Books vs. Movies

It’s an age-old question: Which is better, the book or the movie?books vs movies blog image

Recently I posed a version of this question to my RCLS colleagues. I wanted to know about their experiences with books that have been adapted for either the large or small screen. Books that were better than movies, movies that were better than books, movies that got them to read books… I wanted to hear about it all.

And they delivered!

Beneath the cut you’ll find reflections from seven different library staff members, each with a slightly different take on the book/movie debate and each with vastly different tastes in media. You’re sure to take away a recommendation of something good to read, watch, or both.

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31 Books About Witches

by Britney Reed-Saltz

For centuries the witch has been a powerful archetype. Feared or revered, emulated or persecuted, her position in society has evolved throughout history, but one thing has remained certain: her presence.

What better time than now, as Halloween approaches, to sit for a spell and read tales of witchcraft? Whether you prefer fantasy, romance, horror, mystery, or nonfiction, this list will point you to the grimoire you seek.

Garden Spells  Sarah Addison Allen (magical realism, series)witches 1

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (magical realism, series)

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (fantasy, series)

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett (humorous fantasy, series)

The Good House by Tananarive Due (horror)

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (horror)

witches 2The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston (historical fantasy, series)

Bell, Book, and Murder by Rosemary Edghill (mystery, series)

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M. J. Rose (historical fiction)

Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood (YA short stories)

The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell (YA fantasy)

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (fantasy, series)witches 3

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay (historical fiction)

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan (historical fiction)

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Condé (historical fiction)

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (fiction)

Circe by Madeline Miller (historical fiction)

witches 5The Witching Hour by Anne Rice (historical fiction, series)

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (YA historical fiction, series)

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (YA Afrofuturism/fantasy, series)

Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen (YA fantasy, series)

The Graces by Laure Eve (YA paranormal fantasy, series)

Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan (YA paranormal fantasy, series)witches 6

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw (YA paranormal fantasy, series)

Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts (romance, series)

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell (cozy mystery, series)

The King of Bones and Ashes by J. D. Horn (urban fantasy, series)

witches 9Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison (urban fantasy, series)

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (urban fantasy, series)

Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler (nonfiction)

Witches of America by Alex Mar (nonfiction)






Horror Movies You Can Stream for Free with Your Library Card

by Brittney Reed-Saltz

I don’t know how many times when, around Halloween, a patron has come to me at the library asking for a good scary movie, and although I have plenty of suggestions, I discover that they are all either checked out or have been lost. I always send them home with something, but I always wish that I could have given them their first choice.

Luckily, you don’t have to be that patron this year, thanks to Hoopla! If you haven’t tried out this service, now is the perfect time. Your library card lets you instantly check out up to 8 items each month, with no wait lists. So even if you realize on Halloween morning that you need movies for a marathon that night, you can still find plenty to watch.

The only hard part of using Hoopla is figuring out which movies to check out first… There are over 700 to choose from in the horror category, alone! Here my recommendations.

Evil Dead 
Bruce Campbell  wages battle against ancient demons in Sam Raimi’s evil deadcampy cult classic.


A stylish Gothic from Dario Argento featuring a splendid soundtrack from Goblin, Suspiria follows a young woman as she enrolls at a ballet academy with a dark past. Watch the original before catching the remake in theaters this month.

Wish Upon
I have a soft spot for teen horror, and this one comes through with a lot of supernatural fun. It reminded me of a mixture of The Possession and Final Destination.

Another case of a box that grants wishes you’ll really wish you had not made, but this movie is far from teen fare. Based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hell-Bound Heart, it xxfeatures the Cenobites, who are among my favorite horror movie villains.

Burying the Ex
The late Anton Yelchin stars as Max, who struggles to move on when his girlfriend dies in an accident. Unfortunately, she has other ideas, and returns from beyond the grave to pick up where they left off. Silly comedy steeped in horror tropes, perfect for when you’d rather laugh than scream.

This anthology of short films directed by women offers a little something for everyone, including a disturbing adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s short story “The Box.” The creepy stop-motion animated interludes between each film would be worth watching even on their own.

