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  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/08/14 Permalink
    Tags: americanah, brown girl in the ring, chandler baker, , , , lisa taddeo, , meg ellison, nalo hopkinson, , paradise, , , rory power, the book of the unnamed midwife, , three women, toni morrison, , whisper network, wilder girls   

    10 Books to Read After the Season Finale of The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 

    Once you’re recovered from the roller coaster of emotions that was the season three finale of The Handmaid’s Tale, the long wait until season 4 will start to set in. What will you do with your Wednesday nights without cheering on the fall of Gilead? Here are 10 books (plus a bonus) we recommend to get you through the post-season slump.

    Vox, by Christina Dalcher
    One of the creepiest parts of the new season was (mild spoiler alert!) the violent way Handmaids were silenced during the Waterford’s visit to D.C. Vox‘s entire premise is based on the silencing of women, literally: allotted only 100 words per day and violently punished if they exceed it, women in this version of America have been robbed of their voices, their careers, and their dignity. But when one former cognitive linguist (aka, a badass lady scientist of words) is recruited by the higher echelon of the government to work on a cure for a Very Important Person’s brain injury impacting their speech, she decides that this (and her added allotment of words per day) is her opportunity to seek justice. Not just for her, but for her young daughter, who has grown up being silent, and her teenage son, whom she watches becoming more indoctrinated into this toxic system each day. A gripping read with twists and turns I never saw coming!

    Red Clocks, by Leni Zumas
    Some of the most gorgeous and brutal writing I’ve ever read is in this book. Three POVs are followed throughout the story: a single teacher who is afraid that if she doesn’t get pregnant soon, she’ll miss her window to have a child—since in this patriarchy-defined version of America, adoption is only allowed for married couples; a teenage girl dealing with an unplanned pregnancy; and an outcast woman living beyond the confines of modern society who becomes the target of a smear campaign when rumors run wild that she performs abortions. As the ticking clock of when additional restrictions will be placed on women runs down, these stories intersect in powerful and unexpected ways, making the reader question what it means to be a woman, a mother, and a friend.

    Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker
    A novel with a ripped-from-the-headlines premise (and recent Reese Witherspoon bookclub pick!), Whisper Network is all over everyone’s TBR. Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are bound together by their work for Truviv, Inc. But they become even more united when the CEO dies and their boss, Ames, is set to ascend into the role. The problem? Ames is the subject of many, many whispers. When these women decide to bring those shadowy accusations into the light, none of their lives will ever be the same. Not a dystopia, but sometimes reality can be even eerier when we look at the relationships between men and women in corporate America, and the cost of speaking truth to power.

    Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Another book where dystopia isn’t needed to show the impact of real toxic systems on real people, Americanah follows Ifemelu and Obinze, a couple in love, as they flee tyrannical Nigeria and attempt a life together in the West. But soon they are separated by forces beyond their control. Many years pass, and when they return to Nigeria— now democratized— they are different people, scarred by the ramifications of their individual lives in post 9/11 America and living undocumented in London. With searing, soaring prose and unforgettable characters, the harsh realities of being African, Black, Male, and Female are explored with great depth and authenticity.

    Paradise, by Toni Morrison
    One of the consistent critiques of The Handmaid’s Tale show is its handling of people of color, especially women. The great Toni Morrison is a necessary author to read to understand that for many PoC, this country is already a dystopia. Set in an all-black town in Oklahoma originally founded by former slaves, Paradise deals with events of harrowing violence, racism, abuse, and more. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, though, it focuses on the communities created by women, for women, in times of crisis, and with Morrison’s unforgettable, almost magical prose, its impact is indelible.

    Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo 
    A new non-fiction book thoroughly researched by author Lisa Taddeo (seriously, she talks in her introduction about how she moved to the towns as the women she was interviewing in order to become part of their communities!) Three Women has taken bookshelves by storm. It follows, as the title suggests, three individual women as they wrestle with sexual desire, trauma, the impact of sexism and misogyny, and more. Each of them feels trapped, in one way or another— usually because of the choices of men. The stories are true, but read like fiction: a woman who, as a teenager, had a Twilight-inspired affair with a married teacher; a restaurant owner who ‘swings’ with a dangerous partner; a mother unsatisfied with the lack of intimacy and sex with her husband. If nonfiction is usually a non-starter for you, consider giving this one a try.

    The Power, by Naomi Alderman
    Have you ever heard a woman say she always knows where men are on any given street she’s walking on…like she has eyes in the back of her head? Well, this book imagines that men might be the ones who have something to fear when teenage girls can torture and kill if they want to. Follow four perspectives of people whose lives are irrevocably altered when this power emerges, and remember the metaphor that Handmaid’s Tale also drives home: that the power for evil is certainly within us, and if provoked, we can unleash it.

