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The Monster Librarian Presents:
Readers Advisory and Collection Development Resources
Below, I have listed a number of collection development resources. A note: print resources become dated at time of printing. They remain useful tools for providing a variety of suggestions for readers in the different subgenres. They can also be excellent resources for retrospective collection development. For non- librarians, these resources are useful for potentially finding other books in a subgenre of horror that you are interested in.
The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition by Becky Siegel Spratford*New Review
American Library Association, 2012
Available: Trade paperback and multiformat ebook
The Reader's Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition, is the updated version of The Reader's Advisory Guide to Horror, part of the American Library Association's Reader's Advisory series on genre fiction,. That is, the major professional organization for librarians endorses this as the authoritative text on reader's advisory in the horror genre. The author, Becky Siegel Spratford, is a reader's advisory librarian with a particular interest in the horror genre, and in promoting horror in the library-- and is someone I admire very much. Updates for this edition can be found at her blog, RA for All: Horror.
This is an important book for a couple of reasons. First, because it's published by the American Library Association, it is likely to reach a wide audience of librarians, and because it's part of an established series on reader's advisory, it has credibility as a resource for librarians who may not know much about(or like) the horror genre that other resources may not have. That opens a door for connecting a lot of people to books they may like. Spratford does a nice job of providing a concise history of horror, introducing some prominent authors, and addressing the classics. Spratford also mentions that many horror readers prefer to read only within one subgenre (such as werewolf books), and has set up the book to provide annotated lists for recommended titles in popular subgenres,. She also includes a chapter on horror resources and marketing, which does a very nice job of offering tools and strategies for growing and promoting library horror collections, not just during October but throughout the year. This is a topic that really needed (and needs) to be addressed-- horror readers don't just read horror as Halloween rolls around, and if your horror novels are shelved with the rest of the fiction they may not even know what the library has. I'm glad that Spratford specifically addressed this in her book.
However, there are aspects to the book of which librarians should be aware. Spratford chose to define horror as “a story in which... unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonist and provoke terror in the reader”. That's a very narrow definition. I recognize that for purposes of writing a reader's advisory guide it's necessary to set limits of what qualifies as belonging to a genre, but reader's advisory librarians attempting to serve horror readers should be aware that many horror readers don't require there to be a supernatural or unexplainable element in their reading. Because of the way she defines horror, Spratford's breakdown of subgenres is sometimes problematic. For instance, in her chapter on “shape-shifters”, she included not only werewolf titles but killer animal books, and these two types of books appeal to different audiences. Many killer animal books have no supernatural aspect at all, such as Cujo, Stephen King's novel about a rabid dog terrorizing his neighborhood (Spratford writes that Cujo “comes under the spell of demonic forces”, but that is not the case). Her chapter “Monsters and Ancient Evil” also combines in one list books that will appeal to different audiences- Lovecraftian fiction and more modern monster novels. In addition, Spratford leaves out the notable category of human horror. Books in this category aren't literary novels of psychological suspense- they display the worst of human nature, without needing to employ the supernatural. Usually they have graphic gore, violence, and sexual situations (such as in the work of Wrath James White). This category doesn't fall under Spratford's definition of horror, and so it isn't addressed in the book. Spratford is covering a huge amount of territory in a limited number of pages, but it would really have benefited users, and readers, to have these particular issues dealt with, and hopefully we will see that in the next print edition. In addition to covering a wide variety of authors and subgenres, Spratford addresses whole collection reader's advisory and mentions several categories of books outside the genre that horror readers might also enjoy, I especially appreciated her mention of nonfiction, as there are a lot of appealing nonfiction titles that horror fiction readers will probably never find on their own.
Horror is a very difficult genre for both collection development and reader's advisory. It doesn't get much respect, or even recognition. The Reader's Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition, although not a perfect tool, does a great job providing resources to librarians serving horror readers. Highly recommended for purchase by public and academic libraries.
Review by Kirsten Kowalewski
Fonseca, Anthony J and June Michele Pulliam (2006) Read On...Horror Fiction, Libraries Unlimited, Englewood.
Anthony Fonseca and June Pulliam have made a name for themselves in promoting horror fiction in the library. They run the Necropsy website, which reviews horror fiction, and have previously published Hooked on Horror, volumes 1 and 2. Now they have come out with another great readers advisory resource in Read On...Horror Fiction. Read On...Horror Fiction breaks up horror fiction in unexpected ways, using classifications such as fear factors, big city horror, and over-the-top weirdoes. Their categories are created based on common themes and attributes in horror fiction, an unusual, and useful, feature for the librarian trying to match a reader with a book. Recommended.
Barron, Neil (1999) What Fantastic Fiction Do I Read Next? A Reader's Guide to Recent Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction 2nd ed. Gale Group, Detroit.
Ah, a reference book that can stop bullets. This book lists entries from horror as well as science fiction and fantasy. Entries are organized by author's name. Each entry for a listed book includes story type, major characters, time period of the story, location of the story, summary of the story, and other books that someone who enjoyed the book might want to read. The indexes at the end are critical to this volume's use: they differentiate between fantasy and horror and their subgenres. Characters and character professions, time period, and story location are also indexed.
Fonseca, Anthony J and June Michele Pulliam (1999) Hooked on Horror: A Guide to Reading Interests in Horror Fiction. Libraries Unlimited, Englewood.
Part of the Genreflecting series, this book provides lists of horror books in various categories such as vampires, technohorror, and small town horror. Books are then listed in each category by author and the authors also add a list of a few horror films that fit into the category. Also included in the book is a list of ready reference horror resources, horror related organizations, lists of publisher of horror and publisher series, and horror websites. The book is indexed by author, subject and short stories. A good resource for those starting a horror collection, but keep in mind that the lists of resources are now dated. Hooked on Horror does have indexes. The short story index is a nice feature. You can also search by subject, author, and title, although the book is already divided into subgenres and is much more limited in scope than Barron's, so you probably could find what you need through browsing.
Jones, Stephen and Kim Newman (1998) Horror: The 100 Best Books. Carroll and Graf, New York.
This is not a list of the 100 best horror books but rather a list of favorite horror fiction of selected authors and editors of horror who then include their rationales for selecting the books and how those books impacted them. The 100 Best Books does covers a wide time period and has entries for some of the older classical horror as well as contemporary works. This list can be used in some readers advisory capacity (what is Stephen King's favorite horror book?).
Jones, Stephen ed. and Kim Newman ed.(2005) Horror: Another 100 Best Books. Carroll and Graf, New York.
In the same format as the earlier list of 100 Best Books, this is a list of another 100 books selected by various horror authors who then provide short essays as to why the book is favorite piece of horror fiction.
Spratford, Becky Siegel and Tammy Hennigh Clausen (2004) The Horror Readers' Advisory: The Librarian's Guide to Vampires, Killer Tomatoes, and Haunted Houses. American Library Association .Chicago
This horror readers' advisory title is a good basic guide to
the horror genre, listing a few examples in various categories of horror. The
book also contains additional print and electronic resources for horror titles,
collection development strategies, and marketing suggestions for a horror
collection. A recommended resource for librarians interested in expanding their
Brenner, Robin No Flying No Tights
This site is a terrific resource for graphic novel reviews for kids, teens, and adults. A great source for collection development ideas for horror graphic novels can be found under The Witching Hour section.
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