13 Scary Books for Halloween

An illustration of Rip Van Winkle, by Ashley Smith Collet

Halloween (and the season surrounding it) is my favorite time of the year—and good books only make it better!

Have you heard of All Hallow’s Read? It’s a wonderful Halloween tradition started by Neil Gaiman (author of The Graveyard Book, Stardust, and Coraline). The point of the tradition is to recommend/give a scary book to a friend during the Halloween season.

And so, in honor of this tradition, here are thirteen of my favorite scary books. I hope you enjoy them!

  1. Wait Till Hellen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn – Although intended for young readers, this is a genuinely spooky book with a great ending. I would recommend it to anyone.
  2. The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander – One of my top ten, all-time favorite books. While it’s not exactly a “Halloween book,” it’s a very suspenseful adventure book featuring a trio of witches that help the main character (and the reader) learn some pretty important lessons about life.
  3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – In this award-winning book, Neil Gaiman (who is a spectacular storyteller) tells of a boy who is raised in a graveyard by ghosts and werewolves. A delightful read—an excellent twist on The Jungle Book.
  4. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz – Do you remember reading this book in elementary school? It’s a collection of scary, popular folklore. The grotesque ink illustrations alone are enough to give you nightmares.
  5. Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving – The classic short story about a man, Rip, who is magically enchanted to sleep for twenty years. There are times I envy him.
  6. Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney – If you’re looking for something a little darker (and by “little,” I mean “a lot,”) then try the first book in Delaney’s “Last Apprentice” series. With an assortment of witches, ghosts, blood, and bones, this book is sure to keep you up at night.
  7. A Rose For Emily by William Faulkner – The ending of this little story will make your toes curl.
  8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling – This book feels like the most Halloween-y of the Harry Potter series, wouldn’t you agree?
  9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – If you want to read some classic Halloween literature with deep insight into human nature, then look no further than Frankenstein.
  10. Coraline by Neil Gaiman – A young girl discovers a hidden door that takes her to her “other mother.” Another deliciously creepy book by Neil Gaiman!
  11. The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis – This book from the Chronicles of Narnia is PACKED with powerful lessons about addiction and seeing things as they really are. Plus, Puddleglum! :D
  12. The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe – Poe seems to be a treasure trove of all things creepy. This short story (especially if you listen to an audio rendition) will make your hairs stand on end.
  13. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving – My favorite “scary” story. I absolutely love colonial America and the legend of the Headless Horseman (I have a sticker of him on the back of my laptop)!

But what about you? What are YOUR favorite scary stores/books? Please write them in the comments below!

Life Is Like A Garden

“Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

The Garden of Life

The Garden of Life

Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies.

I suppose I’m drawn to it because its a great place for an introvert like me to hide—but I also feel like gardens offer a treasure trove of symbolic lessons about life.

For example, if we understand the laws of nature and how to care for plant life, we can create and cultivate gardens that are overflowing with an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and sweet-smelling flowers. In like manner, if we understand the laws of life, then we can use those laws to our advantage and create and cultivate a life that is overflowing with an abundance of life and purpose.

Earth-bound as we are, our lives seem to follow a pattern of growth that is similar to plants and trees; we move from the isolation of a seed (the self-centeredness of of childhood) to a veritable tree of life (an individual who lives and gives their life for their families and their communities). If our garden is well planted, we have food to share with others.

Comparing our lives to gardens doesn’t deny the fact that life is filled with toil, sweat, and pain, nor does it deny the fact that our lives are often subject to elements completely outside of our control (seasons of growth and abundance, seasons of death and decay, storms, disease, weather). But it also affirms the idea that you have the power to cultivate your life.

I have seen shriveled and weedy gardens in the humid Northwest and have marveled at lush, green gardens in the arid desert of the Southwest. I have seen countryfolk let acres of pristine land fall into disrepair and have seen city-dwellers build spectacular rooftop gardens.

