The best classic Gothic books that are still amazing today

Why am I passionate about this?

As my debut novel demonstrated, I’m a massive fan of Gothic literature. Compelling stories are found in many genres, but rarely with such atmosphere and style. The freedom and enjoyment of writing in this category are unparalleled, offering an excuse to use language your editor would prefer to eliminate from contemporary fiction.


I wrote...

The Vanishing Room

By Steve Fenton,

Book cover of The Vanishing Room

What is my book about?

A haunted inn. A scarecrow festival. A cursed room. When Richard Beckett quits his job to travel the world, he soon learns that he is a magnet for trouble. His attraction to the unearthly beauty of a young married woman leads him to a strange room in a dilapidated inn. Can the headlines about mysterious disappearances be explained rationally, or will he become the latest victim of the Vanishing Room?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of In a Glass Darkly

Steve Fenton Why did I love this book?

In a Glass Darkly is a collection of unusual Gothic tales. The shorter stories provide the foreboding inevitability of the genre, with atmospheric hauntings and ghostly floating eyes. Fans of M. R. James or H. P Lovecraft will appreciate these.

In addition, the collection features two novella-length stories. Carmilla, an early and influential vampire story, and "The Room At The Dragon Volant", which is a romance horror. Carmilla inspired many of the elements Bram Stoker used in Dracula. Both these longer stories are atmospheric and wonderfully picturesque in their descriptions of the people and places.

By Sheridan Le Fanu, Robert Tracy (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In a Glass Darkly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`the ideal reading...for the hours after midnight'

Thus Henry James described the style of supernatural tale of which Sheridan Le Fanu was a master. Known in nineteenth-century Dublin as `The Invisible Prince' because of his reclusive and nocturnal habits, Le Fanu was fascinated by the occult. His writings draw on the Gothic tradition, elements of Irish folklore, and even on the social and political anxieties of his Anglo-Irish contemporaries. In exploring sometimes inexplicable terrors, the tales focus on the unease of the haunted men and
women who encounter the supernatural, rather than on the origin or purpose of the visitant.…


Book cover of The Monk

Steve Fenton Why did I love this book?

The Monk mixes rich Gothic fiction with wonderfully light comedic moments to create a compelling story that feels more modern than its 1796 publishing date.

The two main concurrent stories allow the plot to develop from the romance of the early chapters into a dark glimmering tale of religion, romance, corruption, and downfall.

The book is gloriously written, especially if you can find a copy prior to the slightly sanitized fourth edition, which was written in response to controversy about the "immorality and wild extravagance" of the original. What better praise could a book obtain?

By Matthew Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Monk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Matthew Lewis's Gothic masterpiece, depicting a holy man slowly becoming entangled in a web of sin, The Monk is edited with an introduction by Christopher MacLachlan in Penguin Classics.

Savaged by critics for its blasphemy and obscenity, particularly since the author was a Member of Parliament, The Monk soon attracted thousands of readers keen to see if this Gothic novel lived up to its lurid reputation. With acute psychological insight, Lewis shows the diabolical decline of Ambrosio, a worthy superior of the Capuchins of Madrid who is tempted by Matilda, a young girl who has entered his monastery disguised as…


Book cover of The Picture of Dorian Gray

Steve Fenton Why did I love this book?

Filled with hedonism and with a wonderful supernatural twist, The Picture Of Dorian Gray is one of the reasons Oscar Wilde has such a legendary reputation.

Despite the supernatural twist and hedonist perspective, there is just as much wit in this book as in the less Gothic stories and plays.

There are elements of Wilde present in the key characters, and Wilde himself said: "Basil Hallward is what I think I am; Lord Henry, what the world thinks me; Dorian is what I would like to be — in other ages, perhaps".

There are some great on-screen adaptations, but the book really outshines them all.

By Oscar Wilde,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Picture of Dorian Gray as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A triumph of execution ... one of the best narratives of the "double life" of a Victorian gentleman' Peter Ackroyd

Oscar Wilde's alluring novel of decadence and sin was a succes de scandale on publication. It follows Dorian Gray who, enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his depravity. This definitive edition includes a selection of…


Book cover of The Mysteries of Udolpho

Steve Fenton Why did I love this book?

Gothic novels took the romance genre and added elements of death, inheritance, gloomy locations, and supernatural twists. Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho is the canonical example of this style.

The book features a detailed rendering of the many locations featured in the book, one of which is the oppressive castle named in the title. Radcliffe conjures entire moods in this story, and you'll be whisked along in the footsteps of Emily St. Aubert as she's spirited away by the villainous Montoni.

The book also features in Jane Austen's Northanger Abby, as Catherine and Isabella both read it.

By Ann Radcliffe, Bonamy Dobree (editor),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mysteries of Udolpho as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

`Her present life appeared like the dream of a distempered imagination, or like one of those frightful fictions, in which the wild genius of the poets sometimes delighted. Rreflections brought only regret, and anticipation terror.'

Such is the state of mind in which Emily St. Aubuert - the orphaned heroine of Ann Radcliffe's 1794 gothic Classic, The Mysteries of Udolpho - finds herself after Count Montoni, her evil guardian, imprisions her in his gloomy medieval fortress in the Appenines. Terror is the order of the day inside the walls of Udolpho, as Emily struggles against Montoni's rapacious schemes and the…


Book cover of Frankenstein

Steve Fenton Why did I love this book?

Though Frankenstein seems an obvious choice, I firmly believe that more people should read this book.

The story has been butchered in many poor attempts to bring the story to the big screen. Most of these attempts fail to touch the original masterpiece.

Unlike most films and TV adaptations, the subtle brilliance of the book comes from the deep empathy you build with the creature, who has intelligent views and yearns for justice.

The story was written following a trip to an area close to the real-life Frankenstein Castle in Germany, the birthplace of Johann Konrad Dippel, whose experiments in alchemy and anatomy may have served as inspiration for Victor Frankenstein.

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

40 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…


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Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

Book cover of Conditions are Different After Dark

Owen W. Knight Author Of The Visitors

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Visionary Compassionate Imaginative Conspiracist Apophenia (or apophenic)

Owen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In 1662, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. Awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.

Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They discover their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected? They fear their choice of new home is no coincidence. Unexplained events hint at threats or warnings to leave. They become convinced the village remains cursed despite their friends’ denials. Who can they trust, and who are potential enemies?

Conditions are Different After Dark

By Owen W. Knight,

What is this book about?

In 1660, a man is wrongly executed for signing the death warrant of Charles I. While awaiting execution, he asks to speak with a priest, to whom he declares a curse on the village that betrayed him. The priest responds with a counter-curse, leaving just one option to nullify it.
Over four centuries later, Faith and James move to the country to start a new life and a family. They learn that their village lives under the curse uttered by the hanged man. Could their arrival be connected?
Faith and James fear that their choice of a new home is…


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