Pumpkin Up the Volume: Another Halloween Playlist

Image courtesy biscuitbear via Flickr.

Last year, I posted a Halloween playlist titled Bring Your Own Boos. It was a huge hit at the Halloween party I never had…. But, at least I enjoyed it. (It got me through several boring class assignments and maybe a few boring conversations.) This year, I almost didn’t make a new playlist because, as it turns out, I had already used up all my favorite spooky songs. But then I realized, personal challenge! I would find some new favorite Halloween songs. And an even better (read: more cringeworthy) pun! (Yes, this is really what my personal challenges look like.)

Thus, Pumpkin Up the Volume was born. If you listen to only one awkwardly-titled Halloween playlist made by a stranger who makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable, let it be this one. It’s got wolf songs, devil songs, and even a song about a monster hospital. I cover all the bases.

Song list: 

Howlin’ For You—The Black Keys | The Crook of My Good Arm—Pale Young Gentlemen | Devil in Me—22-20s | Dead Man’s Party—Oingo Boingo | Evil—Interpol | Wolf Like Me—TV on the Radio | (You’re the) Devil in Disguise—Elvis Presley | See No Evil—Television | Spider Cider—Man Man | She Wolf—Shakira | Pumpkin—Starlight Mints | Haunted House of Rock—Whodini | Spooky—Dusty Springfield | Monster Hospital—Metric | There Goes the Fear—Doves | Pet Sematary—The Ramones | Hungry Like the Wolf—Duran Duran | Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare—Matt & Kim | Turkish Song of the Damned—The Pogues | My Body’s a Zombie for You—Dead Man’s Bones

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Get In the Halloween Spirit

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, the site posts a new Top Ten list topic that everyone is welcome to answer.

Although I don’t usually (read: never) participate in blog memes, I thought this topic seemed like a lot of fun. I really like the idea of Top Ten Tuesday, and I’m excited to check out the suggestions that others have generated for this week’s list. Maybe this will be a new thing for me! (Please do not check the status of past “new things for me,” including knitting, exercising, and cooking vegetables.) Regardless, please enjoy my painstakingly-crafted list, which I hope is sufficiently scary, atmospheric, and/or just plain weird. Keep in mind that I’m not exactly a horror connoisseur—the only Stephen King book I’ve read is the one he wrote about writing!

10. Chime — Franny Billingsley

Do you like witches, bog creatures, dead people and self-hating narrators? Striking, florid prose and magical scenarios? What about dreamy landscapes just on the edge of the Industrial Revolution? Chime is one of the most original YA books I have recently read, precisely because it combines all of those elements so weirdly and so wonderfully. It tells the story of a guilt-ridden young girl unable to come to terms with her magical powers, and the evil influences in her life who have poisoned her against her gifts. It’s a strange story, an acquired taste, but one that is wholly enchanting and memorable.

9. Black Hole — Charles Burns

Looking for a graphic novel that will haunt your dreams? Look no further than Black Hole, a visually-stunning (and nightmare-inducing) story about a sexually transmitted disease that turns its victims into literal monsters. The artwork for this comic is amazing, evoking the classic horror movies you like to watch every Halloween, but the story itself is quite dark and bizarre. Characters develop lesions, boils, and even tails, becoming horrifying mutants who must live as outcasts. The whole comic is disturbing, to say the least, but it makes for an unforgettable experience.

8. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children — Ransom Riggs

Old photographs can be spooky in general, but the pictures included in this YA book take that creepiness to a whole new level. Combining found photographs of magical children who hover, harness balls of energy, or simply aren’t there at all, with a story about a modern day teenager who travels back to the 1940s to meet these strange beings, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children offers a reading experience unlike any other. It is eerie, mysterious, and a lot of fun—just the right mix of light-hearted and terrifying to get in the Halloween spirit.

7. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife — Mary Roach

It’s easy to get lost in a good horror story, but there’s no reason why Halloween has to be all about fiction. In Spook, science writer (and skeptic) Mary Roach takes a look at the afterlife, from ghostly apparitions and séances to reincarnation and soul-weighing, to find out whether claims of such occurrences could be for real. Along the way, she enrolls in medium school, travels to India to interview the family of a supposedly reincarnated child, and voluntarily subjects herself to electromagnetic fields in an attempt to see whether they can cause her to perceive (or hallucinate) ghosts. The book is great fun, and an amazing journey, but it also has a lot of interesting insights into our belief—or our desire to believe—in the supernatural.

