All Hallows Read

In honor of tonight’s Halloween, I thought I would plug a great idea touted by Neil Gaiman, called All Hallows Read. His premise is outlined in a recent blog post and even has its own website now. The premise is frightfully simple – give a person a scary book to read for Halloween. Not instead of trick or treating mind you (perish the thought!) but as an opportunity to encourage reading (and we certainly need more of those!).

In Australia, Halloween is pretty much a non-event with hardly anyone bothering to decorate their houses and even less bothering to hand out candy. The American Women’s Auxiliary here in Melbourne (of which I am the proud, if inept, secretary) holds an annual ‘trunk or treat’ event to provide the necessary Halloween candy fix. Basically about 100 cars roll up, open their decorated trunks and provide a kind of automotive neighborhood for kids to trick of treat along. My boys LOVE it and we now have enough candy to eat for an entire year. If only I had heard of Neil Gaiman’s great idea, I would have suggested we hold an All Hallows Read event alongside it. That would have been pretty cool.

I also think the concept of All Hallows Read is a great one and it’s got me thinking about the scariest books I’ve ever read. Given I have an exceptionally low tolerance to gore and horror, my ‘scariest books’ are pretty tame. Even my 6 year old sons would no doubt scoff at my cowardice…but I remember getting chills reading Rebecca as a teenager and the early Patricia Cornwall novels in my twenties. Last year Justin Cronin’s The Passage had me pretty spooked (but in a more distant, cerebral way than the scream-out-loud variety).

Given I am such a wimp, I could do with your help and advice:

What book would you chose to give for All Hallows Read (could be either an adult or a children’s book)

Which book was the scariest you ever read?

Has there ever been a book so terrifying that you couldn’t even finish it?

Happy Halloween!

Santa List

Ah, the holiday season…time of looniness and mayhem… Today, being my last blog post for 2009, I’m going to channel the holiday spirit and write about conspicuous consumption (of books of course!) and my family’s current wish list for Santa.

Now first up (appropriately enough) are my parents. Notoriously hard to buy for as they devour their favorite authors’ latest books as soon as they come out, they have few books still on their list so I’m going for the audio book approach: I figure I can’t go wrong with Good Omens by Neil Gaimon and Terry Pratchett (my father is a huge fan of both) or The Screwtape Letters by C.S Lewis…only problem, not sure Santa’s up on the whole ‘bureaucracy of hell’ or ‘the end is nigh’ stuff – might dampen the ho, ho, ho…but, bah humbug, that’s what they’re getting.
My twin boys are so much easier – I’ve already indoctrinated them into loving mystery books (the old fashioned, English kind, of course). Once again, Enid Blyton rules and my boys are already obsessed by the Secret Seven mystery series (seven kids, a dog named Scamper and lots of English village mysteries to solve) and are about to discover the Adventure series (four kids, a talking parrot and mysteries in exotic locations). Santa is fully up to speed on their book requirements though (sigh), Lego is still number one on their Santa list.

My husband is always a trickier proposition, book-wise. He barely has enough time to start a book let alone finish it, but I recently introduced him to a terrific Australian thriller writer, Michael Rowbotham, so I know he’ll be trying to read him over the holidays. As for his list, well I’m going for non-fiction instead with Michael Chabon’s latest, Manhood for Amateurs. I wasn’t quite ready to put his wife’s book, Bad Mother, on my Santa list (my fragile ego couldn’t cope with unwrapping it on Christmas Day…) but I’d love to read it all the same.

I have a veritable library of titles on my list for Santa…and certainly not enough time to read them all…but my top three are: AS Byatt’s Edwardian saga, The Children’s Book; Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic, The Road, and Juliet Nicholson’s non-fiction account of collective mourning in the aftermath of WW1, The Great Silence.

So what books are on your Santa list??