Scary books, the good kind of scary, are magical—they make us feel things, we read them for hours under the covers at night, unable to stop, and when we finally do are sleepless for hours, tossing and turning in that delicious pleasurable fantasy-fear. Like fans of horror movies, fans of scary books are not really scared, not real-life scared; we're instead enjoying the goosebumps and sense of danger and horror and adventure; the literary "yikes!" the books beget. It's all pretend, and that makes the scariness safe, even as it's terrifying. The best of all the scary books, I think, are the ones we read as kids, those stories that cemented our appetites for thrills and chills and also helped jumpstart our imaginations. Good-scary is different for everyone—for me, Flowers in the Attic was pretty harrowing, in way I couldn't put down, and I loved the creepy vibe of The Girl With the Silver Eyes.
In the lead-up to that scariest of holidays (no, not Thanksgiving with the family), I canvassed some of our favorite authors and writers and book lovers for a trip down Memory OMG I AM SLEEPING WITH ALL THE LIGHTS ON Lane—to find out their favorites in scary, old and new.
Gitty Daneshvari, author of the School of Fear series, confides that fear is in her nature. "If had I been given business cards as a child they would have read 'Gitty Daneshvari—Professional Neurotic: Worrying so that others don’t have to,'" she told me. "Pretty much from the time I can remember I was concerned about everything from being poisoned by Windex to being kidnapped at the health food store (my parents were big proponents of carob chip cookies) to my stuffed animals coming to life to so much more." Her School of Fear books were born when she thought about much easier her life would have been had she gone to a special school that made her face her childhood fears. The four main characters in School of Fear have her greatest childhood phobias—"thanatophobia (fear of death), claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), thalassophobia (fear of the ocean), and entomophobia/arachnophobia (fear of bugs/spiders). Of these four only one remains today," she says, "occasionally prompting me to spray Raid in my hair before bed. With this in mind I choose Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as the scariest book I have ever read."