Recommended by Our Friend Mary Kay McBrayer

By Underground Books

By Underground Books

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote

$16.00 $14.72

Hey hold up, before I scare you off with my literary slant, I want to let you know that this shit right here is labeled the first true crime, nonfiction novel, and not only that, but it was written by Truman Capote, whose favorite drink was a screwdriver, and whose memory was eidetic. That means he remembers basically everything. He gave multiple interviews to the people of this entire Kansas town, and he fell a little in love with one of the killers. Sigh. We’ve all been there, right. Capote will probably even convince you of his beloved’s innocence. Don’t let him get you. He’s so good, though, he probably will. But seriously, the prose in this, the descriptions and images, along with the verbatim dialogue, is truly the gold standard among true crime authors.

Beloved

Toni Morrison

$16.00 $14.72

You already know that I love her, unless you skipped over the intro (which, TBH, I usually do for blog entries because no one cares how much your newlywed husband fought you about trying your homemade cold fish stew before he became obsessed with it), but did you know that this Pulitzer-Prize winning novel is ALSO loosely based on a true story? That’s right! When you read this baby ghost story, you remember that Sethe was based on a real woman who would rather her children die than live as slaves. That’s some real love, right there. I think. But seriously, this book changed my life. It was among the first novels that helped me understand that many things can be true, and truths are often uncomfortable and hard and will almost always make someone hate you… you just have to decide whose hatred you’re willing to live with.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Carmen Maria Machado

$16.00 $14.72

I don’t know about y’all, but whenever I bring up the story about the Girl with the Green Ribbon, (which is often,) people always say, “I don’t know it… wait… was it around her throat? DID HER HEAD FALL OFF?” Yeahhhh, you know that urban legend. It’s my favorite (fun fact: my boyfriend and I dressed up as the Girl with the Green Ribbon and the Hook-Handed Man for Halloween). I digress. Carmen Maria Machado is THE creepiest, I want to be her friend so bad, and she’s a wizard with twisting stories that don’t seem feminist into themes that make the reader stare down the barrel of the question, “What can the patriarchy do for ME?” So, when I taught English Composition, “The Husband Stitch,” which is the first story in the collection, and “Inventory,” were both required reading. I’ll tell you like I told my students. If you come back here telling me “Inventory” is just pornography, I’ll KNOW that you didn’t read until the end.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life.: Essays

Samantha Irby

$15.95 $14.67

It’s time for a quick detour off the horrifying primrose path and into some horrifying humor. Samantha Irby (known first for her blog, BitchesGottaEat) wrote this collection of essays about “hot dudes, tacos, diarrhea, jams,” as her website once read. She’s absolutely hilarious—the kind that will make you snortlaugh in a public place. Though it seems like a lover of horror might not also have a great sense of humor, I really think they’re closely related. They’re all about timing and predictability, like Hitchcock said, putting a bomb under the table, and then making us forget about it.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: (penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Shirley Jackson and Thomas Ott

$17.00 $15.64

This novel probably seems pretty on-the-nose for a horror lover, but I re-read it recently, and I didn’t realize until then, speaking of humor and horror, it’s SO FUNNY. If you like Wednesday Addams and vigilante justice (which I do), this will be a great read for you—plus, (although Constance definitely has some hard-won agoraphobia,) I didn’t realize until recently either, I’m pretty sure that Merricat has OCD. So, Shirley Jackson hits on all cylinders, really: she’s funny, she cares about representation, and this book is spooky as hell. I mean, how great are these lines: Merricat: I wonder if I could eat a child if I had the chance. Constance: I doubt that I could cook one.

The Swan Gondola

Timothy Schaffert

$16.00

As an adult who remembers how vivid fairy tales were in my imagination when I was a kid, this book takes me exactly where my imagination wants to be. I love a good historical fiction, especially when it’s literary, and ESPECIALLY-especially when there’s Vaudeville involved. This novel manages to be somehow both whimsical and gritty, full of ghosts and crash-landed hot-air balloons and mute ventriloquists… it’s essentially a fairy tale for adults. And if you’re looking for a more direct fairy tale, I want to include his story “The Mermaid in the Tree” from the anthology My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, that has a very similar tone, but retells the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale from the perspective of the bride that the prince DOES marry. Plus it’s set in a steampunk-like coastal town that hosts a mermaid parade (featuring real, dead mermaids floating in formaldehyde). Desiree (the bride) lives in the Rottgutt’s Asylum for Misspent Youth, and she seduces Axel, a golden boy from for Exceptional Young Men I can’t really articulate the majesty of this short story, but I hope that you’ll believe me when I tell you it’s like reading a dream.

No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy

$16.00 $14.72

There’s no other way to say this. This novel is my jam. From its very first line, it hooks the reader: “I sent one boy to the gas chamber at Huntsville.” I know we’re supposed to idolize the great Russian novelists, but that opening might be the best one I’ve ever read, and the fast pace is sustained throughout without sacrificing character or setting, which is genius. McCarthy is definitely most famous for the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road, and that novel is definitely a masterpiece, but if you love horror and noir (and I do), this one is, to me, equally masterful. The perspective shifts from the sheriff of the town, Ed Tom Bell, to the third person, following the “prophet of destruction,” played in the film by my one true love, Javier Bardem, and it illustrates the changing of law-enforcing and crime over generations. I actually used this book to teach my gifted middle schoolers at academic/nerd summer camp how to develop a scene. I’m dead ass. I cannot oversell this book.

Geek Love

Katherine Dunn

$16.95 $15.59

I was so horrified by this novel that I finished it in two days—every page was a fresh hell, from the circus performing family who doses themselves with radioisotopes (WHAT) to create children with anomalous bodies (WHAT) so that they can have a built-in talent for performing in the family side show (WHAT). I lovvvve circus shit, and this book was just so warped that I could not put it down.

Of Love and Other Demons

Gabriel García Márquez

$15.00 $13.80

You’ve probably read other books by Gabo, like 100 Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera, both of which are just incredible (I truly believe this. I have lines from the latter literally tattooed on my body), but did you know about this little novel of horror? It might fall under historical fiction, maybe literary, definitely magical realism, and I learned SO MUCH from reading it. Like his other works, it’s full of details of the time period. It’s set on the coast of Colombia in the 1700s, in the plantation of a couple who does not love each other nor their daughter, Sierva Maria. Sierva Maria has long red hair which her mother promised God to never cut, and she is raised by the slaves in the plantation. When her surrogate mother dies when Sierva Maria is twelve years old, the girl’s parents take her to live in the house, where they first think she has rabies, but then they’re pretty sure that she’s possessed by a demon. If THAT sounds bananas, just wait until her exorcist falls in love with her. I taught this novel in world literature, and my students all had strong feelings about the characters, from their gender roles to their class and occupation. It’s truly SUCH a fascinating amalgam of all my favorite facets of literature.