Spooky Books to Read in October

October has arrived!  The month of scary movies, fun costumes, and great candy!  While you are planning whatever ghoulish outfit you will don on October 31st, you may want some spooky reading.  

I don’t know about you, but I have never been much on ghost stories.  I tend not to find them all that scary and dismiss them as not true.  Instead, I find true stories to be the terrifying ones.  

So here are my picks for the creepiest books I have ever read.  They are both true stories. 

(Warning, if you are easily spooked, these may not be the books for you.)

Cue the eerie music…

The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America

by Erik Larson

In 1893, architect Daniel H. Burnham planned and constructed the elaborate site for the Chicago World’s Fair, know as the “White City”.   Simultaneously a mass murderer lurked in the shadows, building a structure of his own. Designed for the darkest of intents, H.H. Holmes designed a built a hotel for the purpose of housing people traveling to Chicago to visit the World’s Fair.  The hotel, a maze of rooms and hidden passages, was also complete with it’s own crematorium and gas chamber.  Holmes, masquerading as a charming doctor, lured victims to his hotel and many were never seen again.

It’s hard to believe a story like this is actually true, but it is, and it will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  It is also an interesting book for history lovers, as it is a great insight into the production of the Chicago World’s Fair.

Side note: If you are looking for the short version, listen to episode 8 of the podcast Lore.  It is all about H.H. Holmes.  

In Cold Blood

by Truman Capote 

On November 15, 1959, in Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were murdered in their home, shot with a shotgun at point blank range.  There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were hardly any clues. 

Truman Capote reconstructs the murders, and then follows the investigation that ultimately led to the capture of suspects Perry Smith and Dick Hickock.  Both killers were tried and sentenced to death.  Capote takes us through to the very end, even interviewing both killers while they were on Death Row. 

This is a bone-chilling story of senseless violence and sorrow.  It considered a literary milestone for Capote, not just because it is totally captivating, but because Capote essentially introduced a new genre of literature to the world, the nonfiction novel.  

Read both of these books with the lights on!

Thanks for reading!

~Claire

 

 

From My Bookshelf: Girl Power!

I love to read and I am very old-fashioned about it. I like to have a physical book in my hand. None of this on-screen stuff for me!  I also tend to keep books.  Occasionally I will give some away, but there are some that I will just never part with.  As a result, I have a well-stocked book shelf!  

I am very inspired by independent, strong women, and I tend to buy books about them.  Today, I pulled a few recommendations from my bookshelf that are all about girl power!

Queen, Empress, Concubine by Claudia Gold

Queen, Empress, Concubine tells the story of 50 power full women throughout history, starting Hatshepsut, Queen of Egypt in 15th Century BC, and ending with Benazir Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in 2007.  It sounds like a lot to sift through right?  It's actually not!  Author Claudia Gold dedicates only a few pages to each woman, describing the major events of their lives in an easy-to-read style.  

She also includes interesting details about each woman.  For instance, apparently the French owe their love of tobacco to Catherine de Medicis, Queen of France in the 1500s.  She took up the habit in 1560, and its use quickly spread throughout the court and the country.

If you are interested in history, or significant women throughout history, this is a super fun read!

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo

She is the epitome of elegance, sophistication, and good taste right?  Did you also know that Coco Chanel tended not to tell the truth?  She embellished just about everything from her poor and difficult childhood to create a new, more glamorous personal history.  You think of the Chanel brand as the finest of the fine right?  In the early 1920s, when wealth abounded and women draped themselves in fine jewelry, Coco Chanel decided that fake jewelry was more chic and designed a collection of costume jewelry dripping in obviously fake stones.  Women could not buy it fast enough!  Even though it was fake, it was timeless and elegant because it was Chanel.

If you ever wanted to read a story about a woman who truly designed a life that she wanted, this is it.  Her sense of invention was remarkable, not just in designs she created, but also the life she created for herself.  She trusted her instincts and opinions, and never apologized for either.  

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel is a quick read, but a good one.

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project by Jack Mayer

Full disclosure, you might have to grab a box of tissues for this one, but trust me, it's worth it. Have you ever heard of Irena Sendler?  I hadn't until I came across this book.  Irena Sendler, was a Polish social worker who organized a network of fellow social workers to save 2,500 Jewish children from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.   

The significance of Sendler's heroism has been largely unknown until recently.  Life in a Jar is the story of three high school girls from Kansas who came across mentions of Sendler's work, continued to research her story, and then created a historical play dedicated to telling her story. The project gained momentum and attention, helping garner Sendler the recognition that she deserved.

This is a truly inspiring story of courage, compassion, and love.  If you ever doubt that one person can change the world for the better, read this and remember that it's true. Put Life in a Jar at the top of your reading list!

Thanks for reading!

~Claire 

Books Worth Reading: In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume

I am a huge Judy Blume fan.  I enjoyed her books as a child, loved her young-adult books, and now especially love her adult fiction.  Her 1999 novel, Summer Sisters, is one of my all-time favorite books and I have read it three times.

When I heard that her latest novel had been released in paperback, I went straight to the bookstore to get my copy.  In the Unlikely Event took Bloom five years to write, and at age 79, she thinks this will be her last work (although I really hope not).  

The novel takes place in the 50s, in Judy Bloom's actual hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey.  While the characters are all fictitious, the story is set against the backdrop of true events.  From December 1951 to February 1952, three planes crashed in the town of Elizabeth.  It's really hard to believe, but it happened.  (Elizabeth is located very close to Newark Airport.  Two of the flights were leaving Newark and the other was destined for Newark.) 

While the plane crashes are important, the book is really about a brilliantly connected cast of characters and how they navigate the trauma of these disasters.  Bloom writes from the point of view of each character in short chapter bursts, with her distinctive frankness and economy of language.  She is not a gentle or flowery writer, but for lack of a better phrase, 'tells it like it is'.  I love this about her because it makes her characters so authentic and accessible.    

If you are like me, you might find yourself flipping back to earlier parts of the book trying to keep characters straight because are so many, but that is what makes this book so interesting.  Bloom ambitiously tackles the story of many, making for a complex and engaging story.  She writes characters that are richly human, simultaneously admirable and flawed, and above all, relatable.  

I really enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down, even when I was on a plane to and from Colorado!  A quick word of advice though, if you are a nervous flyer, this may not be the book for you.

Thanks for reading!

~Claire