An article by Robert Weinberg, who I've met btw, in On Writing Horror lists and blurbs the 21 horror novels that every aspiring horror writer should read. There are some obvious ones on here, Frankenstein, Dracula, Rosmary's Baby, The Exorcist. There are also some I didn't expect to see on the list, including Burn, Witch, Burn! by Merritt, and The Ghost Pirates by Hodgson, niether of which I've read. The biggest oversight on the list is Ghost Story by Peter Straub, which is still the scariest book I've ever read.
I’ve seen such lists before, of course. I think Stephen King had one in Danse Macbre. Such lists always get me thinking, which is the fun of them. It seems to me, though, that any list that goes beyond about five books will start to reflect more upon the list writer’s personal reading history than on THE MUST READ books. Think about it this way. You are going to become the official horror writer for NASA, and are going to be sent to a primitive world to introduce the populace to the joys of horror fiction. Space is limited and you are allowed to select five horror novels to take with you as your personal “lesson” library. What do you choose? What should you choose?
Here are my selections:
1. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. THE monster book, and still a good read.
2. Dracula, Bram Stoker. There are a lot of good vampire books out there (and plenty of bad) but this one set up the themes for them all. And many of its scenes still carry a lot of horror today. THE vampire novel.
3. The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty. Rosmary’s Baby got there first, but The Exorcist is still the most powerful vision of the devil that we have. THE devil/demonic book.
4. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson. THE ghost story book, and the second scariest novel I’ve ever read.
5. The Body Snatchers, Jack Finney. THE alien invasion book, and you get paranoia in addition.
And now, because I’m a reader and I know myself, I would personally throw away my watch and billfold, pull the metal buttons off my jeans, and even take the cushions out of my shoes to reduce weight so I could get a sixth book on board. And that would be: Ghost Story, by Peter Straub. It’s not actually a ghost story at all, of course, although the movie made it into one. This one had just about everything.
Anyone else up for a list?