The 25 Scariest Books of All Time

Do yourself a favor: Don’t read these scary books right before bed.

By Daryl Chen and Emma Taubenfeld for Reader’s Digest

So here’s the thing. It’s not my thing. That being said, or written, I know many of you just love the heck out of this genre. So knock yourselves out. What a minute, that’s inappropriate. That should happen while you read, I mean to the hero/heroine. That’s the least of what’s gonna happen, right?

I’m not going to give you any kind of description of what you’re in for, should you decide to chance fate and read one of these books. I’m having none of it. I’m just leaving a clue (a link) so you can decide to give it a shot (Sorry, inappropriate again) or not. The link is as far as I go with this craziness, the closest I will get to the blood, guts and gore. (sorry).

I won’t sleep well tonight knowing some of you will be foolish enough to risk permanent scared-out-of-my-wits syndrome. As for me, it’s reruns of Happy Days.

Be careful my friends, very, very careful !

Your Link: The Scariest Books of All Time | Reader’s Digest (

Book it: 10 works that will transport you around the world

By Lois Alter Mark, Special to USA TODAY 10 Best

Need to get away ?  Try these 10 books first.

You can “book” a trip anywhere with these reads

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are,” said writer Mason Cooley.

Books can transport you to places you may never get to visit in real life – and make you feel like you’ve actually been there.

Here are 10 books – fiction, memoir, aspirational travel guides – that will take you around the world without ever leaving your couch.

a close up of a sign: Travel to Alaska © Lois Alter Mark Travel to Alaska

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

This unforgettable novel, by bestselling author Kristin Hannah, takes you deep into the Alaskan wilderness in a way you’ll never experience on a traditional outing.

The story, which takes place in 1974, follows a family to America’s last true frontier to live off the grid. Like the land itself, it features moments of danger, untamed wildness and pure beauty. The book’s sense of place is so rich and so real, you’ll want to savor this epic tale wrapped up in a cozy blanket.

a close up of a sign: Visit Italy vicariously © National Geographic Visit Italy vicariously

“Always Italy” by Frances Mayes and Ondine Cohane

It may be a while before any of us get to visit Italy in person again but you can experience la dolce vita via this gorgeous book, featuring page after page of off-the-beaten-path destinations, insider secrets and more than 350 photos from National Geographic.

Authors Frances Mayes (who wrote “Under the Tuscan Sun”) and Ondine Cohane (an acclaimed travel writer who lives in Southern Tuscany) are the perfect guides, sharing their secrets about everything from the best pizza in Rome to must-see architecture in Florence, revealing an Italy that only the locals know.

a group of people holding a sign: Travel to Kenya © Lois Alter Mark Travel to Kenya

“Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum” by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner

Kibera, Kenya’s biggest slum, is home to SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities), one of the country’s biggest successes, and one of its biggest love stories.

Kennedy Odede, who grew up amidst unimaginable poverty and violence in Kibera, started SHOFCO as a local youth group. When he fell in love with Jessica Posner, a Wesleyan student who came to work there, the two created miracles, even building an exceptional school for girls.

I visited Kibera and SHOFCO on the Women’s Journey to Kenya last summer, and was deeply touched to get to see the people and places that had inspired me to make this life-changing trip in the first place.

a close up of text on a white background: Travel to places so remote, you can't get there by car © David De Vleeschauwer, Remote Places to Stay, gestalten 2019 Travel to places so remote, you can’t get there by car

“Remote Places to Stay” by Debbie Pappyn and David De Vleeschauwer

The authors, known for stepping far away from the path, have found 22 of the most remote places on earth. From the Arctic to Namibia, many of them take effort to reach – you can only get to some of them on foot, others only by train, boat or bush plane.

But once you see these breathtaking spaces, including a private island and a secret convent, your shoulders will relax, your jaw will unclench and you’ll understand that sometimes the journey makes the destination even more appealing.

a close up of a sign: Experience Patagonia via bike © Lois Alter Mark Experience Patagonia via bike

“To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life with No Regret” by Jedidiah Jenkins

Believing that sometimes you have to go somewhere else to gain perspective on your life, Instagram sensation Jedidiah Jenkins quit his dream job to spend sixteen months pedaling 14,000 miles on a bike.

