Top 5 Wednesday | Non-horror Books that Scared You

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by ThoughtsOnTomes. You can join the group on Goodreads to find out the topics for each week. This is my first time participating, and what with Halloween almost upon us, I couldn’t resist…

1. Jude the Obscure

I read this book during my second year studying Literature at University. My housemate kept asking me if I had got to a certain point yet; I kept asking her ‘why, what happens?’ and she just answered ‘you’ll know when you’ve read it’. And anyone else who has read it knows exactly what I’m talking about. It still haunts me to this day … I know Hardy isn’t known for being a barrel of laughs, but this really is one of the most harrowing and spine-chilling of all his depressing oeuvre.

2. The Bell Jar

When I was thirteen I borrowed this book from the local library, not knowing an awful lot about Sylvia Plath’s life. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the creeping feeling of panic and claustrophobia you get when you read this book, slowly descending into Esther’s madness. I remember the very real feeling of the walls closing in around me as I read.

3. Brave New World

Dystopian fiction is always going to have a scary slant to it, but I didn’t except Huxley’s Brave New World to be quite so terrifying; a glimpse into a brainwashed world entirely void of emotion and meaning.

4. Holes

My teacher recommended this to me when I was 8 years old. Perhaps because I read it so young, this book had a powerful hold over me. I found the prospect of digging holes endlessly in the middle of the desert with no water and terrifying creepy-crawlies utterly horrifying, and I worked as hard as I could to make sure I didn’t end up like Stanley Yelnats…

5. The Picture of Dorian Grey

If your previous exposure to Wilde has been through his witticisms or satire, then you probably won’t be all too well prepared for the unfurling horror as the titular character becomes ensconced in a life of casual cruelty and depravity; his Faustian pact becoming ever-more real.


That concludes my first ever participation in a Top 5 Wednesday. I’ll be interested to see what other readers include!

Perfect Prose #7: Elsewhere

I must have read this book for the first time in 2005 or 2006, not long after it was published. I was a teenager at the time and it was one of my favourite books for many years. I have just moved my life across the ocean and I brought it with me, which got me remembering this passage, my favourite in the book.

I remember reading it all those years ago, before I had any idea where life would lead me, and every time I read it back then it gave me those stomach-butterflies of fear and excitement, just thinking about the endless possibilities; wondering.


“There will be other lives.
There will be other lives for nervous boys with sweaty palms, for bittersweet fumblings in the backseats of cars, for caps and gowns in royal blue and crimson, for mothers clasping pretty pearl necklaces around daughters’ unlined necks, for your full name read aloud in an auditorium, for brand-new suitcases transporting you to strange new people in strange new lands.
And there will be other lives for unpaid debts, for one-night stands, for Prague and Paris, for painful shoes with pointy toes, for indecision and revisions.
And there will be other lives for fathers walking daughters down aisles.
And there will be other lives for sweet babies with skin like milk.
And there will be other lives for a man you don’t recognize, for a face in a mirror that is no longer yours, for the funerals of intimates, for shrinking, for teeth that fall out, for hair on your chin, for forgetting everything. Everything.
Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that’s not how it works. A human’s life is a beautiful mess.”


From Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, published by Bloomsbury.

Autumn/Winter TBR

I feel like it might be a little late to start a TBR for autumn, but since I have just moved to the sunny climes of the United States South-East, where it very much does not feel like the British autumns I am accustomed to, the season has barely begun in my mind. I am half waiting for the turn of the weather, the chill that will warrant endless cups of tea and an excuse to read rather than go outside, but at the same time basking in the glow of 30 degree heat and endless sunshine, so I can’t complain too much!

This is the first time I have publicly set myself some sort of reading goal, so it does heighten the pressure slightly. However, I also do think it is time I took stock of my bookshelf – virtual and otherwise – and line up some of the titles I want to get to reading in the coming months.

1. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

Before this year, I hadn’t read any of Donna Tartt’s much-acclaimed novels. I don’t know quite how I escaped it, but since reading and enjoying her other two, it only seems natural that The Little Friend would be next on my list.

2. Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

A good friend and fellow book lover recommended this one to me. We met in China and both love the country, so when I heard this was on the Booker shortlist 2016, I was very excited.

3. The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

This came up on my NetGalley homepage last week and it sounded enthralling … Set in a dystopian England mostly submerged in water, it was the talk of the London Book Fair this year. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype.

4. Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

I loved The Kind Worth Killing, so I’m hoping Peter Swanson has pulled off another palm-sweating, intelligent thriller in this one.

