I love spicy foods, to the chagrin of, ahem, my digestive system. Never stopped me from devouring (or at least attempt to devour) hot peppers and hotter peppers that come my way. My relationship with scary movies/books is no less different. Yeah, I’m the one at the movie theater with hands over my ears and eyes squeezed shut while stealing glances at the screen. “Stay home then!” Some would say. But ah, where’s the fun in that? Such is my love-hate relationship with tales that spook: I like them but you can bet that all the lights will be kept on long after.

There has never been a lack of audience for spine-tingling yarns over the years. Stephen King shows no signs of slowing down. After the wave of vampires, zombies now dominate popular dystopian novels. Classic horrors from Anne Rice, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley continue to fly off the shelves. Granted, every reader’s “scare” trigger is different. Some prefer in-your-face, severed head on a platter type; while others get their thrills from an “imaginary” beating heart under the floor boards.

I’ll leave mainstream horror offerings to someone else’s list. Here are five off-beat titles that entertain, Halloween or not:


Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores, edited by Greg Ketter (Prime Books) is a book of stories each with a bookstore as its theme. Imagine that. This is a surreal collection with a little bit of everything: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, you name it. It’ll leave some readers scratching their heads and others yearning for more. Exactly the kind of book that weirdoes like me feed on.


Button, Button: Uncanny Stories by Richard Matheson (Tor Books) is a collection of short stories by the award-winning Matheson. Though small, it does not disappoint. Fans of Twilight Zone will be right at home.


House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (Pantheon Books) tells of a young family moving into a house and realizing that the inside seems to be larger than the outside. Oh yes, this massive tome is one crazy acid trip. If you have trouble thinking outside of the box, then you might want to put this baby down and back away. There’s a story within a story and though that format has been done before, it’s the delivery that puts Danielewski on the map. You’ll just have to read it to find out why this has such a massive cult following.


The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman (Berkley Publishing) managed to take the much covered topic of bloodsuckers and make it fresh, and dare I say—fun—again. It covers the 1970s, the New York City underground and a 14-year-old vampire. But don’t be mistaken, this isn’t being filed in the teen section. Especially after you encounter “the children.” Oh, the children. They have their own way to feed. Buah-ha-ha-ha-ha.


Another by Yukito Ayatsuji (Yen Press) will satisfy even the most rabid of Japanese horror groupies. Death! Gore! More deaths! And even MORE deaths! But who’s counting? New transfer student to Yomiyama North Middle School Koichi Sakakibara got more than he bargained for when he was placed in the cursed Class 3. Why was it cursed? Why is everyone acting so strangely? Why is the student body count always one more than expected? And why are there so many deaths? Originally released in 2009 in Japan, this import has already spawned not only a manga version, but also an animated TV series AND a live action film. It’s no slouch.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go install more lights and turn them all on.