The day after Thanksgiving is a much advertised shopping holiday here in the States: Black Friday. It’s a day full of sales and, if you’ve ever worked retail, full of awful people who don’t know what they want and/or don’t know how to be nice about it. Depending on the side of the fence you are on, it can be a dark day full of dark deeds. To get us all in the spirit of this terrible and wonderful day, we’ve put together a cheeky little list of books you could be reading instead of being yet another warm body crushed into the mall. This list is part horror, part horrifying, part oddly hopeful: just like the holiday season.
1. The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Scary monsters to haunt your nightmares from beyond the stars and below the sea. What could be worse than not finding the perfect gift this holiday season? Well, let Mr. Lovecraft tell you.
2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline is a curious young lady exploring her family’s new apartment. What she finds is at first wonderful and strange. Then, it’s just strange. Maybe even dangerous and strange.
3. Fallen by Lauren Kate
Fallen angels, True Loves, and high school. What else do you need in your life? A Toaster?
4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark
In a world that is not our world two men try to restore magic in England. Don’t you wish there was magic in the world and you could just flick a wand and you’d be done Christmas shopping?
5. Dear John by Nicolas Sparks
This book might be the worst thing that ever happened to me. It’s hours worth of reading I can never get back. I don’t actually recommend reading it but if you wanted to know what real horror looks like to me its this: a lifetime trapped in Nicholas Sparks’ terrible and cliched prose.
7. Hellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano
John Constantine is the anti-hero’s anti-hero. He’s a terrible person. Hell, he’s more unlikeable than likeable. And, yet he’s necessary and compelling and chain smoking. If you’re seeing the devils of commerce everywhere, you may need a little Constantine in your life.
This is technically the second book in the cycle, but I’m not sure you’d actually miss the first book. Will Stanton must fight the Black Rider and a blizzard at the holiday season and find the six sign symbols. He’s only eleven years old, can he do it?
9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Forgotten why we’re all doing this? Let Charles Dickens remind you in this classic tale. Bonus: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the stuff of nightmares.
I have this idea that I can improve my language skills by reading in the language. This is not a crazy idea. But, I use it to justify a possibly crazy and weird habit. I love buying books that I have already read that are translated into a language that I am studying. I recently used my desire to be a better Spanish speaker as my excuse for walking past the Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, and Gabriel Trujillo (only one of those three whose work I’ve actually read in Spanish…and one I’ve not read at all) in a Mexican bookstore (Mexican bookstore as in a bookstore in Mexico and not as in a bookstore that specializes in Mexican books or a bookstore owned/operated by Mexican people or a bookstore that caters to the interests of Mexican people. Although, the other interpretations are also probably true) heading straight to the YA and sci-fi/fantasy sections to see what’s there that I’ve already taken a bite out of.
I have a favorite little bookshop in San Cristobal de las Casas. It was one of the first things I found the first time I was here doing research for my dissertation, so I was happy to find it again. This time they had a lot to choose from. There were translations of books I really want to read (Graceling) and I thought about breaking my rule and trying something new. But, there was also Harry Potter and C.S, Lewis and Tolkien. The one I finally settled on was none of the above. I picked up a translated copy of my favorite Neil Gaiman book (maybe my second favorite? I did really enjoy the Ocean and the end of the Lane.) Coraline.
The story is just as I remember it. And, either my Spanish had improved or this book is at a lower reading level than I remember. I recommend picking it up. It is a story about magic, family and growing up all in Gaiman’s quirky style.