    Wilder Girls, by Rory Power
    Speaking of teenage girls with incredible power, while this YA dystopian “retelling” of sorts is inspired by Lord of the Flies, I like this book for Handmaid’s Tale fans, too. A mysterious illness called The Tox has taken out many people in Heddy’s life, to the point where she and her still-uninfected friends can’t venture beyond the walls of their school for risk of coming into contact with it. That is, until someone close to her goes missing. Then, Heddy will unleash the wildness within her and venture into the dangerous beyond, no matter the cost. If whip-smart writing and a bit of body horror is your thing, check out Wilder Girls.

    Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson
    Imagine this: unlike in The Handmaid’s Tale, where Canada is a haven…in this novel, Toronto has fallen. Ruled with a tyrannical fist by a ruthless crime lord and rendered uninhabitable by the rest of society, the city is mostly disconnected from the outside world. People like the Black main character, Ti-Jeanne, are left to fend for themselves. Described by reviewers as “horror fantasy”, this book puts a woman of color at the center of a dangerous dystopia, giving her the ability to fight against the elements—including the father of her child, who has taken up with the very same crime lord who has destroyed the home she loves.

    The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, by Meg Ellison
    Since the Handmaids who aren’t pregnant on the show seem to function as midwives for the ones who are, a book about a midwife seemed appropriate to add to this list. Of course, it’s also a dystopia: the midwife is rendered irrelevant after a fever causes childbirth to become harmful to both mother and infant. But she’s still in danger, forced to travel under false names and disguised like a man…all with the hope of someday contributing to the rebirth of human society.

    The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
    I had to plug the highly anticipated sequel to the original The Handmaid’s Tale book, didn’t I? Not available until September, unfortunately, but if you breeze through this list, it will be here before you know it! The Testaments takes place 15 years after Offred’s final appearance in the book, and as Atwood says herself: everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Gilead is in it.

    What books are going to help tide you over until The Handmaid’s Tale returns?

    The post 10 Books to Read After the Season Finale of <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i> Season 3 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jen Harper 3:00 pm on 2019/08/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , china men, citizen: an american lyric, claudia rankine, , ernest j. gaines, , friday black, , , if beale street could talk, , john okada, julie otsuka, , , , nana kwame adjei-brenyah, no-no-boy, , , , the twelve tribes of hattie, toni morrison, , when the emperor was divine   

    12 Books to Read If You Loved The Nickel Boys, July’s B&N Book Club Selection 

    The Barnes & Noble Book Club selection for July, Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, captures the devastating story of two boys snared in the trap of the Jim Crow-era South and sentenced to a horrific reform school more aptly described as a prison run by abusive sadists. Based on the real story of a Florida reformatory that continued to operate for more than 100 years, destroying the lives of thousands of children, Whitehead’s latest book takes a necessary look at parts of America’s history that many would like to conveniently erase.

    But what is a reader to do after finishing such a powerful book and discussing it at your local B&N Book Club meeting on August 13 at 7 p.m.? We’ve rounded up 12 more reads to keep you busy until next month. Check out our readalike picks for The Nickel Boys.

    If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin
    James Baldwin’s 1974 novel tells a bittersweet story of love and injustice set in early 1970s Harlem. A young black couple—pregnant Tish, 19, and Fonny, 22, the father of her child—are madly in love with plans to marry. But when Fonny is falsely accused and imprisoned for a heinous crime, Tish and Fonny’s lives—as well as the lives of their families—are thrown into a tailspin as they attempt to clear Fonny’s name and reunite him with Tish before the birth of their child. Much like The Nickel Boys, If Beale Street Could Talk deftly explores the harsh realities of racism and inequality.

    A Lesson before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines
    Set in 1940s Louisiana, A Lesson before Dying is an important and heartbreaking tale—much like The Nickel Boys—about Jefferson, a young black man who sits on death row convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, and Grant, another black man who has just returned to his hometown from the university. Grant’s aunt and Jefferson’s godmother convince him to visit Jefferson in prison to convey some of his own wisdom and perhaps even help Jefferson to face his impending death with dignity. But what does one say to a young man who has faced a lifetime of racism and injustice and whose only crime seems to be being black in rural Louisiana? Their visits lead them both on a path of self-discovery in a story that won’t soon be forgotten.

    Friday Black, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
    Racism and injustice against black men and women isn’t just a thing of the past. It’s very much a part of our country’s present, and—if we’re not vigilant—our future, as imagined in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black, a dystopian story collection that tackles painful subjects in an honest and necessary way. “The Finkelstein Five” offers an unflinching look at the brutality of  prejudice in our justice system, while “Zimmer Land” reimagines racism as a sport in an amusement park. And the title story takes a deeper look at the horrors of consumerism and the viciousness it can breed.

    Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala
    What does it truly mean to be different in a sea of fundamental sameness? That’s precisely the question Uzodinma Iweala attempts to tackle in the much-anticipated follow-up to the 2005 book Beasts of No Nation. Harvard-bound teenager Niru not only has to deal with being black in a mostly white world and an immigrant in America, but he’s also coming to terms with the fact that he’s gay, which would be the ultimate sin to his Nigerian parents—a sin his father feels he must “cleanse” from his body in order to “cure” him. Like The Nickel Boys, Iweala’s book can be difficult to take in as Niru’s pain is utterly palpable throughout, but it’s also an important and necessary read about the core of our own humanity.

    The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Nobel Prize–winning author Toni Morrison has written some truly magnificent books about racism in America, and her first-ever novel, The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, is certainly no exception. In it, we meet an 11-year-old black girl named Pecola Breedlove, who believes she is ugly because of her dark skin and eyes. She longs to have blue eyes like the white dolls she is gifted as a child. In 1941, Pecola is living in a temporary foster home after her abusive, alcoholic father burns down her family’s house, but that seems to be one of the lesser horrors young Pecola experiences in her life in this stunning and tragic piece of literature from one of America’s greatest authors.

    No-No Boy, by John Okada
    John Okada’s only novel, which originally came out in 1957, was the first ever published by an American-born Japanese American. The powerful book tells the story of one of the “no-no boys”—Japanese-American men who resisted the draft after having been forced into internment camps during World War II. Ichiro Yamada got two years in a federal prison for refusing to fight for America, and now back home with his family, he faces disappointment from his parents and ostracism from many in his community. Okada’s book is an incredible story of Ichiro attempting to find his way in a world where he feels he doesn’t belong.

    Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine
    Claudia Rankine’s powerful follow-up to Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric offers a thought-provoking look at racism in the 21st century through essay, images, and poetry. Rankine effectively captures what it means to be black in America with anecdotes, observations, quotes, and more that detail mounting racial aggression all around us—at work, at home, at the grocery store, on television, online, on the tennis court with Serena Williams, everywhere. Citizen: An American Lyric is a powerful testament to the power of individuals and an emotional appeal everyone should read. It is a work of art that won’t soon be forgotten.

    China Men, by Maxine Hong Kingston
    Maxine Hong Kingston’s sequel to The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts chronicles Chinese-American history through a collection of 18 stories, both fictional and factual. The title itself offers a portrait of the book as a whole—”Chinaman” was a common racial slur against Chinese-Americans, but the men rejected racism, referring to themselves as “China Men.” Whereas The Woman Warrior gave a powerful perspective on the harsh realities of the female immigrant experience, China Men traces the history of Kingston’s male ancestors through memories, myths, and facts, showing readers what it was like for the men in her family in this strange new land.

    Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon
    For readers who just couldn’t put down The Nickel Boys, Kiese Laymon offers up a powerful, painful, and unforgettable memoir about his own experiences of abuse, violence, and trauma from growing up black. Laymon beautifully and honestly expresses the nuances of his complicated relationships with his mother, grandmother, obesity, anorexia, sex, writing, and gambling. He shines light on secrets and lies he and his mother spent their whole lives trying to avoid in an effort to convey a universal truth about the ability to love responsibly and the desire to be truly free. This Barnes & Noble Discover Award Winner is a must read for those who just can’t stop thinking about The Nickel Boys.

    The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis
    Ayana Mathis’s incredible debut novel follows the life of Hattie Shepherd from the perspectives of her nine children all longing for connection with their mother. Set against the backdrop of the Great Migration, the movement of millions of African Americans out of the South between 1916 and 1970, Hattie’s story begins in 1923 when, at age 15, she flees Georgia and heads to Philadelphia in hopes of a better life. But what she gets is a disappointing marriage and the tragic loss of her firstborn twins to pneumonia. She ends up having nine more children, raising them with strength and courage but without the loving tenderness they need, determined to prepare them for the cruel realities of the world.

    When the Emperor Was Divine, by Julie Otsuka
    In Julie Otsuka’s moving first novel, she captures a shameful and devastating episode in American history from the perspective of one family shattered by prejudice and horrendous wartime injustices against Japanese Americans during World War II. The famliy’s father is arrested for treason and imprisoned in New Mexico, while the mother, daughter, and son are sent to a dusty internment camp out in the desert. Barbed wire fences and filthy, cramped lodgings are the family’s constant companion over the next three years as they are moved from camp to camp. Despite the book’s setting of more than 70 years ago, the themes of racism and freedom feel equally relevant today.

    Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan
    Hillary Jordan’s award-winning debut novel, set in 1946, finds city-bred Laura McAllan being forced to move from her comfortable home in Memphis, Tennessee to a remote cotton farm on the Mississippi Delta with her husband, Henry; their two daughters; and her racist and sadistic father-in-law. There she has no indoor plumbing or electricity, and when the rain waters rise, her family is literally stranded in a sea of mud. The return of two celebrated World War II soldiers to the Delta shakes things up for the family—one is Henry’s brother, who is everything Henry is not, and the other is the eldest son of blacksharecroppers and a newly minted war hero who finds that his bravery in combat counts for very little in the Jim Crow South in this powerful read.

