20 GIFTS PERFECT FOR ROMANCE READERS

Picking just the right Christmas gift for someone  is never easy, and for bookish loved ones it’s twice as hard! You can always turn to the old gift card standby (after all, everyone loves free book money!) but sometimes you want to do something a little more specific. If you’ve got a romance reader in your life (or you’re a romance reader and looking for the perfect Christmas gift for yourself—I won’t judge), and you want to make sure you pick something that celebrates their favorite genre, this list is for you!

“AROUND THE HOUSE” GIFTS FOR ROMANCE READERS

A beautiful bookmark is always a welcome gift for any bookworm, and an inexpensive option for givers with a small Christmas budget. This romance bookmark is both pretty and practical!

romance bookmark romance reader gifts

These romance novel mini-book wine charms are too cute! Perfect for book club nights.

romance novel cover wine charms romance reader gifts

I love this James Griffin romance cover art magnet, and it’s a great way to celebrate the beauty of the genre’s classic clinch covers. There’s a second magnet as well, if you want to make a set!

james griffin romance novel cover art magnet romance reader gifts

Looking for a gift for someone who is a romance reader and a baker? These are technically Pride and Prejudice cookie cutters, but the silhouettes are general enough that these cookies could be any of their favorite (and delicious) romance heroes and heroines.

pride and prejudice cookie cutters bookish baking romance reader gifts

This set of 24 postcards celebrates the vintage romance cover art of Enrique Torres Prat. They’re colorful, beautifully painted, and postcards are great multipurpose gift! I love to stick them up on a wall like an art mosaic.

vintage romance novel cover art enrique torres prat romance reader gifts

Not a fan of Prat’s work? Pay homage to the early day of the genre with this set of 17 Vintage Harlequin Cover Postcards from before the days of the mighty clinch cover.

vintage harlequin romance novel cover art postcards romance reader gifts

BOOKISH CANDLE FOR ROMANCE READERS

Okay, four different types of candles, Jessica? But hear me out: you could mix and match them with other things on the list, or make an epic romance genre candle Christmas basket!

Described as “a very mild and gentle blend of honeysuckle, silk, cashmere, and tea” (what does silk smell like?), this Historical Romance candle is perfect for the dedicated historical romance fan! All it’s missing is the ever-present hero smell: Bergamot.

historical romance bookish candle romance reader gifts

You scream, I scream, we all scream for our favorite romance tropes, and for strawberry and champagne scented Romance Trope candles.

romance trope bookish candle romance reader gifts

Scented with champagne, pear, and pear blossoms, this Epic Romance candle will sweep your giftee away.

epic romance bookish candle romance reader gifts

This Romance candle is scented like raspberry, cherry, and sugar which frankly sounds like something I’d like to eat, so I’m going to bet it smells almost as good as a new book. It’s also available in 8 and 4 oz sizes!

romance genre bookish candle romance reader gifts

MUGS FOR ROMANCE READERS

Know someone who’s tired of having their romance reading criticized in favor of books written by old dead white men? This “I only read the classics…” mug might be for them.

romance genre bookish mug romance reader gifts

Do not get between a romance reader and her book, especially if her “Hell hath no fury” mug is full of unconsumed caffeine.

hell hath no fury romance genre bookish mug romance reader gifts

This (somewhat defensive) mug is for the romance reader who is definitely not late to every morning appointment because they were up late reading that shiny new release. Definitely not.

up late reading romance genre bookish mug romance reader gifts

Not a fan of the romance tropes candle? (How dare you.) This “My Favorite Romance Tropes” mug is super cute and features that all-time favorite: the fake engagement.

romance tropes bookish mug romance reader gifts

This last mug is for the paranormal romance fan in your life, and all their beastly or fangtastic book boyfriends.

paranormal romance bookish mug romance reader gifts

JEWELRY FOR ROMANCE READERS

This romance comics bracelet is probably the most expensive item on this list ($80), but it was too pretty not to include. All the images are taken from retro 1940s romance comics and it’s decorated with Swarovski crystals.

