One of the many benefits of books is that they provide catharsis. They have the rare power of purging stress and bad emotions through the experiences we find in them. But some books can have the exact opposite effect, producing the howling fantods in a reader. For those phobic victims, we’ll wait for your screaming to die down and nod in appreciation of the power of these nine books.
1. A Taste of Blackberries causes Apiphobia (fear of bees)
Do you remember playing fort at recess with some friends, planning how to best defend your stronghold for the impending marauder attack, and then a bee lazily flying through the top of the wooden playground clubhouse, and there was always that one boy inevitably named Melvin who absolutely lost it? It was impossible to keep pretending while Melvin crimped up and squinted and the bee floated around his head. Fort was ruined while Melvin was whining to get it away from him and flinching whenever the bee made a sudden movement.
Well, if Melvin had read A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith, he’d never have gone outside to begin with. That’s because in the book young boy Jamie has an allergy to bee stings and he finds a bee hive and pokes the hive with a stick. Exeunt Jamie. His death has affected almost as many kids as Leslie’s in Bridge to Terabithia. Except that book just made kids stay away from rope swings and creeks. Blackberries gave Melvins all over screaming nightmares because how could you avoid a living thing that had a mind of its own?
2. “The Yellow Wallpaper” causes Xanthophobia (fear of the color yellow)
Here’s something to keep in mind: if you’re trying to recover from a “temporary nervous depression,” don’t let anyone lock you up in a room with yellow wallpaper. Because pretty soon you’ll start smelling something. And then you’ll start seeing something moving. And then things will start coming out of the wallpaper.
Other leading causes of xanthophobia: bananas, school buses, Post Its, sunshine, Pac-Man, The Simpsons, Ms. Pac-Man.
(Side note: I think we can all be thankful that that particular frame is the thumbnail for “Yellow”.)
3. The Unnamable causes Nihilophobia (fear of nothing)
How does a book with no time or place sound, and also a book where nothing really happens and the characters also may not even really exist, but rather may be constructs of the narrator? Nihilophobia’s most famous victim is chef Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager, who does a freak out dance when the ship goes through a jet black part of space known as The Void. You’ll also find that the phobia is the name of the 36th album by Spanish new age space-boogie group Neuronium. You can listen to the bleeps and bloops above.
4. The Bridges of Madison County causes Gephyrophobia (fear of bridges)
All they do is look at bridges, take pictures of bridges, walk across bridges, talk about bridges. “Bridges” is the first important word in the title. A gephyrphobe would be particularly sickened at the thought of Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep kissing all up on each other while making innuendos about torsion and balsa wood.
(In the video above, watch out for the ridiculous speed bump at 1:45)
5. Finnegans Wake causes Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear of long words)
There are 10 words in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake comprised of at least 100 letters, including:
Long word fearers have a bogeyman.
6. Winnie-the-Pooh cause Hylophobia (fear of wood, forests, and trees)
The Hundred Acre Wood is the equivalent to the Forest of Deranged Clowns for hylophobes. As if worrying about Heffalump traps and where the Woozle is wasn’t bad enough, what would be even worse would be if you were a hylophobic gephyrophobe coming across the Poohsticks Bridge. That’s the Master Blaster of Literary Phobia Causers.
7. The Stinky Cheese Man causes Turophobia (fear of cheese)
Although lactose intolerant people are the most likely turophobes, some people contract the affliction just from having a really bad run-in with cheese. But in the case of the Stinky Cheese Man, it’s sort of like our fear of sharks, since he’s just as afraid of us eating him as we are of his old cabbage smell. In that way, The Stinky Cheese Man could be a valuable tool for showing turophobes that cheese is just as afraid of you as you are of it.
8. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish causes Ichthyophobia (fear of fish)
If you were ichthyophobe, when you looked at this book’s cover, it would look something like this: