Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit #6 – Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury has long been considered an American treasure, and his stories would play with reality in such a way to reveal the truth about the world we live in. Most of the time, he delved into themes set in science fiction worlds that only his imagination could have created, but one special story set a darker mood that haunted anyone who read the story, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Yes, the title comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth in reference to the title character entering right before he speaks with the three witches. It makes the viewer wonder who should be the one that should be trusted much as Ray Bradbury does with his carnival that visits a small American town. What secrets does the traveling freak show hold? Why are so many people interested in what appears to be cheap displays and rides? How are two boys’ lives changed by what they find there? These are the questions that this amazingly dark and creepy tale tells, and there is no way that anyone can read this book without getting creeped out by what happens.

Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit #7 – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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Forget the fact that this book won the Newberry Award. I would tend to agree with the assessment of most people that any book that wins this award tends to be mushy, predictable and only worthy of the time of the people who inhabit the grades five through eight. There are some exceptions to the rule, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is a great example of this. From the opening line you know this book is going to explore some dark subject matter that might not be suitable for a younger audience. But that is the brilliance of this book. Neil Gaiman takes his usual love of mythology and magic and blends together a tale that doesn’t speak down to its audience, but instead treats them as the intelligent human beings that they are. Because of this, the story that is told not only appeals to the middle school crowd, but also to lovers of a good horror story as well. Neil Gaiman is one of the best writers practicing the craft right now, and this book is an example why.

Books to Get You into the Halloween Spirit #8 – I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

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When I placed this book on the list, I thought long and hard about which cover I would include for the post considering there are so many of them out there. The one I chose was the one that spoke to me the most when it said, “The book that inspired the hit motion picture.” Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the movie, but there is not a lot of similarities between that story and the one that Richard Matheson wrote. Yes, there is a character Robert Neville in both and he thinks he is the last person left on earth. A dog dies tragically in both stories as well. Beyond that, there is no other real connection. Robert, in the book, is plagued with vampires that hang outside of his house and taunt him, and the twist at the end of the story really sends your mind racing. The whole meaning of the title changes because of this twist, and it makes for a more profound story. If you have enjoyed the movie, you still need to pick up this short read because it is really different than the original. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch that first before reading the book because it will only anger you with how much they changed the story to meet their needs. Either way, you will come away thinking that I Am Legend is one of the best horror novels ever written.

 

Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit #9 – Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

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This book is for the busy person but who would still like the feeling of the dark frightening them for the evening. Through the Woods is an amazing graphic novel written by Canadian, Emily Carrol. The stories have a fairy tale theme to them, but take the stories to a dark conclusion that will leave you feeling that the dark is closing all around you and you don’t want to venture out into the wilderness on your own. Add to these stories an element of brilliant art work with a great use of color and you have a series of stories that are fin to read, will leave you thinking about the ending, and give you the creeps that a good Halloween story should. This is a book that should be on everybody’s shelf. It is on mine, and I know I enjoy pulling it out every once in a while to enjoy the stories that it hold because they are fun and thoughtful.

Books to Get You In the Halloween Spirit #10 – Tithe by Holly Black

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Disney has ruined the integrity of Celtic mythology. People now believe that fairies are happy creatures that fly through the air spreading joy and happiness all the while looking cute as button. This is not the way these stories started. There was a darker edge to the mythology as two warring courts fought over the control of nature and didn’t really care about the humans who got in their way. A few authors keep the true spirit of this mythology in their stories, and the best one of them is Holly Black. This modern faerie tale is not one that you read to your children before you put them to bed at night. It focuses on the darker side of the human soul and toys around with the idea of what is the true nature of evil. I read this book for the first time twelve years ago, and the story of a girl who did not know she belonged to this darker world as she navigates through it has always stuck with me. If you want to get spooked during these chilly autumn evening while getting in touch with your Celtic heritage, this is the book for you.

Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit

tithe

#10 – Tithe by Holly Black

Disney has ruined the integrity of Celtic mythology. People now believe that fairies are happy creatures that fly through the air spreading joy and happiness all the while looking cute as button. This is not the way these stories started. There was a darker edge to the mythology as two warring courts fought over the control of nature and didn’t really care about the humans who got in their way. A few authors keep the true spirit of this mythology in their stories, and the best one of them is Holly Black. This modern faerie tale is not one that you read to your children before you put them to bed at night. It focuses on the darker side of the human soul and toys around with the idea of what is the true nature of evil. I read this book for the first time twelve years ago, and the story of a girl who did not know she belonged to this darker world as she navigates through it has always stuck with me. If you want to get spooked during these chilly autumn evening while getting in touch with your Celtic heritage, this is the book for you.

through-the-woods

#9 – Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

This book is for the busy person but who would still like the feeling of the dark frightening them for the evening. Through the Woods is an amazing graphic novel written by Canadian, Emily Carrol. The stories have a fairy tale theme to them, but take the stories to a dark conclusion that will leave you feeling that the dark is closing all around you and you don’t want to venture out into the wilderness on your own. Add to these stories an element of brilliant art work with a great use of color and you have a series of stories that are fin to read, will leave you thinking about the ending, and give you the creeps that a good Halloween story should. This is a book that should be on everybody’s shelf. It is on mine, and I know I enjoy pulling it out every once in a while to enjoy the stories that it hold because they are fun and thoughtful.

i-am-legend

#8 – I am Legend By Richard Matheson

When I placed this book on the list, I thought long and hard about which cover I would include for the post considering there are so many of them out there. The one I chose was the one that spoke to me the most when it said, “The book that inspired the hit motion picture.” Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the movie, but there is not a lot of similarities between that story and the one that Richard Matheson wrote. Yes, there is a character Robert Neville in both and he thinks he is the last person left on earth. A dog dies tragically in both stories as well. Beyond that, there is no other real connection. Robert, in the book, is plagued with vampires that hang outside of his house and taunt him, and the twist at the end of the story really sends your mind racing. The whole meaning of the title changes because of this twist, and it makes for a more profound story. If you have enjoyed the movie, you still need to pick up this short read because it is really different than the original. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch that first before reading the book because it will only anger you with how much they changed the story to meet their needs. Either way, you will come away thinking that I Am Legend is one of the best horror novels ever written.

the-graveyard-book

#7 – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Forget the fact that this book won the Newberry Award. I would tend to agree with the assessment of most people that any book that wins this award tends to be mushy, predictable and only worthy of the time of the people who inhabit the grades five through eight. There are some exceptions to the rule, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book is a great example of this. From the opening line you know this book is going to explore some dark subject matter that might not be suitable for a younger audience. But that is the brilliance of this book. Neil Gaiman takes his usual love of mythology and magic and blends together a tale that doesn’t speak down to its audience, but instead treats them as the intelligent human beings that they are. Because of this, the story that is told not only appeals to the middle school crowd, but also to lovers of a good horror story as well. Neil Gaiman is one of the best writers practicing the craft right now, and this book is an example why.

something-wicked-this-way-comes

#6 – Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury has long been considered an American treasure, and his stories would play with reality in such a way to reveal the truth about the world we live in. Most of the time, he delved into themes set in science fiction worlds that only his imagination could have created, but one special story set a darker mood that haunted anyone who read the story, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Yes, the title comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth in reference to the title character entering right before he speaks with the three witches. It makes the viewer wonder who should be the one that should be trusted much as Ray Bradbury does with his carnival that visits a small American town. What secrets does the traveling freak show hold? Why are so many people interested in what appears to be cheap displays and rides? How are two boys’ lives changed by what they find there? These are the questions that this amazingly dark and creepy tale tells, and there is no way that anyone can read this book without getting creeped out by what happens.