An abandoned tire named Robert–yes, really–comes to life and begins rolling through the desert, crushing anything in his path. You know you want to watch this, if only to see how weird it is.the void

The Void
The “harried band of survivors trapped in a building” trope meets Lovecraftian terror when hooded cultists lay siege to a hospital. If you like ominous creatures from beyond our dimension with a hefty dash of gross, Cronenburg-esque body horror, The Void is for you.

A young house-sitter on duty alone descends into increasingly disturbing visions that culminate in an act of violence. This movie is hip and unsettling, with a sensibility that straddles the line between classic and modern.

Night of the Living Dead
This movie is iconic for a reason: It redefined zombies in film and it’s timelessly creepy. If the bleak ending doesn’t get under your skin, I don’t know what will.



The Authors Who Made Me Love Horror

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

So, I love horror. But what made me this way?

Despite what people who don’t like horror novels might assume, it wasn’t a traumatic childhood event, or at least, not exactly. I did begin reading horror at a young age, and each title I picked up drew me farther down the road to becoming the reader I am today.

(As for what set off that initial spark of interest that made me pick up my first scary book, who knows for sure? I’m tempted to blame a mixture of genetics, great trick-or-treating experiences, and exposure to Tim Burton.)

In honor of that journey, here are the authors who had the biggest influence on my discovery of my favorite genre. I also identify what made me love their work, so if you’re struggling to understand a burgeoning young monster kid in your life, maybe this will help.

Alvin Schwartzauthors who 1
Where would I be without Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? Not reading horror, that’s for sure. As a child, I didn’t realize that these were urban legends and folklore, and to be honest, I didn’t really care where the stories came from. They were terrifying and timeless, and accompanied by absolutely perfect illustrations by Stephen Gammell, and they scared me out of my wits. This series left an indelible mark on me, and looking at them even now gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. I even have a pair of earrings featuring two iconic images from the series.

R. L. Stineauthors who 2
I grew up in the ’90s, a time when R. L. Stine was everywhere. I adored the Goosebumps series and lived for the times when my mom would take me to the bookstore that used to be in the Stones River Mall. I would sit on the floor and make the agonizing decision of which book I would pick to take home. When I aged out of Goosebumps, Fear Street was there waiting for me. Meant for teens, I read them when I was much younger, and I loved the covers as much as the stories. It seems silly and quaint now, but the Fear Street novel Goodnight Kiss is actually the only book I have ever stopped reading because it was too scary for me. I loved R. L. Stine because his books really scared me, featuring monsters and ghosts that felt actually dangerous, and adrenaline-fueled situations. But he also has a sense of humor, using lawn gnomes and ventriloquist dummies as villains. The mixture of laughs and thrills is still greatly appealing to me, as in movies like What We Do in the Shadows and books like My Best Friend’s Exorcism. And of course, I’m excited that he has continued the Fear Street series with You May Now Kill the Bride.

Edgar Allan Poeauthors who 3
I discovered Poe around fifth grade, thanks to “The Raven.” I already knew that I liked poetry thanks to Shel Silverstein, but I had not yet realized that you could write scary poetry, so Poe was a revelation. I also loved his short stories, especially “The Black Cat,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” I don’t know if I even realized that I was reading classics; I just loved the dark twists and hypnotic language. A couple of years later I would go on to portray the Red Death in a school production of “The Masque of the Red Death,” which I greatly enjoyed because I got to wear a black cloak and be utterly dramatic.

Anne Riceauthors who 4
Anne Rice is one of the adult authors that I read at a young age. I discovered her through the film adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, which I rented from the local video store obsessively. Years later, I started reading the Vampire Chronicles books. My teachers were scandalized. I was in love with Rice’s flowery writing, dripping in angst and innuendo, and with her unforgettable characters. Lestat de Lioncourt is still my favorite fictional vampire. I mean, who wouldn’t admire the bravado and panache of a vampire who decides to break vampiric law and reveal his identity in the grandest possible way: Becoming a rock star?