5. Beijing Coma by Ma Jian

I’ve had my eye on this for a long time. Another novel set in China, though this one is slightly more recent history. Taking place during the student uprising of the 80s, The Telegraph called it a “landmark work of fiction” when it was published almost 10 years ago.

6. A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale

I purchased this book last summer and, as silly as it sounds, couldn’t quite bring myself to read it at the time because it has ‘winter’ in the title. I know. However, the glowing reviews mean that I can’t keep away from it for much longer, and it’ll soon be the season when such reading seems appropriate.


Well, there we have it – a modest goal but I’m sure there will be more NetGalley titles that have me clicking ‘request’, library new arrivals that I just can’t stop myself from borrowing and of course the occasional (ahem) forage into an actual real life bookshop, where the smell of a brand new book is just too alluring.



Perfect Prose #1: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I’m currently reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Here I Am’, and it got me remembering some of the beautiful passages from his previous novel ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’. The following is one that has always stayed with me. The first time I read it I was on a train to London and silently weeping.


The airport was filled with people coming and going. But it was only your grandfather and me.

I took his daybook and searched its pages. I pointed at, How frustrating, how pathetic, how sad.

He searched through the book and pointed at, The way you just handed me that knife.

I pointed at, If I’d been someone else in a different world I’d’ve done something different.

He pointed at, Sometimes one simply wants to disappear.

I pointed at, There’s nothing wrong with not understanding yourself.

He pointed at, How sad.

I pointed at, And I wouldn’t say no to something sweet.

He pointed at, Cried and cried and cried.

I pointed at, Don’t cry.

He pointed at, Broken and confused.

I pointed at, So sad.

He pointed at, Broken and confused.

I pointed at, Something.

He pointed at, Nothing.

I pointed at, Something.

Nobody pointed at, I love you.

There was no way around it. We could not climb over it, or walk until we found its edge.

I regret that it takes a life to learn how to live, Oskar. Because if I were able to live my life again, I would do things differently.

I would change my life.

I would kiss my piano teacher, even if he laughed at me.

I would jump with Mary on the bed, even if I made a fool of myself.

I would send out ugly photographs, thousands of them.

What are we going to do? he wrote.

It’s up to you, I said.

He wrote, I want to go home.

What is home to you?

Home is the place with the most rules.

I understood him.

And we will have to make more rules, I said.

To make it more of a home.



We went straight to the jewelry store. He left the suitcase in the back room. We sold a pair of emerald earrings that day. And a diamond engagement ring. And a gold bracelet for a little girl. And a watch for someone on his way to Brazil.

That night we held each other in bed. He kissed me all over. I believed him. I was not stupid. I was his wife.

The next morning he went to the airport. I didn’t dare feel his suitcase.

I waited for him to come home.

Hours passed. And minutes.

I didn’t open the store at 11:00.

I waited by the window. I still believed in him.

I didn’t eat lunch.

Seconds passed.

The afternoon left. The evening came.

I didn’t eat dinner.

Years were passing through the spaces between moments.

Your father kicked in my belly.

What was he trying to tell me?

I brought the birdcages to the windows.

I opened the windows, and opened the birdcages.

I poured the fish down the drain.

I took the dogs and cats downstairs and removed their collars.

I released the insects onto the street.

And the reptiles.

And the mice.

I told them, Go.

All of you.


And they went.

And they didn’t come back.


From ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, published by Penguin. 

Poetry Friday: Carol Ann Duffy

Words, Wide Night

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.

This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.

La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you

and this is what it is like or what it is like in words.

Poetry Friday: Frank O’Hara

‘À la recherche de Gertrude Stein’

When I am feeling depressed and anxious and sullen
all you have to do is take your clothes off
and all is wiped away revealing life’s tenderness
that we are flesh and breathe and are near us
as you are really as you are I become as I
really am alive and knowing vaguely what is
and what is important to me above the intrusions
of incident and accidental relationships
which have nothing to do with my life

when I am in your presence I feel life is strong
and will defeat all its enemies and all of mine
and all of yours and yours in you and mine in me
sick logic and feeble reasoning are cured
by the perfect symmetry of your arms and legs
spread out making an eternal circle together
creating a golden pillar beside the Atlantic
the faint line of hair dividing your torso
gives my mind rest and emotions their release
into the infinite air where since once we are
together we always will be in this life come what may

Poetry Friday: e e cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

e e cummings, 18941962

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands