Book Review: "Tales of Terror" by Edgar Allan Poe

I have wanted to read (and in some cases re-read) Poe’s short stories for such a long time!  I’d be reminded whenever I’d see a beautiful complete collection of his works in a bookstore, but those huge volumes with the tiny print and super thin pages seriously intimidated me.  Then, about halfway through this semester, I was having trouble staying motivated with one of my classes.  I thought I’d bribe myself with some Poe!  I found this volume in our library, and told myself that when I finished x amount of reading and work for this class, I could read a short story.  It worked – I got out of my slump, but then I didn’t have a chance to get back to the Poe.  Finally, with two days left on the borrowing period and no renewals left – I have finished this far more accessible and less intimidating collection!

There are 10 short stories here, selected and illustrated by Neil Waldman.    The ones I wanted to read again were here, as well as the one I wanted to read for the Classics Club… and then I bunch more I hadn’t heard of before.  My favorites in the collection were:  The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat, and A Descent into the Maelstrom.  The ones I thought were so-so were:  The Masque of the Red Death, The Fall of the House of Usher, Hop-Frog and The Cask of Amontillado.  I found Ms. Found in a Bottle and Ligeia kind of forgettable.

I knew that Tell-Tale Heart would remain a favorite – I have vivid memories of reading it for the first time in middle school.  The Black Cat is very similar, but with its own shocking moments.  The Pit and the Pendulum was even better than I remembered – so much so that I began to doubt reading it before, and only remembering what I knew about it.  It is seriously chilling.  Maelstrom was a surprise for me – I hadn’t heard of it before, but really enjoyed it.

I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy House of Usher, Red Death or Amontillado more.  I can’t even articulate why they didn’t wow me as much as the others.  Maybe it’s as simple as that they can’t all affect me on a grand scale?  Hop-Frog was a contender for “favorites” though – more so than the others.  Who doesn’t love a good vengeance story?

I can’t even say anything about the last two.

Also, I knew that Poe had a thing for opium and all, but I had no idea he referenced it so often in his writing! And why does he enjoy hiding people & bodies within walls and floors?  It is kind of a theme for him.  I’m really glad I finally read more Poe, but I think this collection has satisfied my Poe desire for awhile!
Tales of Terror
by Edgar Allan Poe
Selected and Illustrated by Neil Waldman
Prentice-Hall, 1985
186 pages
Source:  Library
Links for purchase:

This edition is out of print (and had a few typos anyway).  Look for other collections of Poe’s stories at your Indie Bookseller, Amazon, or your library!
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3 thoughts on “Book Review: "Tales of Terror" by Edgar Allan Poe

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  1. I remember that Poe had a dread of being buried alive and dreamt about that so maybe that's why he wrote about walled up bodies! I should read this collection. Thanks!


  2. I have a special place in my heart for Poe. I read him when I was really young and stories like The Black Cat scared me silly (in a good way.) The Cask of Amontillado has always been my favorite, but there are some great ones!


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