I have always been a fan of the gross and horrific. My brother and I grew up watching horror movies. When we were little—this would have been in the 1970s—we watched a ton of old black and white horror movies. I can remember a specific conversation we had about how you know it's going to be a great movie if Vincent Price is in it.
Fast forward a few years: One Friday night when I was around 12 or 13 (and my sister was about 5 or 6) I noticed that The Shining was on cable that night. I had seen it already and wanted to watch it again but was too scared to watch it by myself. And my brother had other plans. I'm not proud of what happened next—I made my poor little 6-year-old baby sister watch The Shining with me. I'm not sure she's ever completely forgiven me for that. But! She still loves horror movies.
Of course I also liked to read horror and as I got older it was primarily Stephen King. In my younger days, though, I was crazy about the Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur. Oh how I dreamed of having a PI agency in a trailor in a junkyard! And a skull named Socrates (swoon)!
You may be wondering how I've kept my youthful Pollyanna-ish disposition after all of this horror. The answer is that I've always had "palate cleansers," or what I often think of as "nice books." My first palate cleansers were the Little House Books and three titles by Frances Hodgson Burnett (he edition I had was all three bound together in one volume: The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy). I throw one or more of these in the mix in between reading things like Stiff, The Speckled Monster (includes photos!), Body Farm books, etc.
Here are a few of my current favorite palate cleanser authors: