Whether you’re new to horror, a longtime fan of the genre, or somewhere in between, you might have realized that consuming horror can invoke a surprising amount of comfort, solace, humor, and even joy.
The various subgenres of horror can offer everything from mash-ups of contemporary and modern folklore to thought-provoking commentary on relevant issues such as the environment and social justice. To learn more about the subgenres, here’s a helpful guide to subgenres based on your Zodiac sign.
For those living with anxiety, or other mental and even chronic illness, horror has been proven to be a balm during difficult times. Here are some reasons why horror can be an ideal genre for those looking for their next comfort read, but are unsure where to start.
You can sympathize with, and relate to characters who are having a difficult time.
When you’re feeling like your life is out of your control, you may be wondering if there are others who are experiencing the same. From scream queens who have made one wrong move to teens trying to navigate school and social lives, horror offers a glimpse inside the lives of people trying to find their place in the world.
In a time where we’ve finally accepted that we can’t have it all, there is nothing more soothing than connecting with characters who are also trying to make the best of a challenging situation.
Book Recommendation: My Heart Is a Chainsaw By Stephen Graham Jones
My Heart Is a Chainsaw
You can get lost in a world different from your own.
Similar to fantasy, horror can take place in dream-like worlds that feature ghosts, witches, monsters, and more. It’s in these other-worldly environments that you can escape the current moment or simply allow your imagination to transport you to a different world entirely. Whether that place is a paranormal setting, a futuristic vision of Earth, or a separate location entirely, there is something satisfying about getting lost in another world.
Reading as a means of escapism can allow our minds to wander and offer a distraction from the day-to-day. Also, it might offer inspiration on how to handle ongoing stressors.
Book Recommendation: The Pallbearer's Club By Paul Tremblay
The Pallbearer's Club
You can witness characters resolve issues in real time.
A comforting aspect of reading horror is watching your favorite characters handle any curve balls life happens to throw their way—and often doing so with humor aplenty. Humor can be a helpful coping mechanism, and what better way to deal with the ongoing stresses of everyday life than with a sense of humor and a reminder that everything will ultimately be okay in the long run?
One of the joys of reading horror is that it is safe. There is an endpoint. You can stop anytime you want. You can give yourself grace, and take a break before turning the page.
Book Recommendation: Queen of Teeth By Hailey Piper
Queen of Teeth
You can cheer along as BIPOC and/or queer communities lead the resistance.
Women have been pioneers of the horror genre since its founding, and continue to be some of its most revered, if often still overlooked, writers. While diverse and/or LGBTQ+ women horror authors are not new, they are finally beginning to receive their due, and prominence alongside their white male counterparts.
In a time where rights for women, BIPOC, and queer communities are being rolled back, seeing these characters fight for a brighter future can offer both inspiration and encouragement for populations that are already at risk for having increased levels of anxiety, among other health conditions.
Book Recommendation: Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste
You can see a mirror.
Horror, as a genre, has long attracted LGBTQ+ and diverse authors and readers, who see both the stark reality and also the rich campiness of the world around them. For this reason, horror can be a mirror into our lives, reflecting a visceral portrait of our communities and offering a roadmap for how we can continue to move through society in a world where our very existence is political.
The genre is a reminder that we are not necessarily living through “unprecedented times;” these times have always existed for us, and we can turn to our wider community in order to learn how to cope.
Book Recommendation: White Horse By Erika Wurth
You can see a glimmer of hope.
It’s no secret that the here and now is a difficult time and place for many of us, especially from marginalized groups. Various subgenres of horror—such as eco-horror, social horror, and survival horror—are particularly well-versed in turning the world on its head, and showing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Whether that light is a kick-ass character breaking barriers or an ultimate path of redemption, it can be rewarding to read or listen along as characters find safety and comfort. Better yet, you can also be inspired to be the change you want to see in yourself.
Book Recommendation: The Wishing Pool by Tananarive Due
The Wishing Pool and Other Stories
The most important thing to keep in mind while reading horror is that there is no right or wrong way to read horror. You can read occasionally or often. You can stick to one subgenre of horror, or try out various subgenres to see which one you enjoy the most.
When the going gets tough, you can take a break and return to a book later (or not at all; no one will judge.) You can read horror for fun, for guidance, or anything in between.
Whatever the reason, it is helpful to keep in mind that you can always take comfort in the characters behind the pages since they might have more in common with you than you think, especially when you’re going through a difficult time.