Like so many Americans, I’m a big fan of the undead. I look forward to a night of nail-biting when a new episode of...

Like so many Americans, I’m a big fan of the undead. I look forward to a night of nail-biting when a new episode of The Walking Dead airs and I get excited when Hollywood gears up for the next big-budget film featuring zombie hordes. I also love those rarer literary takes on the undead, such as Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, and I even published my own riff on the genre entitled The Cliffs, which imagines what those familiar zombies might do in the Appalachian foothills where I live. If you share my enthusiasm for people not quite alive and not quite dead and, well, not quite people, you’re in for a post-Halloween treat. Medieval historian and former grave-digger Scott Bruce has assembled an anthology of tales about the undead that shows were not alone. Readers have been fascinated by spirits, ghosts, apparitions, demons, and zombies since the start of Western literature. Bruce’s anthology, The Penguin Book of the Undead: Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters (Penguin, 2016) begins with Homer’s Odyssey and ends with Hamlet, but between those classic stories, he gives us selections from a vast and surprising range of sources: histories, hagiography, personal letters, theological treaties, sagas, and collections of miracles and marvels. In these selections, which are by turns fascinating, surprising, heartbreaking and sometimes freaky, the undead have never been so fresh, so lively.

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