Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 101: Toxic Books

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hosted by Billy @

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to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

Have you ever read a book or
books you would consider
'toxic' because of the effect it/they
had on you? If so, which one(s)?

(Submitted  by Maria @ 
A Night's Dream of Books)

I totally BLAST the horror genre in this post, 
so, if you're a fan of this genre, 
read no further.

My Answer

There is one book that I would say wins the "Grand Prize for Toxicity" award, although there are some "runner-up" stories. That book is the one pictured above.

Before I start getting into details, I need to explain that I consider one specific literary genre to be HIGHLY toxic, and that's the horror genre. I DETEST this genre with every fiber of my being. Why? The basic answer is: because of its detailed depiction of evil. But there's more. The horror genre thrives on a detailed depiction of FEAR, as well. It painfully depicts the effect of all the evil on helpless human beings. Since fear is a highly unpleasant emotion for me, I do not want to waste any more of my precious time (which I already have wasted, unfortunately, but never again) reading any book which will induce this emotion in me. I do not enjoy feeling TERRIFIED. AT ALL. I also avoid horror movies, for the same reason.

The novel and stories I am mentioning here all belong to the horror genre. Unfortunately, I had to read a few horror stories in high school, as they were required reading. I'm surprised that they were, too, as I attended an all-girl Catholic high school run by nuns. What were those nuns thinking, to assign HORROR stories to their students?!

First, the "runners-up". There's one story by Stephen King. (This one was not assigned reading; I stupidly read it on my own. Lol.) For some reason, I don't remember the title. Unfortunately, I DO remember the plot..... Here is a condensed version: a family moves into a dream home in a beautiful valley where everything is just WONDERFUL. Of course, it's all too good to be true. The price for this paradise-on-earth is a yearly sacrifice to the Devil.... So the family manages to escape one night, with only the clothes on their backs, and they start hitchhiking. They are eventually picked up by a van driven by a middle-aged, friendly hippie couple. Ah, King finally writes a happy ending, right? NOT. Everyone is merrily chatting away,  enjoying themselves, when, without warning, the cute little hippie couple turn into two DEMONS, and the van into a gigantic MOUTH that swallows up the entire family....

Is this enjoyable reading matter? Absolutely NOT. Instead, it's SICK, DISGUSTING, REVOLTING. And, worst of all, it shows THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL. This is totally TOXIC stuff. It poisons the mind and the emotions. Oh, WHY did I read that story?! It has haunted me ever since. I guess I just wanted to see if King was all that scary. Well, he certainly was! I have never touched ANYTHING by him since then. Nor will I do so ever again!

More "runners-up": three SICKENING, NAUSEATING stories by Edgar Alan Poe: "The Telltale Heart", "The Pit and the Pendulum", and "The Cask of Amontillado". These were the stories assigned by the nuns....UGH.

The first story is just totally morbid and sick. A man who is obviously insane murders an old man he had been taking care of, and buries him under the floorboards. The police investigate by coming in to question him. During the questioning, the crazy guy thinks he actually HEARS the beating of the dead man's heart, and it's getting louder and louder.....well, he ends up confessing to the crime, because he just can't TAKE the loud beating of the heart.....

Thankfully, I don't remember much of the plot of "The Pit and the Pendulum", but I do remember that it involves a man getting sawed in half by a swinging pendulum....

The third story, "The Cask of Amontillado", involves a man being tricked into going into a room, attacked, and chained to a wall, while his enemy builds a brick wall, sealing him up alive..... And the man remains callously unaffected by the cries of his victim. I can STILL remember the poor man crying out, over, and over, "For the love of God, Montressor!" Well, obviously, this Montressor guy didn't care about God at all.

All of this stuff is totally morbid, totally SICK. But then, Poe was a very sick guy. Perhaps nowadays he would have been a serial  killer. And I have never understood WHY he is such a revered figure in American literature. For that matter, I can't understand King's appeal at all, either.