    What would you recommend to readers who liked The Nickel Boys?

    The post 12 Books to Read If You Loved <i>The Nickel Boys</i>, July’s B&N Book Club Selection appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , first impressions are everything, , , toni morrison, virginia wolfe,   

    The Ideal First Novel for 10 “Must Read” Authors 

    The list of “must read” authors is long, and differs depending on who you ask. But usually, the authors on these lists are (or were) pretty prolific, and like a pool of frigid water, you may be nervous about diving into their backlists; better to dip your toe in first. Here are 10 ideal “starter novels” for authors guaranteed to be on many, if not most, lists of can’t miss writers.

    Author: William Faulkner. Start Here: The Reivers

    Experts will insist you must read The Sound and the Fury, a real bear of a book. A brilliant novel, sure, but also one that drops you into the deep end on page one and then proceeds to hold your head under water for 300 pages. Instead of tackling what can be a frustrating and difficult read, start with Faulkner’s final novel, The Reivers, which discards most of his heavier literary gambits to tell one of the most straightforward stories of his career, a lightly comedic picaresque about three unlikely car thieves in a small Mississippi town. That doesn’t mean it’s not a brilliant novel—it was award the Pulitzer Prize, after all—but it does mean you’ll get an intro to Faulkner’s sensibility and obsessions without having to parse his peculiarly Southern style.

    Author: William Shakespeare. Start Here: Much Ado About Nothing

    Just about everyone is assigned Shakespeare at some point in their high school or college careers, usually one of the major plays: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth. Aside from the challenge of reading works designed to be performed, his major works can be dense with allusion, reference, and, of course, wordplay (and in archaic language, no less). What makes Much Ado About Nothing a good choice for a first attempt at the Bard is its sense of fun—it’s a comedy, so the wordplay is less about historical and political references and more about, well, making off-color jokes. Even on the page, it’s hilarious and playful, which takes away some of the anxiety and difficulty.

    Author: Stephen King. Start here: Misery

    King might seem a surprising inclusion here, but as his career has gone on, his literary cred has gone up by orders of magnitude; it could be argued that anyone seeking an understanding of modern literary culture has to be familiar with the man once crowned the Master of Horror. The problem, of course, is that King’s best-known books (the ones most likely to be recommended to a newcomer) are long, and often dense with references to other works written in his uniquely wordy style. Instead of diving into the infinite pages of The Stand, start with Misery, one of the tightest, most-focused books King has ever written. It has the fluid prose and creeping dread of his longer, much-beloved books, minus the over-arching mythology that clutters much of his work, and the supernatural aspects that might turn some folks off.

    Author: Leo Tolstoy. Start Here: The Death of Ivan Ilyich

    The words “Russian novel,” with their connotations of length, complexity, and dour atmosphere, might scare you off of Tolstoy and his contemporaries altogether. Still, some of the greatest works of fiction come from this literary tradition, and Tolstoy’s name is always on the list of challenging must-read authors. Before dedicating a year of your life to War and Peace, pick up the relatively short and uncomplicated The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It’s a powerful story that touches on the themes and techniques the author uses to incredible effect in his major works, but it’s accessible in a way that those other novels aren’t—and deals in universal themes you can appreciate even if you’re not a Russian living in the 19th century. It’s the perfect introduction to Tolstoy’s genius.

    Author: Charles Dickens. Start Here: Great Expectations

    Dickens is one of those oddball literary greats who is also much maligned. Bring up Dickens, and half the room will complain that he was paid by the word and thus wrote sloppy, structureless stories merely designed to entertain, with no greater artistic merit. The other half will ask what, exactly, is the problem with that? Dickens had a way with words, and his storytelling techniques revolutionized literature, but his books are a bit lengthy, and they do get quite complicated. Start with Great Expectations; it’s the novel that would result if you poured all of Dickens’ other works into a computer and had it gin up a more concise, sharply-organized version of the ideal Dickens story.

    Author: Haruki Murakami. Start Here: A Wild Sheep Chase

    Murakami is another mainstay on the list of challenging contemporary authors, and it’s usually because people recommend his most famous works first—dense bricks like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle1Q84 or Kafka on the Shore. These books are brilliant, but they are also difficult to parse, unique in both style and structure, not to mention imagery. To ease into Murakami, start with A Wild Sheep Chase—it’s got all the trademark weirdness, but within a much more straightforward story. It will help you feel like you “get” Murakami, even the parts you don’t, so by the time you read one of his “must-read” books, your head (probably) won’t explode. Some might argue for Norwegian Wood, which has more in common with traditional Western literature, but that one is an outlier in his bibliography, and won’t prepare you for the epic strangeness of his major works.

