Maybe it's the tear-like salt in the air, or the searing of flesh in the hot summer sun, but nothing gets us ready for the beach like a terrifying horror novel! We've put together a list of our ten favorite books to read in the sand; some are supernatural, many feature serial killers, and all are dog-eared and salt water-stained.
by Peter Benchley
Of course you've seen the movie. Everyone's seen the movie, and a lot of people watch it at the beach. But have you read the novel that inspired the flick? When we say "made for the shore" we mean it with Jaws. Benchley could get in your head with his shark attacks if you were in the desert! Imagine reading it at the scene of the crime. Go ahead, read the opening scene where poor Chrissie gets chomped during a night swim, and then go for a night swim yourself. We dare you!
by Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton knows how to get under the skin of his readers! In this tale of scientists-playing-god that spawned one of the biggest (and come on, let's admit it, coolest) blockbusters ever, we get loads of science theory, thrilling chases, daring escapes, and terrifying monsters from the past! Even if this ambitious little number didn't start with one of the freakiest beach scenes we've ever read, we'd still recommend it as an awesome read for the summer months!
The Bone Collector
by Jeffery Deaver
This serial-killer suspense tale by Jeffery Deaver is the first in the "Lincoln Rhyme" series of crime novels. It has all the right ingredients for a perfect beach read. It's got kills clever enough for a Saw sequel. It's two main protagonists, a hot-headed female beat-cop and a quadriplegic CSI genius, play the sensei/student roles to perfection. And, most importantly, this book is gory and gruesome!
by Thomas Harris
A masterpiece is a masterpiece is a masterpiece. Can you guess how we feel about Hannibal Lector's first appearance in print? Of all the serial-killer, crime investigating, gumshoe-in-over-his-head books out there, none chill quite as acutely as Thomas Harris's Red Dragon. With Pina Colada in your left hand and this book in your right you're sure to have a memorable summer. If you've only seen the movies, do yourself a favor: buy a beach badge, bury your feet in the sand, and sink into the vivid and terrifying world of Lector and serial killer Francis Dolarhyde.
The Hellbound Heart
by Clive Barker
Sometimes a trip to the ocean requires less commitment from the reader. We understand, you're there with friends and family, they pull at your attention constantly, you want a quick read you can finish in a day. So if you've got to read a short story at the beach, you should make sure it's one of the most depraved out there. Clive Barker's The Hellbound Heart definitely takes the cake in the depravity department. Read about torture and pleasure, about flesh rending from bone, about sex and death and demons and perversity... and finish it as the sun sets on the sand!
By stephen King
If you weren't expecting to see Stephen King on this list then there's something wrong with you. And of all his horror reads, none capture the joy of a summer read like the story of a kidnapped author and his biggest fan in Misery. The opening scene describes waves of unbearable pain like seawater lashing up on a jetty. And nothing cools you down on a hot day at the beach like reading about snow storms and impromptu leg surgery.
by Stephen White
Here's a book about a psychologist who may be treating an active serial killer that falls closer into the mystery genre than any other entry we mention here. But we love it like a horror novel for a few reasons (all of which also qualify this book for a sit by the water read). It deals intensely with the psychology of serial killers and crazed people. It also plods along with increasing dread and suspense as the book goes on. And, finally, like so many of the books on this list, it is bloody as hell!
The Amityville Horror: A True Story
by Jay Anson
This horrifying book, purportedly the true story of events that happened to George and Kathy Lutz as they moved into a haunted Dutch Colonial, may take place over a few weeks in December but it's a dream to read on the beach. Anson's details about the family's paranormal misfortunes build in intensity and drama, and it all reads like a detective researching the case. And if you, like a lot of people, stay at a strange, rented, creaking summer house than this book about a scary abode will definitely hit close to home.
by Jack Ketchum
Some people collect seashells at the seashore. The antagonists in Ketchum's first novel collect teeth, hair, bones, and guts at the seashore. But hey, different strokes for different folks, right? This cautionary tale about Carla's late summer getaway turns gruesome quick, and the peek into the minds of the cannibalistic locals that haunt the nearby caves will have locking your screen doors at night and booking your next vacation splat in the middle of summer!
by Dean Koontz
Finally, if all this intricate plotting, gruesome murdering, and in depth characterizing is too much for your vacation, try some lighter fare with Odd Thomas. This story of a short order cook who does good deeds with the help of ghosts brims with Koontz's clean, crisp writing. His titular character/narrator is an easy, breezy blast to read and the perfect end to a nice long summer vacation.
So tell us, did we miss any classics? Which salty paperbacks on your shelf still have sand in their spines?