And now to the prize winner. I don't know WHAT made me read this book.... I guess it was just morbid curiosity, as it was not assigned reading, either. I was in my twenties when I picked it up. Morbid curiosity? Where did it come from? Did I feel I needed to prove something to myself by reading this ton of garbage? I really have NO idea.

The graphic detail in this novel has, thankfully, receded into my subconscious mind. However, it, like King's story, still haunts me. And with good reason: one of the Goodreads synopses  for this book calls it "the most terrifying novel ever written". I believe it. Absolutely. It was a totally terrifying tale. And the worst part......I could NOT put it down. Why, oh, why, did I subject myself to this?! Did this book bring me any positive emotions? Of course not. What it brought me was a fear so great that, during the week I read it, and even weeks afterward, I could not sleep well at night. I had to go to bed with my bedside lamp on at night, as a matter of fact. The images evoked by this novel were just too terrifying.....

In addition to the graphic depiction of evil, I dislike the fact that both of the exorcists involved in the process of trying to get rid of the demon in the story died. Both of them were Jesuit priests. The first one died due to the high stress of dealing with the demon possessing the young girl in the novel. The other one had lost his faith, but regained it at the last moment, after he had ordered the demon to possess HIM instead of the young girl. He had to throw himself out of a window, thus also destroying the demon -- supposedly. This brings up a question in my mind, though. Once this priest was dead, what was to prevent that demon from possessing the young girl again? Demons are spiritual beings. So this is a flaw in the novel, I think.

When I read novels, or watch movies, in which there are monstrously evil villains, I fully expect these villains to be defeated in the end. In horror novels, however, it's very frequently the case that evil, and not good, triumphs in the end. True, in the case of The Exorcist, the second priest sacrificed his life in order to get rid of the demon. However, the fact that he was killed was definitely a triumph for evil. 

This is in fact the most bothersome aspect of this novel for me. The plot includes two Catholic priests, who supposedly have the power of God to back them up. Yet, both of those priests were ultimately powerless against this demon. This was deeply disturbing to me. How can a demon be more powerful than God Himself?

I'm speaking here as a Christian believer. Of course, those who do not come from a Christian background, or who do not profess a belief in a deity, might see this issue differently. But I'm writing about what was toxic for me, what caused me such terrible anguish that I could not sleep well for WEEKS. 

Ultimately, this novel raised questions about the nature of evil, and why a good God would allow it to exist,  that I just wasn't ready to deal with at the time. I don't think I have satisfactorily resolved this issue even  after all these years, either.  

The worst part of this whole thing is that this novel is based on fact. There was an actual exorcism performed on a young boy in 1949, in St. Louis, Missouri, which is the basis of the plot. The second priest's character was based on two real people, too -- the archeologist Gerald Lankester, and the Jesuit priest William S. Bowdem, who also performed an exorcism in real life.

Reading this horrible book certainly took away any 'morbid curiosity' I might have about any other horror novels! I just wish I could get rid of the permanent, unpleasant feeling of existential unease it left in my mind and soul.... This book really shook my faith. It shouldn't have, but it did. And I totally regret having read it. I also regret having read Poe's and King's stories, as they have also had a permanent, and negative, effect on me. 

Evil is very real. Human beings can reach very depraved levels. However, as a believer in Christianity, I must assert that there IS a devil, and this devil can sometimes possess people. This is an uncomfortable fact, as there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of recorded exorcisms in the history of Christianity. (See links below.)

The horror genre is so toxic precisely because it explicitly deals with   the works of the devil. Instead of uplifting the spirit, it poisons it. The proof is in the reading.

Although it might seem paradoxical, I do like paranormal novels. However, these novels do not deal primarily with the fear factor. And many of the characters in these novels are really not evil. I'm thinking here, of course, of my beloved Twilight Saga. 

Reading should be a pleasant activity. It can at times be exciting, suspenseful, romantic, awe-inspiring, and totally fascinating. I do not ever want it to be terrifying. We have enough terrifying and totally horrible events in real life already. Why would I want to voluntarily subject myself to reading about such things as well?

