Book Club Nominees

6 Cursed Books

by DMVickerson, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for March’s “This List is Cursed” category

Readers beware.  At least one title on this list is cursed.  

Have you ever walked past a desolate house and thought, “Definitely some ghosts in there!” or picked up a VHS tape from the back of your mom’s closet and wondered if watching it would kill you?  No, just me?  Well, the titles in this list explore haunted objects, places, and media.  Reader beware: This list is cursed.

Cover of All's Well by Mona Awad. Cover shows a theatre style mask made of pills of various shapes, sizes, and colors against a blue background.

All’s Well by Mona Awad

Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic back pain, a failed marriage, and a deepening dependence on painkillers. And now she’s on the verge of losing her job as a college theater director. Determined to put on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that promised, and cost, her everything, she faces a mutinous cast hellbent on staging Macbeth instead. Miranda sees her chance at redemption slip through her fingers when she meets three strange benefactors who have an eerie knowledge of Miranda’s past and a tantalizing promise for her future: one where the show goes on, her rebellious students get what’s coming to them, and the invisible, doubted pain that’s kept her from the spotlight is made known. (Goodreads)

Mona Awad’s elegant writing about the nefarious side of academia drew me in immediately, and if you liked Bunny, you’re sure to enjoy All’s Well.  This title was the inspiration for this entire list, as it explores what it means for art to be cursed.  The story is delightfully sinister, and Awad’s writing is gorgeous and twisted as always.

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Cover of MacBeth by William Shakespeare. Cover shows a tree. The scene appears obscured by fog.

MacBeth by William Shakespeare

One night on the heath, the brave and respected general Macbeth encounters three witches who foretell that he will become king of Scotland. At first sceptical, he’s urged on by the ruthless, single-minded ambitions of Lady Macbeth, who suffers none of her husband’s doubt. But seeing the prophecy through to the bloody end leads them both spiralling into paranoia, tyranny, madness, and murder. (Goodreads)

I couldn’t put All’s Well on this list without also adding Macbeth.  Said to be a cursed production, Macbeth, or “The Scottish Play” if you’re worried about evoking bad luck, is one of Shakespeare’s most renowned tragedies.  This story had murder, witches, and one of my favorite horror story elements, paranoia.  

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Cover of The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh. Cover shows an African mask. Smoke rises from an extinguished candle in the foreground.

The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh

An innocent boy is lured to his death by the one person that should have protected him. Someone knows the truth about his disappearance; his little sister, Obele, a child that hears a secret voice which tells her terrible things no child should know about. Obele knows too much and must be killed. Her salvation lies in the hands of her new friends, a group of giggling little girls she meets at an abandoned “cursed house.” Except their friendship comes with a terrible price. And suddenly, Obele starts to ask herself who exactly…or rather, what exactly are her new friends. Worse, how can she free the tormented ghost of her dead brother, trapped by a witchdoctor’s curse? Set amidst the Biafran War, “The Sleepless” follows one child’s struggles against both the natural and supernatural forces that threaten to end her life before the deadly enemy bombs can do so. And perhaps, death from the skies is a better option than the terrifying alternative. (Goodreads)

Nuzo Onoh’s work is filled with sinister tales of ghosts, rituals, and dark cultural superstitions.  The Sleepless explores curses in a variety of ways, from the physicality of a “cursed house” to the curses put on others and how to stop them.  

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Cover of Cursed: A Wish is a Terrible Thing by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane. Cover shows a figure in a Victorian style dress with a full, wide skirt. She walks through the forest between very tall trees. Vines, bushes, and scrollwork line both sides of her path.

Cursed: A Wish is a Terrible Thing by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

Cursed: A Wish is a Terrible Thing An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales…an anthology of unique twists on the fairy tale conceit of the curse, from the traditional to the modern, giving us brand new mythologies as well as new approaches to well-loved fables. Twenty curses, old and new. (Goodreads)

I love a good short story collection, especially one featuring names like Neil Gaiman and Charlie Jane Anders.  This selection is twenty stories exploring old and new curses from some of the greatest writers of our time. 

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alt="Cover of Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Cover shows a woman tied in rope. She is levitating in the air, and leaves are swirling around her. Though her arms are bound to her body by the rope, her fingers grasp for freedom."

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear. (Goodreads)

If you grew up in a small town like I did, it’s hard not to imagine that the whole damn thing is cursed.  If you’ve ever wanted to leave a place no matter the consequences, then Hex is for you.

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Cover of Lost Films by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle. Cover shows a television set among rubble. On the television set is a figure standing in front of a wall that appears to be lit up and is glowing pink. Most of the rubble around the television set is obscured by darkness. The walls of the room surrounding the rubble, like the wall in the image on the television, are also glowing pink.

Lost Films by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle

From the editors of Lost Signals comes the new volume in technological horror. Nineteen authors, both respected and new to the genre, team up to deliver a collection of terrifying, eclectic stories guaranteed to unsettle its readers. (Goodreads)

Staying with the theme of cursed media, Lost Films explores what it means for a film to be haunted.  I selected this one not only for my love of anthologies, but because I am a child of the 90’s and spent many an afternoon with a pile of VHS tapes.  Thankfully, none of them (to my knowledge) were cursed.

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And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read All’s Well by Mona Awad. Join HOWL Society on Monday, February 27, 2022 to begin discussion!

Dana Vickerson thinks the woods are superior to any other type of place.  She spent most of her life in rural surroundings but now finds herself in a large city with not nearly enough trees.  She crafts numerous things, from buildings to stories to weird paper dolls, the latter mostly to amuse her children.  Her writing has appeared in Horror Tree’s Trembling with Fear and is forthcoming on Tales to Terrify.  You can find her on Twitter @dmvickerson.  

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