the-shining

#5 – The Shining by Stephen King

You knew that Stephen King would make this list somewhere. What would a list of books about getting in the Halloween spirit be without his name. Some might not agree with the selection of the book that I chose. They might think that there are many more scary stories that he has written and this is the obvious choice. But stop for a second, and think about where I come from. This story speaks to me at another level than any of his other books. Being trapped in a Colorado snowstorm is something that has always terrified me. Going stir crazy because of the lack of alcohol and any outside contact is another thing that speaks to me. Add in the fact that it is set in one of the creepiest hotels I have ever spent the night in makes this story really come to life. Yes, that is the Stanley Hotel on the cover of this book, and it really does exist in Estes Park, Colorado. It is still open and for a few extra dollars, you can spend the night in Room 237. They will even run the Stanley Kubrick film twenty-four hours a day on their television station, but still reading the book is scarier than the vision that this director had for this horror classic.

edgar-allan-poe

#4 – The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

I used to teach a horror literature class, and I would start the year off by talking about the history of this genre. Even though there were some instances of horror before Edgar Allan Poe sat down to craft his unique brand of literature, most modern writers of this genre can trace their roots back to this man. His exploration of the gothic side of our nature and the things that haunt us the most have created some of the most iconic moments in all of literature. His poetic ability also creates a melancholy mood while lyrically creating a sound unique to his style. When thinking of the month of October, Edgar Allan Poe’s name is synonymous with all of the classic creatures that decorate people’s houses to let us know that this holiday is just around the corner. With stories such as “The Cask of the Amontillado”, “The Tell Tale Heart”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, and “The Masque of the Red Death”, people would have a hard time making an argument why Edgar Allan Poe’s complete works should not be included on this list.

the-monstrumologist

#3 – The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

A lot of the books that I have included on this list so far have been pretty obvious, so it is probably pretty surprising that I would include a book that many people have never heard of and at such a high position on the list. But that is the problem with this book; more people need to know about this story. Around the turn of the nineteenth century in New England lived a man who studied the monsters of the world, and used his knowledge of them to keep the rest of society safe. The sad thing is his decisions have caused the death of many of the loved ones around him including his father and his faithful apprentice. Because of his guilt, he takes his deceased apprentice’s son as his new ward even though he is barely a teenager. When a gravedigger shows up at his house in the middle of the night with the corpse of a anthropophagi (see Shakespeare’s Othello for a description), a story starts to unravel that will leave you breathless. The book asks the question of what a monster really is and how we can decide for ourselves. Mix in some incredible language, dynamic characters reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and some daddy issues and you have one of the best horror novels ever written. It has won the Michael Prinz award for literature and has spawned one of the most unique series ever written. You can not pass up this book because it will instantly become one of your favorites. Some day when they get around to making it into a movie, you will be able to say you knew this story when it was the incredible book that it is now.

h-p-lovecraft

#2 – Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H. P. Lovecraft

It really doesn’t matter which book of H.P. Lovecraft you pick up, they will all be a collection of short stories that when put together will tell a greater tale of horror that makes you wonder about the world that we live in. The mythology he has created touches upon the darkest part of humanity and leaves enough of it unexplained to send your mind reeling to fill in the blanks. He understood the concept of fear better than any other writer out there, and he exploits that feeling in each of his readers. Lovecraft understood that fear begins with what we don’t know, so the mythology he created is always shrouded in mystery. The creatures of your nightmares always stand on the edge of your perception, but anytime you look to see what they are they disappear. It is the masterful turn of plot that allows your imagination to run away with what you do not know is there. This philosophy works perfectly for everybody who reads his stories because H.P. Lovecraft knew that what scared one person did not necessarily scare another, but that feeling of fear is within each and every one of us. By bringing us to the edge of that fear, and then letting us supply our own horror, he was able to tap into each individual’s nightmare. These are not stories to be read for the light of heart, but they are worth it if you want explore that darker side of your soul.

