Leslie S. Klinger is the editor of The New Annotated Dracula, a 672-page homage to Bram Stoker’s classic novel. Here he selects tales guaranteed to send a chill down a reader’s spine.
The Collected Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Modern Library, $23). For most horror writers, this is the fountainhead. It’s a close call which scared me more when I first read it: “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” or “The Cask of Amontillado.” I admit to a special fondness for the final story’s climactic interjection: “For the love of God, Montresor!”
Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Perigee, $10). No ghosts need apply: In Golding’s 1954 classic, boys are terrifying enough.
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Spectra, $8). Certainly, the Black Plague is the most frightening natural disaster ever to happen to humanity (so far), and Willis’ much-lauded 1992 novel both devastates and heartens.
At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (Del Rey, $7). Lovecraft is a neglected master of horror, and this 1936 novella is his finest work. No plot summary could do it justice, except to say that it involves ancient gods, Antarctica, and things best left alone. It has probably inspired more rock bands than any other book.
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. (Delta, $8). There has to be a serial killer somewhere on the list, and Harris’ 1981 thriller is my personal favorite of the genre. Although some overlook the book as a warm-up for Harris’ 1988 award-winning The Silence of the Lambs, it’s plenty evil in its own right and is the first portrait of the brilliant monster Hannibal Lecter.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Prestwick House, $4). Not all ghost stories need to have unhappy endings. While Dickens’ 1843 classic is more often associated with Christmas than with Halloween, readers often forget its true title—A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. It’s the ghosts, after all, who scare Ebenezer Scrooge back into virtue. Try it in its proper season!