1940s romance comics bookish jewelry romance reader gifts

On the other hand, this romance novel bangle bracelet is a charming (and much less expensive) option. I particularly like the heart shaped glass charm with the flower.

romance novel bangle bracelet bookish jewelry romance reader gifts

simple but lovely little cuff to represent all those fictional boys that make the heart go pitter-pat. (And, let’s be honest, book boys really are better.)

romance genre cuff bracelet bookish jewelry romance reader gifts

As necklaces go, this romance novel necklace is pretty uncomplicated, but I love its little book charm and red glass heart!

romance novel addict necklace bookish jewelry romance reader gifts

The last but certainly not the least, this “romantic” necklace will let your friendly neighborhood romance reader show off their favorite genre.

romance genre necklace bookish jewelry romance reader gifts

By , November 
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Genre Friday – Comedic Fantasy

So You Want to Read Comedic Fantasy: Here’s Where to Start

Illustration: Paul Kidby/Orion Books

Fantasy fiction is serious business, until it isn’t. While we love our multi-volume doorstoppers and grimdark epics as much as the next reader, sometimes it’s fun to let loose and look for a laugh. Enter comedic fantasy.

Where fantasy began as a genre is certainly up for debate — one we’re not having now — but if you consider mythology a predecessor, then humor has been part of it since the beginning. Norse myth offers a tale of Thor dressing in drag to fool a frost giant into returning his stolen hammer Mjölnir. There’s also Anansi the spider, an African trickster spirit that cheerfully trolls anyone and anything it can. Those are just a couple of examples.

There are plenty of funny fairy and folk tales, too. Jack and the Beanstalk, Puss in Boots, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, just to name a few. Of course, Shakespeare worked plenty of laughs into his own take on the fairy tale, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Heading into the modern era, fantasy fiction godfathers Lord Dunsany, and James Branch Cabell, wrote for chuckles, as did fantasy-adjacent authors like Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain. Plenty of old school fantasy writers did, too. Fritz Leiber’s stuff is full of chuckles, as is Fletcher Pratt’s.

There are plenty of contemporary fantasy writers who know their way around a joke, and if you’re looking for a laugh, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are our suggestions for the humor-hungry bookworm.

The cover of the book Kill the Farm BoyKill the Farm Boy
KEVIN HEARNE AND DELILAH S. DAWSON
Iron Druid Chronicles author Kevin Hearne and Star Wars: Phasma author Delilah S. Dawson’s Kill the Farm Boy is a take-no-prisoners comedy assault on the high fantasy genre, complete with a trash-talking goat, necromancer named Steve, and a Dark Lord who is a bit of a turophile — a cheese lover, that is. It isn’t out until July 17, but this should be a definite pre-order for the comedic fantasy fan.

 

The cover of the book The Color of MagicThe Color of Magic
TERRY PRATCHETT
Sir Terry was the 800 pound gorilla of comedic fantasy, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Few, if any, fantasy readers would argue with the contention that his Discworld series pretty much made the genre what it is in the modern age. What is arguable is where one should begin reading the series. According to some fans, you can jump in anywhere you like. Others point to this or that volume as being better points of entry. With all of that in mind, I’ll just point you toward the first book, The Color of Magic, and you can decide for yourself.

 

The cover of the book Another Fine MythAnother Fine Myth
ROBERT ASPRIN
Robert Asprin, like Sir Terry, was a giant in comedic fantasy. His Myth Adventures series started with a fairly formulaic trope — the bumbling wizard’s apprentice — and took it to some weird, weird places. Book one introduces the aforementioned apprentice, Skeeve, his fearsome-looking demon sidekick Aahz, and a host of other misfit characters you’ll come to know and love as much as I did. A note: the series seems to be out of print in dead tree, but the ebooks are still available.

 

The cover of the book The HikeThe Hike
DREW MAGARY
Drew Magary’s fantasy novel The Hike is one of the strangest and funniest contributions to the genre that I’ve read in the last few years. It’s the story of a guy whose short walk in the woods turns into an epic journey across a fantasy world populated with hungry giantesses, witheringly sarcastic crabs, dog-men, and dwarves — Oh God, the dwarves. I almost forgot. Dwarves.

 

The cover of the book The Princess BrideThe Princess Bride
WILLIAM GOLDMAN
You were expecting this one, weren’t you? Well, you should be — and with good reason. Goldman’s The Princess Bride is as heartwarming as it is funny, and the book is just as much a pleasure to experience as the movie based on it. (You’ve never seen “The Princess Bride”? Stop reading this now and go. Just go and watch it. I’ll wait.)