haunted

#1 – Haunted by Chuck Palahnuik

Only two writers have been able to achieve such a horror in my adult life that I have had such terrible nightmares in the middle of the night that I have woken up in a cold sweat willing to take the risk of keeping my eyes open until the comfort of the morning sun relieves me from the horror that is somehow wrapped around my brain because of their prose. The previous book on this list is one of those writers, but the other one is one of the best satirical voices of this era, Chuck Palahnuik. Haunted is the story that he wrote that gave me these tremors. Now, I will place the disclosure before I continue on with my discourse about his brilliance that what he wrote is not for the feint of heart, and if you are young, there is no way that you should ever consider reading this book. Keep in mind, I am an adult who enjoys exploring the dark side of the soul, and this book gave me nightmares. Just imagine what it will do to an individual who is not ready for these ideas. If you are still curious I would suggest you read “The Nightmare Box” first before you explore the rest of the book. It is in the middle of the book, and it is okay to read that first because the book is actually a frame story, much like a haunted version of The Canterbury Tales. Palahniuk wrote a series of stories that are tied together with one common idea in this book, and some of them are so dark and disturbing that you will start to wonder if they are really about you. “The Nightmare Box” gives you a glimpse of what will happen to you if you believe you are strong enough to look into all of these stories. They are not your typical horror tales of monsters lurking under the bed. Instead, they are the monsters haunting us from the inside. If you believe that you are strong enough to take that peek into the Nightmare Box, then start back at the beginning, but understand that what you see there you can not take back. Reader beware, this is one of the most horrifying experiences of your life.

 

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The Effects of Colonialism

 

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If you look out your window and down on the streets of your neighborhood, or the area where you work, you expect to see a diverse population moving about their business. You believe that your community has people from different backgrounds, from different cultures, and from different heritages. If you are in America, you believe that this melting pot of people is part of the reason that the country has grown into what it is today. But take a closer look at those people as they pass by your window. Is it really as diverse as you think it is? Do you really see a huge mixing of cultures, or are you only imagining it because this is the way we have been taught how to think? I know that when I look out my window it is not a vast collection of cultures, but then again I live in a place where this melting pot idea has not taken root yet.

Some people would claim that this segregation of cultures is one of the downfalls of the American society and something must be done about it. But how are we to combat this problem if  we are not the ones who segregate ourselves? Look at a lunch room at any local high school and you will see a phenomenon that will make your stomach turn. The cultures that you believe should blend so well together move to different tables to be with like-minded people. You can’t blame these people for doing this. It is a scary thing to get up from one table full of the people you are comfortable with to make that huge journey over to the next table of people who might not see the world the same way as you do. What if they don’t bring you into their fold? What if they don’t listen to the new ideas that you have to offer them? What if they shun you for being different, or even worse, what if they just kill you? It is better to stay put with like-minded people and not deviate from the place where you find comfort. There is no place on earth where this mythical blending of cultures exists anyways.

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I have pondered this problem for many years wondering if there was ever a way to create a society of diversity that would be accepting of others and was about to give up. This was until I visited the city of Hong Kong. This is where the melting pot of the world happens. I have never seen such a blending of cultures in my life. Any corner you turned would introduce you to a diverse group of human beings speaking different languages, practicing different beliefs, wearing different clothes, and yet still managing to get along. How could this be possible? It went against everything I had observed so far in life. What event brought all of these people together to work towards one common goal of bringing a great city up from the depths of a small fishing village? It must have started with the British occupation of the town.

Even though diversity is present in Hong Kong, there are still two major influences occupying this city, that of the Chinese and the British. The clashing cultures seemed to find a way to work together in harmony, and I hate to say it, but the thing that probably brought them together was the concept of money. Hong Kong is definitely one of the economic hubs of the world. It makes sense due to the fact that it is nestled in the perfect location for shipping trade between Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and even North America. Goods and supplies must have come in and out of this location for years, but it would not have happened if it was left under the control of the Chinese. This is not meant to criticize that culture in any way, but it has only been in recent history that this country had opened its doors and was willing to let visitors in to witness its greatness. If the British had not colonized this small portion of the country, it would have taken a lot longer before people could have experienced their unique brand of culture. It would have been as closed to the world as the rest of China had been.

Combine the British colonization with the economic rise that this city experienced over the years, and it is no wonder that more cultures found their way to this place. They all started to work together to develop the city into this fiscal giant it is today, as well as the true melting pot of the world. So now, when you visit this bustling metropolis, it is easy to experience many different corners of the world all at once.

