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*CCPL Staff picks are chosen by CCPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We’d love to hear your ideas too, so write to us and tell us what you’d recommend!*

Welcome to October, everybody! It’s the time of the year when everyone is looking forward to a good thrill or chill. Fans of horror books have their favorites, but for those just entering the genre, it can be a little daunting to make a choice, especially with all of the sub-genres attached to it. Well, this post is here to help readers find their preferred subgenre this season! Readers should be aware that some materials listed will be able to fit under more than one subgenre. They may also contain subject matter not suitable for children 18 years old and younger. Furthermore, if you are interested in doing your own research into the horror genre or any other genre that you are interested in, feel free to browse CCPL’s Novelist resource! With that said, let’s get started: 

Apocalyptic horror centers on the collapse of civilization. The world as everyone knows it is crumbling apart due to a collapse of systems and order, usually due to a catastrophic event. This genre is often closely tied to the Sci-Fi genre, utilizing such tropes as alien invasions, demonic enslavement, and religious events coming to pass (Ex. Book of Revelations). Examples include The Passage by Justin Cronin, The Stand by Stephen King, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, The Black Tide by K.C. Jones, and Aurora by David Koepp. 

Avant-garde, or surrealist horror, is considered a social and artistic movement. Avant-garde artists are experimental and try to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in the arts. Horror literature has interpreted this as unexpected twists and impossible odds and situations. Some examples of this genre include House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno, The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher, and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Comedy horror is pretty self-explanatory, combining the elements of horror and comedy. The comedy elements in these stories can range from dark humor to parodying a tried-and-true horror trope or story. Some examples of this genre include John Dies at the End by David Wong, Welcome to Night Vale by Josh Fink, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith.

This genre combines fantasy elements, such as magic, strange creatures, and quests, with a healthy atmosphere of terror and suspense. Some good examples include A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, The Gunslinger by Stephen King, Ordinary Monsters by J.M. Miro, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser by Clive Barker, and Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

This subgenre utilizes folklore and urban legends as inspiration for the main focuses of its stories. This genre also has the added bonus of exploring monsters and superstitious practices from other cultures. Some stories and movies in this subgenre like to utilize “based on a true story” to promote their stories, the “true story” part is usually used loosely since these stories cannot be proven. Examples include The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher, and The Ritual by Adam Nevill.

Gothic horror is an older subgenre and serves as the literary predecessor to the modern horror genre. These stories are dark, brooding, atmospheric, and often combine elements of romance and horror. Some classic examples include Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Wollstencraft Shelley, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling, and What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher serves as a more modern example of the genre.

H.P. Lovecraft, a writer of weird and horrific tales, created his own subgenre of horror that many writers still look to for inspiration today. Lovecraftian fiction focuses on cosmic elements that are beyond human understanding (thus this subgenre’s second name, Cosmic Horror). As a result, this subgenre plays with the idea of existentialism and human insignificance in the grand scheme of things. Recommendations include The Classic Horror Stories by H.P. Lovecraft, The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, and The Fisherman by John Langan. 

Paranormal is broadly defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “not scientifically explainable.” However, when it comes to the horror genre, it’s usually referring to ghost stories, hauntings, and demonic possession. Some recommendations for this genre include Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James, and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. 

The Post-Apocalyptic subgenre focuses on what happens after our world has ceased to exist. This subgenre encourages readers to imagine a world living a doomsday scenario, where uncharted and terrifying ideas and situations can be explored. While not all Post-Apocalyptic stories fall under the horror genre (Ex. Dystopian Fiction), there are still plenty of stories that delve into the horrifying aspects of a post-doomsday world. Some examples include I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, World War Z by Max Brooks, The Walking Dead Compendium by Robert Kirkman, and The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey.  

Psychological horror sets aside monsters and slashers and delves into the terror in the human psyche and the long-lasting trauma that occurs when under moments of extreme duress. This subgenre utilizes fear and dread to build a suspenseful, anxiety-ridden atmosphere for their readers. Examples include Sundial by Catriona Ward, American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, and We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin.

Much like Lovecraftian/Cosmic Horror, this subgenre also focuses on cosmic elements, such as aliens, mad science experiments, and mysterious creatures (both man-made and not). However, unlike Cosmic Horror, Sci-Fi Horror does not necessarily put the main focus on existential dread. There is an explanation for where the aliens came from, and there is a moment that readers can tell when the mad scientist crosses the point of no return. Examples include Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, The Strain by Guillermo del Toro, We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen, and Salvaged by Madeleine Roux. 

Splatterpunk, also known as Extreme Horror, originated in the 1980s and is most known for its graphic and gory depiction of violence and sex. Splatterpunk is regarded as a revolt against the traditional horror story that merely suggests horrific situations. So fair warning to any curious readers, these books don’t pull any punches and contain some disturbing content not usually seen in the typical horror book. As a result, there aren’t a whole lot of suggestions I can give that you can find in our library catalog. If you are still curious, here is a link to some Goodreads recommendations for Splatterpunk. 

Merriam-Webster provides a broad definition of Supernatural as “appearing to transcend the laws of nature.” As a result, the Supernatural and the Paranormal subgenres often overlap and sometimes get confused with each other. Many fans of the Horror genre have attempted to distinguish the two by characterizing the Supernatural subgenre as focusing on monsters (Ex. Werewolves, vampires, witches, etc.) and other things that defy nature’s laws. Some examples include It by Stephen King, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, and Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy. 

Survival Horror focuses mainly on the tension of a character(s) surviving the environment around them. The main character is often put to the test to survive against impossible odds. Due to the amount of physical activity involved in surviving these scenarios in these stories, this subgenre can also be considered Action Horror. Examples include The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King, The Troop by Nick Cutter, The Terror by Dan Simmons, The Hunger by Alma Katsu, and The Ruins by Scott Smith. 

Thrillers are mainly characterized by the moods they elicit, such as suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation, and anxiety. Horror Thrillers focus on real-life horrors that have happened or could happen. Horror thriller subjects include serial killers, stalking, deathtraps, and horror-of-personality (Ex. Villains act like normal people, but are psychotic in nature). Recommendations include The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Misery by Stephen King.

Did you enjoy these recommendations? Are you looking for a group to talk about things thrilling and horrific? If so, the Thrills & Chills Book Club might be for you! 

This book club focuses mainly on materials from the horror and thriller genres and may include both new releases and classics of the genre. As long as it brings chills and thrills, this club is open to reading it! For our first discussion in October, we will be reading The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James. This book discussion is recommended for adults (18+). The selected book(s) may contain mature themes and adult content. Register if you dare! 

This live event will be on Saturday, October 29th, 2022, at 10:00 AM EST. Please contact P.D. Brown with any questions at 301/645-2864 or pdbrown@ccplonline.org.