 

The cover of the book In the Company of OgresIn the Company of Ogres
A. LEE MARTINEZ
A. Lee Martinez has written a ton of funny stuff across half a dozen genres. In the Company of Ogres is his sharp, pointy stick in the eye of proper fantasy fiction. It’s about a guy — a guy who has trouble staying dead — who is put in charge of an oddball company of monsters, including, but not limited to, a two-headed ogre

 

The cover of the book The Tough Guide to FantasylandThe Tough Guide to Fantasyland
DIANA WYNNE JONES
The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land is your travel guide to the fantasy worlds of your favorite authors. Which ones? All of them! Jones parodic masterwork skewers the fantasy tropes that all of us know and love, from magic swords to dark lords. If you’ve ever lost a few hours at tvtropes.com, then this book is for you.

 

The cover of the book Bored of the RingsBored of the Rings
THE HARVARD LAMPOON
Bored of the Rings is a parody of J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic written by Henry N. Beard and Douglas C. Kenney, Harvard Lampoonstaffers who went on to launch the classic humor magazine (and movie production company) National Lampoon. Like the Lampoon itself, the humor of Bored of the Rings can be downright crude, but if your taste leans that way, then you’ll probably enjoy it. (No judgment!)

 

The cover of the book Kings of the WyldKings of the Wyld
NICHOLAS EAMES
In a world where adventuring parties are like rock bands, Clay Cooper and his rowdy crew of mercenaries were legends. Now they’re older, and out of shape, and married, and … well, they’re not kids anymore. But it’s time to get the band back together, and show that you’re never too old to rock. The cover of this book, while awesome, makes it seem a lot darker than it really is. Honestly, it’s a really funny story about the bonds of friendship. And friendly zombies. Air ships, too.

 

The cover of the book To Say Nothing of the DogTo Say Nothing of the Dog
CONNIE WILLIS
I’ll readily concede to stretching the definition of “fantasy” for this one, but I would be remiss not mentioning this bona fide classic.The invention of the time machine has opened up the past to historians in a way that their forebears could only dream of. There are rules, though: You aren’t supposed to bring anything back with you from the past — least of all a cat. Now an overworked Oxford Don has to return to the 19th century to set things right. To Say Nothing of the Dog is part of the same universe as The Doomsday Book, but a heck of a lot funnier.

 

The cover of the book Heroine's JourneyHeroine’s Journey
SARAH KUHN
Does comedic fantasy only come in chainmail and wizard’s hats? I think not. Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Complex novels stand as proof that you can find big laughs in other forms of fantastic literature. In her case, superhero fiction. Heroine Complex is about a former personal assistant to an A-list superhero whose life turns upside down when she discovers her own powers. Look for book three, Heroine’s Journey, on July 3!

Romance Writers on How the Genre Empowers Women

Romance novels get a bad rap. Most people judge them without even reading them, and accuse those who enjoy the genre of not reading “real” books.

We gathered together six well-known romance authors to help dispel stereotypes about the genre, and discuss how their stories are especially meaningful to women. Tune in to the video below to see what they had to say.

Transcription of romance authors discussing the importance of the genre for women.

Chanel Cleeton: You know romance gets a bad rap a lot, and we all know that.

Kate Bateman: I mean, people just think it’s literally trashy novels.

Shayla Black: And I grew up in the era of reading romance when it was his love lance and his man root. Let’s just call it what it is, and move on.

Kate Bateman: But as a genre, it’s literally the most feminist literature you can get. It’s like mainly for women.

Tamsen Parker: By women, about women.

Kate Bateman: The entire purpose is to make women feel empowered and feel good about themselves.

Sarina Bowen: The women are always their own savior, alongside with finding somebody to spend their lives with.

Tamsen Parker: In a lot of popular culture media, it’s harder to find really multi-dimensional characters, where I feel like that’s really common in romance. People have families. They have careers. And they have a love interest.

Kate Bateman: I like the fact that my women are kick-asses in corsets. My girls will have cool jobs. So they’re like thieves or they are counterfeiters.

Milly Taiden: I always felt that curvier women, there weren’t enough of them. So that’s why I started writing them. I loved the stories. They were fantastic and the romance was great. But I was like, well, that’s not like a girl like me.

Sarina Bowen: I have actually a female character in one of my books who comes down with a sexually transmitted infection. And it’s a huge disaster and a blow to her ego and her sense of self. And I did once get a letter from somebody who thanked me for writing that story, because that happened to her and she was horrified and embarrassed and felt a lot of shame. But she really loved the portrayal of that event in this book, and that it’s not the end of the world.

