My Top 10 Must-Reads
Photo courtesy of Jarred Craig from Unsplash.com.
The reader’s dilemma – what do I read next?
I’ll read anything, regardless of genre, but I gravitate toward paranormal, dystopian, apocalyptic, and straight-up horror. Quite often, I’ll google for recommendations or I’ll seek advice on what to read next by looking up another author’s recommendations.
So, here are my top 10 must-reads. If you’re a reader, you’ve likely read a few of these, or maybe all, but if you see one (or more) you’ve not read, go get it. You’ll be glad you did!
Number 1: A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
A paranormal story about demonic possession, A Head Full of Ghosts delivers in a big way. It’s creepy (even more than Blatty’s, The Exorcist, in my opinion) and compelling. No weird back-bends or excessive demon-bondage, just eerie images and events.
What I loved most: the bulk of the story is expertly written from the perspective of an 8-year-old girl. Paul Tremblay has climbed to the top spot on my favorite authors list.
Number 2: The Passage series by Justin Cronin
An apocalyptic masterpiece, if you ask me. One of the best stories I’ve ever read. Ever. The characters come to life and you literally fall in love with them. It’s the perfect blend of a deadly virus, monsters, and immortality.
What I loved most: the trilogy is told over a thousand-year timeline (though the bulk of the story takes place within a hundred years, give or take) and it works! I read somewhere that Cronin wrote the story for his daughter about a little girl who saves the world. It’s simply extraordinary.
Number 3: The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Quite possibly, the best novel I’ll read this year. I loved The Hunger. Based on the true story of the tragic Donner Party, the story introduces a supernatural element that interweaves historical facts with a terrifying presence that grabs you from the start and never lets go!
What I loved most: it’s down-right creepy; the people and setting feel like the mid-1800s, yet it’s not like reading a history book. Katsu is an amazing writer and I can’t wait to read more from her!
Number 4: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Okay, it’s not that stories about alternate universes haven’t been told before, they certainly have, but Blake Crouch told this particular story so damned well! Dark Matter is about a man trying to save his family from multiple versions of himself, all of which believe they are the true and legitimate version.
What I loved most: it’s not confusing and it’s a terrific story. To add on to that, as a writer, I’m so damned envious of Crouch’s literary talent in telling a story like this.
Number 5: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene
Admittedly, I found this book by googling “Top horror novels to read”. I’d never heard of Brian Keene before then. This one popped up on that list and I almost ignored it after seeing the cover – not that the cover is that bad, it just seemed a bit homemade. But damn, I’m so glad I bought that book!
What I loved most: the writing is superb. About a town suddenly surrounded by a black, impenetrable cloud, the story rockets forward with believable characters trying to figure it all out. I highly recommend this one if you’re just out for a solid story.
Number 6: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
A few of you are probably saying, wait a second, why’s this book on a top ten list of paranormal / horror? Simple answer; because it scared the shit out of me! My friends, if you have kids, especially teenage daughters, this book will seriously bother you. It’s told from the perspective of a fourteen-year-old girl who is kidnapped and murdered - she tells the story as a ghost!
What I loved most: the uniqueness of the story and the connection to the characters. The Lovely Bones is one of those stories that lingers with you long after you’ve finished it!
Number 7: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
An oldie but goodie. If you’re looking for something that’s just straight up scary and well-told, I recommend finding a copy of the original Amityville Horror. I read this book years ago, like decades, and there are still creepy parts that haunt me to this day. Stories that have classic movies associated to them can be difficult to read objectively, but if you can do it, I think you’ll be happy you did.
What I loved most: it was scary!
Number 8: Swan Song by Robert McCammon
You can’t go wrong with McCammon. Another one of those writers who’s been around a long time and delivered a ton of good stories. In my opinion, Swan Song is one of his best. Based on a post-nuclear holocaust world, the story focuses on a girl with extraordinary abilities which ultimately impacts the fate of our dying planet.
What I loved most: as I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge fan of the apocalyptic genre and this book brings all of the gritty elements into the story with so many unforgettable scenes and characters that you’ll wish it could keep going.
Number 9: The Stand by Stephen King
I can just hear all of the rants rippling through the crowd right now after seeing this one on here. Some folks will agree with me, others will say, why’d he put that one on there? Why not Salem’s Lot, The Shining, or IT. Let’s just agree right now, The King has written a plethora of novels with an equal right to exist on this list of must-reads. He is also my literary hero. The Stand just happens to be my favorite of his (close runners-up are Cujo, Pet Sematary, and Salem’s Lot). The Stand is another apocalyptic story based on a super-flu killing most of the human race.
What I loved most: it felt so damned real! Especially when the flu was in full swing and wiping people out, whenever I’d sneeze or cough, I’d think, oh shit.
Number 10: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Last, but not least, The Road is another post-apocalyptic novel that follows a father and his young son on a dangerous walk south to reach the coast. Cormac McCarthy is a fabulous writer and he writes a variety of genres. The Road is, to my knowledge, his only apocalyptic / horror story and he absolutely crushes it with this one. So well-told and contains such emotional depth that it captures true fear in the face of a dying planet.
What I love most: the sheer brutality. McCarthy never reveals the “event” that caused the planet to die, but if you want to read a story about what the end of the world would most likely be like, don’t miss this one. There are no rainbows and unicorns in this one, my friends. Be prepared.
So there you have it; my Top 10 Must-Read recommendations. Not everyone will agree with my list, but that’s okay. Subjectivity is what makes this whole literary world of ours so interesting.
I could easily identify 10 more books, and then 10 more after that, but I think going in groups of 10 is a reasonable, and digestible, amount. I’ll publish more lists, but for now, be sure to check these out. They are truly great stories told by masters of the craft!
Until next time, my friends!