3 Amazing Horror Authors and Why You Should Read Them

I’m doing a giveaway! To celebrate Halloween, I’m participating in All Hallow’s Read by giving away two of my very favorite scary books: the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King’s The Shining. You can enter by commenting on any/all of my blog posts this month. If we break 50 comments (we’re already almost halfway there!), I’ll throw in a third favorite scary book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. If you missed the announcement last week, you can view the rules here. So today I thought I’d take some time to talk a little about these books and their authors, both so you know which book to choose if you win and just because I love talking about my favorite books! Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Edgar Allan Poe

The Relevant Work

Because Edgar Allan Poe is a short story author and poet, it’s easy to get books that have almost everything he’s written, sometimes even including his literary criticism and essays. He was so prolific that most people will want to start with the highlights. My don’t-miss list includes these poems: “The Raven,” “A Dream Within A Dream,” “The Bells,” and “Annabel Lee.” My don’t-miss short stories are: “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Why It’s Amazing

Poe excels at many things. The atmospheres he creates are unmatched by any other writer, living or dead. I don’t believe you can sit down to read one of Poe’s masterpieces and not become deeply drawn into the mood he’s created. On top of that, his best stories are surprisingly modern in their entertainment value. His prose is more flowery than that of most authors today, but if anything that only serves to heighten the sense of magic when reading. Poe knows how to weave a short story plot like none other, and his poetry shimmers with brilliance. (Convinced yet?)

Who Should Read It

Everyone. Yes, everyone. And no, I won’t say this for all three authors. Every person should read at least some Poe in their life. Even if you don’t like macabre things, Poe has options for you. He has plenty of poetry that is deep and melancholy rather than scary, and his short stories range far beyond horror with mysteries, science fiction, and even humor. Not sure where to start? Tell me your tastes and I’m happy to give you a recommendation!

Stephen King

The Relevant Work

I’m giving away my favorite King novel. The Shining is about a family of three who spend a winter as the off-season caretakers of the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. With a touch of supernatural and a nerve-wracking atmosphere of psychological terror, this is absolutely the scariest novel I’ve ever read. If you’ve already read The Shining, my other favorites by King include ‘Salem’s Lot (vampires), Pet Sematary (the one with the toddler and the cat), and The Tommyknockers (aliens). It (clown) is still on my to-read list, but it’s also popular.

Why It’s Amazing

There’s one thing Stephen King does better than any other author: fear. There have been three scenes so far in my life that have scared me on a physical, visceral level (afraid to get out of bed, stomach churning – that type of thing). Two of those three scenes are in The Shining. Ironically, neither one is in the movie version with Jack Nicholson, so I always encourage people to read the book even if they’ve already seen the movie. If you’re wondering, the third scene that scared me was in ‘Salem’s Lot. See? King’s the master of scary.

Who Should Read It

Anyone who wants to be well and truly scared by a book! Also: brave writers studying commercial fiction craft. King has it down.

Mark Z. Danielewski

The Relevant Work

House of Leeeeaves! I fan-girl pretty hard over this one. It doesn’t matter where I am or who I’m with: if someone brings up this book I am going to be entrenched in animated discussion for at least the next half hour. This is a book you could read and re-read for the rest of your life and still find something new every time. The deceptively simple premise: a young family moves into a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Why It’s Amazing

I’ve done a full-out rave post about House of Leaves before, but I’ll give you the highlights here. House of Leaves is the most ambitious book I’ve ever read. It’s layers of story mixed together in a clever, thoughtful way that forces the reader to become an active participant in interpreting the text. It’s an assault on the nature of story itself. The dark humor behind this method lends itself to satire, but the complicated maze of structure, narrator, and plot creates a disorienting, claustrophobic effect that becomes unsettling if not downright scary. Add on top of all this moments of bright humor, touching poignancy, chilling fear, and unbelievable originality. You guys, this book changed me. Even though this behemoth is 700 complex pages, I read it in less than a week and I was breathless when I finished. I devoured every word. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I even read the index.

Who Should Read It

I do not recommend this book for everyone. It definitely isn’t for readers who want a fast, easy read. Who it is for: readers who love intellectual, literary fiction that you can really spend time on and become lost in. Readers with ambitious taste who like to be challenged. A taste for horror is probably helpful, although I don’t think this book is “scary” in a way that would put off people who avoid scary movies. It will, however, mess with your mind, so House of Leaves is best suited to those with dark propensities.

~*~

There you have it: my three favorite scary books, why they’re amazing, and why should read them. Want a chance to read them for free? Comment below to be entered to win! And don’t forget: the more posts you comment on this month the better chance you have at being drawn.

Now it’s your turn. I am always looking for more books that will well and truly get under my skin. What’s your favorite scary book, and why?

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  • Erzabet Bishop

    Have you read Pretty Little Dead Girls by Mercedes Yardley? It Is one of the most beautiful horror stories I’ve ever read. The lyrical prose was both sweet and horrifiying.

    • No I haven’t, but it looks great. I’ve added it to my to-read list. Thanks for the rec!

  • Regina Richards

    Poe is my favorite. You ae right. He was a master of everything, but especially of creating and sustaining mood.