6. A Monster’s Notes — Laurie Sheck 

There are a lot of Frankenstein stories out there, and relatively few of them have anything that touches upon the brilliance of the original. If you’ve read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, however, and are looking for a new take on the story, consider A Monster’s Notes by Laurie Sheck. Let me be upfront: this is certainly the most avant-garde book on the list. It has variously been described as being “bold,” “baroque,” and “oddly compelling.” (Yeah, oddly.) Nonetheless, it is one of the most moving and original works of contemporary literature I have recently read, and it is completely worth exploring if you are an adventurous reader. While you may not necessarily get scared, you will be enchanted; this is a poetic book that works a magic all its own.

5. The Historian — Elizabeth Kostova

I’m just assuming you’ve already read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but if you haven’t, start there first. Done yet?  Then you’re ready for this academic Dracula story, which makes research a thrill (and will have you thinking twice about digging too deep into the life of Vlad the Impaler). The Historian has all the elements of a good, creepy mystery: strange clues hidden in ancient books, secret tombs and old churches, and even an evil librarian! It’s the kind of book that will make you believe that Dracula is real, and still alive in the present day. Just try going to sleep with that worry weighing on you.

4. Northanger Abbey — Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is technically a gothic novel parody, I guess, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in atmosphere. In satirizing popular books like Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, Austen conjures up a pretty good haunted house story, even if you know all the spookiness will have a reasonable explanation. It’s a good choice for anyone who eschews horror, prefers the lighthearted side of Halloween, or has just joined a Jane Austen book club. If you’re really adventurous, try reading it alongside the Radcliffe book.

3. Jane Eyre — Charlotte Brontë

I would argue that Jane Eyre is the perfect book to read at any time of the year, but it does seem to be a particularly good choice for Halloween, thanks to its gothic DNA. Thornfield Hall might as well be a haunted house, for all its things that go bump in the night. Many of the situations are quite harrowing, and, of course, the atmosphere is sufficiently spooky. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s about time. And, actually, I think it might be time for me to revisit it.

2. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — Susanna Clarke

Okay, so there are shorter books to get you ready for Halloween. But this is one of my favorites, precisely because it is so sprawling, so imaginative, and, to put it simply, so magical. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is the story of two feuding magicians, but it also brings together a number of equally enchanting characters and subplots. Villains like the gentleman with thistle-down hair are as memorable as the main protagonists themselves, and the numerous footnotes may just contain some of the best fairy tales I have ever read. Worth the time, if you have it; worth making time for, if you don’t.

1. The Monk — Matthew Gregory Lewis

I’m guessing that if you’re not specifically into late eighteenth century literature, the gothic novel, or really, really weird literary curios, then you’ve never read this book. Probably you’ve never even heard of it. Well, The Monk defies any sort of tidy summarization, but suffice it to say that it takes every gothic trope popular in its day and magnifies it by a thousand. It features family secrets, a lusty monk, and, oh yeah, SATAN, who just shows up because…why not? It’s a wild ride, and one you won’t soon forget. Basically, this book is the Halloween spirit, and if you haven’t read it yet, you must.

Bring Your Own Boos: A Halloween Playlist

Image courtesy cmar via Flickr.….

The best holidays, I would argue, are the ones that can last longer than a single day, those celebrations for which anticipation builds weeks, even months, in advance. They are associated with a specific, undeniable mood, which elevates them, in essence, to a state of mind. Christmas, ideally, is a holly jolly fest of goodwill toward men, with the sights, sounds, and smells inspiring kindness (at least, outside of shopping malls), high spirits, and the overindulgence of various questionable food items, like eggnog and gingerbread. Halloween, in contrast, is like Christmas’s evil twin, exploring a darker side of human nature, which delights in tricks and treats in equal measure. Halloween is a celebration of the macabre and the attendant thrill that comes with being unnerved. It’s not all slasher flicks and haunted houses, but if the darkest you get is watching the Charlie Brown special with the lights out, then you’re not doing it right.

Every year, I create my own playlists for both of these holidays in an effort to promote the right mood even when I am doing something decidedly un-festive, like writing a paper. Below I have included this year’s Halloween playlist. (Coming November 1st, my Christmas playlist! …No, no, I’m better than that.) Some of these songs are par for the course, just shy of “Monster Mash” ubiquity, while others are more obscure, but still thematically related. All of them, naturally, are songs that I like, and that I think capture the Halloween “spirit.” Yeah, that’s right, spirit. I went there.

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Looking to make your own Halloween playlist? All it takes is a crappy image editor you downloaded for free, Halloween clipart you found by doing the most obvious Google search imaginable, and, of course, the first execrable pun you can think of! Have fun!

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