Stephen Kingauthors who 5
My teachers also weren’t exactly thrilled about my budding love of Stephen King, either. I remember needing to obtain a special permission letter from my mom allowing me to order On Writing from the Scholastic book catalog (remember those?). In middle school I also read my way through Misery, Carrie, and other King classics. I even attempted IT, but stopped because at the time I thought that it was too adult and boring. (That’s the great thing about precocious kids: We test boundaries, but we also know how to set them for ourselves.) King is a consummate storyteller, and I loved his tangents and backstories that he wove into a colorful tapestry of story. He appealed to me as a kid because I saw him as the real deal, a writer who knew his stuff. When I realized that I wanted to become a writer, too, he was the writer I aspired to be.

Christopher Pikeauthors who 6
I discovered Christopher Pike in junior high, and I responded really well to his more sophisticated but still accessible level of horror. One of my most vivid reading memories centers around silent reading time in eighth grade, on a late Spring day. The door was open to let in warm breezes, I was wearing my beloved Ramones T-shirt, and I was totally lost in Whisper of Death. Around that same time, I read all of the Last Vampire series, which is now available in omnibus editions under the title Thirst. They’re sort of like a light version of Anne Rice, featuring an ancient immortal and weird Christopher Pike touches. I’m remembering them as being sort of like Queen of the Damned for kids.

Billy Martin (who published under the name Poppy Z. Brite)authors who 7
By the time high school rolled around, I was an established horror fan, and so I’ll end this list with the author who expanded my horizons and catapulted me firmly and irrevocably into the realm of adult fears. I found the books like Lost Souls, Drawing Blood, Wormwood, and Exquisite Corpse by researching books with goth characters when I was about fourteen. I wanted to read about people who were like me… Or at least, like older and more exciting versions of me, who spent their weekends doing things much more dangerous than writing Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan fiction. Martin’s books are like if an Anne Rice novel and a Cure album had a baby. I adored their glamorous atmosphere, their characters, and the fact that they were set in the South.


I’ve Got Creeps in Small Places: Small Town Horror

By Brittney Reed-Saltz

The truth is that there is never a time of year when I don’t want to read something scary. I’ve been a horror fan since my age was in the single digits, and there’s nothing I love more than being terrified by a book, or for that matter, by a movie, podcast, Wikipedia article, or YouTube video that I definitely should not have watched late at night but oops, here we are again.

But Summer might be my favorite time of year for scary books. I have some theories about why this is, but one of the strongest is nostalgia. As a child, I spent my summer vacations tucked away with horror novels. R. L. Stine, Christopher Pike, and Stephen King were my constant companions through muggy days, and I couldn’t get enough. I would devour their tales of terror with white knuckles and baited breath and a smile on my face, as I projected the nightmarish scenes on my rural hometown.

These idyllic summers laid the groundwork for my absolute favorite type of horror: the kind that happens in small towns. Your neighbors undergoing uncanny changes is even scarier when you know all of your neighbors and can see just how different they have become, and how weird they’re acting. If a murderer is loose in your town of less than 1,000 people, it’s not impossible that you’ll be the next victim. And if you’ve ever ridden your bike past a cornfield on a still day and heard the rustling of something among the stalks, even though there’s not a whisper of a breeze, and your blood runs cold despite the 100-degree heat, then you know one of the strongest and most distinctive thrills of fear available to human experience.

Of course Stephen King is the master of small-town Summer horror. IT is the magnum opus of the genre; the novella The Body, included in Different Seasons and serving as the inspiration for the movie Stand By Me, is also a classic of this sort. If by some slim chance you like horror and haven’t read these, start here.