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  1. I read The Shining once and I really didn't like it so I never got why so many people were into it. But maybe I'll try another King novel at some point.

    1. Hi, Stephanie!

      It sounds like you didn't like the way this King novel was written. I do admit that King is a great writer, but I totally object to the content of his writing.

      I know I'll NEVER EVER read a book by this author!! Look what ONE story did to me....

      Good luck when you read one of his books! You might want to leave the lights on when you do, if you're reading it at

      Thanks for commenting!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

  2. Great post Maria. You raise so many interesting issues.

    Though I do not read a lot of horror I like what I have read and I like films. Your commentary about evil winning in the end in horror stories is making me think, I believe that there are two kinds of horror writers.

    One kind, like Poe, really is showing a dark Universe where people are often helpless in the face of evil and chaos.

    But think there is another kind of story. I have not read the King story that you mention. But many of his books involve a fight between good and evil. There tends to be a moral core in his stories and good usually wins. He has written a lot so I think the tale that you are referring to is a case where he wrote the darker kind of story.

    I understand bing bothered by a certain books. Some books really disturb me even if I think that they are well written.

    Have great weekend!

    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks so much for the compliment!! <3 :)

      Well, to be honest, I haven't read that many books in this genre. I've only read what I mentioned above -- the Blatty novel and those stories.

      You might be right about the two kinds of horror writers, but I know I can't read this genre. Nor can I read anything related to serial killers. Of course, that rules out true crime and thrillers, as well.

      What you're saying about King's novels having a moral core, and good triumphing in the end, really surprises me! Perhaps the story I've mentioned here is a sample of his darker writing, as you say. Still, even if he does have good triumphing in the end, there's just too much emphasis on evil details, as well as that ever-present fear factor, for me to even ATTEMPT to read one of his novels.

      There is one King book I'm very interested in reading, but it's not a horror novel. It's a nonfiction book which gives advice to writers. I don't remember the title right off the top of my head. (For good reason, too, since it's a King book. Lol.) However, I would have to check the Table of Contents first. If any of his chapters deal with advice to horror writers, then FORGET IT.

      Your point about books being disturbing even if they're well-written is a good one. I would certainly put King in this category. He's an excellent writer in regards to style, plot development, and characters (that was evident in the story I read), but his subject matter is SO chilling that I just can't take it!

      I have to admit that Ray Bradbury, who is one of my favorite SF writers, has an element of horror in his stories that makes me VERY uncomfortable. I'm thinking here of "The Illustrated Man" and "The Martian Chronicles". He, too, is an excellent writer (his prose style is nothing short of AMAZING), and I did like some of the stories in these two collections. Others, though.... This is why I've never wanted to read "Something Wicked This Way Comes", or "The October Country". Interestingly, I did not find this element of horror in "Fahrenheit 451", which is one of my favorite SF novels.

      Thanks for the AWESOME comment!! Hope you have a great weekend, too!! We've started ours out with some rain. But this is PERFECT reading weather! Lol. <3 :)

  3. Fabulous answer as always, Maria.

    Any Stephen King book is toxic for me. TOO frightening.

    Horror is toxic to me too....evil is a good word.

    Thanks for your wonderful answer.


    1. Hi, Elizabeth!

      Thanks for the compliment!! <3 :)

      ABSOLUTELY. I feel the very same way!! I won't touch his novels with a TEN-FOOT POLE. Lol.

      Yes, the horror genre deals with evil, and does so in very graphic detail, too. It's very disturbing, and yes, TOXIC.

      You're very welcome for my answer!

      Thanks for the nice comment!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) L)

  4. You know I love my horror, but I also enjoyed reading your thoughts. I too believe there is good and evil in this world and I've said many times, some people are much more evil than any of the monsters I've read about in horror books. That being said, I can admit that books/movies about exorcisms scare me more than anything else. I think it's because I do believe in God and Satan that I find it terrifying for people to be obsessed by evil entities.

