Presenting Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the scandalous The Broke and the Bookish.
I’m a bit of a horror buff, and I pride myself on my ability to stomach all sorts of nastiness (doesn’t go well on a résumé though.) Still, there are some books and scenes that have made even my stomach churn, whether through personal aversion, or sheer author brilliance.
So without further word vomit, here goes the Top Ten Books that Made me Upchuck (or at least want to.)
- The Abominable by Dan Simmons
Simmons has a certain flair for the descriptive, and the common denominator running through his vast amount of work is a talent for the grotesque. While a number of great, gory scenes spring to mind, including the above title’s description of what happens when a body falls down a mountain, the winner is the Sky Burial scene.
A Sky Burial is a Tibetan ritual where a corpse, unable to be interred in the rocky, frozen ground, is cut into pieces and fed to eager vultures. The concept is gross, yeah. But Simmons’ vivid description will leave scars on your eyeballs for all time.
- The Troop by Nick Cutter
Summoning Cronenbergian body horror and all your childhood worm traumas, there’s an invasive quality to Cutter’s aggressive narrative of a troop of boy scouts stranded on an island. It wriggles its way into your skin (terrible pun intended.) Don’t eat spaghetti while reading.
- Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
God, this book. Gross mostly for its relentless obsession with a certain male bodily fluid, but there’s a point to Burroughs’ surreal, impossible novel. Certainly intended to shock and digust, Burroughs explains how his novel is a missive against the barbaric practice of capital punishment. “…let them see what they actually eat and drink. Let them see what is on the end of that long newspaper spoon.”
- The Cobra Event by Richard Preston
I don’t know if this is objectively nasty, or if I was probably too young when I read it. The book centers around a malevolent virus that induces auto-anthropophagy. You basically eat yourself.
- Bird Box by Josh Malerman
Bird Box isn’t a gory novel per se, although it is a great one. But there’s a specific scene involving an umbilical cord that haunts me (and anyone with a uterus) long after the end of the book.
- Uzumaki by Junji Ito
I saw the excellent film Uzumaki before reading the trio of graphic novels telling the story of a curse on a town that involves spirals. Sounds innocuous, right? Well, the residents take the obsession with the spiral to the extreme, to the extent that they try to emulate that shape with their bodies. Snails are cool, right?
- Crash by J.G. Ballard
Characters obsessed with car crashes to the point they disfigure themselves in wrecks. Cold cities of concrete and steel. Preoccupation with that apparently ubiquitous male bodily fluid (It’s sperm, ok. We’re all adults.)
- The Angola Horror by Charity Vogel
This is a true story about a horrific train wreck that ended in a fiery death for many of the passengers involved. There’s a particularly horrifying description of the “pugilistic position,” an effect of fire on the body where it curls in on itself in a fetalistic fashion. When applied to the real world corpses of the tragic trainwreck, it becomes nearly unbearable.
- The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown
If you think you know the story of the Donner Party, well, you probably don’t. Just wait until you reach the part where they divide out the meat to make sure no one eats their own relative
- Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
If you think this is a cliched choice for a gross book, it probably is. But the hype surrounding the nastiness of Haunted is well deserved. Let’s just say that due to a certain pool drain incident, this book ruined both corn and vitamins for me.