UW-L English Teachers Share The Best Books For A Horror Solution

Faculty of English UW-L

What’s better on a blustery fall afternoon than a cup of something hot while your blood runs cold? Let the experts at UW-La Crosse’s English Department ease your horror fix with this list of recommended scary reading material. Turn! – they are all written by women (ahem, except Dracula).

1. “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus”, by Mary Shelley (1818)

While the name “Frankenstein” often evokes in the American imagination a tall, sutured mannequin with an unfortunate French top and electric temples (see, for example, Frank in Hotel Transylvania 1, 2, 3 and 4), Shelley’s Frankenstein is actually Victor Frankenstein, a doctor obsessed with useless gloom, practicing alchemy, his darling Elizabeth… and building a Creature that will respond only to him and hold the secret to eternal life. Spoiler alert: things don’t go as planned because adult-sized human babies just don’t work that way. (Want to write your own spooky fiction? Take ENG 416: Seminar in Advanced Fiction Writing in Spring 2023!)

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2. “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” (2003) and “Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife” (2005), both by Mary Roach.

When it comes to books on forensic science, reincarnation stories, the nature of decomposition, and body snatching (Frankenstein, we’re looking at you), we just can’t decide. Roach has it all, and writes with a kind of sensitive frankness that makes these guilty pleasure reads feel like real, meaningful horror. It’s literary Ghostbusters meets CSI meets non-fiction. (We offer graduate-level courses in non-fiction writing, like next semester ENG 497: Seminar in Writing and Rhetorical Studies: True Story!)

3. “Beloved”, by Toni Morrison (1987)

Morrison’s timeless work captures the irreversible wounds of the Atlantic slave trade, the horror of intergenerational trauma, and how the psychological effects of both can haunt families for centuries. This is a ghost story that will shake you to your core. (Morrison and other authors of color will be the focus of ENG 302: Intermediate Topics in Literature: Women Authors next semester.)

4. “White is for Witchcraft”, by Helen Oyeyemi (2009)

When you’ve misplaced reality and can’t find it, you’re in the Silver House at 29 Barton Road. Let the house tell you straight: there’s nothing more terrifying than a set of twins. (“The Shining” immediately comes to mind.) Described as a ghost, vampire, and haunted house story all rolled into one, it’s kind of a must-have story. (Oyeyemi loves playing with genres and so do we: check out ENG 313: Writing, Gender and Style in Spring 2023!)

5. “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson (1959)

We don’t know about creepy old houses and the delightfully horrifying things they do to people’s minds, but this classic American Gothic wins the prize when it comes to terrifying: Famous Writers l call it the scariest book they’ve ever read. . Of course, you can skip it and skip straight to the Netflix series, but trust us, the book is better. Well, much better. (Like mixing film and fiction? Find out all that English Studies has to offer in ENG 300: Introduction to English Studies.)

Of course, we know how busy October can get, and maybe you just can’t find the time to commit to an entire romance – we’ve got you! Subscribe to Dracula Daily (https://draculadaily.substack.com/about), and get every little bit of this epistolary novel — made up of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings — delivered straight to your inbox every day. Now there’s no excuse not to be haunted by madness all month.