Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Special

‘Warning: You may have a huge, invisible spider living inside your skull. This is not a metaphor.

You will dismiss this as ridiculous fearmongering. Dismissing things as ridiculous fearmongering is, in fact, the first symptom of parasitic spider infection – the creature secretes a chemical into the brain to stimulate scepticism, in order to prevent you from seeking a cure. That’s just as well, since the “cure” involves learning what a chainsaw tastes like.’

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halloween

The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

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You know the story of Bluebeard, right? When he isn’t looking, his innocent new wife stumbles into the one room in their house he keeps locked – his make-shift tomb, filled with the bodies of his murdered lovers.

Moral of the story: If your new husband has a locked room in his house/ship that he’s weirdly evasive about, run away.

John Dies @ the End – David Wong

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I know I’ve mentioned this one before. But it’s one of my favourite books ever. It makes sense that it would come up a lot.

‘STOP

You should not have touched this book with your bare hands.

No, don’t put it down. It’s too late.

They’re watching you.

My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you’ll read on those pages, about the sauce, about Korrock, about the invasion, and the future. But it’s too late. You touched the book. You’re in the game. You’re under the eye.

The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.’

This was a random bookshop find for me. You get why I had to buy it, right?

This Book is Made of Spiders – David Wong

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‘Warning: You may have a huge, invisible spider living inside your skull. This is not a metaphor.

You will dismiss this as ridiculous fearmongering. Dismissing things as ridiculous fearmongering is, in fact, the first symptom of parasitic spider infection – the creature secretes a chemical into the brain to stimulate scepticism, in order to prevent you from seeking a cure. That’s just as well, since the “cure” involves learning what a chainsaw tastes like.’

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

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This book is a manifestation of all the Victorian fears around scientific and technological progress. Mary Shelley wants us to consider the idea that someone, somewhere has probably built a man from the parts of various dead men, and that he’s feeling pretty murderous about it.

Lot No. 249 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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A student at Oxford University reanimates an ancient Egyptian mummy. It runs around the city murdering anyone it can get its hands on.

This story serves to answer the question we’ve all wondered: What are the weird noises we can hear in the flat upstairs? A reanimated ancient Egyptian mummy, of course.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime – Oscar Wilde

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During a dinner party at a friend’s house, Lord Arthur is informed by a famed psychic that it is his destiny to become a murderer.  Lord Arthur is horrified by the revelation, and resolves to get the awful deed out of the way as soon as possible in order than he can marry the woman he loves (it is not right, in his mind, to marry before so horrible but inevitable a task is completed). As such he sets about attempting to commit a murder. However, killing someone is not as simple a business as he would have imagined.

Until it is.

One night on his way home from work, Arthur sees the psychic who caused him all these problems leaning on a bridge, staring down into the water. One quick push later, Arthur has achieved his task and is now free to marry his girlfriend, Sybil.

Dracula – Bram Stoker

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A vampire invades London, frightening its men and corrupting the innocence of its good 19th century ladies.

Reading this book you can’t help but wonder if Bram Stoker’s real fear isn’t the monster he describes, but instead the possibility of female sexuality. When one of the female characters turns into a vampire she becomes an overtly sexual being. The men’s reaction? Cut her head off.

Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith

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‘In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things.

This is the truth. This is history.

It’s the end of the world.

And nobody knows anything about it.’

Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion

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In this book a zombie falls in love with a girl and gradually starts become human again. It’s one of the only zombie-related stories I have ever read.

It’s in this list because cute romance or not, the zombie apocalypse terrifies me. I have decided that were it to happen, I would rather go early. I would rather be a happy brainless zombie than live in that world as a human. This fatalistic attitude may have sprung from the fact that I live right down the road from a graveyard, so if the zombie apocalypse were to go down, I would be totally screwed.

The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson

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This book is about ghosts. Specifically, the ghost of Jack the Ripper. You can imagine what he must be up to. It’s the job of Rory and her gang of ghost hunters to bring the murderer down. Hopefully for good, this time.

Books I Read At University

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Emma- Jane Austen

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Emma is a match-maker and a control freak. She bores easily. At least as far as her family are concerned, she’s always the smartest person in the room. She’s a massive snob. Such attributes may not make a likeable protagonist, but they do make for a pretty great story.

Her life is highly restricted. After her mother’s death her father’s life became completely ruled by his anxieties. The thought of Emma leaving home is unbearable to him, so Emma has decided she never will.

But that’s fine with her. In the small community around which her life revolves, Emma is Queen Bee.

I wrote a project arguing that Jane Fairfax is actually the main character is this novel. I said that Emma only hates her so much because in Jane she sees her own inevitable future: a life of passivity and little to no self-determination. I spent almost an entire semester reading feminist literary writing about Jane Austen and it was wonderful.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland- Lewis Carroll

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One day Alice chased a rabbit down an endless hole and found herself in Wonderland. Madness ensues.

Reading children’s book as a grown up is a really eye opening experience. I highly recommend it.

Nights at the Circus- Angela Carter

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This is the story of a woman with wings. Nobody knows her origin. Journalist, Jack Walser is determined to discover it, even if he has to travel across Europe with a magical circus in order to uncover her secrets.

I read this during my first year of university. It was the first time I had read any magical realism. Needless to say, I fell in the love.

Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov

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Humbert Humbert, grown man, falls in love with Lolita, a twelve year old girl. In order to be close to her, he gets with her mother. After her death, he steals Lolita away on a road trip across America.

This book is horrific. It’s totally disturbing and weirdly funny. It is the height of unreliable narration. The writing is incredible. It got a group of first year students seriously riled during a 9am class. For anyone in doubt, let me assure you, that never happens.

We studied this book in order to learn about post-modernism. What I learned is that post-modern is a name we stick on seriously weird shit.

Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem- Peter Ackroyd

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Someone is ripping people to shreds in Limehouse. The papers are referring to the murderer as a golem, a horrific creature from whom nobody is safe. Meanwhile retired actress Elizabeth Cree is facing trial for the poisoning of her husband. With her lie the secrets at the heart of the murders. Unfortunately is likely she’ll be hanged before anyone can discover them.

This book is historical fiction at its best. Set in the 19th century, against the backdrop of the Jack the Ripper and Ratcliff Highway murders, it weaves its way through the darkest parts of London. Ackroyd does an amazing job of blending fact and fiction. Along with the fictional Elizabeth Cree, we see real historical figures such as Dan Leno and George Gissing (whose novel New Grub Street nearly made this list, incidentally). It also has one of the best plot twists I have ever read.

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf

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Woolf presents us with a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society lady knee-deep in depression, regret and party preparations.

We also meet Septimus Warren Smith, an ex-solider losing his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In this module we began by reading a realist text (New Grub Street), we then read through all the writing styles that emerged in protest of it. Woolf, a modernist, was a pretty vocal anti-realist. Realist texts, she felt, failed to get to the heart of what it is to be a person. She felt their preoccupation with houses and landscape was to the detriment of the representation of real human experience.

I tended to agree.

What were your favourite books that you read in school or university?