A Book About Something That Scares You: Staff Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020

April 20, 2020 | Wendy B.

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Maybe this category is a bit on-the-nose for the current historical moment: several readers in the TPL Reading Challenge Facebook group recommended books about pandemics for this category. But sometimes it can be comforting to face your fears head-on – and sometimes it can be pleasantly distracting to sink into some purely imaginary fears. Either way, here are the books library staff and readers recommend for the TPL Reading Challenge category, "a book about something that scares you".


Staff Recommendations

An Anthropologist on Mars

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks

I've always thought of the possibility of something going wrong in my brain with fear and fascination. If our perceptions, behaviour and memory can all change because of some chemical or mechanical accident, who are we really? Oliver Sacks's books, especially his early ones, both provoke this fear and soothe it. The people in his case studies incorporate their neural peculiarities into growing, evolving, creative selves. 

– Wendy, Digital Content Lead



Peeps by Scott Westerfeld 

This is a YA vampire, action (and kind of romance) novel. Rather than being about the supernatural it's about a new parasite that causes symptoms we'd associate with vampirism – and it's also transmittable from human to human. When I first picked it up, I thought it would be right up my alley, and I had no idea the terror I was in for. You see, every other chapter follows the story. The in between chapters... Well, they're facts about real-life parasites. And boy, are some of them creepy.

I'd recommend this for someone who wants a bit of an ick factor, a bit of a creep factor, but not out-and-out fear! Ages 14 and up.

– Amy, Communications Officer


Afterlife with Archie

Afterlife with Archie comics, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Francesco Francavilla

Awesome and seriously creepy! You can find ten "Teen+"-rated issues set in a zombiefied Riverdale through Hoopla.

– Jen, Librarian


The Memory Police

The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

I am always scared of losing my memory and in this book, various objects and memories of said objects are removed from the residents of an island. Very creepy. Just shortlisted for the International Booker.

– Catherine, Services Specialist 


The World Without Us

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

It's humbling to know that nature will still persevere after we are gone. But it's daunting and scary to know how we've damaging our precious Earth at the rate that we have been. Lastly, just the thought that the Earth may truly be better off without us.

– Elsa, Senior Services Specialist


Jaws by Peter Benchley

It was a New York Times bestseller, then made into a movie. I saw the movie as a kid at the drive-in and it scared the heck out of me. I borrowed it recently as a DVD and watched it at home and guess what? It still scared the heck out of me! I'm sure the book is even more suspenseful than the movie.

– Susan, Public Service Assistant



Spiders by Selina Wood

Any of the many books in our collection entitled "Spiders", but this one in particular because I couldn't even look at the cover without getting frightened!

– Michael, Librarian


Savage Appetites

Savage Appetites by Rachel Monroe

This book focuses on the true crime phenomena and touches on several things that scare me: murder, death, miscarriage of justice, wrongful conviction, unduly long prison sentences and a justice system fueled by retribution rather than empathy. I appreciated this book, because it allows the reader to critically analyze their own fears and the potential impact of their reactions to those fears.

– Myrna, Librarian


The Book of M

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd

A virus is spreading throughout the world. People lose their shadows, then their memories, their identities, everything. All of that is pretty terrifying. It is a heartbreaking book from the perspective of a couple: Max and Ory. Max has lost her shadow, and Ory is desperately trying to protect her while watching her fade away.

– Margaret, Librarian



Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah

Homes is the true story of Abu, a teen from Syria, and his family just before and during the Syrian civil war. The thought of experiencing war is one of my biggest fears. It is a truly inspirational story about the resilience of young people and people in general during times of adversity.

– Nalini, Branch Head



Blindness by Jose Saramago

An epidemic (okay, maybe too much for right now?) of blindness spreads and those who are afflicted are quarantined to an institution and left to take care of themselves. Order is quickly lost and some cruel, selfish people take control. The protagonist is the only person to retain her vision but keeps that fact to herself so she can help others. It is terrifying but shows a lot of humanity and how vulnerable and connected we are to each other. I probably read this book close to when it came out in the late 90s and it still haunts me.

– Nancy, Senior Department Head

Everything Under the Sun

Everything Under the Sun: Toward a Brighter Future on a Small Blue Planet by David Suzuki

I lost many nights of sleep while and after reading all the challenges and damages humans have caused. The first 1/2 of the book was very hard to get through because it really seemed like no one cared for our precious Earth. Though the latter half brought me some hope but we still have much to do!

– Elsa, Senior Services Specialist


Salem's Lot

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King 

Although classified as a vampire novel, it reads as an allegory. Is there such a thing a pure evil? Can it be fought? Written by the master of suspense it shows the gradual infiltration of evil in a small town America. This frightened and fascinated me at the same time. I could not read it at night in bed.

– Tom, Services Specialist
Everythings Eventual

Everything's Eventual by Stephen King

This book contains a story, Autopsy Room Four, that had been previously published in another compilation five years earlier, which just goes to show its resonance with readers. I've read a lot of King's work, horror and drama alike, but this story about a paralyzed man who wakes up during his own autopsy has lingered in the recesses of my mind.

– Christine, Library Assistant


The Sheep Look Up

The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner 

A futuristic look at a global society where the air pollution is so bad that everyone wears gas masks. The infant mortality rates are soaring and new diseases and physical ailments are commonplace. The water is undrinkable unless poverty leaves you with no choice. Large corporations fight over profits from gas masks, drinking water and clean food. Corporate profit and wealth is the government's primary concern. This title hits so close to home these days it's almost prophetic, particularly for the USA.

– Paula, Senior Services Specialist


Recommendations from the Facebook Group

These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2020 discussion group.

Available in Print and Digital Formats



Available in Print Only


What did you read for this category? What topics scare you? Share in the comments below, or join our Facebook group!