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Hong Kong doesn’t only leave its mark on the world financially, but it is also one of the greatest film producing cities in the world. I did not know this when I came to visit here, but after walking around for a few minutes, I quickly realized that I was in the East Asian equivalent of Hollywood. Pictures and statues dedicated to the legends that this industry has produced are all over the town. There is a walk similar to the one in Hollywood where you can see how your hands and feet match up with some of their greatest stars. And if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, you will be asked to wait as a film crew pieces together a scene that will be used for an upcoming blockbuster. I was lucky enough to experience this on the first day I was in town. As I was checking into my room I looked out my window and watched as a film crew shot a scene on the busy streets of Kowloon. Once again, it was an aspect of the culture that I was not expecting.

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I was also surprised at how green this city was. Not very often do I think of a city in the protection of China as having the ability to take care of the nature that surrounds it. Expansive parks are in the middle of the city inviting you to take a leisurely stroll through them. You no longer feel like you are walking through one of the largest cities in the world. There are even surprises along the way. What you thought was just a pond placed in the middle of a park after further inspection would reveal that it is actually the home to flamingos, another inhabitant that I don’t believe is indigenous to the region.

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While I was walking the streets of Hong Kong, I started to believe that there couldn’t be a place more diverse than this place. But on a day trip from there, I soon discovered I was wrong. I traveled over to the city of Macao. This took an hour to get there by high-speed ferry. It was another city in the China region that was influenced under the sphere of another European country. This time it was Portugal instead of Britain. The difference was that this city did not become the giant economic powerhouse that Hong Kong had become, and because of this, the flavor of this city is different than the one I was staying in.

First of all, the Portugal influence is huge. There are city squares placed strategically all over to allow the fine citizens of the city to congregate and the merchants to sell their wares to visitors. These plazas are still there and in recent years they have undergone some revitalization to attract more visitors. It has worked because these are now the central meeting places in the city.

Besides the city layout, other Portuguese architecture  can be seen here and there. St. Paul’s Cathedral was one of the first Catholic churches built in East Asia, and the Jesuits opened the first university in the area as well. Sadly, early in the 19th century, the building caught on fire, and all that is left is the façade of the building. It is now one of the biggest landmarks and the greatest tourist attraction of the city. There are thousands of people milling on the steps of the cathedral to take picture and stroll further up the hill to the other structure that reminds visitors of the colonization of this city, the old fort that was built to protect the citizen of the town from would-be invaders.

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It is quite the fortress on what used to be the highest point of the city. Of course, modern buildings have overtaken the peak’s high point, but it is still interesting to wander around this structure’s great vantage point to see the various parts of the city that have been left behind. This is when you start to see how diverse this city actually is.

The first thing that you notice are the collection of buildings situated near the ferry terminal. They seem a little out of place, almost like the Portuguese ruins. This is because they are replicas of the casinos that you would find in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is as if a piece of the United States has been placed in the middle of the East Asian city. When you start to think about the economic structure that has been set up by the modern Chinese government, it sense of irony really starts to bug you. This bastion of capitalism really seems out of place in a country that has lived by the precepts of communism for so long. It adds more to the mix making the argument for the most diverse place on earth even stronger.

There is still, of course, the various temples to old Chinese gods, and Buddha. The biggest one is the temple to A-ma on the southern tip of the island. It is an old maze of stone staircases, and shrines that ask practitioners to light some incense to pay homage to the god of the fishermen. By doing so, it ensures that the next catch they make will be a good one. It is amazing that this ancient temple has been preserved for so long. It makes you wonder about what that says about the strength of certain institutions and how some can withstand the test of time while others are only there for a shorter period.

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My trip to Hong Kong begged for me to search the path of enlightenment to find the true meaning of togetherness. Which path has led us to this ideal. Is it the great American melting pot, or is it Hong Kong? Should togetherness come through assimilation or should it come through acceptance? I know my trip to Hong Kong opened up my eyes to different possibilities, and I now must ponder the question further to come up with the better answer. Therefore, I will find a tree to sit under, gather up its shade and think about this as I travel this voyage to true enlightenment.