The best books from the gothic darkness of vampires to wizards, goblins, and dwarves

Who am I?

My passion for art and music ensured I’d pursue a career somewhere along those lines, and after four years at art college studying graphic design and photography, I found myself working for some of the top London publishers over the years. After (quite a few) years, I went freelance and I’ve been a freelance book cover designer ever since. I married the rock drummer I met at art college—we still go to as many concerts as we can afford. I have six published romantic novels; two paranormal and four in the Romantic Comedy genre (RomCom). In my ‘spare’ time I teach Zumba... well everyone has to have a hobby.


I wrote...

Dance until Dawn

By Berni Stevens,

Book cover of Dance until Dawn

What is my book about?

When Ellie wakes up in a dank, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there, or where ‘there’ actually is. Then she meets the owner of the cellar. Tall, dark, and scary, Will Austen is the vampire elder of London, revered among the city’s undead. Ellie doesn’t believe in vampires, so she reacts violently when Will tells her she is one. 

What Ellie doesn’t know is that Will has loved her from afar for over a year, and she’s a vampire because he turned her. In his mind he saved her, but will she agree? Or has Will simply bitten off more than he can chew?

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Dracula

By Bram Stoker,

Book cover of Dracula

Why this book?

In high school, when I’d exhausted the full catalogue of Agatha Christie, read all the James Herriot books, and was looking for something different, I discovered Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This book is still my favourite book and it celebrates its 125th year in print this year and it’s never been out of print. I think that says it all.

I love how the entire story is told through journal entries, letters, and newspaper articles. A brilliant, innovative idea that has been copied many times since. I love the growing feeling of unease that builds throughout the novel, and I especially love the fact that one of the ‘heroes’ is a woman. In a Victorian novel! The wonderful, resourceful Mina Harker.

Count Dracula has to be the most infamous anti-hero ever, and probably the scariest. If you’ve never read this wonderful novel—shame on you! Read it right now.

I’ve been a member of the Dracula Society since 1996 and served on the Committee since 2011. Next year is the 50th Anniversary of the Society.


Guilty Pleasures: An Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel

By Laurell K. Hamilton,

Book cover of Guilty Pleasures: An Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novel

Why this book?

One of the things I like about the Anita Blake series is that the stories are contemporary and vampires are now legal citizens... some of them even own nightclubs.

The books are set in St. Louis, where Anita’s primary job is as an animator... not the kind who draws cartoons... the kind who raises corpses as zombies. Her secondary job is as the official slayer, but unlike Buffy she gets paid for it.

In this first novel, the Master of the City needs her help, and calls a truce—for the time being. The Master’s second—charismatic vampire, Jean Claude, appears to be on Anita’s side... but is he? Then there’s the Rat King who’s none too impressed by Anita at first and the local werewolf pack. Laurell K Hamilton has every beastie you can think of in this series, and none of them play nice.


Carmilla

By J. Sheridan Le Fanu,

Book cover of Carmilla

Why this book?

Carmilla predates Dracula by twenty-six years, and was first published as a serial in The Dark Blue, later reprinted in Le Fanu’s short story collection, In a Glass Darkly published in 1872. It’s the first lesbian vampire story and was made into a film called The Vampire Lovers by Hammer, starring Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing in 1970. 

Le Fanu’s Carmilla is often credited with being the ‘first’ vampire, which isn’t the case because John William Polidori’s The Vampyre was published in 1818, beating Carmilla by more than sixty years.

The story tells of a dark romance between vampire and human, which I think was pretty brave for the times. The film went more for raunchy sensationalism than romance and sadly lost most of Le Fanu’s charm. Thank goodness for brooding castles, tombs, and vampires. It's a traditional vampire read which reeks of Gothic atmosphere. 


The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

By Alan Garner,

Book cover of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen

Why this book?

The story is set near Alderley Edge in Cheshire, UK, and I have done the ‘Wizard’s Walk’ there. I photographed the ancient inn aptly named The Wizard, and admired the freshwater spring, where (if you look closely) you can see the face of a wizard carved in the rock. It’s said this was carved by Garner’s grandfather, but I’ve no idea whether it’s true.

Like The Lord of the Rings, there’s a quest—this one concerns an army of warriors who sleep in their hidden underground cavern. The guardian of the warriors is a wizard called Cadellin Silverbrow. But what is the magic that keeps them sleeping?

The Weirdstone is the kind of book which keeps you turning the pages as the pace hots up towards the huge battle which takes place near Alderley Edge. 

I was so engrossed reading the book, I missed my Tube stop. Brilliant storytelling.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

By J.K. Rowling,

Book cover of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Why this book?

This first book in the series has to get a mention. Known as The Sorcerer’s Stone in the US, this is the book that encouraged children to actually pick up a book and read. The author deserves every award going for reigniting the world’s interest in fantasy literature. 

My son was enchanted from the first page... and luckily, he was in the first film as an extra! 

I’ve read the series many times, seen all the films many times—and I’m almost as addicted to Harry as I am to Dracula.  

Harry, yer a wizard.’ Words every child would love to hear.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in vampires, goblins, and wizards?

5,810 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about vampires, goblins, and wizards.

Vampires Explore 145 books about vampires
Goblins Explore 19 books about goblins
Wizards Explore 68 books about wizards

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Lord of the Rings, The Clan of the Cave Bear, and Along the Enchanted Way if you like this list.