The Fear Factor: Learn It, Live It, Read It

The Fear Factor: Learn It, Live It, Read It

Live fearlessly? Pfft. Embrace those scaredy-cat feelings, I say. There's nothing like taking charge of your life from underneath the covers behind a locked door while cradling a baseball bat.

For as long as I've loved books, I've had a fondness for the suspense/horror genre. I don't read it as much now, but as a kid, some of my favorite books were those written by Stephen King. I loved the rush that came from wondering if people were going to survive; if good would triumph over evil. Novels like "The Stand" and "The Dead Zone" kept me company, and in fact became almost escapist from the everyday fears that can torment a tween and teen—the loss of a parent, liking boys that don't like you back, mean girls, you name it.

And it's those everyday fears now as an adult—Does my husband still think I am pretty? Will my kids grow up to be narcissistic assholes? Did I catch every mistake in the magazine proof at work?—that so preoccupy my brain that reading scary tales isn't so much escapist as exhausting. As an adult, there's really choice but to stand up, embrace those fears and make them work for you, rather than run away and bury your head in a book.

Still, finding the time to read can be a welcome distraction. If you're a fan of fear, you may want to try some of the best scary books:

Help for the Haunted (John Searles): Suspenseful, spooky and symbolic, as the protagonist faces her own fears that she's possibly put the wrong guy in jail for murdering her parents.

The Dinner (Herman Koch): Not typically thought of as part of the horror genre, as a mother, just about the most horrifying thing could be the thought your child has no morals whatsoever.

The Stand (Stephen King): Once my favorite Stephen King book and knocked off by 11/22/63, this is the epitome of the battle of good vs. evil. And thanks to it, I break into a sweat every time news shows talk about the possibility of a pandemic. Scary stuff.

Anything by Gillian Flynn—This is escapism, and it's awesome. Each of her three novels have fear woven through them—cheatin' husbands, the risk of going to jail, family massacres, crazy mothers ...all characters not just motivated by, but engulfed in, fear.

The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood): The fact there are legislators out there talking about women as "hosts" is reason enough to get wrapped up in the scary possibility women could be viewed as nothing but breeders.

Fear can paralyze you—I feel sad for those that can't get out of bed in the morning because of those overwhelming emotions that keep them from getting up to greet the day. Fear can motivate you—I fall into that camp. For example, I run not for enjoyment, really (OK, maybe a little) but mostly because I don't want to keel over from heart disease. And fear can entertain—whether it's geeking out watching "Mama" or just curling up with a really good book. Embrace the possibilities.

Have a favorite scary book? Share it with me in a comment below. Want to know what I am reading? Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


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