My RIP List for a Lifetime

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Before I begin, I should clarify a few things. I hate being scared, and I hate horror. And I don’t dislike: I mean hate. And I don’t really like Halloween because I don’t even like candy (I’ll take it if you give it to me … but I’m not going to go seeking it) or pumpkin carving.

But I’ve been so excited about Carl’s upcoming RIP challenge. Last year, I didn’t join because I was a pretty new blogger and, as I said above, I don’t like scary books. And yet, as I saw everyone’s reviews about gothic and mystery books, and I was sad I hadn’t jumped in to the challenge. I forced myself to reread Edgar Allan Poe (still didn’t like him a lot), and then I found myself enjoying Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stories.

So since last year, I’ve been saving my


reads for October, because I thought it was a one-month challenge. Then I found out: The challenge starts now! YEAY!

Other books I’ve reviewed in the past year that relate to the themes are these: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; An Enemy at Green Knowe by L.M. Boston (children’s fiction); The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Chimes by Charles Dickens; The Haunted Man and The Ghost’s Bargain, by Charles Dickens; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (nonfiction); Stories by Guy de Maupassant (I highly recommend his ghost-y stories; much better than Poe’s, I think); The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins; and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, which I just reviewed this morning.

For this year, I’m signing up for Peril the First, to read four works. Here’s my pool of books, my pool of books to last a lifetime (because it will take me that long to get through all of them).

I’ve put them in order in each category of “most likely to read in the next weeks.” You’ll note my modern fiction section is a bit small; I just don’t know which is actually not scary.

Old Fiction

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. I started listening to the audiobook. Not sure what I think at this point yet.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Another classic I’ve heard about but never read.
  • Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. I’m looking forward to meeting this Bronte!
  • The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Is this gothic? I might have read it because I seem to remember a woman knitting in the middle of a road covered with blood. Sounds creepy to me.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. Another classic. Again, is this gothic? Maybe I’m only thinking of the building itself.
  • Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I’ve heard both bad and good things about this one.
  • something by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I recently read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, which was all about Sherlock Holmes’ new sidekick, so I should revisit the original.
  • Faust by Goethe. Because it’s about the devil.
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. I’ve heard it’s bad. But I love the musical!
  • “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Hermann Melville. Reread. I liked this story when I read it in high school. I found it on a “gothic stories” list.
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Reread. How is this one out of a class setting?
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Reread. Apparently, this book is the father of horror. In which case, I can’t say I avoid horror, since I remember liking it (!).
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Reread. An upcoming book club read.

Newer Fiction

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison. I’m  currently rereading this favorite. Still absolutely wonderful.
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I’ve heard good things, and it’s a mystery, right?
  • anything by Shirley Jackson. I’m a bit scared her books actually are “scary.” Thoughts?


  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Newbery Medal winner that I still haven’t read.
  • Savvy by Ingrid Law. It’s supernatural.
  • something by Roald Dahl. I haven’t read anything by Dahl since I was a kid.


  • The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. Poetic epitaphs in the graveyard.
  • Poetry of Emily Dickinson. “Because I could not stop for death/ He kindly stopped for me.”
  • “Elegy Written at a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Grey. Heard of it, but never read it.
  • One of the Graveyard Poets. Yes, there were a lot of depressed guys writing about death and dying in the 1800s.


  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare. I need to read more Shakespeare, and this one has witches.
  • Faustus by Christopher Marlow. I’ve never read Marlow, and this one has the devil.

Now, how do I limit the next two months to four of these?!

Reviewed on August 27, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • So many great books on here! I loved the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. And I have this weird relationship with the Phantom of the Opera. I keep thinking it SHOULD be good, and about 2/3rds of it is, but then it just sort of unravels for me. Grr.

    I’m thinking about reading some Shirley Jackson, too. I read The Haunting of Hill House (I think that’s what it’s called) about a decade ago, and barely remember it. I don’t think I thought it was too scary, but I’m not sure. I want to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

  • OOh, you’ve got some great ones on there! Here are my random thoughts on your list …

    Dracula is really good – I never thought I’d like it, but once I got into it I really enjoyed it. ~ Are you joining my read-a-long of Frankenstein in October? I can’t remember if you signed up or not … ~I’m not sure I’d say Tale of Two Cities is gothic, but it might fit – the guillotine should make it qualify! ~ For your Doyle, I suggest The Hound of the Baskervilles – its my favorite Holmes, plus it would fit well with the challenge. ~ The 13th Tale would definitely fit this challenge as well – I enjoyed the audio book of that one.

  • Don’t like Halloween?!?! The sacrilege! 😉

    I’m so glad you are joining in despite your hatred of horror. You’ve got a fantastic list of books.

    Which audio version of Dracula are you listening to? I have the Barnes and Noble version and love it. The story is one of my favorites.

    Graveyard Book is fantastic. Oh, it is so good. As is Thirteenth Tale. Definitely a moody, gothic mystery. Love it!

    I have heard some say they don’t care much for Phantom, but it is another one that I just really enjoy. I am a big fan of the musical and reading the book just filled in a lot of gaps and I really enjoyed it.

    Tale of Two Cities is my favorite Dickens work, so I’ll certainly count it! 😉

    It is so cool to have you involved this year, thanks again for signing up!!!

