First I should make it clear that I only go the beach when it is cold and/or raining. Ankhie avoids direct sunlight at all possible costs and despises crowds, especially the oiled and scantily clad variety. So “Beach Reads” is a bit of a misnomer. “Beneath-a-Shady-Tree Reads,” or “Inside-After-Dark-With-the-Windows-Open-and-a-Refreshing-Cocktail Reads,” would both be more accurate…but you get the point – these are the fiction (non-Weiser) books I plan to peruse (again) this summer. A scary assortment. Read them and weep, kittens, read them and weep…
- The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan – don’t let the genre cover turn you off, this is a first-class creep-fest reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (see below), Kiernan is a wonderful writer, well-versed in occult lore. All her books are worth seeking out, but this is her most recent novel and perfect for a hot & humid afternoon when everything seems to be alive and moving. Read it inside with the lights on and the windows closed. You’ll thank me later.
- Come Closer by Sara Gran – never has demonic possession seemed so every-day-going-about-your-business plausible. Gran is another author who has done her homework, and this wry little horror is a quick and wicked read.
- Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – Hill has the bloodline (he is Stephen King’s son) and the writing chops to be one of the best horror writers of his generation. Heart-Shaped Box is his first novel, fueled by good old-fashioned American rock and roll debauchery and Gothic adrenaline. I could not sleep until it was finished, then couldn’t sleep for days. It may also save you a bundle by turning you off of online auctions forever.
- The Passage by Justin Cronin – just in paperback – read it now before the movie comes out, please! I haven’t been this completely transported by a book since first reading Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring in 1979 – yes, in it’s Vampire/Zombie/Apocalypse way, it’s that good! And the first of a planned trilogy. Nice! (PS the little book trailer on Amazon is definitely worth a peek)
- House of Leaves by Mark D. Danielewski – a book that truly needs to be read in actual book form, and an argument for the necessity of the paper-printed word. Oh, and really scary too!
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – forget the movies that have been based on the book – they are nothing! Pale imitators! False prophets! Parasites! This book is brief, brilliant, lyrical, and legitimately terrifying. Seriously, why aren’t you reading it right now?
- Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk – if you’ve only read Fight Club you’ve been missing out. CP takes something that defines childhood comfort – the nightly ritual of bedtime song and rhyme – and turns it into something tragic and occult – mixing in a fair dose of dark humor and social commentary for good measure. “Creepy” is a word that defines Palahniuk’s work better than any other, methinks, and this is no exception. I am also fond of Diary.
- Skeleton Crew by Stephen King – I’ve always liked King’s short stories better than his novels, probably because I read them first. In fact, the first King story I read (as a wee, country Ankh) was published in Yankee Magazine and, although ghostly, was much more touching than terrifying. That story “The Reach” is in this collection, along with another one of my favorites “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” which also manages to be both tender and traumatizing. The rest is flat out, read-it-with-the-lights-on classic King.
Oh there are so SO many more – but I want to hear what you have on your summer must-read list! Tell your Ankhie – what will be keeping you up these dark and stormy nights?