Editor's note: The poll is now closed! Thanks for voting.
This year's summer poll has me hiding under the bed — whether or not there's a monster there — because, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, we're celebrating horror. And I, your faithful correspondent, was scarred for life by a battered copy of Cujo I found in a summer house when I was a kid — so I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I'm making here to bring you the best of everything creepy, chilling and downright terrifying.
So what scares you? Besides clowns, I mean, because everyone is scared of clowns. Use the form on this page to vote for your five favorite horror novels or stories. Based on what you tell us, our expert panel of horror lovers (Tananrive Due, Stephen Graham Jones, Grady Hendrix and Ruthanna Emrys — more on them soon!) will curate a final list of 100 titles guaranteed to keep your spine chilled and your teeth rattling no matter how hot this summer gets.
But first, a few rules (like, y'know, don't go back in the house) proposed by our panel:
What can you nominate?
Series books: We're considering series books as a single entry — so you'd vote for Stephen King's Dark Tower series, rather than The Gunslinger, or R.L. Stine's entire Goosebumps oeuvre rather than one single book — because who can pick just one?
Short story collections: If there's a collection with lots of great stories — say, Clive Barker's Books of Blood — that's one single entry.
Single short stories or novellas: On the other hand, if there's a standout story — say, "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson — but you can't remember what-all else was in the book, feel free to nominate that one story as its own entry.
Limit yourself to five choices
But don't hesitate to nominate something you know other people already picked — we count everything up, and our expert panelists pay attention to what's popular (and yes, it's okay if all of you vote for Stephen King).
Don't limit yourself otherwise
Really, don't! If it scares the bleep out of you, we want to know about it. Just don't be too sad if your favorite doesn't make the final 100.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Now for some more adult reading. Every year, NPR conducts an annual summer reader poll. This is your chance to tell us what you are loving reading. And this year's theme is horror. Petra Mayer from the NPR Books team is here to tell us more. Hey there, Petra.
PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Hi.
KELLY: So horror - why?
MAYER: Yeah. It's the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, which is...
KELLY: Oh, OK. So - yeah.
MAYER: ...You know, one of the most influential horror novels of all time. So we thought it would be a great theme. And we're asking people to tell us all about their five favorite horror novels and short stories. And I hope you appreciate how hard this is for me. I am a giant horror wuss.
MAYER: I was scarred for life by a copy of "Cujo" that I found as a kid. No joke - for 15 years after that, I was scared every time a dog licked me.
KELLY: Have you sent Stephen King the bill for your therapy yet?
MAYER: Oh, that's a good idea.
KELLY: (Laughter) OK, but now you must - you're at least enduring reading some horror books.
MAYER: I have learned to appreciate it. I mean, in a weird way, horror can almost be comforting, right? It drags up all the things that scare you. It's right there on the page. Horror doesn't sugarcoat. It tells you that death and fear are part of life, and you got to deal with them. And it's also - you know, when you feel like everything's wrong, a horror novel will tell you you're right. There is something terrible going on. There's a reason you feel this way. And you can identify it, and you can fight it. Whether you win - that's another story.
KELLY: You have a place to channel your dread. OK, so you want us all to write. And I will tell everybody where in a second. And then what happens?
MAYER: So I say this every year. This is not a straight popularity contest. After the poll closes, which is Monday at 5 p.m. Eastern, we'll pick the top 250 vote-getters. And they go to this amazing panel of expert judges. They're all amazing horror authors. And then we have this epic conference call when we break the list down and we build it back up again. And we come up with a nicely curated list of a hundred final titles. And we hope that'll keep you busy for a while.
KELLY: And some votes have already come in. Any front-runners yet?
MAYER: Not yet, but I'm sure that Stephen King will be all over the list. And since there's only a hundred books to play with, usually we don't like to have authors on the list more than once. But a couple years ago with the romance poll, we had to invent the Nora Roberts rule 'cause she's so famous and prolific. We had to let...
KELLY: Oh, she got to come in a couple times.
MAYER: Yeah, once as herself and once under her pen name. So I foresee a Stephen King corollary coming to us.
KELLY: All right. That's Petra Mayer, editor with NPR Books. And you can find the summer reader poll - here it is - npr.org/summerscares. Thanks so much, Petra.
MAYER: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MICHAEL CROWTHER'S "DARK ENTITY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.