It was a tradition waiting to happen. If you had to choose the three most important ingredients in any holiday, they’d have to be saints, chocolate, and books. At least, if your holidays are anything like mine, they are.
Halloween usually has its fair share of chocolate, and here at the Hog’s Head we heartily approve. And it’s a catch-all feast day for saint-types: All Hallows, after all. But books? What about books? If we took a straw poll of pub regulars–no offense to the scarecrows among us–I suspect we’d find it hard to imagine a day without books, let alone a holiday.
Welcome, then, to All Hallows’ Read.
It was Neil Gaiman’s idea to begin with. No stranger to scary books himself, or–if the legends be true–to chocolate, he had the simple thought: why not give someone a scary book? As a present. Round about Halloween. The thought crystallized: in the week of All Hallows, and All Hallows Eve, give someone you love–or know, or meet haphazardly in the street–a scary book they might like reading. (Age appropriate, of course.)
[Yes, writers will talk about books during the zombie apocalypse.]
The legend goes that Neil Gaiman thought this, and blinked, and then everyone was doing it. Rather, everyone had always done it. It was a Tradition.
So, to celebrate this age-old Halloween tradition, here’s what’s happening at the Hog’s Head: let’s make a list of well-loved and recommended scary books. Oh, sure, there are lots and lots of lists like that, but this one can be specific to Hog’s Head readers–the sort of things we read, and like, and wouldn’t mind giving each other.
Just give author and title in the comments, as many times and as many books as you like, with a brief reason why you’re happy the book scares the heebie-jeebies out of you. And a clarification whether the book is for small kids, or big kids, or both. A comprehensive Hog’s Head All Hallows’ Read List will appear on the 25th.
I’ll start: all seven of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, of course! Each book has enough spooks to satisfy the most stringent All Hallows’ Read qualification exam. (Some of them may even appear in the pub this season–you never know.) You could hardly do worse this All Hallows’ Read than buy the series and scatter it abroad among your friends.
A few more titles, which might be less familiar to some of you:
- Coraline, by Neil Gaiman — a scary book he wrote for his daughters, and my All Hallows’ Read gift of choice. But see also his picture book The Wolves in the Walls for younger children, a hilarious read aloud about what to do when nightmares come true. (Hint: it involves paying attention to what your children tell you about the fridge.)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. This is at the top of my personal scary book wish list. Creepy carnival, anyone?
- The Day Louis Got Eaten, by John Fardell. Scary picture books are hard to find, surprisingly, but this one had enough monsters in it for me to buy it for my own children. Short version: the Gulper isn’t the only hungry monster in the forest. And it ends, inevitably, with a brilliant Sendak allusion.
There’s mine. Now unleash yours in the comments.