About to turn thirty, he started asking himself what makes a life worth living. Grappling with the struggle to reconcile his sexual identity with his evangelical Christian upbringing, he embarked on a spiritual quest that would challenge him physically, mentally and emotionally.

He brings readers along for a ride that is, at turns, joyful, monotonous, painful and fulfilling but always honest. He teaches us, “If discontent is your disease, travel is your medicine.”

a close up of a sign: Travel to Tulum, Mexico © Olivela Travel to Tulum, Mexico

“Tulum Gypset” by Julia Chaplin

If there was ever a perfect place for the Gypset (gypsy + jetset) lifestyle, this Mexican hideaway is it.

An eight-mile stretch of sand along the Yucatan Peninsula, Tulum is tucked between a tropical jungle, Mayan ruins and the Sian Ka’an biosphere, making it a highly-coveted destination for those seeking sun and spirituality. With over 200 lush photos, this book does what its subject does – it heals and fosters connection – and just may make you consider a new way of life.

a close up of a sign: Visit the national parks © Lois Alter Mark Visit the national parks

“Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park” by Conor Knighton

This fascinating memoir documents the year-long journey of Conor Knighton, Emmy-winning correspondent for “CBS Sunday Morning,” to visit all 59 national parks – a must-do travel item shared by many.

After a broken engagement, Knighton substitutes a hiking path for the aisle he was supposed to be walking down on his wedding day – and, for the next 12 months, he just keeps walking. Exploring the parks – their landscape, their history, the people he meets in them – through his eyes is likely to whet your appetite to head to the parks yourself one day.

Peek behind the gates of the Hamptons © Olivela Peek behind the gates of the Hamptons

“The Big Book of the Hamptons” by Michael Shnayerson

If you can’t afford an actual house there, this (literally) “Big Book of the Hamptons” is the next best thing.

Long Island’s East End, the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby,” has always been a retreat for New York’s elite – and thousands who team up to spend summer weekends in a rental by the beach.

This stunning book, featuring the estates and gardens of one of the most iconic and extravagant neighborhoods in the world, takes you behind the multi-million dollar shrubs and shows you why the longer-every-year drive on gridlocked Montauk Highway is still worth it.

a dog that has a sign on a wall: Be a guest at Highclere Castle © Lois Alter Mark Be a guest at Highclere Castle

“At Home At Highclere: Entertaining at The Real Downton Abbey” by The Countess of Carnarvon

Although you can’t visit Highclere Castle right now, you can get an insider’s look at the Crawleys’ iconic home through this juicy book written by the real Lady of the house, The Countess of Carnarvon.

There are gorgeous photos of spaces that “Downton Abbey” fans will recognize immediately, along with personal stories from Lady C. She even shares her private recipes, so you can turn your own home into your castle.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Travel to cabins around the world © Cabin Porn Travel to cabins around the world

“Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere” by Zach Klein, Steven Leckart and Noah Kalina

What began as a project in upstate New York has become a global movement, with people around the world hand-building homes in idyllic locations and settling in for a simpler life.

This bestseller features photos of hundreds of jaw-dropping cabins to provide inspiration, but it’s the stories behind them that just may encourage you to embark on a project of your own. Because it will be custom-made to your every desire on the site of your dreams, you may find yourself feeling so content, you’ll happily just stay put.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network, providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world, in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

How To Remember What You Read

By ShereeKUWTP

It’s all well and good to read a lot of books. You flip those pages every night before bed, at every bus stop, and on every lunch break. You watch your bookshelf pile up with tomes you’ve torn through in record time. But what good is all that effort if you don’t remember what you read?

Remembering what you read is where it’s at. A friend of mine Tweeted the other day that they got half-way through reading a book and realised they had already read it – and that ain’t good! If you’re in the same boat, you’re in luck, because this happens to be my specialty. See, in a former life, I was a psychology graduate (with first class honours, thank you very much!). When I started thinking about what I could tell my friend on how to remember what you read, my brain instantly whirred into cognitive psychology mode, throwing up theories of memory processing and forgetting curves. The fact that I remember any of that stuff – stuff I read in textbooks over five years ago – should be the proof in this bloggy pudding. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all technical on you – here are my best, practical tips on how to remember what you read.

Get Familiar

Before you even open a book, you should get familiar with what you’re about to read. This applies equally to fiction and non-fiction. If you’re about to read the memoir of a prominent member of the French Resistance, you probably want to have some background knowledge on WWII. Likewise, if you’re reading a fictional story set in 19th century London, you’ll understand (and therefore remember) a lot more of what’s going on if you’ve got some basic background knowledge to start off with.

It doesn’t have to be a long and drawn-out research process. Usually, just reading the introduction is enough – it will usually give you some kind of political and socio-economic context for a work of fiction, or a background on the author and the subject matter for non-fiction. If you want to go a little deeper, you’ve probably got a device in your pocket (or maybe you’re holding it in front of your face right now!) that can connect you to literally everything you might need to know about that book. So, really, it’s not that hard! 😉

I really should have done this myself when I read A Passage To India. There was no introduction in my edition, but I forged ahead without taking the time to research any further, and I ended up having to stop and Google things constantly as I was reading.


The idea of remaining actively engaged in a single pursuit for any extended period of time is kind of a joke in the age of instant notifications and the 24-hour news cycle. Believe me when I say, though, that you’ll notice a huge difference in how you remember what you read if you make an effort. Don’t have the TV on “in the background”, don’t check your phone, don’t cook dinner with one hand and hold your book with the other (besides being bad for memory, that’s just dangerous!). Even if you can only give 20 minutes of focused attention per day, or 10 minutes, or 3 precious minutes before your kids wake up, do it. Take whatever time you can to focus wholly and solely on what you’re reading.

In fact, it’s probably better to do it that way. Even without modern distractions, the average human brain has trouble staying completely focused for long stretches, but finds it relatively easy to maintain focus for shorter periods of time. Find whatever time period is optimal for you, and commit to using it for focused reading every day.

Sure, it might take you months to get through a book if you’re reading it in ten-minute bursts, but so what? It’s a huge mistake to get all hung up on reading “fast”. Burning through a book quickly is actually detrimental to your recall. When you space out your reading – a few chapters here, a few chapters there – you force your brain to shift the new information from working memory to long-term storage (because you’re going to need it later when you pick it up again). It’ll stick around in long-term storage for a while, especially seeing as you’re rehearsing the memory every time you go to knock out a few more pages. If you read the entire book in a single sitting, your brain doesn’t need to store as much information – after all, you’re not going to need to remember where to pick it up again, are you? Your brain will abandon all that lovely gooey information in favour of something more valuable that it will actually need later. So, read in short, focused bursts, and you’ll find you retain a lot more.

Think About What You’re Reading

I know, I know, this sounds laughably obvious, but hear me out! You’d be surprised at how many of us read passively, not really thinking about what we’re taking in and just letting the words wash over us. That can feel really good (like mindlessly binge-watching 22 episodes of a ’90s sitcom), but it’s not great if you’ve set a goal of remembering what you read.

So, what’s the easiest way to engage your brain? Challenge it! Find ways to put it to work. Your brain is like a border collie: it wants work to do, and if you don’t give it any, it’s going to run off and find something else to play with (or take a nap in the sun).

Try these tricks to get your brain into gear as you’re reading:

  • Ask yourself questions about what you’re reading as you go. “Why would the protagonist do that? Is it what I would do if I were in her shoes? What do I like about the way this author writes? What’s the point that the author is trying to get across here?” It sounds really basic, but pausing after every few pages and posing a question like this to yourself will force your brain to actively engage with the content to formulate an answer, and that’s, like, nine-tenths of the effort getting it to store the information for recall later.
  • Pause and visualise a scene or a character. Imagine what they look like, what they sound like, and make the whole thing as vivid as possible using the details that the author has given you.
  • Link what you’re reading to things that you already know. That could mean putting the background knowledge to use, or it could simply mean finding parallels between the book and your life experience. Say the author mentions someone’s birthday – see if you can figure out a way to remember that (maybe it’s the same day as your wedding anniversary, or a week before a major public holiday).
  • Stop at the end of each section or chapter, and try to paraphrase what you’ve just read to yourself. What happened? What did the author explain? What new information came to light? What do you need to remember?

Bonus: these tips won’t just help you remember what you read, they’ll also help you understand and apply what you read, so it’s a win-win-win!