    Author: Ernest Hemingway. Start Here: The Sun Also Rises

    Anyone seeking to pad out their reading resume will be eventually directed to Hemingway; love him or hate him, there’s no arguing that his style and approach to fiction—both very consciously honed and developed—changed everything. His influence is immense, so you simply have to read him, if only to decide for yourself if his reputation is deserved. You might be advised to start with The Old Man and the Sea because of its relative simplicity and slim page count, but don’t—it’s an outlier, his final major work, and doesn’t represent what made Hemingway Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises is the ideal starting point—the story is engaging in ways that some of his other novels aren’t, yet it also features the Hemingway “style” at its most controlled.

    Author: Virginia Woolf. Start Here: A Room of One’s Own

    Virginia Woolf’s contributions to modern literature are everywhere—subtle, often hidden or downplayed, but there nonetheless. But reading her major works of fiction if you’re not a student of literature can be daunting, so instead, start with her excellent, book-length essay, which implements a fictional narrator and story, and yet is nonetheless considered non-fiction. If you think it takes great talent to pull something like off, you’d be right. The benefit of starting here is that you’ll get a much clearer idea of Woolf’s literary sensibility and thematic focus before diving into her fiction.

    Author: Toni Morrison. Start Here: The Bluest Eye

    Morrison is one of the most important writers of the 20th century; her work is consistently beautiful and poetic. But you shouldn’t just dive into Beloved—as incredible as that book is, it is one of the densest popular literary novels ever written, a book in which Morrison’s prose resonates, where an unexpected structure and layered allusions to myth and history form something greater than the sum of its parts. Instead, dip your toe in with The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s first novel, and which shows the beginnings of her style while keeping the number of characters and the branches of the plot more limited than her later work, which will allow you to pay closer attention to the smart things Morrison is doing on the edges (and to listen to that prose sing).

    Author: James Baldwin. Start Here: Giovanni’s Room

    If you’re looking to master 20th century American literature, you’re going to have to tackle Baldwin at some point. His work is beautiful, but it also focuses on social commentary and criticism; Baldwin was a writer who was part of the world instead of removed from it. This can make his novels challenging, because they are all doing three things at once—telling a story, teaching a lesson, and shining a light on some of society’s worst aspects. Giovanni’s Room is an early novel that has all of that, but the central love story—concerning a man who falls in love with another man while on honeymoon with his new wife—is primal and tortured, compelling and universal. When you consider how ahead of its time this book is, it’s essential reading—and the perfect intro to Baldwin’s body of work.

    The post The Ideal First Novel for 10 “Must Read” Authors appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , bentley little, , blindness, , carrion comfort, , , , dathan auerbach, , , exquisite corpose, , ghost story, , hell house, , , , jack ketchum, jose saramago, josh malarian, koji suzuki, lionel shriver, , , , , , penal, , , poppy z. brite, ramsey campbell, , richard matheson, ring, rosemary’s baby, scott smith, , something wicked this way comes, , the face that must die, the girl next door, , the ruins, the walking, , toni morrison, we need to talk about kevin,   

    25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever 

    Literature can be a moving, beautiful artistic experience. Skilled writers can bring us face to face with scenarios and emotions we might never encounter in real life, expanding our understanding of both the universe and our fellow man.

    It can also scare the living daylights out of us. Horror novels don’t always get the respect they deserve; just because something is scary doesn’t mean it’s not “literary” or well-crafted art, but if the core purpose of a story is perceived to be “making you soil yourself in fear” for some reason that story won’t get much respect. Of course, a story can be terrifying without necessarily being great art. If your goal is to be so terrified of a book that you put it in the freezer and book a hotel room for a few days, here are twenty-five books that might not necessarily be the best horror novels, but are certainly the scariest.

    Literally Everything Edgar Allan Poe Wrote
    Poe had a knack for infusing everything he wrote with visceral dread. His characters and narrators tend towards the mentally fragile and the insane, people who are haunted by things that might be literal or might be manifestations of their unsound thought processes. Either way, stories like The Tell-Tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado retain their power to petrify more than a century-and-a-half after their publication because Poe tapped into the fundamental fear we all have that the world and people around us are not what they seem.

    House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
    Put simply, House of Leaves is one of the most frightening books ever written. From a fairly standard horror premise (a house is revealed to be slightly larger on the inside than is strictly possible) Danielewski spins out a dizzying tale involving multiple unreliable narrators, typographic mysteries, and looping footnotes that manage to drag the reader into the story and then make them doubt their own perception of that story. It’s a trick no one else has managed to such dramatic effect, making this novel more of a participatory experience than any other work of literature—which, considering the dark madness at its core, isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience.

    Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
    The film adaptation has supplanted the novel in pop culture, but the novel was a huge hit for Levin—and the film actually sticks to the plot and dialog so closely you really do get a feel for the novel from watching it. The story of a young woman who becomes pregnant after a nightmare gets its terror not from the well-known twist of the baby’s parentage (hint: not her husband), but from the increasing isolation Rosemary experiences as her suspicions about everyone around her grow. So many threads tie into the terror, from the emotional and economic uncertainty of a struggling young couple to the simple fear any mother has for their child, all expertly knotted into a story that will keep you awake at night.

