It isn’t hard to find books featuring vampires these days, but finding one to your taste can be a little more difficult. In our list of suggested reads, we’ve tried to provide an overview of the vampire in all of its literary incarnations: suave, savage, sexy, and psychopathic.
Bram Stoker (author), Valdimar Ásmundsson (author), Hans Corneel De Roos (translator)
I know that if you’ve even got a cursory interest in vampires then you’ve probably read Dracula. It’s been done to death on these kinds of lists — no pun intended. That said, it keeps popping up for a reason. With Dracula, Bram Stoker took a hodgepodge of Eastern European folklore and produced an indelible horror archetype that has haunted the popular imagination for going on two centuries. Still, you’ve likely read it. With that in mind, why not check out Powers of Darkness? Icelandic author Valdimar Ásmundsson’s 1900 supposed translation of the novel is actually a stand-alone work that adds new characters and plot elements not found in Stoker’s original.
Richard Matheson’s apocalyptic tale of one man — possibly the last man on Earth — waging an impossible war against the vampires who used to his friends and neighbors has been adapted several times for the silver screen, with none of the results really capturing the tragedy and paranoia of the original story. Ironically, the one film that kind of did was an unauthorized rip-off: George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” : a movie that, in turn, single-handedly created the zombie apocalypse genre. All of that aside, if you’re looking for a thoroughly modern interpretation of the vampire — one without the gothic affectation or erotic subtext — then you can’t go wrong with this one. (“Come out, Neville!”)
Okay, I hear you: You’re actually more in the mood for the other kind of vampire — the sexy kind. In that case, I recommend Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, a gothic novel par excellence. Rice wrote Interview following the death of her first child, and the book is overflowing with the grief and anger she must have felt. Protagonist Louis de Point du Lac is a tragic figure who wants nothing more than to die when he is transformed into an immortal being by the vampire Lestat — a dark miracle that brings him no closer to understanding the savage world around him.
Editor’s Note: There’s a new book in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles coming out on October 2nd! It’s called Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat, and if you like Interview with the Vampire, you’re going to want to check it out.
Forget the velvet and lace. Maybe you’re more of a leather and chains kind of reader. Following wizards and witches, vampires are among the most popular protagonists in the paranormal detective genre. While there’s no shortage of great material in that vein (Get it? Get it?), my personal favorite has to be Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt Casebooks. A former punk rocker turned street hustler, Joe’s transformation into a “vampyre” leads him to a career as a fixer and leg-breaker for New York City’s rival vampyre clans. Joe refuses to swear allegiance to any of them, making him the go-to guy for odd (and bloody) jobs around the city. Joe is a killer with a heart of stone — he’s nobody’s idea of a knight in shining armor. If you see him coming around, then you’d probably better start running.
Vampires are also popular in young adult literature, but wait, don’t leave — I’m not going to recommend Twilight. Instead, I’d like to direct you to Rachel Klein’s The Moth Diaries: a gothic novel of toxic friendship and (possibly) the supernatural set at an exclusive girl’s boarding school. The set-up and subtext of this mature tale for younger readers will undoubtedly remind longtime vampire aficionados of Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic story “Carmilla”.
Do you like alternative history and conspiracies? If so, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian should be up your alley. When a scholar and her father investigate the historical Vlad the Impaler they uncover a secret that should have been left buried. Is there some truth to the old legends of the blood-drinking Voivode of Wallachia? Did he have more of a connection to the story of Dracula than even popular culture would have us to believe?
John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated by Ebba Segerberg
Obviously, the vampire myth is a great one for exploring the darker corners of human existence, and Let the Right One In does so in spades. The story of a friendship between Oksar, a bullied boy, and Eli, a centuries-old vampire stuck with the body of a child, Let the Right One In a truly unsettling book.
- Featured Book
Curious about other sci-fi/fantasy subgenres? Check out all of our So You Want To Read lists – we’re adding new ones all the time!