Ah, October! My favorite month of the year has arrived. The leaves are crunching under my boots and there is a swift chill in the air. The store shelves are lined with pumpkin-flavored everything, from beers to cakes and coffees and soups and all sorts of glorious heart-warming wonderfulness! What’s more is that nearly every store has half-priced candy, and while I am well-past the socially acceptable trick-or-treating age I plan on treating myself to a personal bag of chocolate goodies to enjoy right there alongside my pumpkin beer and these books!
The inspiration from list comes from three of my favorite occurrences: 1) Halloween, 2) the annual family hiking trip, 3) the colorful fall foliage here in New England.
Since the whole idea for seasonal reading came from my creepy Halloween read from last year (Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice), I decided the best way to celebrate the season would be to continue this trend and read another classic scary novel. But alas, a confession from this October-loving book worm…when it comes to horror, I am a total wimp! I have absolutely no stomach for scary movies or haunted houses or creepy-crawly anything. Books are a great way to be part of the horror culture of the Halloween season without actually having to see it with your physical eyes. As terrifying as books can be, and though we may be able to visualize the horror quite vividly…it is, in the end, in our imagination and has not been spun into living color and thrown across the widescreen.
And now for the list! Don’t forget the rules: 1 fiction, 1 nonficton, 1 creative!
October 2013 Book #1: Dracula, by Bram Stoker
I love classic, old horror stories and films because they lack something that today’s horror industry has in surplus: gore. Yes, any story about vampires is bound to be a bit bloody, but compared to say, anything from Quentin Tarantino or the Saw film series, a good old late-19th century novel will be quite tame, thank you very much.
The thing I loved so much about Interview with the Vampire was that the rich descriptive language of the book focused on the state of the vampires’ minds and their experience in leaving the human world. Right after I finished reading it, my best friend and I watched the classic silent horror film Nosferatu on Halloween. Released in 1922, this German Expresionist movie was based off of Stoker’s novel. And while by today’s standards it was a bit silly at times, it proved to be sufficiently creepy and left my friend and I feeling a bit uneasy sitting in her dark basement.
Dracula is the inspiration for these stories, as well as so many others. It’s not only a must-read for horror-buffs everywhere, but is also considered to be one of the most groundbreaking novels of all time in and of itself. I expect Dracula will provide the same chilling, but not overly disturbing, form of horror that I’m looking for while also allowing me to enjoy some historic literary work.
(Nosferatu image and information from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosferatu)
October 2013 Book #2: Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
Thankfully for me and my easily-scared self, October is not completely about horror. One of the highlights of me is the annual family retreat up in the New England Appalacchians. Every year over Columbus Day weekend my Dad’s side of the family rents a cozy lodge house up in the mountains for three days of hiking, hot cider and increasingly competitive rounds of charades. The air is clean and brisk, and the beautiful fall foliage is the purest form of magic I have ever beheld.
When our crowded minivan first crawls up the curvy mountain road, we suddenly realize how much more alone we are, here in the middle of the mountains: no cell-phone reception, no Internet, no streetlights. Just dark woods and icy mountain air. But once we spot the house and our cousins stoking a roaring fire inside, the dark wilderness around us fades away and we want to stay here in the red and gold forest forever. These emotions, the sudden distance from civilization followed by the love for nature and one’s kin, inspired the second book.
While some criticize Thoreau for hist over-dramatization of his two years on Walden Pond, I think it’s perfectly natural. Yes he had visitors and would occasionally stroll into the nearby bustling town of Concord, MA but does that mean his experience is cheaply gotten? No! One does not to be completely cut off from the natural world to appreciate it. Much like a brief family retreat into the mountains, I believe that Thoreau’s experience is meant more to teach us the value of observation and reverence for nature than it is a rejection of civilization. As I live only a short drive away from this historic site, I hope to immerse myself not only in his message, but also in the natural splendor of my home.
October 2013 Book #3. The Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
Ever since I realized my total infatuation with reading, I realized my total infatuation with Edgar Allan Poe. The man had a true gift with drawing the deepest (and often the darkest) emotions from within the souls of his readers and himself. When reading his work, it’s almost as if Poe needed to write these words to physically remove them from his mind. His stories start out so dark and intense, and the ends always have a sudden sense of brevity and catharsis. He was very tortured by emotions (and alcoholism) for much of his adult life, and the tension is palpable in his work. While his spooky short stories seem the obvious subject of a Halloween-themed reading list, it’s his lesser-known works that I have my eye on.
I want to experience the eeriness and grotesque language for which my first-literary love is known, but I also want to further acquaint myself with the portion of his work that has not been picked apart and over-analyzed by every English teacher in the country. What’s more, Edgar Allan Poe had extensive tied to my hometown of Boston, and reading his work really adds to my goal of seasonal, local literature.
Don’t forget, I am eager to see what you all are reading this month and what you think of these wonderful works.