Our Top Recommendation
- Brontë, Charlotte (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 100 Pages - 05/02/2016 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)
What exactly is Gothic literature?
What are some of the common themes, settings, and character archetypes found in this type of writing?
What should you expect when you read Gothic books?
Gothic literature is dark, moody, and mysterious. It’s similar to horror, but it isn’t exactly horror; it may contain other elements too, such as romance and intrigue. Characters often tread the line between good and evil, challenging readers to consider their perspectives as they read.
When you read Gothic books, you should expect to feel unnerved, scared, or inspired. You might find yourself taking a lot of time thinking about the way the characters interact with their world and those around them, too.
In this article, we’ll show you some of the best Gothic novels to help you get started. Most of these are literary classics, but some are newer works as well.
Read on to find the right Gothic novel for your tastes.
1. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson , is a classic story of the balance of good and evil. This story follows one man who alternates between two personalities as his soul remains held in that balance.
- This classic novel is available in many versions.
- The book is short enough to be a quick read.
- Since the book is very old, it may feel outdated to some readers.
- The morals may be heavy-handed for some modern audiences.
2. The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, tells the story of a nanny who is haunted and slowly driven to the brink of madness by ghosts. The story also includes a unique element tying children into the psychological terror of the tale.
- The book successfully makes it difficult to tell whether the hauntings are true or just in the nanny’s mind.
- The book is a classic ghost story with plenty of Gothic elements.
- Henry James’ writing can be very dense and difficult to follow.
- The Kindle version of this book has many mistakes.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, is the classic story of a monster created by a mad scientist. Woven in between the scenes of horror are moments of true humanity, making the reader question whether or not the monster is really a monster at all.
- This is one of the most beloved Gothic works of literature of all time.
- This book is fairly short and easy to read despite its age.
- It can sometimes be difficult to dive deeper into the metaphors of this story on a single read.
- Some version of the book contain many typos.
4. The Castle of Otranto
The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole, is often recognized as the first true American Gothic novel. This 18th-century work of fiction tells the story of a woman who tries to escape her predetermined future marriage and must make her way through a terrifying castle to do so.
- This book is one of the most important influences in Gothic media even today.
- The paperback version of this book contains a helpful intro that explains its influence even more.
- Some customers have trouble following the story of this book.
- The plot may be a bit thin in this book, especially compared to other Gothic works.
5. Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, is as important in feminist literature as it is in Gothic literature. This book tells the story of a woman named Jane Eyre as she works to find her place in society. It shows her struggle to fit in as an independent woman at a time when such a concept was rarely thought of.
- This classic book is a must-read for a variety of genres.
- The book is easy to follow and read.
- Some editions of this book may be full of typos and mistakes.
- The book is very long and can be dense at times.
6. The Fall of the House of Usher
The Fall of the House of Usher, by Edgar Allen Poe, is a short story that incorporates the ideas of madness and being buried alive with other dark and twisted themes of the Gothic genre. This classic short story is one of Poe’s darkest tales.
- This book includes other short stories by Poe as well.
- The book’s selections are all very Gothic in nature.
- The Kindle version of this book may be in poor quality compared to the paperback.
- The formatting may be off in some versions.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker, is widely recognized as the novel that forever changed the figure of the vampire in Gothic media. This is the first book in which Count Dracula featured as a character, and it follows his story as well as his struggle with Van Helsing.
- This book spans more than just the Gothic genre and is a must-read of classic literature.
- The book is available in many formats.
- The narrator changes between parts of this book, making it challenging to follow.
- The book is quite long and can be hard to read.
Justine, by the Marquis de Sade, is an extremely dark tale of a young woman and her frequent abuse throughout her life. Its themes of the nature of good versus the nature of evil as well as its terror elements make it a classic Gothic work.
- This book is available in multiple formats.
- The work encourages readers to think about the idea of good versus evil.
- This book is extremely sexual and graphic, and it depicts scenes of sexual violence throughout the work.
- The book is very short and the pacing may be difficult to follow.
9. The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, is the story of a group of people who explore a known haunted house. Throughout their time there, the hauntings become more and more terrifying, and the house seems to take on a life of its own.
- This book is available in many formats and styles.
- The story is one of the classics of Gothic literature and incorporates many traditional haunted house elements.
- The pacing is very slow in this book.
- The ending may seem a little contrived to some readers.
10. The Mysteries of Udolpho
The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, is a classic of Gothic romance. This story follows a young woman who struggles to free herself of a mysterious castle and a man she does not want to be with, encountering macabre and horrific elements along the way.
- The story is packed with twists that keep the plot interesting.
- Readers usually enjoy the ending of this book.
- The book is very long and includes many dense scenes of melodrama.
- Some editions do not contain a glossary or any helpful additional information.
11. The Bloody Chamber
The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter, features several short stories that are retellings of fairy tales in an adult form. It is a dark and macabre collection that creates an eerie atmosphere through the combination of children’s stories with adult themes of horror, violence, and fear.
- The book is more modern than others listed here, making it an easier read.
- This book is fairly short and its short stories are quick reads.
- Almost all of the stories are sexual in nature, which is off-putting to some readers.
- Some of the stories are not as interesting as others.
Of these many options, which ones are the top three most recommend must-reads for newcomers to Gothic literature? We recommend starting with the following:
- The Fall of the House of Usher: You can’t go wrong reading Poe if you’re a lover of Gothic literature, and this collection of short stories features some of his darkest works.
- Frankenstein: This book is widely known for its important in the horror, science fiction, and Gothic genres. It’s a classic that’s well worth a visit.
- Jane Eyre: To get a full understanding of Gothic lit, you should also check out this classic of Gothic romance.
With these recommendations in mind, you can get started working your way through this list in no time.
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