but we have no idea what is going on. The narrators (Nick and Amy, in diary entries) are unreliable, evasive, and secretive, making the reader trust them only to throw it back in their faces. I can't talk about the plot too much without giving it away, but the main characters were pretty sick, and there were some crazy twists going on in this novel. It was definitely a fun (if vaguely disturbing) ride, and I hope the movie does the book justice.
What Comes Next - John Katzenbach
This book was disturbing, I'll just say that right of the bat. It is not a book that I enjoyed, necessarily, but it is definitely one that stuck with me. The main character is a retired professor who has just been told by a doctor that he is slowly losing himself to a degenerative disease. On his way back from the doctor's office, he witnesses what he thinks is a girl being abducted. The police believe she has run away, but the professor takes it on himself to investigate the girl's disappearance. Meanwhile, there's "What Comes Next," which is a website run by a perverted, money-hungry couple - a live site on which viewers can watch videos of young girls being tortured in various, often pornographic, ways. Though the premise is definitely disturbing and vile, there were no explicit, graphic sex scenes or scenes with violence. It was well-written and had very strong characters. Expect to be disgusted by this book, though it was a good read.
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
The Woman in Black is a traditional ghost story, written in an old-fashioned way that threw me at first but I got used to it very quickly. Old-fashioned and spooky, this story relies more on the environment to scare you, and when it's combined with the anticipation and dread you feel while reading it, it is without a doubt the scariest book I have ever read. I'm not sure why, as there was no out-and-out horror elements...it was the quiet, understated chilling-ness of it that got me. Arthur Kipps, the narrator and main character, is a lawyer assigned to tie up loose ends at the estate of a recently deceased woman. The estate is, of course, located on an English moor, and though Arthur is not a man to be drawn in by ghost stories, he soon finds himself curious about the mystery of the "woman in black." Ugh. This was just terrifying. I enjoyed the movie as well, but it didn't scare me halfway as much as the book did...though I do love me some Daniel Radcliffe.
Escape From Camp 14 - Blaine Harden
This book was terrifying in a much different way than the others - it was terrifying because it's true. Escape From Camp 14 is a true account of one man's escape from a political prison camp in North Korea. These camps are basically like Nazi concentration camps, in which Shin's family was executed and he was forced to compete with his own parents for food. I had no idea there were such places in the world - does this make me naive? Probably. These prison camps have existed twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps, and it is rare for someone to escape. But Shin did, and this is his story of bravery and survival, as well as his struggle to adjust to life outside the camp. This was horrifying, shocking, and incredibly sobering.
NOS4A2 - Joe Hill
On a lighter note, NOS4A2 is a fun ride of a horror novel, written by Stephen King's son! This novel could rival some of King's best works, in my opinion. While riding her bike, Victoria (our young main character) can magically "find" things that have been lost by going through a supernatural tunnel of sorts. She has found a missing bracelet, a photograph, and answers to questions that have been on her mind. But what she finds one day...is Charles Manx and his town of "Christmasland". Charles Manx is a super-villain who takes children and steals away their innocence, and he will never forget Victoria after she manages to escape his clutches... Really scary and impossible to put down!
Blood Harvest - S. J. Bolton
This novel has the creepy, something's-not-right-here feel of stories like The Lottery or Children of the Corn. The small town in which it's set has some odd traditions, and the people like to stick to them. Even after a new family and a new pastor come to town and shake things up. Weird things keep happening: voices in the graveyard, a feeling of being watched, a young boy having an invisible playmate, little girls going missing... It's all very chilling and eerie. Just the right amount of horror and goosebumps in this thrilling novel! I loved it.
It's supposed to thunderstorm tonight...why not grab one of these books to keep you company? :)