Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Festival of Lists: October 22: TWENTY-TWO Non-Fiction Tomes of Terror

As I sat down to read the newly acquired 'Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting' I realized how much I actually enjoy reading about this genre.  I'm a voracious reader by all accounts anyway, so I guess it makes sense I would go nuts over books that talk about all things dark and disturbing. 

So if you're looking for something other than Danse Macabre (which you should have already read by now, dammit!), here are some suggestions for (non-fiction) books that discuss, in one form or another, the very thing that we are all obsessed with:  horror. 

My most recent acquisition I have only started to read, but it's wildly entertaining so far.  Explaining the importance of folklore, history, and popular culture, W. Scott Poole brings to life society's infatuation with all things dark and disturbing.

I already reviewed this book on the site, you can read that here.  But suffice it to say this book is an awesome reflection on how a bunch of young film directors gave us our most prized horror films. Believe me, you're gonna want to read about the hows and whys of making some of the most influential films in horror.
I don't need to shamelessly plug this book just because I have some dear friends who are contributors...the book speaks for itself, it's awesome.  Overflowing with intelligent and interesting essays, BKBC will reward the reader with discussions of one of the ultimate sub-genres in horror, the slasher film.
Come on, you know you want it!

A revised edition from the one I purchased years ago, this book has a broad history of horror films, starting with Browning in the 30s and moving through horror history at a readable pace. While the first half is a venerable feast of info, Skal moves into popular culture in the second part and perhaps over-analyzes somewhat.  But still worth a look, especially for his thoughts on early horror. 

Exactly what it says it is, The Book of Lists: Horror, is an amazing collection of nothing guessed it....lists.  For instance:  "Twenty Great Openings in Horror Fiction", "Ten Horror Cocktails and How to Make Them", "The Original Titles of Fifteen Horror Films", and "Ray Bradbury's Five Horror Films that Most Influenced Him as a Youth".  You get the gist? 

"320 pages * with 122 photos from * 110 films covered in * 101 essays by * 78 horror fans from * 12 different countries"
Written by horror fans for horror fans, Horror 101 has reviews, trivia, and tidbits that are presented with the enthusiasm  and passion you can only expect from genre aficionados.

Not so much a book of reviews as a coffee table book with thousands of photos, John Landis's new tome includes him chatting with famous horror elites such as David Cronenberg, Christopher Lee, and Ray Harryhausen.   Discussing the importance of monsters in the films we all love, Monsters seems like the perfect gift for the discerning horror fan for the upcoming silly season.

In 'Monsters: An Investigator's Guide to Magical Beings', occult scholar John Michael Greer takes a more literal approach to monsters and things that go bump in the night. A fascinating look at fictional characters such as vampires and zombies, he has perhaps a new age angle on the subject, but it makes it no less interesting.

One thing I'm fairly addicted to is encyclopedias.  I love collecting facts.   And in my personal library I have more than just a few encyclopedias of the macabre.  This one has been on my shelf for over fifteen years.  It's on its third edition, and is a comprehensive reference on the subject, with all types of ghosts and hauntings described and discussed in detail.

In this one, they break down the subjects into five categories - aliens, beasts, creations, psychopaths, and the supernatural.  Lots of trivia and quotes from the films we all love so much are intertwined with humorous anecdotes making for a fun read.

"All the skills to dodge the kills".  Instantly hilarious, this tongue in cheek book will have you unable to put it down.  With chapters on 'how to perform and exorcism' and 'how to tell if you've been dead , you could do no better to waste away a rainy afternoon.  Highly recommended.

Forget all the whining about how your life has been going like shit.  Hey, at least you're still alive, right?
The Undead:  Chicken Soup for the Soulless focuses on vampires, zombies, and other undead or living dead folks that just can't stay away from the living, and begs questions such as: if we kill the undead, is it still murder?

What scares Clive Barker?  You'll find out when he discusses people like H.P. Lovecraft, William Castle,  and John Carpenter, and subjects like Grand Guignol, zombies, and special effects.  Besides it being in an alphabet form, there's no real rhyme or reason to the subjects Barker picks for this book, and it moves easily from vampires to Poe to true crime put to film. 

"999 Hair-raising, Hellish, and Humorous Movies"
This book of reviews has pretty much every popular horror film and as you can guess, a lot of not-so-popular ones.  It also has trivia on the sidebars about popular legends of horror like Peter Cushing and Brian DePalma, etc.  A useful source.

Looking for something on the cultural significance of Halloween on the public?  Want to learn about the truths behind holiday urban legends?  While not a complete volume of Halloween history, Death Makes a Holiday still gives a good look at our favorite holiday.

When I was a kid, I loved that show: In Search Of.  It was so damn intriguing, with all its talk of Bigfoot and Jersey Devils and UFOs.... So this book was a given, I had to have it.  It includes all the aforementioned topics, plus weather anomalies, cryptozoology, urban legends, phantoms, Bermuda Triangle, and plenty else to whet your appetite for the bizarre and unexplained.

By the same author as the ghosts and spirits encyclopedia above, this exhaustive reference pays tribute to what everyone is crazy about these days:  paranormal creatures.  While there are entries on the "other" indicated in the title, vampires are by far the monsters that get the most play here. 

"Avoid machetes, defeat evil children, steer clear of bloody dismemberment, and conquer other horror movie cliches."  I loved this book, it was so witty and hilarious.With chapters entitled 'Making it out alive', 'Keep your friends close (and chop your enemies into bits)', and 'Possessed--- and Pissed off about it', you know you're in for something special.

The original edition of this book came out twenty years ago, and is now updated and ready for prime time.  Genre expert Kim Newman draws on his extensive knowledge of his subject to wax poetic about films from Psycho to The Human Centipede. 

Claiming to be the definitive guide on modern horror films, The New Horror Handbook moves away from Jason, Michael and Freddy and moves on to things like the Saw franchise, Ginger Snaps and Hostel.  Horror comics and magazines are given some long overdue attention as well.

Speaking of horror magazines, here's a book from the Fangoria camp that has reviews of lesser known films to casual fans of the genre, like Pumpkinhead for instance.  Naturally, obsessive horror fans will be familiar with many of the movies, but I feel sure there are some gems in there that will be new even to the most impassioned fans. 

Yep, I have a major obsession with serial killers.  My enthusiasm hasn't waned since I first "discovered" them back in high school.  I have several books on them (which doesn't bode well if the cops are ever called to my house) but this one is one of the best.  All the usual suspects are here:  Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer...with a spattering of psychos you may not have heard of.  Good stuff.


Spooky Vegan said...

Wow, what a great list...I have lots of books to add to my reading pile now! :)

I love Skal's books and both Death Makes a Holiday and The Monster Show are among my faves.

Jose said...

Ohhhh, boy. Now you've gone and done it. With my addiction to non-fiction covering horror steadily growing into full-blown obsession, this list was the LAST thing my credit card needed to see!

But thanks so much for this nonetheless! ;)

Christine Hadden said...

Sarah & Jose: You are both most welcome. It's my goal to see others as credit card poor as myself! ;)

Kaijinu said...

Nice List! Now I'm envious, mate!

Anonymous said...

This is a great list! I just added a bunch of them to my to-read list. ;-)