It’s strange to me what a big deal Halloween has become. It’s now a major holiday for retailers, with a 2011 survey by the National Retail Federation estimating Americans spend $7 billion on the holiday (we’re not the only ones; this Ottawa Sun article notes Canadians spend about $300 each on Halloween).
I’m not that into it myself. But I like Neil Gaiman‘s idea, which he first posted on his blog in 2010: “I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.”
This “modest proposal” has grown into All Hallow’s Read, a movement to give and read books for Halloween. If you’re not sure you like scary stories, widen your horizon a bit and read something that scares you but might not be filed under horror (political ads are certainly both plentiful and scary this year). For fans of teen dystopia, why not share Shirley Jackson‘s short fiction, including “The Lottery,” published in 1948. In 2010 The New Yorker called it “perhaps the most controversial short story” the magazine has published. It won’t scare you in the slasher-film way; it’s thought-provokingly disturbing and something Hunger Games fans might appreciate.
Gaiman has posted lists of suggested books from various sources and for various ages as well as printables for celebrating All Hallow’s Read’s. One cool link: print a mini book version of The Raven to fold and share. Which brings me to New Hampshire’s Big Read, organized by the NH Center for the Book as part of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read program, and focused on the works of Edgar Allan Poe this fall. Find out more about Poe programming at libraries around the state here.