Shayla Black: I think there’s so many facets to women. And I don’t think we should have just any one sort of heroine. I’ve written the really shy, come out of your shell types. I’ve written ones that just kick ass from start to finish. We went through a phase in romance, I feel like, where we had nothing but what everybody said was kick-ass heroines. I’m like, that’s great, but for the girls who are super shy? Sometimes even I couldn’t relate. I want to relate to this girl.

Tamsen Parker: You see it in a lot of mainstream, popular culture that FF or lesbian relationships, it’s like this is for the pleasure of somebody else to watch. When you’re looking at the romance genre, you’re talking about women’s pleasure. And that’s really powerful. You don’t see it a lot.

Sarina Bowen: I grew up in a kind of conservative part of the country, where girls my age didn’t talk about sex or sexuality.

Shayla Black: I get a lot of email about this, too, where people feel as if they didn’t really understand themselves, or they didn’t understand that something was OK.

Sarina Bowen: So it’s been a real journey for me to portray women in a positive sexual light.

Shayla Black: This is a way for them to get information, and see it processed through a character’s eyes, and understand how it functions, and how it might function for them.

 

Check out the books:

The cover of the book Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana
Chanel Cleeton
After the death of her beloved grandmother, Marisol Ferrera – a Cuban-American woman – travels to Havana, where she discovers her true identity and family secrets that have been hidden since the revolution. Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast between Cuba’s beauty and its perilous political climate. When Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

 

The cover of the book A Counterfeit HeartA Counterfeit Heart
K. C. Bateman
Counterfeiter Sabine de la Tour has decided to bid a reluctant farewell to her double life as a notorious criminal, but leaving won’t be easy – she and her business partner must escape France soon, or face certain death. Her only hope of surviving is to strike a deal with the very spy she’s spent her career outrunning. Now after meeting the arrogant operative in the flesh, Sabine longs to throw herself upon his mercy – and into his arms.

 

The cover of the book Devoted to PleasureDevoted to Pleasure
Shayla Black
When a a blackmailer starts watching her every move, television star Shealyn West hires Cutter to keep her safe, never imagining their attraction will be too powerful to contain. As Shealyn and Cutter navigate the scintillating line between business and pleasure, they unravel a web of secrets that threaten their relationship and their lives. When danger strikes, Cutter must decide whether to follow his heart or lose Shealyn forever.

 

The cover of the book His CustodyHis Custody
Tamsen Parker
Keyne O’Connell leads a good life – she has a great family, a loving boyfriend, and a promising future. But one dark summer night changes everything for Kenye, forcing her into the care of her boyfriend’s intimidating, much older brother, Jasper. Jasper isn’t a good man. He’s a womanizer and a casual drug user with no interest in becoming Keyne’s guardian. But living in close quarters soon stirs up feelings inside them both that are far from platonic. Keyne needs a firm hand to keep her in line, but what she desires could lead Jasper into trouble.

 

The cover of the book Pipe DreamsPipe Dreams
Sarina Bowen
Mike Beacon, a hockey player, widower, and a single father, has never forgotten Lauren Williams, an ex-lover who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers’ office during the play-offs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right. But Lauren’s focused on her plans for the future and won’t let a man get in the way of that. Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie.

 

The cover of the book Fearless MatingFearless Mating
Milly Taiden
Sergeant Major Candace Obermier has arrived at Alpha League Federal Agency headquarters to shut it down. Though A.L.F.A. pledged to protect humans from paranormal threats, they’ve caused nothing but mayhem. Candace thinks the problem lies with the agency’s director, Josh Tumbel. But when A.L.F.A. headquarters is taken in a hostage situation, Josh demonstrates the critical nature of the agency’s existence, and proves his worth to Candy as a protector and lover.

Trend Alert: Popular ‘Up-Lit’ Books to Improve Your Mood

Tired of fictional murderers lurking around every page? Fed up with unwelcome apocalypses, unending wars, and miseries that somehow get worse as the chapters fly by? You’re not alone. We love stories, but they can sometimes be dreary things.

Enter “up-lit,” a book trend with modest intentions: It wants to make you feel better.

Of course, books have always improved readers’ lives, but “up-lit” [uplifting literature] seeks to do this by focusing on empathy and optimism. The characters in this wave of literature are everyday heroes dealing with everyday problems, championing human connection over romance, fulfillment over traditional success.

“These feel-good books tap into mental health and loneliness and anxiety and trauma,” editor Sam Eades told The Guardian about the growing trend. “By the end of the book the characters will have formed friendships, and been swept into a community.”

Want to check it out for yourself? We rounded up some of the most popular “up-lit” titles Goodreads members have been shelving below.

The Keeper of Lost Things A Man Called Ove The Lido Three Things About Elsie
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry The Story of Arthur Truluv
The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes The Trouble with Goats and Sheep The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

 

By Hayley, November 08, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

Oh Poor Horror, Misunderstood: Josh Malerman on Horror’s New Generation

Photo by W A T A R I on Unsplash

Oh, poor horror, misunderstood.

Mother says you’re made up of witches and woods, brutal bloodletting, slashers in hoods. But I know better, having eaten my share, saved some for later, stashed under stairs.

Mixed ‘em and matched ‘em and made new pairs.

Mother doesn’t like you. She says you are trite! I try to convince her night after night. I beseeched her, “Dear Mother, open thy mind. Horror is no longer a word you will find so neatly packaged with stuffing and twine.”

“Leave me, dark child, with a full foamy stein.
And take your common monsters, speckled with teeth
Used so often they put me to sleep.
Take your old bones lying out in the rain
While I read something compelling and sane.”

Oh, poor horror, misunderstood.

I continued with Mother, as well as I could. My argument expanded to include books she deemed good. “Some say Jane Eyre is as much of a fright as Tanith Lee’s Dreams of Dark and Light. And some cite Melville as a man of such tales, for what could be scarier than a giant white whale? But never mind the classics, fuddy mother of mine, horror no longer grows on the vine Here, let me show you one of mine.”

Here I showed Mother Inspection of mine.

She huffed and she hawed until halfway she knew it, she lifted the book and she almost threw it, then brought it back down to the yarn on her knees, and read the second half at her ease.

“But this isn’t horror, rotten child of mine, for it has no vampires or inverted nines.”

“But Mother, you see! The word is elastic, and all us new writers are made of new plastic! We’ll write of such things, but not cause they’re gaudy, we’re interested in both the mind and the body. We thrill but we think, we’re intellectually naughty. We’re interested in both the mind and the body.”

Dear Mother then frowned and dismissed me again. But she hadn’t yet thrown the book in her hand.

“What does your kind know of the ways of the soul? Coming of age? Quality control? Leave me, braindead child, and take with you your trolls.”

Oh poor horror, misunderstood.

I took leave as she ordered but for only so long, and returned with a stack of new songs.
A tower of books, a stack of new songs.

“Horror has changed, Dear Mother it’s true, it’s not the same now as it was for you. The genre is present as the ice in your drink, it’s come up through the pipes and the sink.”

Here Mother looked to the kitchen, to the sink, and I felt I’d made progress, had got her to think.

“The genre has fled from the castles of yore and is no longer steeped in bones and gore–though we love such elements, we love them, it’s true! But did you know the color blue could be as much monster as the thing in the brew? Did you know we see monsters in even baby blue?”

“The way you talk, it’s as if you see scares everywhere.”

“That’s it! That’s right! Even over there!”

I pointed to a corner where nothing was there.

Mother shook her head and pointed, too, a long wrinkled finger and said, “You, oh you. Do you think me so vulgar to believe such a thing? That your genre might be found on a butterfly’s wing?”

“But what better place–do not make a face–for your likeness may match the pattern of lace in the curtains of this room in which we debate, or the pattern indeed of the butterfly’s mate.”

“Oh!” Mother said, shaking her head. “Leave me, gross child, and take your undead. You speak as though you’d marry Dreary and Dread.”

Oh poor horror, misunderstood.

“I’ll leave you, Dear Mother, I’ll go up to my bed. But not without repeating the things that I’ve said. For horror has risen from the graves of yore and can be found now in places never heard of before, or perhaps even the corners of this very room! A brand new monster in this very room!”

She looked to the corner and I felt I’d scored, but I’d need to describe what stood where the walls met the floor.

“Do you see it, Dear Mother? The crown of its head? Why, it’s not even a ghost, it’s not even dead. Nor is it invisible, as you’ve read of before. What stands in this room is More.”

More as a monster?” Mother laughed at me so. “But what sort of horror does More have in store?”

I crossed the room then.

“The livers are living but they still want More.
The lovers are loving but they still want More.
Mothers are presented with examples but they still want More.
Do you see, Dear Mother, we’ve made a monster of More?”

Mother seemed to consider, but did not look resigned.

“I told you,” I said, “the body and the mind.”

She set down my book, took the yarn from her lap, rose to a standing, and clapped a lone clap.

“Bedtime for me, ugly child of mine.” And she made for the staircase of antique pine.

