Courtesy of Elias Williams/The New York Times

October 11, 2022

Beware of Books! Terrifying Tales to Read This October

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Personally, if I read too many scary books or watch too many scary movies in a row, I’ll have nightmares and get overly paranoid every time I go to the grocery store or walk through a dimly lit hallway for a few weeks. Despite my childlike response to the horror genre, however, I can’t get enough of it. Halloween is my favorite day of the year, and I prefer to celebrate for the entirety of October. In between marathons of Scooby Doo, The Haunting of Hill House and The Conjuring movies, I’ll spend the month thumbing through these book recommendations by Cornell readers. 

Currently, I’m reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This novel is often referred to as the father of the non-fiction novel. Capote is credited for revolutionizing the literary world with the idea of narrative nonfiction, and for good reason, as this is the only non-fiction book I’ve ever felt interested in while reading. I’ll admit, it’s taking me longer to read than most modern fiction books, but I find myself waiting until I can pick it up again. 

This novel follows the brutal murder of a family living in small-town Kansas from the perspective of both the murderers and detectives. Being from Kansas City, this book is especially creepy every time I remember it’s a true story. This novel is an interesting change of pace from other crime novels, as you know who the killers are before the murder even happens. As a disclaimer, this novel was published in 1965 and represents the parties of this incident as they were in reality. Unfortunately, this means there are moments in the novel where characters show their blatant racism. Read with caution and know that these characters are deeply flawed; their words and views are unequivocally condemnable. 

Released earlier this year, Kellye Garrett’s novel Like a Sister is about two sisters, one a deceased Black reality TV star and one a living Columbia graduate student. Although Desiree Pierce’s deadly overdose makes national news, no one questions the circumstances. The only one willing to read between the lines is her sister Lena, who she hadn’t spoken to in months. While digging through the past, Lena toes the line between finding answers and hitting rock bottom, surrounded only by dirt and regret. Reading this novel, you become so entangled in the web of truth, lies, betrayal, trust, family and murder that you don’t know what reality is until it hits you. I audibly gasped at multiple twists. If you’re a fan of true crime who believes you could solve a case, read this book. Even if you’re not, you’ll find something in this pulse-quickening murder mystery. 

Understandably, the mention of horror literature immediately brings to mind author Stephen King, the brain behind many classic horror stories, from It to Carrie. For Christina Bonnarti ’26, who will “devour literally anything by him,” The Shining and The Stand take the cake. If you haven’t heard of The Shining, where have you been? In case you’re a newbie to horror or your mom didn’t let you watch scary movies, I’ll sum it up for you. Jack Torrance is a writer struggling to find inspiration, motivation and income. To support his family, he accepts a job taking care of a mountain hotel for the off-season. Once the family moves to the hotel, Jack’s lack of inspiration only grows, and everyone seems to start suffering from a lack of sanity. Like many of King’s works, this novel was adapted into a successful film, so you can watch it after you read it! 

Some of you may feel it’s just too soon to read a pandemic-themed horror novel. For those who like books that hit close to home, The Stand may be a perfect option for you. This novel centers on a society that must reestablish itself after an illness-induced apocalypse. King’s website describes the novel as “a confrontation between the forces of good and evil.” 

Sometimes you want to be scared of every dark corridor. Sometimes, you just want to read a story with traditionally scary characters portrayed in a different light. For those times, Ava Hesslau ’26 recommends the ever-famous Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. If you’re like me and won’t be able to sleep well after any of the previous recommendations, take a break from the terror for some vampire romance! This series is anything but devoid of action, though, as immortal vampires don’t typically like to just sit around and knit. From vegetarian vampires to monster battles to love triangles, this series will get you in the Halloween mood and keep you on the edge of your seat without needing to triple-check your door lock.

Lastly, if you’re reminiscing about days of trick-or-treating and Scholastic Book Fairs, look no further than Thomas Atkinson’s ’26 recommendation of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. With more than 60 books in the series, there’s sure to be one that piques your interest. Atkinson warns, though, that they can sometimes be “yucky … like the one with the bloody hand.” 

If you need a distraction from October’s never-ending prelim season, pick up one of these recommended reads to stress yourself out in a different way. Happy Halloween season, Cornellians!

Isabella Hackett is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].