For the kind of person who — like my mother, WHO IS WRONG — will always prefer non-fiction to fiction. It’s awful, but you’ll be able to sleep just fine after you finish it.
The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead, David Shields
For the profoundly secular.
Blind Descent: The Quest To Discover The Deepest Place On Earth, James M. Tabor
For people who want to read about caves (this is everyone).
The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
Classic horror in every sense. A crumbling English house with a crumbling English family. Repression, loss of family fortune, tiny tragedies, things going bump in the night. Is it just me or is Sarah Waters moving from strength to strength lately? Her latest two books are as good as anything of hers I’ve ever read. The ending was a little disappointing — I’m so often disappointed by the ending of horror novels, possibly because what makes something horrific is what you can’t see, so anything in the way of closure takes some of the fun out of things — but it’s well worth reading.
I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison
It’s free. You can read it right now. I do not advise reading it alone on the family computer in the basement one hot summer night while everyone else is asleep and you are twelve years old, but otherwise go for it.
She: A History Of Adventure, H. Rider Haggard
From the weirdo who brought you King Solomon’s Mines. It is weird, it is deeply racist, it has some of the strangest psychosexual politics I’ve ever read (and that’s saying something), and it has a scene where a beautiful woman melts into a hag and then collapses into dust. Worth having read, especially since it’s free.
The Horror Of The Heights, Arthur Conan Doyle
Also free! See how I’m looking out for you? It’s…the premise is that monsters live in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and the newly invented monoplane takes man into previously uncharted, and deadly territory. But it’s still reasonably chilling: “God help me; it is a dreadful death to die!” That’s a damn good line. I’ve never written a line that good. Have you?
The Haunting Of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
It’s an insult to you to suggest that you haven’t read it yet, and I won’t insult you. But it’s always worth re-reading.
The Things, Peter Watts
(Also free!) It’s awful and it’s perfect and it will only make sense if you have been watching The Thing on a yearly basis since you were fifteen years old, as I have. I cannot read the line “I am being Blair” without going into chills all over.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.