Take Notes

For me, this is the most crucial step in remembering what I read. I’m constantly pausing to scribble something down – a great line, a thought I’ve had about a character, something interesting the author has done with perspective… In fact, it was these notebooks full of scribbles that gave rise to Keeping Up With The Penguins! 😉

There are different schools of thought as to whether it’s “okay” (or even optimal) to write in the books themselves – notes in the margins, highlighting or underlining the text, etc. At the end of the day, whether you choose to write in your books is between you and whatever God you believe in. I’m from the school that says writing in books is sacrilegious, and I will never, ever do it as long as I live. That’s why I always have a notebook on me when I’m reading. I never write essays or anything particularly long-winded – it’s mostly bullet-points and diagrams, sometimes a paragraph or two if I’m really moved by what I’m reading.

The most important thing about taking notes is that you take them, regardless of how or where. Find a method that works for you, one that you’re likely to stick with. It might sound like a chore, but if your goal is remembering what you read, this is probably the best thing you can do – writing information down helps you to remember it, whatever your learning style, whatever you’re reading. Plus, you’ll have the notes to refer back to later if the memory doesn’t stick!

Read Out Loud

If “thinking about the book you’re reading” sounded too obvious, then this one undoubtedly sounds too silly.  I mean, what kind of loon reads out loud to themselves, right? Loons that want to remember what they read, that’s who!

Reading out loud gives your brain additional ways to code and retain the information. In addition to remembering reading the words visually, you have the opportunity to remember hearing them, and producing them with your own speech. This is particularly important if you’re an auditory learner (who learns best by listening, rather than by reading), but it will be helpful for anyone. There are a number of other benefits, too: for instance, if you tend to read for speed, reading out loud forces you to slow down and really think about what’s in front of you.

You get bonus points if you re-read and/or repeat crucial parts of books this way. I don’t think it will come as any great surprise that repetition is great for strengthening memory. If there are particular parts of the book that you really need to lock in your mind-safe, try reading them once and taking notes as you go, then going back later and reading the relevant parts out loud to yourself.

Teach Someone Else (Preferably, A Toddler)

There are about a dozen different sayings and quotes about this, and they all boil down to the same thing: you’ll understand and remember something better if you teach it to someone else. That’s because your experiential memory is the strongest kind there is (you’re more likely to remember something you experience than something you read), so you should really be taking advantage of that.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feyman’s technique for remembering what you read included this vital step. The “Feynman Technique” (creative name, eh?) includes choosing and learning about a concept, then doing your best to explain it to a toddler. That will help you identify any gaps in your own understanding, at which point you can return to your materials and review them until you’re ready to try again. Clearly, it worked for him!

The whole idea of explaining it to a toddler, rather than an adult, is that it forces you to condense your learning and simplify the concepts, ensuring that you truly understand what it is that you’re passing on rather than just regurgitating fancy words. If you can’t explain it to a toddler, you probably don’t understand it well.

If you don’t have a toddler on hand, that’s okay – you can still pass on your new-found wisdom. Participate in a book club, or talk to family and friends who have read the book (or comment on a blog… ahem!). Whatever you choose, the very act of discussing the content with someone else gives your brain all the more opportunity to strengthen the memories by associating them with other things (the conversation you have and your experience of it). The more connections your brain makes between the content and your experiences, the stronger your memory and the longer it will last.

Finally, Choose Wisely

Perhaps this should have come first, but I think it’s a good note to end on: choose the right book. You’re going to have a much better shot at remembering something you find interesting and entertaining than you will something that bores you to tears. Make sure you have a clear idea of why you’re reading the book (for fun, for work, for curiosity’s sake), and why you want to remember what you read (to apply it at work, to ace your exam, to improve your own writing). If you’re just reading a book so that you can say that you did, or because “everyone else is reading it”, you probably have no personal stake in it at all. Your chances of remembering it in great detail won’t be good. Move on to another book – one that’s more suited to your tastes and circumstances and needs. You’ll find that memory comes much easier!

The quality of your reading matters infinitely more than the quantity of your reading. As I said in the beginning, it’s all well and good to be the fastest reader in the world… but what are you actually getting out of those 10 books per week? Far better to take your time and really immerse yourself in a book that you love, and get everything out of it that you can, don’t you think? When you do that, and embed some really strong memories of what you read, you get to carry it with you for the rest of your life.

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