The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition [Review]

reviewed by Lizzy Walker

The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition 
Becky Siegel Spratford
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1112-9, softcover
184 pages, $48.00

Becky Siegel Spratford’s The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, Second Edition updates the 2004 edition and provides librarians with valuable information on horror. The author specifies that she revised and reassessed the material, including “new authors, trends, annotations, and suggestions” (x). As someone who is an avid reader of the genre, it is refreshing to have a resource that not only provides great selections, but also discusses the sometimes unknown subgenres of horror.

The first thirteen chapter topics cover different aspects of the horror genre such as “A Brief History of Horror,” “Horror 101,” “Vampires,” “Zombies,” “Witches and the Occult,” “The Appeal of Horror,” “The Classics,” and ” Monsters and Ancient Evil.” The last chapter provides information on collection development and marketing in libraries.  In each of the chapters, Spratford provides an annotated bibliography as well as recommended reading. These resources are highly beneficial to the readers’ advisory librarian as well as to the patron. Patrons have the option to search for themselves or, if they need additional information, they may address the librarian who created the advisory list.

While each chapter has its own appeal, there are a few chapters that are particularly informative and thorough. In “Monsters and Ancient Evil,” the author focuses on novels that were influenced by H. P. Lovecraft and Richard Layman. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos has made a resurgence in the horror community in various forms, including games and film. This chapter would be valuable to the readers’ advisory librarian who wants to stay abreast of trends in horror fiction.

“The Classics” contains a necessary reading list for anyone just getting into the horror genre and is especially useful as a reference tool. It was disappointing to see that Guy de Maupassant was not on the list, but there were plenty of other essential authors included such as Horace Walpole, M. R. James, and Shirley Jackson. Spratford also provides useful tips and guidelines for creating a classics list, such as finding titles published before 1974.

In “The Appeal of Horror,” Spratford clearly defines horror as “a story in which the author manipulates the reader’s emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomenon and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonists and provoke terror in the reader” (14). She also discusses what horror is not. This may seem trivial, but to horror fans who may be picky or who want more horror reads, it is essential.

This book is a valuable resource for readers’ advisory, general librarians in public libraries, or for anyone interested in the horror genre.  This book will assist unfamiliar librarians with the genre, as well as librarians who know the genre inside and out, providing renewed enthusiasm and marketing tips.

Becky Siegel Spratford served as a reader’s advisor at the Berwyn Public Library in Illinois. She currently teaches classes on Readers’ Advisory Services at the Dominican University where she earned her MLIS. She is the author of the RA for All: Horror blog, which may be found at

Lizzy Walker currently works at Boise State University’s Albertsons Library as a Library Assistant 2. She earned her MLS with the SWIM cohort through University of North Texas.


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