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Summer Scares Reading Program


The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and BookList, has launched a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. The goal is to introduce new authors and help librarians start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Each year, a special guest author and a committee of four librarians will select 3 recommended fiction titles in each of 3 reading levels (Middle Grade, Teen, and Adult), for a total of 9 Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the entire horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries all over the country and ultimately get more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also be available to appear, either virtually or in person, at public and school libraries all over the country, for free.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14— National Library Lover’s Day. Some or all of the authors of those titles will appear on kickoff panels during Librarian’s Day at StokerCon each year.

In addition, the committee and its partners will be publishing lists of even more suggested titles (read alikes) for further horror reading, content by committee members about the genre, and interviews with the selected authors. Official Summer Scares podcasting partner, Ladies of the Fright Podcast, will also be recording episodes in conjunction with Summer Scares.

Forget Halloween — summer is the best time for horror. Michael’s hanging with the vampires down at the Santa Carla boardwalk in The Lost Boys. Sally and Franklin head out in a hotbox of a van during the dog days of summer to make sure no one’s vandalizing grandpa’s grave and run into Leatherface and his family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And summer is when counselors start clean out the cabins at Camp Crystal Lake.

And then there’s the most horrific summer menace of all: the required reading list.

The Horror Writer’s Association thought the best way to alleviate the actual torture of the summer reading list was by offering readers a bunch of books that contain fictional torture. Our alternate summer reading list contains the best and the brightest (or, maybe, the worst and the darkest) horror novels out there. After all, if you’re taking a book to the beach, why not make it Jaws? If you’re grabbing something to take with you to that vacation rental, why not a book that points out that the house you snagged for a bargain is haunted?

But why read horror at all? Isn’t it all just blood and gore and one tired old scare scene after another? It certainly was when horror literature imploded in the early 1990’s. Coming off a serial killer boom, thanks to the success of Silence of the Lambs, horror’s publishing bubble exploded thanks to the overproduction of too many gruesome serial killer novels that trafficked in gory atrocities, leaving readers with the impression that horror was basically torture porn for boys. But before that brief boom, horror was rich with female writers like Ann Radcliffe, Shirley Jackson, Bari Wood, Vernon Lee, Anne Rice, and dozens of others who were some of the biggest authors of their day, and who got written out of the historical narrative.

After the horror boom died in the early 90’s, the common wisdom says the genre stayed dormant for a decade, but actually the 90’s was when horror became the province of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, and The X-Files which taught an entire generation of fans that horror didn’t have to only be scary, it could be funny, it could be romantic, it could be complicated, and it had room for women.

The generation who are writing books now are bringing a breath of fresh air to a revitalized genre. Along with the effort to bring back into print some of the best horror writers of the past, many of them women, contemporary horror fiction is more varied, more fascinating, more surprising, and more diverse than ever before. But with so many ways to die, so many monsters to eat us, and so many new flavors of fear to be explored, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s where the HWA steps in, and from now until the sun explodes some time in the future and we all die screaming, allow us to be your horror sherpas guiding you down these dark stairs, into this underground crypt, down these winding tunnels lit only by a single flickering flame. Don’t be afraid. We have such sights to show you.

–Grady Hendrix, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Paperbacks from Hell

For 2021, the committee will comprise:

Silvia Moreno-Garcia: The bestselling author of the novels Mexican Gothic, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Certain Dark Things, and Untamed Shore, among others. She has also edited several anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Gods of Jade and Shadow was the 2020 American Library Association Reading List winner in the Fantasy category, appeared on many year’s best lists, and won the 2020 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Silvia is also the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press, a columnist for The Washington Post, and a book reviewer for NPR.

Becky Spratford: A library consultant and the author of, most recently, The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Horror, second edition. She reviews horror for Booklist Magazine and runs the Readers’ Advisory Horror blog, RA for All: Horror. Becky is also a Library Trustee member of United for Libraries and is currently serving as Secretary for the Horror Writers’ Association.

Konrad Stump is a Local History Associate for the Springfield-Greene County (MO) Library, where he coordinates local history programming and works district-wide on Big Read, ASRP, and Springfield-Greene’s popular “Oh, the Horror!” series, which attracts hundreds of patrons during October. He created the Donuts & Death horror book discussion group, featured in “Book Club Reboot: 71 Creative Twists” (ALA), and co-created the Summer Scares Programming Guide. Library workers and authors who are interested in cultivating horror programming can contact Konrad at konrads@thelibrary.org for free assistance.

Carolyn Ciesla: A library director and academic dean at Prairie State College in the Chicago suburbs. She has worked as a teen librarian and reference librarian, and reviews horror titles for Booklist Magazine. She’s currently enjoying providing all of the scary books to her teen daughter, and revisiting a few along the way.

Julia Smith: A senior editor at Booklist and a member of the Books for Youth team. Her life-long love of horror movies and middle-grade literature draws her to creepy children’s stories and books with bone in the title.

Kelly Jensen: A former librarian who works as an Editor for Book Riot (bookriot.com), where she runs the weekly “What’s Up in YA?” young adult newsletter, the biweekly “Check Your Shelf” newsletter for librarians, and cohosts the “Hey YA” podcast about young adult literature Her books include (Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health and Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, both from Algonquin Young Readers. She’s also a well-known and long-time co-blogger at STACKED (stackedbooks.org). A life-long lover of all things scary, she finds herself eager to scream about horror reads for teens with those who love good thrills and chills.

The HWA’s program coordinator is JG Faherty. JG has been a finalist for both the Bram Stoker Award® (The Cure, Ghosts of Coronado Bay) and ITW Thriller Award (The Burning Time), and he is the author of 6 novels, 9 novellas, and more than 60 short stories. He writes adult and YA horror/sci-fi/fantasy, and is a member of the Horror Writers Associations’ Board of Trustees as well as the head of the HWA’s Library and Literacy program.


For more information, contact JG Faherty, HWA Library Committee Chair (libraries@horror.org) or Becky Spratford, HWA Secretary (bspratford@hotmail.com)

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