    • You can’t go wrong with Poe! I’m not surprised to hear he’s your favorite. 🙂

  • A. B. Davis

    Annie, I am VERY pleased to learn that the scariest scenes (for you–and I think it will probably be similar for me as we share the same favorite novel, House of Leaves, lol) in The Shining were not in the movie. I love the movie, and I plan on taking undertaking a little King reading marathon at the beginning of next year (his first 5 novels) (but we should eventually totally tackle IT together!), so I am extremely excited to experience those most terrifying scenes in print when I read this work. Reading horror and getting scared by it has a better chance of really digging under the skin and staying there with you. As you said, House of Leaves changed you. Me too, my friend. Me too. Great points about Poe’s universality and King’s mastery of commercial fiction. And your points about why House of Leaves was amazing were spot on.

    • I’ve been slowly reading more of King’s classics as well. I’d love to read IT at the same time! Sounds like fun. After that (and books by other authors too), I might give his Dark Tower series a try too. I hope you like The Shining as much as I did! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      • A. B. Davis

        You’re welcome. The Gunslinger and the Drawing of Three, the first and second Dark Tower books, are brilliant. I can attest to that at least. Btw, I just finished listening to the audio book of Danse Macabre. You will love it when you get around to it! So insightful, and with the same friendly, relatable tone as On Writing. 🙂

        • Yeah? Strangely, I haven’t ever heard much about that series, but my brother- and sister-in-law gave me a beautiful boxed set for Christmas, so I’m glad to hear they’re good. I hear mixed things about Danse Macabre, so it’s kind of slipped down my to-read list. I probably should give it a shot, though!

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    Once again – I love your enthusiasm, my friend. I have to say that you sold me on House of Leaves, even though I don’t consider myself one with “dark propensities” (though maybe I do fit that category, as the fiction I like to read is dark/depressing/sad…?) Thanks for sharing your all-time favorites, Annie. Such fun to hang with you during the month of October.

    • Thank you! Oh, interesting. I’m not sure if you’d like HoL. It’s dark in a few ways. One is that some scenes are creepy. Another is that one of the narrators lives a grim and reckless lifestyle. Still another is that some of the storylines are sad. But the main way is how it makes you question everything. It’s horror in a very deep, psychological way. It’s pretty hard to explain, but if you think there’s a chance you’d like it I’d say it’s worth a shot, because what the book accomplishes is pretty incredible.

  • Alex

    I remember reading “The Cask of Amontillado” in the 9th grade and
    everyone in class going banaynays over the use of the word
    “ejaculated,” which I believe Poe was using as a synonym for blurting
    something out.

    • That’s hilarious. And strangely, I remember some giggles from my 9th grade class at that very same word.

  • Jessica Cline

    I agree, Stephen King is a winner almost every time for me, Also, I second anything by Mercedes Yardley. She writes a whimsical kind of horror and her Beautiful Sorrows made me fall in love with short stories.

    Libba Bray’s The Diviners is another one that scared the bejeeezus out of me and kept me up nights.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! King and Yardley are already on my list, but Libba Bray is new to me. Thanks for yet another awesome-looking rec!

  • I love you break up the book recommendation into why it’s relevant, why it’s amazing, and who should read it. That’s such a good idea!

    • Thanks, Nina! I figured since not all of my blog readers are horror fans it might be helpful. 🙂

  • Carie Juettner

    Your note about the scariest scenes in The Shining not being in the movie just make me want to read it more! I’m going to re-watch the movie at the drive-in later this month. After that, I’ll be ready to tackle the book. 🙂

    • Awesome! That’s subjective, obviously, but hopefully we have similar taste. 🙂

  • Cynthia Robertson

    Great mini reviews, Annie. I count Tommyknockers among my favorite SK novels too.
    As a weird aside: my parents played a read aloud recording of Tell-Tale Heart at my 10 year old birthday party sleepover. It scared the crap out of all of us! (I don’t think they realized how scary it would be.)

    • Tommyknockers was such a fun book, and it had several really creepy scenes. That’s cute/funny about The Tell-Tale Heart. Did you love it or was it too scary to be fun at that age? I used to love scary stories at sleepovers!

      • Peggy

        Wow – I too had the Tell-Tale Heart read to me when I was 10 years old and recovering from a head wound accident! My older sister read it to me that afternoon, and I loved it. However, when darkness fell and my parents were asleep, I had one long, scary night:)

  • Have you read The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan? The cover is the worst in the world, but the book is gorgeously written and definitely creepy. My favorite underrated Stephen King novel is The Long Walk–more dystopian than horror, but still unsettling. Also a more recent read: The Silent Land by Graham Joyce. I’m torn on whether it’s really horror at all, even though some parts of it were chilling. I want to say more but it’s also one of those books that’s better if you don’t know too much.

    • No I haven’t. Caitlin Kiernan is one of those authors who’s been on my list for a long time. I’ve heard nothing but great things about her but just haven’t picked anything up yet. I’ll make sure The Red Tree is on my list. I’ve never heard of The Long Walk or The Silent Land. I’ll have to look those up too. Thanks for the recs, Lura!

      • Just kidding! The Silent Land is already on my to-read list. I recognized the cover once I looked it up. That one looks intriguing!

  • King is frighteningly good. He’s a consummate story teller who somehow comes up with original and brilliant premises. I’d love a smidge of his talent!

    • You and me both, Lexa! ‘Storyteller’ is the perfect way to describe him. His strength is in weaving a good tale above all else, and that’s why people love his books.

  • marypreston

    Always very happy to add to my “library”.

  • LLB84

    House of Leaves is the next book on my ‘wish’ list since both you and Alex listed it on your top ten list. Be nice to win it, but I still want to read it no matter what. Good luck on your contest.

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