Scary Books for People Who Don’t Like Scary Books

Happy Halloween! My favorite part of Halloween is always children and pets in cute costumes. A couple years ago I bought a costume for my cat, but he hates it more than anything in the entire world and wriggled out of it in 30 seconds flat. He’s selfish that way. Anyway. What I don’t like about Halloween are scary, gross things. For example, zombies. Zombies are disgusting. Everyone knows that, right? Does everyone like zombies because they’re disgusting? I don’t get it.

That said, despite my general aversion to the horror genre, sometimes I accidentally read scary books. Sometimes I even like them. Here are my favorite scary books. They’re spooktacular!! (They’re not really.)

Feed by M.T. AndersonEating Animals by Jonathan Safran FoerA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonPreludes and Nocturnes by Neil GaimanZeitoun by Dave EggersBirds of America by Lorrie Moore

(See the rest of this list over at Rants & Raves, the Teen Scene blog!)

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Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger

Friday Night Lights by H. G. BissingerI loved the TV show Friday Night Lights even though I’m not much of a football fan. When I found out the show (and movie) were based on the book Friday Night Lights by H. G. Bissinger, I decided to check out the book and compare it to the show. To write Friday Nigh Lights, H. G. Bissinger spent a year living in Odessa, Texas, a town known for having a great football team and for having extremely dedicated fans. I thought the book was a fascinating way to explore the repurcussions of football mania. Some of the actions Bissinger captures are crazy–like the fans who wait outside the school for days with sleeping bags and coolers to make sure they can get tickets for a high school football game, or when a rival school’s football player sued the school when he was disqualified from the team (and state finals) for failing classes. Friday Night Lights is also about how hard the team works and how proud the community is of them–especially important since economic downturn in the town meant many people had little else in which to feel pride.

A note: I was also somewhat shocked by the frequent, uncensored use of the word “nigger” in this book. It’s always a shock to see that word in print and many of the people Bissinger interviewed for his book use it very casually, so readers should be aware of that.

I enjoyed reading Friday Night Lights, but overall I have to say that it mostly made me reflect on how great the show is. Friday Night Light the show has five seasons to really flesh out characters and give them all emotional complexity (not to mention, the power of fiction to add all kinds of wild twists). Don’t go into the book expecting it to be like the show, but do read it if you want a thoughtful analysis of life in small town Texas.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I have been interested in what John Green has to say ever since he spoke at our library conference a few years ago.  He was informative and totally hilarious at the same time- quite an accomplishment in a room full of librarians!

This book is about the relationship of a young couple who meet at a cancer support group (they both have the disease), but is predominantly told from the viewpoint of 17 year old Hazel.  Green tells the story from the inside out.  This is pretty interesting since he is a) male- and by the time he wrote the book, older. b) hasn’t experienced cancer- that I know of…

He wrote a book that is illuminating, not only into the world of pediatric cancer, but also into the world of a teenage girl- trying to figure out what to do with the emotions of love and hope…and is (at times) pretty funny.

How did he do this?  What a great book.  I highly recommend it.

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Sybil Exposed

The title Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan intrigued me as I was looking for a different book in the New Book section. I had seen the movie starring Joanne Woodward and Sally Field. I believed them and thought that the poor girl had such a traumatic childhood that her mind developed other personalities to cope with her circumstances. Now I find a book that examines the story and the women who created it. The real Sybil was Shirley Mason from a small town in Minnesota. She was an only child of a couple very involved with the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Her actual childhood was similar to other children whose parents believed following a particular religious faith that put restrictions on behavior to conform to their beliefs, but there was no evidence of horrific abuse.
Sybil Exposed is a fascinating account of three women who influenced millions with the story of Sybil – a story that was fabrication from therapy sessions using mind bending drugs. The ambitious psychiatrist was determined to find a patient that would fit a diagnosis of a condition of disassociation or multiple personality. She meets a shy, insecure young woman who has symptoms of anxiety, but is otherwise functioning. After years of therapy with Dr. Wilbur, she is dependent on Dr. Wilbur for practically everything. The author of Sybil was looking to find the book that she could write that would be a million-seller and that would make her famous. She had her doubts about the truth of Shirley Mason’s claims, but when she expressed those doubts to Dr. Wilbur, the doctor would be persuasive with her answers, and the author didn’t do further research. It’s a fascinating book, and I highly recommend it.

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