I became aware of the term ‘nasty little book’ a while back when I first watched this awesome video. It’s not a bad thing as the name might suggest. On the contrary, it essentially describes a book that is short (around 200 pages or less) that really knows how to get inside your head, crawl beneath your skin and pack a heck of a punch. Given that we are fast approaching Halloween, it seemed the ideal time to recommend some of my personal favourite ‘nasty little books’.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Turn of the Screw is a classic and its popularity has endured for good reason. James mastered the art of less is more and through the eyes of his unreliable narrator, we are never quite sure if the story is one of a terrifying haunting or the depiction of one woman’s slow descent into madness. Either way, it’s a chilling, breathless read.
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan
This book left me so conflicted, as I was simultaneously rooting for the main characters whilst cringing at their actions during their eventual slip from reality. When a family of children become orphaned and cover up their mother’s death through fear of being separated into care homes, you can’t help but sympathise with their misguided efforts to shut out the world and live a self-contained existence, but their own oblivious ignorance has devastating consequences.
Real World by Natsuo Kirino
Translated from the original text by the Japanese ‘Queen of Crime’, Real World follows the viewpoints of several teenagers, one of whom is a boy who murders his own mother in the opening pages of the book and four of whom are the girls who all become embroiled in the fallout in some capacity. It’s about living in a fantasy world vs reality and the importance of facing the consequences of our actions, but reading from the viewpoint of a remorseless teen killer is enough to send shivers up your spine.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
The story of The Woman in Black was made famous a few years ago by the very popular and creepy movie adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe, but it all started with this short yet powerful novella released some years prior. The epitome of a classic ghost story, it will have you looking over your shoulder for a long time after you turn the final page.
Have you read any of these? What ‘nasty little books’ do you recommend?