A legend of horror, action, and science fiction film, John Carpenter has crafted a slew of cult classics since releasing the groundbreaking, low-budget masterpiece Halloween in the late ’70s. Born in Carthage, New York, in 1948, his career has spanned more than four decades, over which he’s written, directed, and scored some of the most influential sequences in cinematic history.

Following the cultural fervor of Halloween – the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Hitchcock’s Psycho – Carpenter’s name became synonymous with the horror genre, and he continued to showcase his storytelling and suspense skills in ’80s hits like Escape from New York, The Thing, Starman and Big Trouble in Little China. Working to this day, he recently revisited the Halloween franchise, serving as composer and executive producer on the 2018 sequel Halloween and its followups, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends.

In a 2015 interview with the New York Post, Carpenter spoke on the literature that shaped his lifelong love of sci-fi and horror. From H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King, explore his all-time favorites books below, and find more terrifying tales on the reading lists of Kirk Hammett and R.L. Stine.

John Carpenter’s Reading List

Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural edited by P.C. Wagner and H. Wise

“My father got me this book when I was a teenager. I was a science-fiction and horror fan of movies from the ’50s. This is a collection of amazingly creepy stories by Edgar Allen Poe, Henry James and more. My favorite? Maybe H.P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Rats in the Walls.'” -JC

The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft

“It’s a very early, almost science-fiction tale. A meteor lands on this farmer’s property, and it begins to change everybody. Lovecraft wrote some really terrifying stuff. He has a lot of flaws as a writer, but he invented ethos, an inversion of Christianity: that the old ones lived on the earth before we did, were expelled, and are waiting to take over.” -JC

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

“I’ve known Stephen King a long time. He did one great kindness for me: He invited me to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the year the Doors were inducted. It was great! This is one of his scariest books ever. Those dead pets buried in the cemetery come back alive, but they’re not the same.” -JC

Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss

“This is a true-crime story about the Green Beret, Jeffrey MacDonald, who was convicted of killing his wife and kids. It’s a celebrated book, and it was one that had me up at night walking around, because it’s so disturbing. Awful, awful, awful! It’s about the darkness in humanity. All I can do is to suggest that you read it.” -JC

(via NY Post; photo by Nathan Hartley Maas)

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