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Mother Horror 101

Sadie Hartmann, affectionately known as Mother Horror to her devoted fans, has been making horror book recommendations for years through her social media accounts. She’s a die-hard Stephen King fan and she loves the classics of the horror genre. What makes Hartmann’s recommendations so unique, however, is that she doesn’t limit her scope at all. She lifts up unique voices and celebrates offerings from every subgenre imaginably in the horror universe. It’s with that eclectic range in mind that Hartmann has released “101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered,” a collection of horror books to read before that serial killer, slasher, poltergeist, or supernatural being finally catches up to you.

Hartmann makes it clear from the start: yes, she loves Stephen King. Yes, she loves Clive Barker. But she’s not going to recommend books from super famous authors that you’ve already made your mind up about. Most of her recommendations are also fairly recent, most published between 2000 and 2023. Instead, Hartmann takes us through the lesser-known and sometimes downright obscure authors/books from a plethora of subgenres.

And what subgenres! Hartmann separates her list (in no particular order) into five main categories with sub-categories for each. She gives a brief synopsis of the book, sprinkling in her own personal experiences with the books. Hartmann has a welcoming, comforting way of telling us about why she loves a book where kids come back from the dead as little vampires…that’s not an easy thing to do! Hartmann provides an “At A Glance” offering at the end of each review, complete with symbols indicating what the main tenets of the book are. She also provides the theme, tone, style, and setting of each novel, including any necessary trigger warnings because, y’know, horror tends to go in some gnarly places.

What I love most about this collection of novels (and there’s a lot to love!) is the fact that Hartmann makes it clear that horror is for everyone and that it is a genre that has often attracted readers and writers that are considered “other”. Horror has for years been looked at as a genre for the weirdos, the ones deemed “not normal”. Hartmann wholeheartedly exclaims, “You’re damn right!” She encourages readers to embrace that “otherness” and to love what you love. It’s what’s made me a fan of horror from the start. It’s a safe place to go and get away with some wild and crazy stories that push the boundaries and make you think and feel in different ways.

Hartmann recommends books from so many different voices. LGBTQ2IA+ authors are well-represented, along with authors of many different ethnicities. There’s truly something for everyone here. And there’s a lot of opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and experience something new, another beautiful aspect of the horror experience.

All this, plus spotlights on a number of fantastic horror writers, makes this a must-read for any horror book fan or anyone looking to dive into the horror world. I absolutely devoured this book! Hartmann hints at a potential follow-up which dives into the more extreme horror novels out there. Only the ever-expanding seams of my TBR list is mad about that.

Goodreads synopsis:

The Ultimate List of Must-Read Horror! Curious readers and fans of monsters and the macabre, get ready to bulk up your TBR piles! Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann has curated the best selection of modern horror books, including plenty of deep cuts. Indulge your heart’s darkest desires to be terrified, unsettled, disgusted, and heartbroken with stories that span everything from paranormal hauntings and creepy death cults to small-town terrors and apocalyptic disasters. Each recommendation includes a full synopsis as well as a quick overview of the book’s themes, style, and tone so you can narrow down your next read at a glance.

Featuring a foreword by New York Times bestselling author Josh Malerman and five brand-new essays from rising voices in the genre, this illustrated reader’s guide is perfect for anyone who dares to delve into the dark.

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