    The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
    When you think about clichés in horror fiction, the haunted house is at the top of the list, an idea done so often it’s frequently an unintentional parody. Shirley Jackson, however, was no ordinary writer, and she takes the concept of the haunted house and perfects it. The Haunting of Hill House is simply the best haunted house story ever written. The scares come not just from the malevolent actions of a house that seems sentient and angry, but from the claustrophobia we experience from the novel’s unreliable narrator, Eleanor, whose descent into madness is slow and excruciating and only begins after we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the seeming relatability of her early persona.

    Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
    The great sage Pat Benatar once sang that hell is for children. Golding’s account of children stranded on an island without supplies or adult supervision is absolutely terrifying for one simple reason: there’s nothing supernatural going on. It’s a story about insufficiently socialized humans descending into savagery because that’s our fundamental nature. You look into the abyss at the center of this novel and the abyss looks back.

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver
    Another story centered on the terror of children, the horror inherent in this story comes from the fact that the human beings we create eventually become their own people—and possibly strangers to us. Not everyone has a close and loving relationship with their parents, and while the idea that your own kids might grow up to be criminals isn’t pleasant, most people assume they will at least recognize themselves in their kids. But what if you don’t? What if your child—your child—is a blank monster?

    Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
    In the Internet Age it’s pretty easy to fall down a rabbit hole of pop culture obsession, and there are still dark areas of culture that haven’t had a wiki created around them. Pessl’s story about a mysterious underground filmmaker whose movies may or may not contain hints of dark power and horrific events and the journalist who becomes obsessed with him asks the reader how you can be certain there’s a clear line between fact and fiction, then, once that wedge of doubt is established, presents a terrifying fiction to fill that space.

    Ring, by Kōji Suzuki
    The novel that inspired the horror films of the same name, the premise is well-known: anyone who watches a mysterious videotape of creepy images is informed that they will die in seven days—and then they die. The investigation into the tape and how to avoid this grim fate leads to what remains an incredibly shocking backstory involving rape, smallpox, and a forgotten well. Technology has shifted, but the terror never really relied on VHS tapes—it’s the concept that ideas can be deadly, that simply by experiencing something you can be doomed, that’s so horrifying.

    Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach
    Pivoting on the idea that we’re often blinded by the details we can see, making it impossible to see the bigger picture, Auerbach’s debut began life as a series of creepypasta stories on the Internet. The episodic nature of the story is ideal for the effect he achieves; the narrator tells of being a young boy and sending a penpal request attached to a balloon with his classmates, including his best friend Josh. He doesn’t receive a response until nearly a year later, and his life takes a turn for the bizarre shortly afterwards. A series of tragic and strange things happen to him and everyone around him, building a sense of dread that is only increased when the truth is revealed.

    Carrion Comfort, by Dan Simmons
    Simmons’ novel follows several groups of people who have The Ability, a psychic power that allows them to take control of others from a distance and force them to perform any action. When one of their puppets murders someone, the person with The Ability is invigorated and strengthened. Simmons doesn’t shy away from the implications of this power on history and the future, and the book will destroy any sense of security you have in the world around you, revealed to possibly be simply a worldwide board game for those who can control us all like pawns.

    Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
    Several of King’s books could be on this list, but he frequently blunts the terror of his stories with the richness and humanity of his characterizations and the sprawl of his narratives. Pet Sematary manages to be his most terrifying novel by dint of its simple, devastating concept: a magical cemetery where buried things come back to a sort-of life—but aren’t quite what they once were. From that simple idea King ramps up to a climax that gets under your skin in a fundamental way most horror stories fail to.

    The Girl Next Door, by Jack Ketchum
    Horror often pivots on the corruption or warping of societal norms and rules; once you feel like you can’t rely on the natural social order, literally anything is possible. Ketchum’s disturbing novel about the unimaginable abuse suffered by two sisters when they are forced to live with their mentally unstable aunt and her three savage sons is based on real events, but it’s the central theme of an adult giving official sanction to the atrocities that makes this story so utterly horrifying.

    Blindness, by Jose Saramago
    Helplessness is a key factor in a lot of horror; most people labor under the delusion that they are in charge of their destiny and their lives, and horror is often effective simply by reminding us how little control we actually have. An epidemic of blindness leaves an entire city’s population secluded in a mental institution as society within and without crumbles. The brutality and descent into animalistic madness is all too realistic, and Saramago manages to capture the terrifying confusion and helplessness experienced by people in a society that no longer functions.

    Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
    McCarthy’s entire writing style and technique is terrifying; the man could write a grocery list that leaves the reader dripping with dread. This tale of extreme, ruthless, and pervasive violence in the American west emerges from under a sheen of the unreal to become all too real, and the greatest trick McCarthy manages here is by making the single most terrifying aspect of the story—the main character’s death—the one act of brutality he doesn’t depict, leaving the terrors contained within that scene to our imagination—which is infinitely worse than anything he might have conjured.