    I read horror for enjoyment. I know the books I'm reading are fake. They allow me to forget about the real horror in the world, which I get daily if I turn on the nightly news.

    Thanks for sharing you thoughts. I respect them and they are very well written. And thanks for visiting my blog and being such a regular blogging pal even though you know from time to time you're going to see a scary review/feature.

    You're one of the best! (the pups think so too!)

  5. I don't really have any issues with horror, but I can agree with not like Stephen king. To be honest, he bored the heck out of me. He talks to much, I never actually get to the boring parts before I walk away. Great post and great question!

    Here's my HOP.
    Happy Friday!

    1. Hi, Kymberlee!

      OMG, he actually BORED you?! I could never get bored by one of King's novels, I'm sure. I'd be too busy SCREAMING!!! LOL. I would walk away, too, except that I would do so because of my fear. However, the best thing for me is to not even start reading one of his novels.

      Thank you so much for complimenting the post and the question!! I hope you have a very nice weekend! I'm trying to catch up with all of my commenting. I really appreciate yours!! <3 <3 :) :)

  6. Hi, Barb!

    Awwww....thanks so much for all your compliments!! You are SO SWEET!!

    I can't understand how anyone would read horror "for enjoyment", but I guess there are reading tastes for everyone, right? I definitely appreciate that you respect mine, and that you even complimented me on a well-written post!! That is SO very nice of you!

    I included a warning for all horror fans at the beginning of my answer, but I see it really wasn't necessary, in your case! Lol.

    I'm glad you don't like books about exorcisms, either. Yes, Satan is alive and well, unfortunately, and it totally TERRIFIES me to read about him and his demons actually POSSESSING people. No, I DEFINITELY can't read about such things!!

    Thanks for all your kind words about me being "a regular blogging pal"!! Thanks as well for saying that I'm "one of the best"!! 😘😘😘 The same goes for you and your cute pups!! WOOF, WOOF to them!!

    Thanks for the very lovely comment!!Hope you have a GREAT weekend!! HUGS & SMOOSHY KISSES FOR YOU AND THE BOYS!!!! πŸ’–πŸ˜˜πŸ’–πŸ˜˜πŸ’–πŸ˜˜πŸ’–πŸ˜˜πŸ’–πŸ˜˜πŸ’–

    (I'm on my cell, so you get a bunch omojis!! Lol.)

  7. Detailed answer as always, Maria. Happy Reading!

    1. Hi, Nicki!

      Glad you liked it! I can never write a short post, lol. Happy Reading to you, too, and thanks for stopping by!! <3 :)

  8. This is a good answer. I don't do horror either. I don't see the fascination with being terrified out of your wits. I agree with so many of your points but I don't think I'd necessarily say that the books / genre are/is toxic.
    I think I like the discussion this week's question inspired but I don't like the wording of the question! lol.

    1. Hi, Nicola!

      Thanks for the compliment!! <3 <3

      Yeah, I can't take horror. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who feels this way! And I agree with your statement: "I don't see the fascination with being terrified out of your wits." Very well put!!

      I'm glad you agree with many of my points! It's too bad you don't like the wording of my question, but I do think that some books CAN be toxic, which is the reason I used that specific word.

      According to Google, the word "toxic" means "poisonous". Of course, I didn't intend to use this word in a literal sense; no book can actually poison you and kill you. I used this word in another sense. Although a book can't literally kill you, it can be harmful if it introduces evil ideas and evil fictional events into your mind, in such a way that you are actually deeply affected, in a VERY negative way, by them.

      I also looked up the Merriam-Webster definition of the word "toxic", online. Aside from the basic meaning, which refers to a poisonous substance, there's also the following: "extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful Example: toxic sarcasm".

