Looking for Monsters Under the Bed

I bet I’m not alone in occasionally looking for monsters under the bed, in the basement and behind the closet door. But most of my favorite monsters lurk on my bookshelves and in electronic files on my e-reader. I like fictional monsters.

Yes, there are plenty of real monsters out there. There are, in no particular order, killers, sexual predators, identity thieves, corrupt politicians, malicious bullies, power mad bosses, drunks behind the wheels of speeding cars and really, really bad writers. Yes, I put the awful storytellers in the mix because sometimes I feel oppressed by a bad book.

That brings me back to my bookshelves. Between the historic monsters (the dictators and terrorists of history), the fabled monsters (the creatures of myths, legends and fairy tales), and the criminals in my all time favorite murder mysteries, my shelves are monster-centric. What does that say about me? Do I only read about death, destruction and doom? No, of course not.

I read other kind of books too. I have my share of Jane Austen and there’s nothing remotely monstrous about any of the characters in ‘Pride & Prejudice.’ Even the horrible cousin destined to inherit the family’s house is a mere social monster — inept and boring, but not lethal.

So what’s behind this Monster/Non-Monster mix? I think that the killers in the romantic suspense novels, murder mysteries, horror and urban fantasy/paranormals need to be balanced with the little social monsters, petty boobs and bores in less dramatic fare. A steady diet of vampires, serial killers and master criminals would need to be fed by ever more violent, dramatic and deadly stories — by spicing up the reading list with a Regency Romance, a comedy of manners or a biography of a historical figure, I am still easily scared by ALL my different monsters. I’m not calloused and even that first drop of blood sends a chill down my spine.

The variety lessens the chances of me becoming desensitized and that’s important to me. I want to feel that sudden chill — even if it’s expected —and I never want to be too jaded to enjoy it. So that’s how the biography of Mary Shelley winds up between a novel by Vladimir Nabokov and short stories by Margaret Atwood. Mix it up and have fun. You’ll find all sorts of monster stories, everywhere you look.


  1. I enjoyed yr blog thanks! You hit the nail on the head.. My books are a mix too of all sorts of genres and I am desperate when I do not have a book on hand as is the case right now. I have been traveling with my American friend who left this evening to return to the states (we’vebeen to Thailand, vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and I leave for home in South Africa tomorrow. My friend read 2 of my books on my kindle and now I have no battery left! But I am happy to read yr blog! Recently read Edward St. Aubyn’s book The Patrick Melrose Novels. brilliant. My blog is http://www.gardenofedenblog.com. Susan

    • Candy

      Charge up that Kindle!
      I was in Berlin for three weeks last August. It was my first trip with a Kindle and not only did I not have to run to the English language section of bookstores, I was NEVER without something to read.

      Your trip sounds fabulous and I will check out your blog later today.

  2. Laughed out loud at your addition of bad storytellers to the list of monsters. I’ve got a few on my Kindle because I haven’t yet worked out how to get rid of them!

    My non-virtual bookshelves are much like yours, a very mixed bag going all the way back to my childhood. Dostoeyevski next to Ayn Rand cheek by jowl with Henry James and some other hoary gentlemen and a lot of Ursula K. LeGuin, C.J.Cherryh, Tad Williams, China Mieville….. I even have some old style vampires courtesy of Anne Rice. About the only things you won’t find on my shelves are dedicated romance novels and modern vampire/werewolf/zombie stories.I just don’t find them satisfying – too much icing and not enough cake.

    • Candy

      Yes, I do agree that many of the paranormal romances and urban fantasy fall short of the classics, but I think the genre has the potential to offer a satisfying fiction meal with CAKE and frosting. It’s funny but with all the cupcake specialty shops opening up, I asked one of my cupcake eating friends why she was such a fanatic. She said, without a thought to the humor of her words, that it’s the ratio of cake to frosting. The cupcake tips in the direction of frosting, while the cake shifts the ratio to cake with less frosting.

      I guess some of those paranormal romances are cupcakes!