I’m often asked for horror recommendations by people who are not usually readers of the genre. At times, they confess to me that they are not interested in slashers, blood, gore, or guts but their interest has been piqued in some way; they may be looking for societal metaphors, psychological thrillers, or they are not quite sure what they’re looking for. In any case, they tend to jump over anything they might deem “too scary” and miss out on some fantastic reads.
One of the best ways for someone to dip their toes into horror, unsure which sub-genre or niche they might be attracted to, is with an anthology. An anthology—for any genre—may act as a sophisticated sampler platter of sorts, allowing readers to "try" authors they may not have heard of or have been too anxious to try. I cut my teeth on horror anthologies, and they led me to fantastic authors and some of my favorite short stories of all time.
There are so many amazing horror anthologies—interested parties can find great horror anthologies and recommendations at Horror Writers Association, Night Worms, Nightmare Magazine, Cemetery Dance Publications, Good Reads, etc.—but here are some of my choice anthologies for first time horror readers to plunge into.
The Best Horror of the Year, any year, edited by Ellen Datlow—Take your pick from the various volumes that gives readers a diverse collection of horror stories.
Miscreations: Gods, Monstrosities & Other Horrors, 2020, edited by Doug Murano and Michael Bailey—This anthology features horror and science-fiction stories, focusing on monsters and their formations.
Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror & Suspense, 2019, edited by Lisa Morton and Leslie S. Klinger—A compilation of classic ghost stories, including works by Charles Dickens and Mark Twain, with insightful annotations by the editors.
The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology, 2014, edited by Richard Thomas—A collection of neo-noir stories ranging from horror and science-fiction to mystery and fantasy.
The Mammoth Book of Monsters, 2007, edited by Stephen Jones—Vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghouls, you name it. Interested in monsters? This one is for you.
The Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Nightmare, 1993, edited by Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Robert Weinberg & Martin H. Greenberg—An absolute favorite of mine! From the back cover: “There is one horror motif that predates the vampire, the werewolf, monsters, mummies, and ghosts: the nightmare.”
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories My Mother Never Told Me, 1963, edited by Robert Arthur—A fantastic follow up to Stories for Late at Night, this volume includes classic scares such as “The Summer People” by Shirley Jackson and “The Children of Noah” by Richard Matheson.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories for Late at Night, 1961, edited by Robert Arthur—The Master of Suspense signs off on these stories of the eerie and strange, most notably “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby made famous by The Twilight Zone.
Do you have a favorite horror anthology? Share it in the comments.