My Book Recommendation

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After ruminating on why readers gravitate toward horror, Gigliotti introduces this collection’s 14 profiled authors by way of their fears. Stephen King used to be afraid of the dark, while Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson’s fears were of the internal sort. Whatever the source of their terrors, each writer draws “on a dark part of their hearts for inspiration.” The short biographies are arranged chronologically from Mary Shelley to Joe Hill. Entries detail personal lives, some facts about their works, and—for the dead—enduring legacies. Throughout, Gigliotti’s personal and engaging style adds a sense of suspense and intrigue to each author. Sleek design, haunted-forest motifs, and black-and-white portraits—framed with subtle nods to best-known works—further add to the ambience. While the creators’ fame is indisputable, the Whiteness and, to a lesser extent, maleness of the canon as Gigliotti construes it is glaringly evident. Moreover, the elision of Clive Barker’s sexuality—despite mentions of other authors’ love lives—is not only a missed opportunity, but erasure. Gigliotti’s contemporary lens helps contextualize the more historical entries, including mentions of any movie adaptations younger readers may be likely to know. Overall, the collection skews toward writing for adults (though a few notable exceptions write across age categories). The lack of backmatter, sources, or even a conclusion makes for an abrupt ending.

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