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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.

1. “THE DAEMON LOVER” // SHIRLEY JACKSON

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.

2. “OH WHISTLE, AND I’LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD” // M.R. JAMES

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.

3. “THE BLOODY CHAMBER” // ANGELA CARTER

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.

4. “CHILDREN OF THE CORN” // STEPHEN KING

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.

5. “THE DUALITISTS” // BRAM STOKER

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.

6. “HAMSTERS VS. WEBSTERS” // PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

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.

7. "EQUINOX" // JOHN AJVIDE LINDQVIST

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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Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Qatar National Library's Panorama-Style Bookshelves Offer Guests Stunning Views
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The newly opened Qatar National Library in the capital city of Doha contains more than 1 million books, some of which date back to the 15th century. Co.Design reports that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) designed the building so that the texts under its roof are the star attraction.

When guests walk into the library, they're given an eyeful of its collections. The shelves are arranged stadium-style, making it easy to appreciate the sheer number of volumes in the institution's inventory from any spot in the room. Not only is the design photogenic, it's also practical: The shelves, which were built from the same white marble as the floors, are integrated into the building's infrastructure, providing artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book-return system to visitors. The multi-leveled arrangement also gives guests more space to read, browse, and socialize.

"With Qatar National Library, we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself," OMA writes on its website. "The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books."

While most books are on full display, OMA chose a different route for the institution's Heritage Library, which contains many rare, centuries-old texts on Arab-Islamic history. This collection is housed in a sunken space 20 feet below ground level, with beige stone features that stand out from the white marble used elsewhere. Guests need to use a separate entrance to access it, but they can look down at the collection from the ground floor above.

If Qatar is too far of a trip, there are plenty of libraries in the U.S. that are worth a visit. Check out these panoramas of the most stunning examples.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images: Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Reading Aloud to Your Kids Can Promote Good Behavior and Sharpen Their Attention
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Some benefits of reading aloud to children are easy to see. It allows parents to introduce kids to books that they're not quite ready to read on their own, thus improving their literacy skills. But a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that the simple act of reading to your kids can also influence their behavior in surprising ways.

As The New York Times reports, researchers looked at young children from 675 low-income families. Of that group, 225 families were enrolled in a parent-education program called the Video Interaction Project, or VIP, with the remaining families serving as the control.

Participants in VIP visited a pediatric clinic where they were videotaped playing and reading with their children, ranging in age from infants to toddlers, for about five minutes. Following the sessions, videos were played back for parents so they could see how their kids responded to the positive interactions.

They found that 3-year-olds taking part in the study had a much lower chance of being aggressive or hyperactive than children in the control group of the same age. The researchers wondered if these same effects would still be visible after the program ended, so they revisited the children 18 months later when the kids were approaching grade-school age. Sure enough, the study subjects showed fewer behavioral problems and better focus than their peers who didn't receive the same intervention.

Reading to kids isn't just a way to get them excited about books at a young age—it's also a positive form of social interaction, which is crucial at the early stages of social and emotional development. The study authors write, "Such programs [as VIP] can result in clinically important differences on long-term educational outcomes, given the central role of behavior for child learning."

Being read to is something that can benefit all kids, but for low-income parents working long hours and unable to afford childcare, finding the time for it is often a struggle. According to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, only 34 percent of children under 5 in families below the poverty line were read to every day, compared with 60 percent of children from wealthier families. One way to narrow this divide is by teaching new parents about the benefits of reading to their children, possibly when they visit the pediatrician during the crucial first months of their child's life.

[h/t The New York Times]

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