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I don’t lend out books or pens because they almost never get returned, and nothing makes me want someone to go ahead and go die worse than not returning a book or a pen. (Another new pet peeve of mine is when I eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations and they are insufferably boring.)
Anyway, it turns out I’m not the only one who is super protective of their books–especially when they have all my notes and work in the margins. In medieval times, they protected their library books the old fashioned way, with curses.
But say you’re not a person who’s super territorial about books. There are other curses for you, from love potions to maybe just immortal life. By the way, you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s newsletter on the latest and greatest in horror. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil through this realm of hell, the curse. To paraphrase the Stephen Sommers’ iteration of The Mummy, death shall come on swift wings to whomsoever reads from these books.
Fresh Hells (FKA new releases):
The Necronomnomnom by Mike Slater and Thomas Roache
This beautiful cookbook features recipes all inspired by the eldritch horrors of H.P. Lovecraft. Even the title is modified from his legendary, cursed book of the dead, The Necronomicon. The foreword to this tome states that “if cooking is science, then eldritch cooking is alchemy, prayer, and sacrifice.” The book itself is gorgeously illustrated with images of the recipes/spells come to fruition, and scribblings of those driven mad by the curses gone awry decorate the margins in a way delightful to anyone familiar with H.P. Lovecraft’s work–this book is PERFECT for you if you’re a big fan of his, and you like to cook.
The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, edited by John Edgar Browning
Speaking of Lovecraft, The King in Yellow is said to have been a major influence on his work. Essentially, this collection of stories is one of the prototypes for an entire genre of weird fiction, and the “cursed” aspect of it comes mostly from the story entitled “The Yellow Mark.” I’ll let you determine whether seeing it actually marks you forever. Also, this collection has been noted as bridging the transition from Gothic literature into the horror of the twentieth century, which is a pretty epic feat.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
This master of horror is at it again, and what an AWESOME title, right? Like, way to completely set up a horror novel that is also a deep social commentary about the mistreatment of indigenous people. The narrative follows four American Indian men after an ordeal in their childhood places them as a target for a vengeful entity. This novel is available for pre-order–and you know you’re going to buy it anyway, so go ahead on and help this author’s publisher know that WE DEMAND THIS LEVEL OF LITERATURE.
What Should be Wild by Julia Fine
This coming of age fairy tale novel features a girl who can kill or resurrect with a simple touch. When her father goes missing, she has to leave the world that has been constructed for her safety to find him–what she learns in the process features the family curse that gave her this double-edged gift.
Cryptkeepers (FKA as horrors from the backlist):
The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler
This novel follows a family of cursed circus performers–for some reason, all the women in Simon’s life are great at holding their breath (like, circus-mermaid-level great), but generations of women have died by drowning, and always on July 24. Simon worries that his sister, who reads from a deck of never-smudged tarot for a traveling circus, is next in line.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
My tried-and-trusty classic book about a family curse! If you haven’t yet picked up this iconic work, you absolutely have to. The master of magical realism, Gabo, writes about a family who endures a curse as a result of the patriarch’s murder. I’m definitely oversimplifying it, but that’s because you’re going to love it so, so much that I don’t want to spoil it for you. PLUS, there’s talk of Netflix adapting it for the screen soon.
“The Revenge of Hannah Kemhuff” from In Love and Trouble by Alice Walker
This was one of my favorite texts to teach in my ENGL 1102 class because of its ambiguity. After being slighted in a rations line during the Great Depression, Hannah Kemhuff’s life falls apart. She visits a root worker to seek retribution on the woman who denied her, in the form of a curse. Y’all are going to love this one–that is, if you, like me, are a sucker for a vigilante beat-down.
Madeleine is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
In this novel, the lovely Madeleine is horribly punished for a sexual encounter with a man in a French provincial village, and for reasons unknown, she falls into a prolonged sleep. In it, she dreams of the circus fantastical, the magical, and tries to distinguish between her waking and dreaming life.
If you really love your S.O., you will buy them one of these edible hearts that are modeled after actual hearts and hand-painted to look STUPID realistic.
The mummified bodies of seven ancient Egyptian women from the time of Ramesses II were found to have tattoos.
Learn about Casa Figueroa, or “the cursed house” in Taxco, Mexico, named for all the horrors that happened in its walls.
Or if you’re headed to Bali, learn about this ghost palace that’s full of ghosts, curses, and corruption.
Shirley, a biopic of the inimitable author, Shirley Jackson starring the also-inimitable actress, Elisabeth Moss debuted at Sundance, and it’s seeking U.S. distribution.
Louis Vuitton’s new look book is based on sci-fi and horror novel covers!
It’s time for me to GTFO, but I sure hope you enjoyed this list of cursed books. If you end up chased by a vengeful entity and you need backup, you can contact me through Twitter or Instagram… but also you can just follow me and we can share great horrors with one another. Until next week…