Oftentimes, the richness within the gardens of our lives is less dependent upon what nature (or circumstance) does to it, and more dependent on we do it.

I think one of my favorite lessons I’ve learned from gardening is that all life is dependent upon the lives of others. Plants and gardens simply don’t exist on their own, they require the shared elements of life. No plant can live for itself—it lives because of others and it lives to give life to others.

In a similar way, our lives are not purely for our own will and pleasure. We live because of others and we live to give to others. When we deviate from that and try to live life purely for ourselves, our world withers and our relationships rot. To live for ourselves is to live like a cancer; always taking life but never giving it to others. 

Consider this: the saddest and most difficult times in our lives are the times when human connections are damaged or lost. We often feel depressed when we are misunderstood, hurt, or separated from others. During these times of loneliness, we may feel as though we are experiencing a winter in our souls.

On the other hand, the summers in our lives are the joyful times we share with others. People—with all of the richness and uniqueness of their own lives—are what make our lives vibrant and full. Because our joy in life is inextricably connected to the degree in which we love and embrace others.

This blog post was inspired by my book, Your Life Isn’t For You—order a copy on Amazon.com today!

Are You A Prometheus?

Prometheus

Prometheus – The Greek God

Has a Prometheus ever given you fire?

According to Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus created man out of clay and taught them to walk uprightly as the Gods. But at that time, the Gods considered man to be an animal; men were creatures without the gift of fire, which made their earth a cold, dark, and harsh place.

In time, Prometheus learned to love mankind and wanted to help them move forward. Because of this love, Prometheus disobeyed the command of Zeus and stole fire from Mount Olympus. He then descended to earth and taught mankind how to build fires. With this gift, mankind could cook their food, build tools, stay warm—and perhaps most importantly—they could have light in the darkness. Some even say that Prometheus lingered and taught man the ways of godliness: organization, medicine, science, writing, mathematics, and agriculture.

In a jealous rage, Zeus punished Prometheus for eternity, banishing him from Mount Olympus forever.

But in spite of Zeus’s fury, mankind was never the same. The gift of fire—or the gift of light—gave them power to become as the gods.

Now I ask again, has a Prometheus ever given you fire? Has someone given you the gift of light when your world was cold, harsh, and dark?

I believe that at various points in our lives we all experience moments of Promethean fire. For whatever reason we may feel as though we are wandering in darkness—lost and afraid. But then someone comes who, because of love, gives us light. And with this light we are able to continue moving forward.

If you have identified someone in your life who has been as Prometheus—someone who gave you light during a period of darkness—I encourage you to reach out and thank them.

And then I encourage you to be as Prometheus—to give the gift of light to others. Because at some point, all of us struggle to move forward and all of us need the light of a Prometheus.

This blogpost was inspired from a section of the book Your Life Isn’t For You, now available on Amazon.com!

My Book Is Officially Published!!!

Your Life Isn't For You in Russia

Holding an advanced copy of my book on Red Square in Moscow (click on the image to order the book)!

Wow! Today is the day that my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, is officially published. It’s a wonderful, absolutely terrifying feeling!!

Here’s the description of my book from the publisher:

In this book, Seth Adam Smith expands on the philosophy behind his extraordinarily popular blog post “Marriage Isn’t for You”—which received over 30 million hits and has been translated into over twenty languages—and shares how living for others can enrich every aspect of your life, just as it has his. With a mix of humor, candor, and compassion, he reveals how, years before his marriage, his self-obsession led to a downward spiral of addiction and depression, culminating in a suicide attempt at the age of twenty. Reflecting on the love and support he experienced in the aftermath, as well as on the lessons he learned from a difficult missionary stint in Russia, his time as a youth leader in the Arizona desert, his marriage, and even a story his father read to him as a child, he shares his deep conviction that the only way you can find your life is to give it away to others.

