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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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?

Genre Spotlight: Weird Westerns

by Penny Hilton

Think about how hard it would be to address a supernatural or alien event in our modern lives. Now imagine you don’t have a car to flee in, just a horse to ride and a long-barreled shotgun that is notorious for sending bullets a foot left-of-center. This is the essence of the Weird West.

Thanks to television shows like Westworld and Preacher, the Weird West genre has gained notoriety in pop culture. Although I’ve never been a fan of westerns, I distinctly remember loving the movie Cowboys vs. Aliens because of how they pitted the rugged, battle-hardened cowboys against an unimaginable threat on a background of dusty saloons and general stores. So, I checked out all the Weird Westerns we have at RCLS to learn what this newly popularized genre was all about.

Weird Westerns are stories set in 19th-century America that feature elements from a variety of other genres including sci-fi/fantasy, steampunk, mystery, and horror (bestfantasybooks.com). There can be a range of options, like an alternate universe where hippos replace horses or a dusty southwest city where monsters, cyborgs, and cannibals are kept at bay thanks only to magic wards. Like other time-centered fantasy works, there is a healthy bit of world building in each book that helps the story develop and provide alternate history as needed.

Stylistically Weird Westerns are varied. Some throw you right into the heart of the weirdness, like the graphic novel The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn that features a foreboding conversation between a gunslinger and grisly tree of souls within the first ten pages. Others begin with an unremarkable western character that encounters a supernatural element such as an alien with a gold-seeking gun or a man who can genetically modify plants by breathing in their pollen (Dead Man’s Hand: an Anthology of the Weird West, John Joseph Adams).

While I’ve only mentioned the briefest of what this genre has to offer, below I have listed some of the Weird Westerns we have at the library. Stop by your local branch to check them out!

TV:
Preacher
Westworld
Firefly

preacher season 2        westworld      firefly

Graphic Novels:
Preacher by Garth Ennis; volume 1 available through Hoopla and Overdrive
The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn

preacher book 1       sixth gun

Young Adult:
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

wake of vultures       revenge and the wild.jpg

Fiction:
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams
The Gunslinger (Dark Tower Series) by Stephen King
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman
Six-Gun Tarot by R. S. Belcher

river of teeth.jpg     dead mans.jpg     gunslinger.jpg

half made world     six gun tarot

Sources:
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WeirdWest http://bestfantasybooks.com/weird-west-fantasy.html https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-joseph-adams/totally-bizarre-takes-on-_b_5432732.html
https://rclsreads.com/
http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/west-gone-wild-9-comics-weirdest-westerns

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

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