So it’s official: I’ve finished Flavorwire’s 50 Scariest Books of All Time, from beginning to end. It’s been about three years, although I didn’t start out focusing on this one; I’ve been working on several horror lists with MB Partlow and Shannon Lawrence. The Nightmare Magainze’s Top 100 is another, which is done, and up next is Shortlist’s 30 Scariest Books Ever Written. Shannon’s original post tracking the project is here. (She’s doing the best job of keeping track of things; also, we rarely agree on anything, which makes this even cooler. MB and I tend to see things slightly more eye-to-eye, although I do differ with her strongly on atmosphere.)*
I’m tracking my end of things on Goodreads; my reviews are here. If I had read the book and reviewed it on Goodreads already, I didn’t reread it, but if I’d read it before 2010 (my first year on GR), I reread it.
I liked most of the books on this list. It might be easier to list the ones I didn’t like (there certainly were fewer of them). I rated 22 of 50 as five-star. But in the interests of “bah! forget that,” instead, here are my top ten, in no particular order:
- The Turn of the Screw, Henry James.
- The Woman in Black, Susan Hill.
- The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty.
- Let the Right One In, John Ajdvide Lindqvist.
- The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson.
- Lord of the Flies, William Golding.
- The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum (which, I don’t know, isn’t really my favorite so much as the most legitimately horrific/scary)
- 1984, George Orwell.
- Piercing, Ryu Murakami.
- Dawn, Octavia Butler.
I spent the most time with The Woman in Black, going fairly in depth to study it (and finding some Really Weird Stuff as I did), but I’m also working on The Turn of the Screw. I don’t think those are necessarily the best books of the lot, but the ones whose plots and settings most appealed to me.
The one that’s most under-read from the list is, IMO, Daniel Auerbach’s Penpal, although I will grant you that it leans more literary than some readers will like, and it isn’t perfect.
What I liked more about this list than the Nightmare list? Fewer eyerolls due to extreme sexism (not the curators, but the books themselves, which lean heavily 80s horror). What I liked less about this list? At first I was pleased that that the list drew from a broad spectrum across genres, with a lot of literary showings that don’t get listed as horror at first glance (for example, American Psycho or Blood Meridian). But then…I got tired of it. Some of the books seemed to have been picked just because they were the mostest that could be found, like The Painted Bird or The Wasp Factory, and I found myself dreading the last few books, going, “What fresh Hell will they drag me through, just because they can?” The end of this list was far more exhausting to push through than the Nightmare list because of that, I think.
Next up for this project is the Shortlist 30 Scariest Books, or maybe the Kim Newman/Stephen Jones Top 100 Horror list. But, being slightly burned out at this point, I’m going to finish up the Top 100 Crime Novels list first instead.
I do like me some lists.