As I mentioned on Tuesday, I don’t do scary, creepy, or horrifying. This week, I’m sharing some of my favorite non-horror Halloween-appropriate reads. Welcome to the fourth and final installment of…
Last Friday I introduced a miniseries featuring some of my favorite audiobooks. Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought I’d highlight a few of my spookier picks!
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (read by the author)
Nobody Owens–or Bod, for short–has spent the whole of his young life in a graveyard. Taken in by ghosts as an infant, he has grown up with these same ghosts as his family and caretakers. A strange and shadowy past prevents Bod from venturing beyond his graveyard sanctuary, for in the world outside lurks the man Jack.
As Bod grows up, he naturally takes an interest in the world beyond the cemetery fence. Having never experienced the outside world before, though, Bod gets himself in far over his head. What follows is a series of bizarre encounters and journeys, peopled with all manner of fantastical creatures. Bod’s adventures are very Gaiman-esque; if you’ve read anything else by Neil Gaiman, you may know just what I mean! The spooky atmosphere of the graveyard coupled with Bod’s surreal experiences make The Graveyard Book a good choice for Halloween.
Bod and his adventures held me enthralled, but it is Neil Gaiman’s own reading of his wild tale that is the cherry on top of this sundae. His gentle British accent, his unhurried narration, his impeccably timed pauses, and his spot-on inflection all come together to make this audiobook a joy to hear.
The Graveyard Book was awarded the Newbery medal in 2009.
Intrigued? You can listen to a sample of The Graveyard Book on Audible.com right now!
The Gates by John Connolly (read by Jonathan Cake)
The Gates by John Connolly is a delightfully funny book based on a crazy premise. You may be able to guess at that premise from the novel’s full title: The Gates of Hell Are About to Open. Want to Peek?
Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund (Boswell) are out trick-or-treating in their hometown of Biddlecombe, England, when they accidentally come across their neighbors opening the gates to Hell. The Abernathys, former inhabitants of 666 Crowley Road, are now inhabited by demons…and Samuel is the only person who knows. The demon leader, known to Samuel as Mrs. Abernathy (whose body she stole), is busy trying to carry out a plan that involves using the Hadron particle collider to open Hell’s gates so that its inhabitants may overrun the earth.
Much hilarity ensues. As Samuel tries to figure out how to halt the attack, a wacky cast of supporting characters are having their own adventures. My favorite was poor Nurd, the scourge of five deities, who has his own agenda entirely but keeps popping unexpectedly from one world to another. I know all of this sounds bizarre, but trust me–it’s quite funny! As the novel charges toward its conclusion, Connelly weaves all the subplots and silly bits together into one magnificent tableau.
On top of the madcap plot–or perhaps I should say, beneath it–are the footnotes. Normally, footnotes drive me crazy, but here? They totally work. Even in the audio version of The Gates, the footnotes only heighten the comedy.
Reader Jonathan Cake does a wonderful job narrating The Gates. He relates the story in such a way that you cannot help but chuckle, perhaps even out loud. He does an excellent job keeping all of the characters straight as well as differentiating the footnotes from the main text.
After listening to about half of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, I think I can safely say that readers who enjoyed Good Omens will most likely enjoy The Gates as well. They definitely have the same sort of feel to them!
If you’re interested, head over to Audible.com to hear a sample from The Gates.
A Few Others
I’m only halfway through Good Omens, the novel co-written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (what a pair!) and read by Martin Jarvis. I’m having so much fun with it, though, that I couldn’t resist slipping it in here! It’s full of delightfully odd characters, including a demon and an angel who have become quite fond of life on earth and are collaborating to a certain extent as the apocalypse draws near. I often find myself giggling. Jarvis does an excellent job narrating and manages to keep the zillion characters clearly differentiated. (Audible sample)
Another of Gaiman’s audiobooks I’d highly recommend is Neverwhere, in which Richard Mayhew slips through the cracks of London Above an ends up in London Below. This alternate city is full of odd people and creatures. Wanting only to return to his home in London Above, Richard gets into all sorts of scrapes trying to find his way back. Gaiman narrates Neverwhere in his perfect way. Books for Ears has posted a more thorough summary and review, if you’re interested! (Audible sample)
Finally, the version of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde I listened to for Dueling Monsters: Round II is narrated by Martin Jarvis, the same reader who did Good Omens. At just under three hours long, it’s a good, quick, spooky listen for Halloween! (Audible sample)
If you missed the previous Halloween for the Faint of Heart posts, you can find them here:
- The Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
- Dueling Monsters: The Picture of Dorian Gray vs. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Do you have a favorite audiobook you would recommend for Halloween? What about a novel involving the lighter side of battling the forces of evil?