Genre Spotlight: HORROR

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The Genre Spotlight is a new section on my blog. Over the next several weeks, I am going to spotlight one section in my library to discuss at length. I will highlight the general characteristics of books in the section, the most popular books, total number of books, circulation stats, problems with the section, and genre similars. My goal in including this section is to assist librarians and teachers attempting to genrefy their libraries and find great horror books for their students.

I have chosen the HORROR section for my first spotlight. HORROR is the most frequently requested section, particularly from the boys. By “most frequently requested,” I mean that lots of students ask me to tell them about some books from the horror section. Students who like this section do not mind gore or spine-tingling scenes. I love this section because I can be certain the students who check out HORROR know what they are getting into. They want the book to spook them, and they specifically ask for the scariest titles I have.


NUMBER OF CIRCULATIONS (8-2009 to 12-2012) 8,287
  • Bad Girls Don’t Die series (Alender)
  • Ashes (Bick)
  • Anna Dressed in Blood (Blake)
  • Revenge of the Witch (Delaney)
  • Zombies Don’t Cry (Fischer)
  • Gone series (Grant)
  • Haunting Violet (Harvey)
  • Alex Van Helsing series (Henderson)
  • The Enemy series (Higson)
  • Benny Imura series (Maberry)
  • Cryer’s Cross (McMann)
  • Hunt for the Seventh (Shaw)
  • This Dark Endeavor (Oppel)
  • Killer Pizza and The Slice (Taylor)


Also popular are Stine’s Goosebumps series, Shan’s Cirque du Freak series, Asfar’s Ghost Stories series (moved to HORROR from 133.1), Christensen’s Ghost Stories series (also moved from 133.1).

TRENDING: Anything zombie! This trend has increased tremendously in the last year (as I predicted!). I’ve had a few requests recently for demons, possibly a difficult request for a middle school in the Bible Belt. Creepy ghost stories, scary vampires, and Stephen King books are still as popular as ever.





CRITERIA FOR SECTION: Books in the HORROR section are, first and foremost, scary. I put all zombie books in this section (more on that in a minute), anything with scary vampires, scary ghosts, possessions, demons, etc. The covers may or may not be very scary.

If I am on the fence between putting a book into HORROR or into another genre, I think about the most wide-eyed, unsuspecting little sixth grader checking out the book in a different section. If the book is in a different section, that sixth grader does not know the book may be scary. Would this book keep him/her up all night? Would I have an angry parent calling me, demanding I remove the book because it is “too scary” for middle schoolers? If I have any doubt, the book goes into the HORROR section.

What is considered “scary” varies from person to person, and placing a book in a particular genre is not an exact science. To decide, I suggest looking at the front cover, reading the blurb, and checking Goodreads for the shelves most people filed the book on. If you can answer yes to all or most of the following questions, the book is most likely a HORROR book in my library:

  • Is the front cover dark (in color or mood) or creepy?
  • Do the front cover, blurb, or reviewer praise quotations contain the words scary, spine-tingling, creepy, kept me up all night, horror, gore/gory, or anything else to denote it is a scary book?
    • Example–from Ashes (Bick) front cover–“Gripped me from beginning to end–dark, creepy, and suspenseful. I loved it.”–James Dashner
  • Is the book’s primary focus something supernaturally scary?
  • If vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc. are present, are they the romantic kind (as in Meyer’s Twilight Saga), or are they the frightening, kill-you-in-your-sleep kind (as in Henderson’s Vampire Rising)?
  • If romance is present, does it take a backseat to violence, running for your life, gore, bloody deaths, creepy moments, etc.?


A couple of topics gave us some problems when we genre-fied. Of course, we want to be consistent when categorizing into the sections. One big question was zombie books. Are they HORROR or SCI-FI? As a big fan of science fiction, I believe zombies belong in SCI-FI. Zombies are almost always the product of an experiment gone bad, a virus, or some other catastrophic event. But when I polled my students on where they would look first for zombie books, nearly all of them indicated HORROR would be their first choice. So HORROR it is.

Another problem was with vampires, werewolves, other supernatural beings. Some are scary; some are romantic. The romantic vampires go in PARANORMAL. Scary protagonist-chasing vampires, etc. go into HORROR.

UNEXPECTED BENEFIT OF GENREFYING THIS SECTION: I feel better purchasing scarier books because I know my more sensitive readers are not going to accidentally stumble upon something too scary for them. Readers who do not like horror, know they don’t like it. They stay away from that section on their own. Conversely, horror readers know exactly what they are getting into.


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