Your Life Isn't For You

Click on the cover to order your own copy! :D

And here are some great reviews from some really awesome people:

“A brilliantly written and insightful book. Seth’s vulnerability and honesty are irresistible—pulling you in and opening your heart to the possibility of a life without walls.” —Michael J. Merchant, President, ANASAZI Foundation

“Seth’s amazing book illustrates a powerful and proven path to happiness and gently reminds us how easily we forget this profound truth: focusing on others brings the deepest joy.” —Lindsay Hadley, founder and CEO, Hadley Impact Consulting

“Seth Adam Smith has figured out some of life’s greatest lessons through remarkable life experiences and by listening to the great teachers that were placed in his path.” —Sterling C. Tanner, President and Executive Director, Forever Young Foundation

Order a copy today and let me know what you think!

The Hidden Message of Red Square in Moscow…

Holding an advance copy of my book on Red Square. Click on the image to order a copy!

Holding an advance copy of my book on Red Square. Click on the image to order a copy!

In June, I had the amazing opportunity to revisit Moscow, Russia—one of the most beautiful and wonderful places on earth.

As I stood on the cobblestones of Moscow’s famous Red Square (home of St. Basil’s Cathedral), I couldn’t help but think about the true meaning of the term “Red Square.”

The following passage comes from my book, Your Life Isn’t For You:

“Interestingly enough, the name Red Square does not refer to the red bricks of the surrounding buildings; the word red in the Russian language has several meanings. In its archaic form, the word Красная (krasnaya) meant both “red” and “beautiful.” During the sixteenth century, the merchants that traded on the square nicknamed it “beautiful” because of the breathtaking presence of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

“But there’s an even deeper meaning to the color red. In American culture, red has been associated with anger, horror, blood, and death—all very negaitve connotations. But in the Russian culture, the color red is almost the exact opposite. Red is the color of passion, of revolutionary growth, of the blood that keeps us alive, and is a symbolic color for the sun.

“Red, therefore, means both light and life. In a poetic sense, as I was standing on Red Square, I was standing on the very heart of Russia. And in the heart of Russia, my heart was changed.”

Check out the video below to see footage Red Square (all of it filmed by me). Special thanks to David Tolk for letting me use his incredible music.

The Legend of the Northern Lights

“Look to the light and swim to the top of the Great Mountain. There you will find your home. There you will swim in the eternal river of the sky.”

I worked on this legend (and video) for a very long time. I  included it in my book, Your Life Isn’t For You, with the sincere desire that it will help guide others forward. If it inspires you, please—as a special favor to me—share it with others.

I am profoundly grateful for Ashley Collett (for creating such amazing illustrations) and for David Tolk (for allowing me to use his beautiful music). Underneath the video is the FULL text of the legend.

It is said that not long after their creation, the salmon lost their way. Aimlessly, they swam in the rivers and waters of Alaska. But in their wanderings, they found neither home nor rest.

Overcome with fear and despair, they began to fight among themselves. But their fighting only deepened their fears and worsened their condition.

Then one day, a legendary being appeared to them at the base of the Great Mountain—a beast of unspeakable wisdom and healing: the White Bear. The Bear came to the edge of the waters and called to the salmon.

“Look to the light of the North Star,” said the Bear. “Look to the light and swim to the top of the Great Mountain. There you will find your home. There you will swim in the eternal river of the sky.”

The salmon wondered at such a thing. Could it be true? If they followed the North Star, would they be able to swim in an eternal river?

Some of the salmon ignored the White Bear, while others fled in terror. Bears often ate salmon; perhaps his offer was just a clever trap. The smallest of the salmon peeked out of the water and spoke to the Bear. “How can we swim upstream? It is against our nature. We do not have the strength.”

“If you look upward and fight onward,” replied the Bear, “you can conquer the Great Mountain.”

And so it was that those who chose to follow the North Star began the long journey to the summit of the Great Mountain. Swimming upstream was tiring, difficult, and painful. Some of the salmon turned back. Those who remained began to feel discouraged.

“Look to the heavens,” reminded one of the salmon.

