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October 31, 2007

CAAF: 5x5 Books for a Spooky Halloween by Kelly Link

5 x 5 Books ... is a recommendation of five books that appears regularly in this space. As a special treat, today's installment is a two-parter. First up is a 5x5 of spooky Halloween books recommended by Kelly Link, author of the knockout collections Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners and a connoisseur of strange, creepy, marvelous books. Just below you'll find a second 5x5 of not-so-spooky alternative recommendations written by Gavin Grant, Link's husband and co-founder with her of one of my favorite imprints, Small Beer Press.

1. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill. One of the best collections I've read in years. For Halloween reading, I particularly recommend the stories "Best New Horror," "My Father's Mask," and "Voluntary Committal."

2. Thirsty by M. T. Anderson. This young adult novel begins this way: "In the spring, there are vampires in the wind. People see them scuffling along by the side of country roads. At night, they move through the empty forests. They do not wear black, of course, but things they have taken off bodies or bought on sale. The news says that they are mostly in the western part of the state, where it is lonely and rural. My father claims we have them this year because it was a mild winter, but he may be thinking of tent caterpillars."

3. Novels by Robin Westall, stories by E.F. Benson, and some Aiken too. I don't know if Westall's young adult horror novels The Watch House and The Scarecrows are still in print, but you can probably track them down. Track them down! Westall also wrote several collections of ghost stories in the tradition of E. F. Benson and M. R. James. Speaking of Benson, Carroll & Graf put out The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson a few years ago, and I love this edition best of all because it includes a foreword by Joan Aiken. And if you're already a fan of E. F. Benson, then you ought to pick up Joan Aiken's short story collections. I could continue to cram recommendations into this paragraph, but then I'd never get to ...

4. Cruddy by Lynda Barry. This one's part Grimm's fairytale (starts grim and gets grimmer), part Grand Guignol, part Jim Thompson-style grifters on the road. Mud and blood by the buckets, sock monkeys stuffed with money, and a knife named Little Debbie. Pair this with Patricia Geary's Strange Toys.

5. Flanders by Patricia Anthony. Lastly, I'll recommend this wonderful WWI epistolary novel by Patricia Anthony. There are ghosts here, and a serial killer, and a mysterious figure in a garden. I've been waiting ever since for Anthony to write another novel, but in the meantime I reread this one every other year or so.

Posted October 31, 2007 12:30 AM

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