Her opinion, I thought, as hard as the wood.

Oh poor horror, misunderstood.

But as she took the first step, and the step did shriek, she paused without turning to speak: “The way you see it, stairs could be horror. And a person who takes them, an explorer.”

She did turn then, and gave me a wink, nodded her head as if to rethink, then climbed the stairs and called over her shoulder, “Interesting child, you simmer and smolder–do all you new writers think this way? Horror in all things, every day?”

She stopped outside her bedroom up there, perhaps pondering a brand new scare.

“Yes, Dear Mother,” Dear Mother, I swore.

And she whispered, “Not bad,” before closing the door.

25 Horror Classics You Need to Read

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

In any genre there are always those seminal works that are pure must-reads. They’re the classics, the stories that are either the foundational underpinnings or pitch perfect examples of what the genre has to offer. People have been telling scary stories for as long as they’ve been, in fact, telling stories. There’s just something addictive about a bit of bone-chilling terror. But the sheer breadth of the horror catalog can be a little daunting – particularly when you’re talking the must-reads. Ever the glutton for punishment, I’ve taken a stab at pulling together twenty-five must-read classics, from the 1800s through the 1980s. Let us know your favorite horror reads in the comments!

The cover of the book The Haunting of Hill House (Movie Tie-In)The Haunting of Hill House 
SHIRLEY JACKSON
With The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson crafted one of the most influential haunted house tales of all time. It’s a slow burn masterpiece that relies as much on its deeply drawn characters as its potentially haunted setting to methodically ratchet up the dread and terror.

 

 

The cover of the book Interview with the VampireInterview with the Vampire
ANNE RICE
Anne Rice essentially reinvented the popular mythology of the vampire with her Vampire Chronicles series, and it all began with Interview with the Vampire. Rice’s influence on the vampire genre in the latter twentieth century is difficult to overstate and Interview is still one of her best.

 

 

The cover of the book ItIt
STEPHEN KING
For me personally, this was the most difficult pick. I debated The Shining, The Stand, and ‘Salem’s Lot. However, I just can’t escape the fact that It is just so quintessentially Stephen King. If you only read one Stephen King novel, the sprawling story of a group of kids fighting a timeless evil in the twisted of community Derry, Maine has to be the one.

 

 

The cover of the book DraculaDracula
BRAM STOKER
Dracula is the definitive vampire novel. It quite literally defined many of the tropes and conventions that are now staples of the of the vampire genre. Beyond underpinning an entire subgenre, Dracula is a tale of obsession, loss, and repressed sexuality.

 

 

The cover of the book Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes
RAY BRADBURY
There are times when it feels like I read Ray Bradbury as much for his absurdly well-written prose and use of metaphor as his forays into all things horrific. Something Wicked This Way Comes is the gold standard – it melds Bradbury’s keen sense of nostalgia, unfettered imagination, and gleeful wordsmithing into one brilliant and unsettling package.

 

 

The cover of the book Frankenstein: The 1818 TextFrankenstein: The 1818 Text
MARY SHELLEY
Although it’s also widely considered one of the first science fiction novels, the macabre horror of Frankenstein is undeniable. Its influence has stretched through two centuries of horror and it remains a foundational piece of the genre.

 

 

The cover of the book BelovedBeloved
TONI MORRISON
Beloved wrecked me the first time I read it. At its base, it is a ghost story – and an incredibly well-told one – but the horrifying secret at its core, and the way Toni Morrison expertly peels away the layers of guilt, desperation, and trauma that define the tale, make this Pulitzer Prize-winner a singular and devastating appearance.

 

 

The cover of the book Gothic TalesGothic Tales
ELIZABETH GASKELL
Any discussion of Gothic horror and its genesis should include Elizabeth Gaskell. The dread-inducing collection of stories in Gothic Tales is a perfect example why. Her works are darkly surreal, blending local legends, fairy tales, and an incisive understanding of mankind’s darker inclinations into a deeply unsettling collection of eerie tales.

 

 

The cover of the book RebeccaRebecca
DAPHNE DU MAURIER; INTRODUCTION BY LUCY HUGHES-HALLETT
Rebecca is a classic study in obsession and sustained suspense. Readers are inexorably carried along with the unnamed narrator’s increasingly intense fascination with the death of her husband’s first wife. What unfolds is intricately woven mystery as unnerving as it is shocking.