Then, move on to some of my other favorites when it comes to rural creepiness:

Universal Harvester by John Darnielleuniversal harvester
What is is about found footage that’s so downright scary? I think it’s the undeniability that what you’re looking at is real, even if you don’t want it to be. In Universal Harvester, Jeremy is more or less content with his job at the local movie rental store. He gets to watch movies, and it’s a distraction from missing his mother, who died in a car accident six years ago. His routine is disrupted when a customer returns a tape and complains that there was something wrong with it. When he watches the tape, he discovers disturbing footage that leads him to investigate despite his reluctance to get involved. This character-driven novella mixes horror and mystery in an unsettling story about loss and change. Set in the 1990s, it’s also perfect for the current ’90s nostalgia trend.

harrow countyHarrow County graphic novel series by Cullen Bunn
Harrow County has consistently delivered Southern Gothic witchcraft goodness since 2015. Now that the series is set to wrap up in June–and has been optioned for a SyFy Channel adaptation–it’s the perfect time to get on-board if you haven’t yet. This lavishly-illustrated graphic novel series follows a young witch named Emmy as she discovers her dark powers, avoids various dangers from townsfolk and outsiders alike, and struggles to work with and protect the various haints who inhabit the attics and hollers of her hometown.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jacksonwe have always lived in the castle
An oldie but a goodie when it comes to small-town horror. This book has it all: a crumbling family mansion, poisoned relatives, unhealthily devoted sisters, and suspicious villagers. Oh, and Merricat Blackwood, one of the best unreliable narrators in literature. Just how did the arsenic find its way into the sugar bowl that night? This atmospheric little tale is a must if you’re only familiar with Shirley Jackson because you had to read “The Lottery” in seventh grade English.

things to do when you're goth in the countryThings to Do When You’re Goth in the Country & Other Stories by Chavisa Woods
I knew I had to read this book from the second I saw it, and the stories it contains did not disappoint. Woods brings a uniquely off-center perspective to this collection, blending mundane horrors with the occasional supernatural turn. The effect is sardonic and surreal, whether characters are using psychedelic drugs at a Mensa party, befriending a homeless woman who lives in a mausoleum, or coping with the Gaza strip appearing in miniature on top of their head like a mohawk. Great for fans of weird fiction and dark magical realism.

Beloved by Toni Morrisonbeloved
Toni Morrison is not a name that most people associate with horror, but Beloved is one of the scariest books that I have ever read. Morrison examines the lasting psychological effects of slavery in a chilling historical ghost story that isn’t afraid to confront ugly truths or to experiment with form. It’s an intense experience, with moments of heartwrenching tragedy and injustice as well as disturbing supernatural horror, but it’s also a poetic triumph that will dizzy you with language. I was hooked from the opening paragraph’s matter-of-fact description of the haunting.

twilightTwilight by William Gay
William Gay was a Middle Tennessee author who is beloved to those who have read him but, in my opinion, woefully unknown to too many people. His novel Twilight is a delightfully twisted piece of Southern Gothic horror that plays mercilessly with our fears of what happens to us after we die. Not to our souls, mind you, but to our bodies. Teenage protagonist Kenneth Tyler discovers macabre secrets about how local undertaker Fenton Breece has been treating the town’s departed. Breece retaliates against Tyler, hiring a murderer to take care of him, and the resulting cat-and-mouse will keep your heart pumping. Fans of Cormac McCarthy will find a lot to love here.

Off Season by Jack Ketchumoff season
I’ve saved this one for last, but whether or not it’s the best depends largely on what you’re looking for in a horror novel. You’ll know whether Off Season is the book for you based on the frame alone: Cannibals in a remote area of Maine launch an attack on a cabin full of vacationers, with violent results that are described in all their bloody detail. This is a controversial book, but it’s wonderful for hardened horror fans who want a full-throttle read that illustrates why Stephen King called the late Jack Ketchum “the scariest man in America.” I definitely recommend reading it at night in a house by the woods for maximum impact, so if you’re planning a trip to Gatlinburg this summer, slip Off Season into your suitcase. Who needs sleep, anyway?

Penny’s 2017 Reading Year in Review

We’re kicking off 2018 by looking back on the best books we read in 2017. Today’s picks come from Penny Hilton.
Favorite new author or series you tried:
The Magicians by Lev Grossman

A book that surprised you:
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King

A book you read for the first time that you will reread in the future:
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King

The best book you read that was also published this year:
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King

A book you read that was outside of your comfort zone:
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The book that you recommended to the most people:
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King

The best cover from a book you read this year (please include image):
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the illustrated edition, by J. K. Rowling