  • I love that you have so many classics! I enjoyed Dracula, thought Frankenstein was interesting on an intellectual level (I wrote a paper on it for one of my first college classics), The Tenant of Wildfeel Hall made Anne my favourite Bronte, A Tale of Two Cities is the only Dickens I ever loved, I adored Phantom of the Opera (but I read it when I was 11-planning on rereading it in the next couple of weeks!), didn’t like “The Turn of the Screw” (I prefer James’ longer fiction), and just read The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was interesting but lacking in any kind of salciousness. Whew! That’s a ridiculous run-on sentence, all as a way to say it looks like a great list!

    The Thirteenth Tale is definitely gothic, but not scary. As far as Shirley Jackson…We Have Always Lived in the Castle is really really creepy. It didn’t make me afraid to turn out the lights, but just the psychosis of the narrator gave me goosebumps. The Haunting of Hill House didn’t scare me the way I expected it too-it was too cerebral for a haunted house story, imo. But I’m in the minority-most people describe it as really scary. The Graveyard Book has some dramatic moments but isn’t really scary. If you want some more modern fiction that isn’t really scary, try out Peter Beagle. A Fine and Private Place is an incredibly touching novel about ghosts and cemetaries, but it’s not at all scary. Tamsin is another of his with a ghost in it-like The Graveyard Book it has drama, but not enough to frighten an adult reader.

    And so ends the longest comment ever. :p

  • Oh yeay! These were the comments I wanted to hear: Everyone’s favorites on this list!

    Amanda, Glad you like Wildfell Hall. I know you didn’t like Villette. Too bad Phantom breaks down for you. If I don’t like the book, I’ll get the sound track and listen to it a few times…

    Heather J., so far I’m liking Dracula! On Chapter 5. I couldn’t remember which book was for your read-along. Glad it’s Frankenstein and not Dracula! I’m planning to get to Frankenstein in October, then!

    Carl V., I know, I was worried not liking Halloween would make me an RIP challenge outcast. But just thinking of these books is getting me excited…so maybe your challenge has cured me!

    I’m listening to the Librivox free audio recording of Dracula. Not my favorite since the narrator is different every chapter, but it works 🙂 Ah, so I think I’ll go for 13th Tale and Graveyard book too this month….when will I get to them all?! Thanks for the challenge!

    J.T. Oldfield, I don’t like the movies because the music just makes it scarier for me! My husband says if the books don’t scare me I must not have enough imagination! Ah well…

    Eva, I always just default to classics, and I’m excited to read all of these. Someday. I’m glad 13th tale is not scary…and it sounds like maybe I won’t be reading Shirley Jackson. Not eager to be creeped out. Thanks for the other modern fic non-scary suggestions!

    PS I love long comments!

    deslily, oh I’m glad you like it!!

  • My two cents about Shirley Jackson – I’ve read two of her books, and I thought that The Haunting of Hill House was actually scary; whereas We Have Always Lived in the Castle was more chilling. Not in a terrifying way, just in the sense that the narrator’s tone didn’t match the actions of the book. I actually think you could read WHALitC without too much trouble. And I say this as someone who scares easy!

  • What a great list!! I cannot express how much I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame!! There are dragging parts, of course, but overall, I thought it was the most amazing book! I hope you get to that one!!! Could I use just a few more exclamation points!! 🙂


  • Rebecca, I’m like you, don’t like being scared :-). This does seem like a neat challenge and I think I’ll mention it when I get around to putting up my review (hopefully this weekend) of the very non-scary “On Writing” by Stephen King. Who knows, by that time I might change my mind about not joining this challenge, because some of the books you have on your list are ones I think I could handle!

  • Jenny, thanks for the insight, I’ll have to consider it….

    Lezlie, Oh I’m so glad to hear you liked Hunchback!! Use as many exclamation! points! as! you! want! It’s a testament to how much you liked it.

    Valeri, last year, I thought there wasn’t anything I could handle, but I kept seeing great reviews. You’ll be happy you joined — just read one ore two books if you want!

    Jackie, yours is the first half-hearted review of 13th tale. Sounds like everyone else likes it. I’m curious to see what I think.

  • I’m with Jackie-The Thirteenth Tale didn’t blow my mind. If you’re used to reading classics, it’s going to feel lightweight. But sometimes you need a little fluff. 🙂

  • You’ve got some great books on your list! And I’m very much like you–I think we have similar tastes on some things anyway–I don’t “like” scary books, and I don’t celebrate Halloween…at all. But I really loved discovering some of these gothic reads, these classics.

    Frankenstein is one of my favorite, favorite books. Seriously it’s in slot number two for me. I just love it so. But just because I like it doesn’t mean you would, I just think it is so beautiful and amazing. A real meaning-of-life type book.

    Dracula was another surprise for me. I was shocked that I liked it. It has a lot of religious imagery which I just wasn’t expecting. And it’s very well written. It kept my attention. And because I’m not great at imagining things, I didn’t find it too scary.

    And I’d definitely recommend The Thirteenth Tale. Very atmospheric and if you’re a book lover, this one just works. I think it’s a great crossover book.

  • Becky, I’m glad I’m not along in not liking scary books — or Halloween 🙂 and I’m so glad to hear that you love Frankenstein so much! I’m mostly enjoying Dracula thus far, and I’m looking forward to 13th tale too! It’s always so good to hear the people like the books I’m about to read!

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