 

 

The cover of the book The Best of Richard MathesonThe Best of Richard Matheson
RICHARD MATHESON
Richard Matheson is arguably best known for I Am Legend, his seminal post-apocalyptic pseudo-vampire novel, but he’s also one of the finest short fiction writers of latter twentieth century. Matheson’s occasionally pulpy and always terrifying short stories influenced virtually every major horror writer to follow in his considerable wake, including the likes of Stephen King and Peter Straub. They also had a major impact on Victor LaValle, who both edited and wrote an introduction for this collection. LaValle is no slouch in the horror department himself and well worth a look.

 

 

The cover of the book The OtherThe Other
THOMAS TRYON
It was arguably the success of novels like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Other that ushered in the paperback horror boom of the late 70’s and early 80’s. With The Other Tryon’s takes a deep dive into humanity’s darker side. Set against a bucolic farming community, the story eschews the supernatural in favor of more mundane, if no less horrifying, scares.

 

 

The cover of the book The ExorcistThe Exorcist
WILLIAM PETER BLATTY
If you only know William Peter Blatty’s terrifying masterpiece by way of its classic adaptation, pick up a copy of the novel that inspired it. Blatty manages to imbue an eerie sense of plausibility into the story that makes it all the more unsettling.

 

 

 

The cover of the book Rosemary's BabyRosemary’s Baby
IRA LEVIN
Rosemary’s Baby effortlessly weaves its suspense through the oft-mundane everyday lives of the young couple at its center. There’s an inkling from the beginning that something is not quite right, but the reader’s realization, paced alongside Rosemary’s own, is what lifts Ira Levin’s masterpiece to a different level.

 

 

The cover of the book The Woman in BlackThe Woman in Black
SUSAN HILL
The Woman in Black feels like a throwback to a much earlier period. It’s a bit shocking to realize this Victorian chiller was published in 1983. That’s a very good thing. The Woman in Black is a pitch perfect ghost story – one that takes its time and lets the fear slowly creep in and envelope the reader.

 

 

The cover of the book The House Next DoorThe House Next Door
ANNE RIVERS SIDDONS
The House Next Door is an oddly overlooked slice of horror that deserves a spot alongside the haunted house heavyweights (The Haunting of Hill House, The Shining, Hell House). Best known for novels like Peachtree Road that center around the sagas of wealthy southern families, Anne Rivers Siddons nonetheless quietly crafted a brilliantly creepy haunted house tale that has stood the test of time.

 

 

The cover of the book PhantomsPhantoms
DEAN KOONTZ
Dean Koontz has leaned a bit more into sci-fi and pure thrillers for most of his prodigious career, but on the occasion that he embraces full-on horror it’s invariably worth a look, and Phantoms is one of his best. It builds on classic urban legend with more than a small debt to Lovecraft, and is precisely the sort of page-turner that made Koontz a perennial bestseller.

 

 

The cover of the book The Damnation GameThe Damnation Game
CLIVE BARKER
The Damnation Game proved without a doubt that Barker could sustain his particular brand of unrelenting terror over the course of an entire novel. Following Books of Blood, The Damnation Game delves into the darkest recesses of Barker’s imagination for a particularly depraved tale tinged with cannibalism, incest, and all manner of macabre.

 

 

The cover of the book The Bloody ChamberThe Bloody Chamber
ANGELA CARTER
The Bloody Chamber is, at base, a series of fairy tale retellings. What lifts the whole package and sets it apart is Carter’s understanding of the dark undertones of virtually every fairy tale ever conceived. She pulls those darker elements to the forefront, deftly inverting every classic trope.

 

 

The cover of the book The Bad SeedThe Bad Seed
WILLIAM MARCH
The idea of a seemingly innocent child committing heinous acts has become a fairly common trope in horror, but when The Bad Seed was published in 1954, it proved a tremendous shock for its readers. March’s matter-of-fact prose style lends an air of both authority and plausibility to this story of a mother slowly realizing the true evil of her young, murderous daughter.

 

 

The cover of the book Geek LoveGeek Love
KATHERINE DUNN
Odds are you’ve never read a novel quite a like Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. Geek Love, centering around a family of circus “freaks,” is bizarre, mesmerizing, and perverse. It’s a shocking lamentation on the human condition, of torment and trauma. Ultimately, it turns a sort of fun house mirror on societal ideals, presenting a delirious and disturbing vision in return.

