Tag Archives: horror

Reading the Classics

In last week’s post on HG Wells‘ classic The War of the World, two commenters really made me stop and think.  First was Mymatejoechip, who cautioned against feeling as though I had to read all of the classics.  Then there was Joachim Boaz, who suggested that I try reading Wells other “classic” book, The Invisible Man.

Within these two comments, there are two different thoughts on the classics, I feel, and whether an author—or a reader—should feel pressed that he/she should read them.

There are some of the classics that I feel should be read by those wishing to pursue writing as a career, as these were the books that did it first.  So, in no particular order, I give you Megan Hammer’s List of Classic Books Authors Should Read (or at least try):

Dracula, by Stoker, is first on this list.  It really created the modern horror genre as we think of it today, not to mention that it began the vampire craze that has carried over to this day.  It showcases three different writing styles—journalistic, narrative first person and narrative third on occasion—and truly reveals how it’s possible to have one story told from three or four different perspectives.  The fact that Dracula is so rarely seen in the latter half makes him even more frightening, and truly puts forth the idea that horror is caused by the unknown, and that we, as readers, don’t need to know everything.

I also believe Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein should be on this list.  While not as horrific in the traditional sense as Dracula, it is excellent for seeing the nuances of human behavior through the eyes of what society deems a monster.  And how, by naming something, we can often bring about its existence, simply because we see it is there.  Frankenstein was also one of the first books in the “modern” world written by a woman, which really helped to, I think, pave the way for the rest of us woman writers out there.

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, in fact, anything by Jules Verne, is well worth a read, I think.  Each of his books are well written, and explore ideas that were so far-fetched in their days but are brought to a level that makes sense. Travel around the world in eighty days?  Impossible in the 1800s to even imagine.  Now we can do it in 80 hours. Journey is brilliant for the fact that most of it is fantastical, a rather revolutionary idea at the time of writing, when most books weren’t involving strange creatures and places.

Lord of the Rings might be cliché, but it really did cement the place of Fantasy in the hearts of many, and was one of the first main-stream fantasies to be out there.  Yes, it’s long and drawn out, but think of the fact that Tolkien was writing it while in the trenches in order to keep everyone amused and away from the horrors of war.  They are well written, and every last loose end is accounted for.  In terms of setting creation, there is no better book to come to than Lord of the Rings to watch a master at work.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is one I suggest reading if you have time and are willing to read it several times in order to make sense of it.  The name has become a catchprase in our modern culture, which really shows its lasting power.  I did a 20 page research paper on it back in High School, and even after spending that much time on it, there were things I was still discovering about and laughing at.  This book takes the cake for a study in narrative and character creation.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a good series, and I think mystery writers especially should read at least one of them in their lifetime.  It’s an exercise in clue-gathering, and wondering why you didn’t see that the Maid was actually the victim the entire time you were reading!  Most of the books are rather short, and easy to get through in one afternoon or so.

So there is my list of classics I think people should read.  What ones are on your list?  Are they classics, modern contempories, or that one book you found just last week on the bargain shelf at the bookstore that you fell in love with?


Post Potter Depression Reading List

Now, if you’re like me, you probably went to the midnight release of Harry Potter last night/this morning for the final movie.  And, when you walked out, you were on the “that was BRILLIANT” high.  But then you woke up.  And the Post-Potter Depression hit you.

“Now what do I read?” you’re asking yourself.  Well, here is my list of recommendations of books to help with PPD.

The first is So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane.  It was originally published in 1983 (Long before Potter Mania) and currently consists of nine books in the series.  This first book follows the tale of Nita Callahan as she discovers a book in the library while hiding from bullies tormenting her.  Called “So you want to be a wizard”, she takes the wizard’s oath in it that night, and awakens the next morning to find her name in the back of it as a wizard.  She meets Christopher “Kit” Rodriguez, a new wizard like herself, and together, the two of them find themselves caught in a plot that ends with them taking on the Lone Power in an alternate Manhattan to regain a book that has contained in it all that was and shall be before the Power can destroy Nita and Kit’s Manhattan for good.  Find a copy here

Now, if epic Fantasy is more your thing, and you have already gone through Tolkien, I suggest Elizabeth Haydon’s Symphony of Ages Trilogy, the first of which is called Rhapsody.  Published in 1999, there are now three other books besides, all detailing the lives of Rhapsody, Achmed the Snake and Grunthor.  The first tells the story of how the three meet, and, in an attempt to escape that which is chasing them, find themselves in the root system of the oldest tree in their world: one that mythology says goes all the way through the earth.  And it does.  They climb through it for what seems to be years for them, and when they finally make their way out of the other side, they find that 1000 years have passed and the country they left from is now gone, sunk beneath the seas.  In a new world, they need to find their own place while dealing with mistrust around them because they are of races that are not normally welcome.  Rhapsody can be found here.

Now, if vampires are more your thing, Jeanne C. Stein has a wonderful series called the “Anna Strong Series”.  They are shorter than Potter (around 300 pages) and the blurb on the back of the first book, The Becoming, compares them to “a cross between Mary Janice Davidson’s Undead series…and Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series”.  A bounty hunter, Anna Strong finds herself attacked one night, and when she wakes up, she’s…changed.  Vampires to her are a thing of myth, and as she struggles to come to terms with what she is, she must also decide if she will walk in the Mortal world, the darker world of vampires, or both, and who she’ll trust in this new society she finds herself in.  There are six books out now, and all are very, very well written.  See it for yourself here.

Finally, there is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. This series of 4 has been in creation since 2003 and the fourth and final book is coming out November of this year.  This book tells the story of a young boy named Eragon when he finds a strange blue stone is a forest when he is out hunting.  Unable to sell it, he keeps it, and is surprised when, a few days later, a dragon hatches from it.  From here on out, Eragon is forced into a role as a Dragonrider, a role which he does not understand, as he searches for the Rebellion, known as the Varden, to help in their fight against the dark Emperor Galbatorix.  The similarities between Star Wars, Tolkien, and Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern series are there, but it is still worth a read.  Check it out here.

Well, hopefully that’s enough to ward of PPD for now!