    Exquisite Corpse, by Poppy Z. Brite
    Brite’s most famous novel follows two serial killers who initially aim to kill each other but, upon discovering a fellow traveler, instead engage in a spree of horrific sex and murder. The matter-of-fact way the pair concocts a plan to kidnap, torture, and then consume a beautiful gay man named Tran is the sort of stuff that could simply be shocking, but Brite continuously considers the value of existence and what we could all be doing with the time we have left—time we too often imagine to be infinite when, of course, we’re all going to be consumed someday by something.

    Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
    Bradbury’s epic rumination on childhood and adulthood tells the story of a magical circus come to a small town, offering the residents dark gifts they weren’t aware they wanted—most notably the carousel that can change your physical age, making boys who yearn to be adults grow older, and middle-aged men and women who yearn for their lost youth to grow younger. Bradbury knows the worst horror in the world is losing the natural order of your life, and perfectly captures the combination of dread and excitement everyone experiences as they crack the mysteries separating them from adulthood.

    Hell House, by Richard Matheson
    What Matheson taps into in this classic haunted house story is the universal fear that we are already lost, already broken. Hired to investigate the existence of an afterlife by exploring the notoriously haunted Belasco House, a team moves in and slowly succumbs to the influence of the entity within—an entity that only uses their own weaknesses and secret shames against them. Their descent into the depths of horror is too close for comfort as a result—for everyone reading the book knows all too well that they have weaknesses, and secret shames, as well.

    The Face That Must Die, by Ramsey Campbell
    Campbell wrote a number of books that are absolutely terrifying, but this one stands out in the way he forces the reader to completely inhabit the mind of a very sick man, Horridge. As he fixates on an overweight man living in his neighborhood, the reader is forced to see the world consistently through his eyes. Everything is off-beat, everything drips with ominous meaning and horrific intent. Horridge sees the entire world as a horror that must be destroyed, and for a while the reader is carried along on that uncomfortable point of view, leaving them exhausted and terrified.

    Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
    Told in alternating chapters that depict a group of aspiring writers voluntarily secluded in an unusual writer’s retreat and the stories they’re writing, Haunted not only contains one of the most disturbing short stories ever published (“Guts,” which caused several people to faint when Palahniuk read it in public) it’s also a deep dive into madness as the reality-TV obsessed characters start sabotaging their experiment in a quest for fame. The sense of suffocating dread that Palahniuk applies grows so incrementally you don’t notice it until you suddenly realize you’ve been holding your breath for five pages.

    Dawn, by Octavia Butler
    Although technically science fiction, this story of the human race centuries after a devastating apocalypse is straight terror in many ways. Lilith is one of the last surviving humans, awakened on an alien ship. The aliens, three-sexed and many-tentacled, offer Lilith a deal: they will help her repopulated the Earth, but their price is to breed with humanity to gain humanity’s “talent” for cancer (and the creative possibilities it offers) while blunting their self-destructive tendencies. The horror imbued in each page is subtle, but it exerts tremendous mental pressure as you progress through the story.

    The Walking, by Bentley Little
    Far from just another tale of zombies, Little’s story of a man whose father rises from death after a stroke sizzles with a sense of doom long before the reader understands what’s at stake. Discovering that many families are hiding zombie relatives, and have been for some time, private investigator Miles Huerdeen digs into the mystery—and what he finds is easily the scariest stuff about zombies you’ll ever read. If you watch zombie movies and shows and laugh at their shuffling, mindless threat, this book will change your mind.

    The Ruins, by Scott Smith
    Smith’s story is deceptively simple: a group of tourists in Mexico go off in search of an archaeological site where a friend has set up camp; they find a pyramid covered in odd vines, the land around it salted and barren. Once on the pyramid, they discover the dead body of their friend, covered in the vines, and that the nearby villagers have arrived with guns to force them to remain on the pyramid. The vines are one of those simple monsters that seem so easy to defeat at first blush, yet the inexorable doom that descends on the characters slowly, grindingly proves otherwise.

    Bird Box, by Josh Malerman
    Malerman’s intense story of a world that slowly crumbles as people go murderously insane after seeing mysterious creatures—referred to simply as The Problem—is so scary because the reader only has the information that the characters have, and that’s not much. The world collapses and the survivors can only seal themselves off from the outside and try to avoid the worst, leading to a torturous wearing down of hope that leaves the reader defenseless against the horrible images Malerman conjures.

    Ghost Story, by Peter Straub
    A good old-fashioned ghost story is designed to terrify and entertain, and Straub’s breakthrough novel does both. Five old friends gather regularly to trade ghost stories, but when one of them dies mysteriously and the survivors begin to dream of their own deaths, a secret from their past is revealed—and the simple pleasures of a ghost story are explored to their most frightening ends by a master of the form.

    Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    If you don’t think of Beloved as a horror story, you haven’t been paying attention. Morrison’s skill as a writer is in full effect as she draws the reader into what is assuredly one of the saddest and most horrifying stories committed to paper. There’s no more terrifying sequence than the long slide into madness as escaped slave Sethe, convinced the young woman calling herself Beloved is the daughter she murdered in an attempt to keep her safe from slavers come to reclaim them, grows steadily thinner and weaker as she gives everything she has—including food—to Beloved, who grows steadily larger.

    Did we leave off any truly terrifying books? Let us know in the comments.

    The post 25 of the Most TERRIFYING Horror Books Ever appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jenny Shank 5:30 pm on 2015/11/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , toni morrison, ,   

    Writing Advice from Great Authors to Get You Through NaNoWriMo 

    Across the country this November, aspiring novelists are clacking away at their keyboards in service of National Novel Writing Month, in which participants must write 50,000 words in 30 days. Part of the process for many involves reading any book of writing advice they can get their hands on, alongside profiles and interviews with their favorite authors, in hopes of finding the secret that will make writing a novel quick, painless, and fruitful. As a fellow seeker, I can tell you there is no such secret—and yet, there are certain nuggets of wisdom I’ve found in my quest that have stuck with me, and help me every time I make a new attempt at writing a novel. While I’m writing, I repeat certain snippets of this advice like a mantra in my head: “This is just the down draft. Get it down. Now, don’t go visit Mr. Coffee! Stay in the chair! Done? Okay, now stick it in the drawer for six weeks.” Here are 7 tips for those who are getting started on writing a novel, those who are along the way, and those ready to revise.

    Getting Started

    Get it Down.
    “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”
    –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

    Write the Missing Book You Want to See in the Bookstore.
     “There were no books about me, I didn’t exist at all in the literature I had read…this person, this female, this black did not exist.”
    Toni Morrison, quoted in Toni Morrison: Contemporary World Writers by Jill Matus

    ”If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.”
    Beverly Cleary

    Along The Way

    Treat Princesses and Chambermaids with Equal Dignity.
    “Lucia’s guidance was quiet and subtle, with one memorable exception: the tyranny of the preachy narrator. Write your characters as ghastly as you like, she said, but get off their backs. Chekhov was her hero, for his fierce discipline toward impartiality. A princess and a chambermaid, she said—Chekhov would treat them exactly the same. Lucia let that sink in and then probed to see if I’d internalized that as ennoble the maid. Of course. It was the princess I had to look out for, she said—most writers were likely to dis her. And the maid didn’t need my pity or false praise.”
    –Dave Cullen, the author of Columbine, writing about his teacher Lucia Berlin for Vanity Fair.

    Don’t Go Visit Mr. Coffee. The Writer is The Person Who Stays In The Room.
    “When you’re a writer you spend days in the room without knowing what you’ve got, but you’re still willing to keep reeling it in and following it. You’re willing to be true to it. It may mean you have to write thirty pages to get fifteen. The big secret to such writing is the ability to stay in the room. The writer is the person who stays in the room…all the good writing I’ve done in the last ten years has been done in the first twenty minutes after the first time I wanted to leave the room. I’ve learned to stay there and keep writing. I think, ‘Oh, I’ll just go get some coffee.’ Well, I love coffee, but I don’t really want any coffee at that moment. What’s happened is that I’ve confronted a little problem that’s got me kind of rattled. I can’t identify it. I don’t even know I’m rattled. I just don’t want to go on. A threshold’s come between me and the page, and I want to get out of there. I have a Mr. Coffee in the kitchen and, when I get to it, I find I also have a Mr. Refrigerator. There’s Mr. Kitchen Table, Mr. Newspaper, Mr. Big Long Couch, Mr. World Outside the Window, and honest to god, my career as a writer is over and I’m dead in the water. So I’ve learned to stay there…I’ve learned that the cup of coffee I fix afterwards is really good. Staying in the chair improves the quality of that beverage.”
    Ron Carlson, quoted in Glimmer Train Stories Writers Ask, issue 23

    Making It Good

    Figure Out What Your Charm is and Hone It.
    “Writing is about charm, about finding and accessing and honing ones’ particular charms.”
    George Saunders, “My Writing Education,The New Yorker.

    Give it A Rest.
    Stephen King advises writers to let their books rest for six weeks between drafts. “How long you let your book rest—sort of like bread dough between kneadings—is entirely up to you, but I think it should be a minimum of six weeks…If you’ve never done it before, you’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience. It’s yours, you’ll recognize it as yours, even be able to remember what tune was on the stereo when you wrote certain lines, and yet it will also be like reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps. This is the way it should be, the reason you waited. It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own…With six weeks’ worth of recuperation time, you’ll also be able to see any glaring holes in the plot or character development. And listen—if you spot a few of these big holes, you are forbidden to feel depressed about them or to beat up on yourself. Screw-ups happen to the best of us.”
    –Stephen King, On Writing

     

     
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