      Here's the link to the Merriam-Webster definition:

      So you see, reading certain books can be harmful to a person, if, when reading such books, a person feels very unpleasant emotions, such as fear. To me, any book in the horror genre would definitely be toxic, because I would feel fear if I were to read one. Also, I would be exposed to very evil things, told in graphic detail. The effects of such reading on me would be long-lasting, too, because I'm a very sensitive person. They also make me uncomfortable because of my beliefs as a Christian. This is what happened to me when I read "The Exorcist". The fact that the unpleasant effects from reading this book were SO strong means that this book was, indeed, toxic for me.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!! Have a GREAT week!!
      <3 :)

  9. Ooooo, another great question and fabulous answer from you! I love seeing your questions featured in these. You mention a book that scarred me for life (The Exorcist)... and I didn't even read it. Lol. A friend of mine told me about the book; and later, when I was apparently in the throes of insanity, I watched the first 15 minutes of the movie. How can something scare me so badly when I've only heard about it? It just does! I'm an absolute scaredy-cat when it comes to anything having to do with possessions/demons/satanic anything. Though I do like Poe and have enjoyed several King novels (though definitely not the one you've mentioned above -- I wonder which one that is?), I certainly appreciate your stance on those as well. We are all affected differently by certain things; and while I love being kept on the edge of my seat and thrilled, I refuse to read (or watch) anything that is going to make me lose sleep, have to sleep with a light on, or jump at the slightest sound. The last scary (to me) book I attempted was a review book, and I knew then that I had reached an age where I simply could not read things like that anymore. It had me too unsettled, and reading is a pleasure for me -- so mysteries and thrillers? Sure. But no horror. Also, I think it's funny that you mentioned the nuns assigned Poe because my introduction to Poe was assigned reading through the Christian school I attended. What in the world is up with that, Maria?! Lol. I always enjoy reading your thoughts so much. This was a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing, and keep reading what you love and what makes you happy :) *GINORMOUS SQUISHY TACKLE HUGS* <3 <3 <3


    1. Hi, Michele!

      Thanks so much for the compliment!! <3 <3 <3

      You know, some of the participants in this week's hop objected to my use of the word "toxic" to refer to books. I chose this word for a reason. There are books that have a very harmful effect on a reader. "The Exorcist" is DEFINITELY one of them! I never saw the movie, and yet, just from reading the book, look how TERRIBLE I felt!! So yes, I TOTALLY stand by my use of the word "toxic". And besides, many people who saw the movie, at the time it first came out, fainted or threw up because of the HORRIBLE things being shown on the screen. In fact, the movie theaters even had to station nurses and stretchers in The aisles because of this! Now that's certainly TOXIC.

      OMG, you've actually read some of Stephen Hing's novels?! I only read that one story I mentioned above (yes, it's a story, not a novel), and that was IT for me! I won't touch his books with a ten-foot pole! Lol.

      I remember, when I was in my twenties, that Mom used to say she didn't like to read drama anymore. Now that I'm older, I know what she's talking about, lol. But it's not that I can't read drama. It's that I can't handle ANY book that includes terror in it. NO WAY. I can take some drama, as long as there's a happy ending! Lol.

      Oh, so you were introduced to Poe at a Christian school?! And I got my introduction thanks to Catholic nuns!! LOL. LOL. LOL. Yeah, what's up with that?! You would think that such schools would NOT assign this author to their students, right? I mean, nowadays a lot of these schools complain about Harry Potter. Well, GEE. I consider Poe to be REALLY BAD. The Harry Potter books, on the other hand, are just AWESOME, fun to read (although they do have some scary moments, I'll admit), and they stand up for good against evil! So what's the problem?! Poe's stuff is just SICK.

      I'm so glad you liked the post, Michele, even though you read some horror yourself.

      You're very welcome for the sharing!! And thanks again for the compliments and support for my reading books that I can REALLY enjoy!!

      Thanks for the SUPER LOVELY comment, and for being such a WONDERFUL blogging buddy!!! *GINORMOUS SQUISHY TACKLE HUGS BACK!!!!!* <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)


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