February is Women in Horror Month, so I thought I’d celebrate by recommending some of my favorite horror authors.
Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – 4 out of 5 stars.
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t first recommend Shirley Jackoson, one of the most classic horror authors ever. The Haunting of Hill House is a staple for any horror fan. First published in 1959, the story has all the best that horror would come to offer: unreliable narrators, endings shrouded in mystery, sexual tension, and jealousy. Once you’ve read The Haunting of Hill House you’ll start to see how much it has influenced other horror books—and even films.
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within.”
Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck – 5 out of 5 stars.
Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck is short, eerie, and pure magic—in only 114 pages. It’s a collection of short stories that ranges from terrifying to bizarre, and each one will find a way to get under your skin. Each story is a testament at what can be done with tight prose and a deep understanding of why humans fear the dark.
“Time was an abhorrent thing, a human thing. It didn’t belong here. It was that power which made flesh rot and dreams wither.”
Night Film by Marisha Pessl – 5 out of 5 stars.
I read Night Film by Marisha Pessl because my friend once texted at 11:00 pm saying “You have to read this book with me, I’m too scared to finish by myself.” I thought that was a brilliant review and was certainly enough to make me spend money on a book. Now it is one of my absolute favorite horror novels. Night Film follows the journalist Scott McGrath as he investigates the death of Stanislas Cordova’s daughter. Cordova is a revolutionary horror director and an amalgam of Hitchcock, Kubrick, and so many more. Night Film lives in the ambiguous space between madness and sanity and will make you question each step the protagonists take. But make sure you download the accompanying app as well! What makes Night Film particularly special is that the publisher and author created movie trailers and posters, viewable clues like texts, medical files, and photos to be viewed along with the book.
“Mortal fear is as crucial a thing to our lives as love. It cuts to the core of our being and shows us what we are. Will you step back and cover your eyes? Or will you have the strength to walk to the precipice and look out?…Will you curl up with your eyes closed and die? Or can you fight your way out of it and fly?” –Stanislas Cordova, Rolling Stone, December 29, 1977
Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear by Margee Kerr – 4 out of 5 stars.
Ok, this next one isn’t strictly horror but I do think that anyone who enjoys adrenaline-inducing reading or activities should read Scream: Chilling Adventures in the Science of Fear by Dr. Margee Kerr. Kerr is a sociologist who works at one of America’s scariest haunted houses as well as travels the world to investigate the impact of fear on the human psyche and our potential addiction to it. Kerr not only engages in behaviors that terrify her but also investigates why America, one of the safest nations on Earth, is obsessed with fear.
“There’s something freeing, and even a little bit dangerous, in screaming as loud as you want. Screaming is part of our evolved survivor tool kit, protecting us by scaring away predators and alerting others of danger nearby. Pulling our face into a scream is also believed to make us more alert, intensifying our threat response (just as squinching our nose in disgust blocks foul odors from going into our nostrils).”
Bitch Planet, Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine – Literally all of the stars
Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick / Illustrator: Taki Soma / Artists: Valentine De Landro and Robert Wilson IV
Bitch Planet is the graphic novel that I have given away the most. If you are a woman and you know me you’ve probably gotten it as a gift and that’s because I LOVE Bitch Planet. It is thrilling, terrifying, maddening, and reaffirming all at the same time. It pinpoints the many fears of life as a woman—hierarchal relationships with men, beauty standards, agency—and builds a terrifying world where everything has gone wrong but strong women are still fighting, screaming, clawing, and creating space. The art and writing is inclusive and brilliant, especially the “trash page” that mimics advertisements from older comics and magazines. Dwell on those advertisements and the hair on your arms will raise in response to how exaggerated yet familiar the messaging is. The structure of the panels forces you to be an active participant in reading the story, investing you in the struggle of the noncompliant. Bitch Planet is absolutely a horror tale to me and it is also empowering, like Night Film it asks “Will you curl up with your eyes closed and die? Or can you fight your way out of it and fly?” and like Scream it reinforces that “There is something freeing in screaming.”