A towering figure in the field of contemporary horror, author and poet Peter Straub is celebrated for crafting haunting tales that plumb the depths of human psychology and fear. Born in Milwaukee in 1943, he studied English at Colombia before moving to Dublin to begin novel writing in earnest.
Straub’s early works, including 1979’s Ghost Story and 1980’s Shadowland, showcased a distinctive narrative prowess, blending supernatural elements with chilling character development. But it was his 1984 collaboration with Stephen King on The Talisman – a masterpiece of fantasy and horror – that elevated him to literary stardom. With notable followups like Mystery and In the Night Room, Straub continued to delve into the darker recesses of human experience, firmly establishing himself as a luminary of literary suspense.
Sharing 6 of his favorite books with The Week, Straub recommended spine-tingling reads by Hilary Mantel, Susan Hill and Henry James. Check out his reading list below, and complement with the bookshelves of Stephen King and Anne Rice.
Peter Straub’s Reading List
“This ominous, coruscating novel seems to derive from a visionary childhood experience of absolute evil that Mantel once described in a memoir. Alison, the weary, spirit-beset psychic at the core of the book, has learned this about messages from the dead: ‘You don’t want them and you can’t send them back.'” -PS
The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill
“In this utterly English ghost story, an elderly Cambridge don narrates a tale to a one-time student. That story is a vehicle for another nested within it — of a brutal, inexplicable occurrence during a long-ago Venetian revel. You cannot do this kind of thing better than Hill does.” -PS
The Jolly Corner by Henry James
“Both a great ghost story and a classic doppelgänger narrative, this lovely novella concerns a New York native who returns to the city of his birth after decades in London. What might have he become had he stayed in his vulgar homeland? A night spent wandering the empty rooms of the mansion where he grew up provides a chilling revelation.” -PS
The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson
“A Mormon teenager discovers that his father’s infidelity may have given him a half brother, and he contrives to meet this sibling while he’s researching a murder from the past that was hushed up by the Mormon Church. Subtly but irrevocably, the world and the protagonist’s selfhood become estranged. This is one of the bravest, most searching novels I know.” -PS
“For me, this is Gaiman’s most successful foray into adult fiction, though delivered with the emotional directness of Stardust and Coraline. An unnamed narrator explores the rural Sussex of his childhood, with unsettling results.” -PS
The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“A schizophrenic girl becomes fascinated by a painting in a museum. A few years later, she meets a homeless young woman and invites her to share her apartment. After that, most of this beautiful novel is up for grabs, including whether or not this new roommate is ‘the drowning girl’ in the painting.” -PS
(via The Week; photo by Yui Mok)
Looking for an Amazon alternative? Support local, independent booksellers by shopping Peter Straub’s reading list – and hundreds of other celebrity book recommendations – through Radical Reads’ Bookshop page.