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7 Spooky Short Stories to Read for Halloween

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You may have your Netflix queue all filled up with scary movies to watch for Halloween, but what about your bookshelf? Here are seven scary short stories that will have you sleeping with the lights on.


Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is undeniably the horror writer’s most famous story, but there’s plenty more eerie tales in her oeuvre. “The Daemon Lover,” from the same 1949 collection as “The Lottery,” opens on a woman dressing for her wedding day. Her fiancé, though, never shows up, leading her on an increasingly anxious journey to figure out where he went—and if he exists at all. The full text can be read online, or you can buy an audio version read by the author herself.


Though he spent his days a medievalist scholar, the early 20th century writer M.R. James is best known for his horror stories—he has been called “the most influential author of ghost stories in literary history,” in fact. “Oh Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” published in 1904, is one of his most famous stories. It follows a professor who digs up an old whistle that, when blown, summons a dangerous specter. It’s online on here, or you can get a hard copy from Amazon.


In the title story of Angela Carter’s 1979 book of reimagined fairy tales, a young bride’s wealthy new husband goes away on business, leaving her with keys to every room in the house. He tells her not to go into one room at the end of the hall. Predictably, her curiosity gets the better of her, and inside, she discovers the corpses of her husband’s previous wives. Carter’s Gothic, often frankly sexual tales shocked readers at the time of their publication, but she’s now considered a feminist must-read.


The prolific horror master’s 1977 short story set in a fictional town in Nebraska has been referenced in everything from Eminem’s raps to Wreck-It Ralph. In it, a couple trying to save their marriage with an ill-fated road trip run over a child darting out of the corn fields onto the road—only to discover that his throat was slit before they hit him. Things only get spookier after they drive into the nearby town of Gatlin. It’s available as an ebook for 99 cents. Once you finish the story, the 1984 movie adaptation is streaming for free until November 1.


Dracula may have been his masterpiece, but Bram Stoker could churn out a delightful horror story on the small scale, too. “The Dualitists” is, per the opinion of his publisher, Dover, “Stoker’s most horrifying story.” In it, two neighborhood boys with an obsession with knives and a penchant for destruction go from victimizing dolls and household objects to torturing rabbits and other pets. And yet, Stoker writes, “the passion for hacking still remained.” When a pair of cherubic toddler twins show up on the scene, things get gory. You can read it for free online.


The celebrated author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train has an entire book of stories devoted to grisly tales of everyday pets and pests turning violent. If you have a fear of rodents, best not to read “Hamsters vs. Websters,” a story of a boy’s careful hamster husbandry gone awry. The hamsters aren’t the only ones with murderous intent, either. The whole collection is on Amazon for $14.


In this short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist, the Swedish writer behind the vampire novel Let the Right One In, a woman house sitting for her neighbor finds a disturbing surprise. In 2013, Booklist Review called the whole collection, titled Let the Old Dreams Die, “terribly effective horror fiction.” You can get a used copy of the book on Amazon for less than $5, but be warned: You may not want to read it in the dark.

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15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
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It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

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China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
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A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.

[h/t Newsweek]


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