Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Booknote: The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd Edition)

Becky Siegel Spratford, The Reader's Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd edition). Chicago: ALA, 2012. ISBN: 9780838911129. 

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library science, readers' advisory, horror

This book was a serendipity find for me at the public library. I picked it up to get a refresher on the genre and help keep up my RA (readers' advisory for my non-librarian friends) skill set. I did take the coursework for RA in library school, but I am also an avid reader and strive to keep up with various genres. After all, if this academic librarian gig does not pan out, I think I can still get employed at a public library. Plus, for me, reading is fun. As for the horror genre, I would not consider myself a "horror reader," but I do read in the genre, which I enjoy now and then. This book is part of ALA's RA series, and it was pretty good in providing an overview of the genre. It is a good aide for librarians who may not know much about horror.

The book focuses on horror; it does address what could be labeled as "related" genres such as dark fantasy or paranormal, but the bottom line here is true horror. However, in this day and age where paranormal fiction (often romance with paranormal elements) is such a big hit with readers, it needs to be acknowledged in any discussion of horror, and the book does that, providing some small guidance on those given the crossover appeal. This is to address, for instance, the nice lady who reads, for example, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and wants to read more "horror." What that reader probably wants is more paranormal fiction, possibly with romance elements, but it has vampires and werewolves, so it has to be horror, right? The librarian does not have to "correct" the lady. Just know the distinctions so you can provide the best advice possible and help your reader get to their next great read. Yet at the end of the day, the core of the book is horror.

For the purposes of the book, the author defines horror as:

 "a story in which the author manipulates the reader's emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonist and provoke terror in the reader" (13). 

That definition is the starting point.

The book's first three chapters provide a history and genre overview. The next set of chapters provide annotated lists with some readalike suggestions in these horror topics:

  • classics, 
  • ghosts and haunted houses
  • vampires
  • zombies
  • shape-shifters
  • monsters and ancient evil
  • witches and occult
  • Satan and demonic possession
  • comic horror.
The last two chapters deal with using your collection and marketing. The chapter on whole collection RA was good as it reassures librarians they may already have many horror titles in the collection they can start promoting right away. This chapter also looks at other genres such as supernatural, paranormal, nonfiction, and graphic novels that horror readers may like as well.

The book is mainly designed for librarians, especially public librarians. However, I think the chapters with book lists could help some advanced horror readers as well as readers new to the genre. As I mentioned, I do read some horror; I have read some of the basics, including some mentioned in the book, but I also found some new reading suggestions that I jotted down.

Overall, this is an accessible, concise book that provides a lot of reading ideas and suggestions. As a reader and librarian, I really liked this one. It does make me willing to go look for other books in the RA series too.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.


* * * 

This is the list of titles I jotted down from the book to add to my TBR list. In parenthesis, I am putting the label the book used and any comments I may have. I am also including WorldCat links to help my four readers and me find them later.


Books I jotted down from the opening chapters (i.e. caught my eye right away):

  • Joe Hill, Heart-Shaped Box (I have been told this is pretty much classic. Only Joe Hill I have read, which I enjoyed, is his Locke & Key graphic novel series.) 
  • Brian Keene, Castaways (the author mentioned this book a few times, deals with one of those "Survivor" type of reality shows.)
  • Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (I have read Bradbury, and I can't believe I have not read this. We need to fix that gap.)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Tales of Terror and Mystery. (1906)
  • H.P. Lovecraft (I have actually read some of his works, but would love to read more)
Other books I jotted down as I read the book:

2 comments:

Becky said...

Thanks for the review. I am glad the book helped. You should also check out my horror blog raforallhorror.blogspot.com for updates to the book, including my brand new horror presentation with new titles and authors.

Angel Rivera said...

Oh, thank you for writing it Becky. I will be adding your blog to my feed reader. Best, and keep on blogging.