(And their film adaptations!)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Legend has it that in the summer of 1816 in Geneva, 18-year-old Shelley wrote Frankenstein in response to a competition to write the best ghost story, prompted by Lord Byron, in which she won. Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who develops a technique to give life to non-living matter. Frankenstein begins building a human, only to be terrified by his hideous creation when it comes to life. The story switches narratives between Frankenstein and his creature, forming interesting parallels between human nature, monstrosity, and alienation. Shelley makes you ponder, “who is the monster?”
Shelley’s masterpiece has inspired many film versions over the years. You can rent the 1931 film adaptation on Amazon Prime!
The Shining by Stephen King
Categorized as a horror novel, The Shining was published in 1977 and was King’s first hardback bestseller. The story tells of aspiring writer Jack Torrance and his family while they act as caretakers of Overlook Hotel in its offseason. Jack’s son Danny begins to have visions of the hotel’s eerie past. The haunted hotel begins to drive Jack mad while they are snowed in, leading to horrific events.
The critically acclaimed film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson is available to rent on Amazon Prime!
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
This horror novel was released in 1967 and was quickly followed by a film adaptation in 1968, starring Mia Farrow. The book centers on Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, Guy. They move into an old New York City apartment. The couple is warned of the apartment building’s history of witchcraft and murder, but they ignore the folklore. Rosemary becomes pregnant, much to the interest of her meddlesome neighbors. She later discovers they are part of a satanic cult and fears for her baby’s life. The successful release of Rosemary’s Baby led to a ‘horror boom,’ popularizing the genre.
Rosemary’s Baby is available to stream on Hulu!
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Following the ‘horror boom’ of the sixties, The Exorcist was published in 1971. The book is based on true events of a young boy who was believed to be possessed by the devil and had an exorcism performed on him by a priest in 1949. Blatty’s novel follows Regan McNeil, the daughter of a famous actress, as two priests attempt to exorcise her of demonic spirits. The successful film adaptation followed 2 years later, with Blatty as a screenplay contributor.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
This haunted house classic is considered to be one of the best literary ghost stories published in the 20th century and has been adapted for TV and film over the years, most recently as a series on Netflix. The book chronicles an eccentric group of guests staying in Hill House, a mansion known for its violent, deadly past. The guests were invited by a scientist looking for supernatural evidence that the mansion is indeed haunted. As the novel progresses, the guests witness strange and disturbing events.