 

 

The cover of the book The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost StoriesThe Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories
HENRY JAMES
Henry James seminal ghost tale is one of those foundational texts for the horror genre. There are still very few authors who have done the traditional ghost story better. James keeps the scares and narrative subtle, but no less dread-inducing. The fact that even after the final page it’s not precisely clear what’s happening — that very uncertainty is the genius of “The Turn of the Screw.”

 

 

The cover of the book American PsychoAmerican Psycho
BRET EASTON ELLIS
American Psycho is a gleefully over-the-top slasher flick in prose form that also happens to be an absurdly biting, post-modern cultural dissection. It’s dark, for sure. There’s cannibalism, necrophilia, all manner of torture. But it’s also a wholly unreliable descent into pure madness – but also maybe not. This one is as thought-provoking as it is unsettling.

 

 

The cover of the book Summer of NightSummer of Night
DAN SIMMONS
There’s a lot of great horror scattered across Dan Simmons’ eclectic bibliography. Summer of Night is one of my favorites. Falling on a spectrum somewhere between Bradbury and King, it is a tale of small towns and ancient evils, but there’s an eerie sort of quality that taints the nostalgic hue in a way that separates it from those clear influences.

 

 

The cover of the book The ElementalsThe Elementals
MICHAEL MCDOWELL
Best known for scripting the likes of “Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” McDowell’s brilliantly terrifying novels are once again making their way onto the radar of horror fans. The Elementals is arguably his best work – a southern Gothic-tinged haunt that is claustrophobic and disturbing.

 

 

The cover of the book The Silence of the LambsThe Silence of the Lambs
THOMAS HARRIS
While it’s on the list of novels overshadowed by their adaptations, there really is just something about experiencing Hannibal Lecter in print that even the brilliance of Anthony Hopkins can’t quite match. And while Thomas Harris may have overextended with perhaps too many sequels, Silence of the Lambs is an unrelenting and bone-chilling descent into the darker – and very plausible – recesses of humanity.

5 Science and History Books Horror Fans Will Love

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

Horror is most often considered the purview of fiction, but real life can be plenty scary. Here’s a list of five non-fiction books featuring real-life zombies, vampires, and other terrors.

If you like ghosts, try…
The cover of the book Strange FrequenciesStrange Frequencies
PETER BEBERGAL
Are ghosts real? What happens when we shuffle off this mortal coil? These are questions that people have struggled to answer through art, religion, and more recently, science. In Peter Bebergal’s Strange Frequencies, we learn some of the oddest ways that technology has been used in attempts to breach the wall between this world and the next. Follow Bebergal as he explores voicemails from the dead, spirit photography, and other odd topics in this entertaining and ever so spooky read.

 

If you like zombies, try…
The cover of the book Plight of the Living DeadPlight of the Living Dead
MATT SIMON
Forget “walkers” and flesh-eating ghouls: Mother Nature’s own zombies are more horrifying than anything you can find on screen. Matt Simon introduces us to predatory wasps, burrowing worms, and parasitic fungi with the uncanny ability to zombify their animal and insect prey. Worst of all, Simon suggests that we may be victims of some of these ourselves. Could it be that we’re all obeying the impulses of tiny creatures deep within our own bodies?

 

If you like vampires, try…
The cover of the book Dark BanquetDark Banquet
BILL SCHUTT
There’s no such thing as vampires, but that doesn’t mean that your blood isn’t on the menu. In Dark Banquet, author Bill Schutt ventures into the shadowy world of the sanguivore: creatures that eat blood. Prepare to learn more about bed bugs, vampire bats, and other bloodsuckers you can’t repel with a crucifix than you ever thought you’d want to know.

 

If you like were-creatures, try…
The cover of the book The TigerThe Tiger
JOHN VAILLANT
Werewolves hunt at night. So do Siberian tigers, and unlike the lycanthrope of legend, they don’t have to wait until the next full moon to do it. The Tiger is the true story of a man-eating cat who stalked a remote corner of Russia’s Far East, and the elite team of hunters sent to take it down. Warning: This is not a book for the faint of heart.

 

If you like Frankenstein’s monster, try…
The cover of the book Evolving OurselvesEvolving Ourselves
JUAN ENRIQUEZ AND STEVE GULLANS
Thanks to rapidly evolving gene editing technologies like CRISPR, we’ll soon be able to tinker with life in a way that Frankenstein author Mary Shelley could never imagine. According to Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans, the future may be one of designer babies, de-extinct animals, vastly increased lifespans, and even clones. If so, it will also offer moral and ethical quandaries that we’ve never had to face. Can we handle the responsibility?

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