#FridayReads: Halloween Edition

October 31, 2014 • Top Books

Possession. Obsession. Madness. Murder. Whether we meant to or not, we’ve rounded up a set of weekend reads to rival any scary movie marathon. The scariest part? A couple of these are based on true stories.


 

Exorcist

Niree: I saw The Exorcist for the first (and only) time when I was twelve and it didn’t scare me at all: Something about the outdated special effects shattered my suspension of disbelief. Being a sucker for all things horror, I recently decided to pick up the book. Now that I have not been disappointed with.

What the book (like most books) does better than the film is capture the interiors of its characters: the desperation of a mother in the face of unknown forces, the self-sacrifice required to combat pure evil, the growing psychosis that reaches a shrieking crescendo during the final scene. The fear creeps in, slowly, so that when the time comes to decide between life and death, you too are left with your core beliefs shaken up — breathless.

SavageGrace

Regina: Savage Grace is a shining example of the old saw about truth being stranger than fiction. On a November evening in 1972, 21-year old Anthony Baekeland stabs his mother to death in their London penthouse. After the killing, he calmly picks up the telephone and orders Chinese take out. Shocking, right? Wrong. Turns out everyone who knew the Baekeland family saw the murder coming.

Beautiful, rich, and mentally unstable, Barbara Baekeland doted on her son to the point of obsession. The two become especially close (to outsiders, uncomfortably close) after Anthony’s father Brooks leaves Barbara for Anthony’s ex-girlfriend. Intense arguments and psychological warfare ensue. Barbara refuses to accept Anthony’s homosexuality and tries to “cure” it by sleeping with him herself. The story is told through a collection of letters, diary entries, and interviews from the Baekelands, their family, and their mega-rich friends. It’s a modern day Greek tragedy that I can’t put down.  

RedSparrow

Mallory: I’ve always had a deep interest in politics and espionage — I loved Conrad’s The Secret Agent as a teenager and from there made my way through pretty much all of Graham Greene. I’ve had weekend-long Le Carré movie marathons, and binge-watched all of Homeland in less than a month. All of this to say: I’m a spy-thriller junkie.

Within 10 pages of Jason Matthews’ Red Sparrow, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. The writing sucks you in immediately, and the characters have your heart pounding in fear for their safety. Like Greene, Matthews is a former intelligence agent, and his juicy story of starcrossed enemy spies drips with the kind of details only a former CIA agent could know. It just landed in Scribd’s library yesterday, and I’ve already cleared my weekend calendar for it.

Partials

Ashley: Billed as The Hunger Games meets Battlestar Galactica (the former of which I consider the best thing ever, the latter of which everyone tells me I need to watch), the Partials Sequence is a series I’ve been meaning to start for awhile. After reading a lengthy discussion about the (a)sexual politics of The Hunger Games a few days ago, now seemed like the perfect time to check the first novel, in which women 18 and older are required by law to become pregnant in an attempt to repopulate the Earth after a deadly virus wiped out most of the human race.

But the sexual stuff isn’t what’s stood out to me so far. What’s set Partials apart from the glut of dystopian YA has been Wells’ focus on world-building, particularly his lengthy passages about little details and the witty dialogue between his diverse cast of characters. He manages to highlight the best of humanity even as it perpetuates horrible mistakes.

DustshipGlory

Justin: Enormous boats are really a perfect metaphor for both humanity’s boundless ingenuity and utter folly. It’s no wonder they occupy a special place in our mythologies and imaginations. For as long as we’ve been around, we’ve been strapping together whatever materials we can find and hurtling the result into the ocean. It’s a miracle it ever works, and its miraculousness increases along with the vessel’s size.

And then there are the ones that don’t work — the Titanics, the Fitzcarraldos. Add to that list the subject of Dustship Glory, the bizarre yet true story of a Canadian man’s wild scheme to build a giant ship — an honest-to-God deepwater freighter — in the middle of a fallow Saskatchewan field. Andreas Schroeder tells his story with remarkable grace and restraint, focusing not just on the boat’s eccentric creator but on his work’s impact in a remote community in the midst of the dustbowl.