What to Do When Your Bookstore Doesn’t Have a Horror Section

Walking into a bookstore you’ll find a plethora of categories. Fantasy, science fiction, history, children’s picture books, cookbooks, and so much more. But not every store will have a section for every genre. This includes horror. While horror is still a strong subject, there are plenty of stores out there that tend to put those books into other areas. Some will fall into fantasy, others into regular fiction, some in science fiction, and so forth. It can be difficult for people who like horror to find something new and fresh, or for those who might just want something scary around the holidays. So what do you do when your nearby bookstore doesn’t have a horror section?

The best and easiest solution is to start a search online. Use the power of the internet to discover new authors and titles you might want to take a look at. There are plenty to choose from, and even within horror you’ll discover a wealth of sub-genres: supernatural, gothic, psychological, noir, weird, and many more, one of which may speak to you more than others. True, poking around online can seem a bit daunting, especially if you run into dozens of lists with 20 or more horror books on them, but when you’re able to narrow down what you’re interested in, you’ll be able to cut down the choices as well. By going into the store armed with information, you can make it much easier on yourself and the bookseller because you’ll already know what books you’re interested in reading. Want to make it even easier? Call the store first to verify they have the book(s) in stock, that way you won’t walk out disappointed.

Perhaps you still just want to browse and see what the store has rather than make up your mind before going in — especially if you find that a lot of internet listings repeat the same books over and over. That’s perfectly okay. Sometimes what it takes is seeing a physical book and reading through a few pages to decide if it’s truly something you want to buy. In this case, you can start off simple — ask the store if they have any Halloween displays (non-children related, of course). Some stores enjoy crafting their own horror displays where you may find some surprising reads on them. Stumbling across a book you’ve never heard of can be a lot of fun, and doing it with horror around Halloween? What better time to step into the unknown!

If the store doesn’t have a display, then by all means ask a bookseller. They’ll start off by asking if you have any titles or authors you’re looking for, but since you’re merely looking for suggestions, they’ll follow up with more questions. In this case, knowing what sub-genre of horror you’re most interested in can really help. Let them know, but you still may be faced with more questions so the bookseller can chip away at their mental card catalogue so they don’t end up handing you a book you won’t be into. Booksellers aim to please, and they really want you to go home with a book you’ll enjoy. Did you enjoy the movie The Thing? Nick Cutter’s The Deep ought to work for you. Looking for classic horror authors like Edgar Allen Poe? Have you delved into the world of H.P. Lovecraft yet? Did you read R.L. Stine’s 99 Fear Street as a teen? Then maybe it’s time to move up into Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Feeling like a thriller that’s a little bit more on the odd side? Night Film by Marsha Pessl could be just the ticket.

Should the bookseller you first encounter not be that well-versed in horror, ask if there is a bookseller available that is. Booksellers will often enlist the help of their co-workers to get what the customer wants. Even if they aren’t readers of horror, there’s a good chance they’ll be familiar enough with what’s popular, what other customers have read and recommended, and because it’s the month of Halloween, be more aware that folks are going to ask for horror titles (trust me, it happens every year).

Bookstores without horror sections may seem like a trick, but if you do your research, aren’t afraid to ask questions, and are willing to try something new, there’s no reason you shouldn’t leave the store with a bag full of treats.

…Even if they do end up being completely terrifying.

3 Comments

  • Ron Edison October 5, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Most of the B&N stores don’t have a horror section. You have to comb the general fiction section and hope you can ID them by title or author. That doesn’t serve authors or book sales well. When a store doesn’t provide a horror section, I think they’re either lazy about shelving, ignorant of genre distinctions, or afraid of customer complaints for selling “trash.” Yet most B&N stores carry quite a selection of magazines devoted to horror and horror films.

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  • Lane Robins October 5, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    My question is what to do when they technically have a horror section but it consists entirely of king, koontz, and for whatever reason any books about werewolves. Our local Hastings before it closed, mostly unmourned, kept putting Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty the werewolf books in there to bulk it out.

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    • Ronya FM October 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm

      Right on. King, Koontz & McCammon are not the height of a horror section (although there are good spine-tingling chills involved). I sometimes see horror works delineated into their own sections more often in used bookstores, but most of the time, in new or used bookstores, they get grouped at the end of science fiction. I understand the rationale for that, but…

      I’ve been using blogs to follow reviews, and there are a number of them dedicated to just horror fiction. Reading too much of them at a time isn’t good for a soul, but I do come back to them on a semi-regular basis. There was a really good one called “Monster Librarian,” but it hasn’t been updated since 2014. (Still a good resource if you’re looking for older stuff though.) But this one – https://horrornovelreviews.com/ – is one of my current go-tos.

      Reply

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