The other salmon looked up. High above them was the night sky, filled with numberless glittering stars. Despite the darkness of the hour, the light from these stars reminded the salmon of the Bear’s promise.

With renewed energy, the salmon fought to swim upstream—growing in strength and desire with every passing moment. As they moved forward, the salmon discovered that they were being filled with a beautiful new light. Their bodies underwent a transformation, changing colors from silvers and grays to magnificent greens and reds.

After a long time of difficult swimming, the salmon made it to the very top of the Great Mountain.

And as they peeked out from the water to look upon the stars, they found—to their astonishment and joy—that they could touch the night sky. It was not an endless expanse of air as they had assumed, but an endless expanse of water.

The night sky was as the White Bear had spoken. It was an eternal river.

These former wanderers wanted more than anything to swim in that water, to live among the stars. But something inside of them held them back. They looked down the mountain to the valley below and distantly saw the other salmon lost in the darkness below. “What about them?” they wondered aloud. “We want to share this joy and happiness with them as well.”

As they said these things, the White Bear once again appeared before them. He told them that in order for the salmon to help those who were struggling below, they must swim in the eternal river and become a light for those who were wandering in darkness. But in order to swim in the eternal river, they would have to give up their lives.

Knowing what they truly wanted, the salmon let go of all their doubts and fears, and dove into the night sky—passing from this world into the next. Then, they who had become so full of life and light themselves became the Northern Lights—a river of light to guide the way for others who wander in darkness.

And from their death sprang a new generation of salmon, who swam down the mountainside to show others the way home.

I Made A “Literal” Tree!

“I think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.” (Joyce Kilmer)

I love reading and I love autumn. So, naturally, I ripped out the pages of some of my favorite books, plastered them on the wall, and painted a tree above my desk. Now I have a “literal” tree in my office!!!

Ain’t it purdy?

Literal Tree 01

That’s my desk right there. See it? I’ve had the same desk ever since I was six. True story. And I’m NOT parting with it.

Literal Tree 02

This is what it looks like up there. Neato torpedo.

Literal Tree 04

This is a leaf. It isn’t real. I taped it to the wall. No plants were hurt in the making of this wall. (Except for the trees that were cut down to make the pages of the book—sorry guys!)

Literal Tree 03

I got this paint at Target. I got the brush there too. I got the leaves from a friend. I got the desk from my dad. I got the natural lighting from God. High fives all around!

Justin Bieber and the Nude Photograph Backlash

I try my best to be an optimist, but sometimes the news gets me down. The world seems particularly depressing as of late: the situation in Ukraine, the Ebola outbreak in Africa, violence in the Middle East, the gruesome beheadings by ISIS, and so much more.

There are so many problems in the world that are practically screaming for help—yet Justin Bieber is once again trending on Facebook:

Justin Bieber News

Trendy?

To be fair, many of the things that trend on Facebook are merely headlines for a day—they flash briefly before giving way to larger and more pressing stories. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that a person like Justin Bieber commands so much attention. He seems to care so little about the world and yet the world cares so much about him.

Why? Why do we give so much time, energy, and money to such trivial things? Some time ago I tried—to the best of my ability—to bring attention to the Yazidi genocide in Iraq. I conducted a video interview, wrote an article, and contacted numerous media contacts.

The result? The article had less than a thousand views.

Immediately afterward, I posted an article called “7 Things That Will Make You Laugh.” I’m sad to say that the article has had significantly more clicks and views than my article on Iraq.

To be clear, we’re talking about genocide vs. giggles.

On the flip side of all this, I applaud the backlash against the nude photographs that were stolen from numerous celebrities. It’s been remarkable to see a significant portion of our society rally around the victims of a disgusting crime. With the amount of energy and zeal behind this, it sends a clear message to any would-be wrongdoers and I have no doubt that the perpetrator will soon be found and brought to justice.

Seeing all of this, I hope that we can also invest the same level of energy and zeal behind other worthwhile causes. Because the world is screaming for help—and we have the power to help—but are we listening?