The best gothic books that show the dark side of the human psyche

A.M. Dunnewin Author Of The Illusory
By A.M. Dunnewin

Who am I?

I’ve loved Gothic fiction ever since I was young. I grew up around avid murder-mystery fans, but being introduced to Edgar Allan Poe’s work is what started me on a path that led me to become a writer. With a background in psychology, my stories tend to involve dark fantasy settings with an emphasis on Gothic elements, mainly because it often leans into psychology for support. The dark sides of the soul and the way the mind plays tricks are often what bring out the horror that Gothic fiction is known for. This exploration of the human psyche is what both fascinates and inspires me as a writer.

I wrote...

The Illusory

By A.M. Dunnewin,

Book cover of The Illusory

What is my book about?

Skylar Mandolyn, last heir and first queen of Correnth, is still haunted by what happened during her imprisonment. Trying to stay focused on the impending war with Bellumortis, Skylar can’t help but see the shadow of the one who had caused her kingdom’s downfall, only recognizing him by his black-and-cream façade and his chin that drips with blood. Then, Bellumortis attacks, and suddenly the reality and fantasy she’s tried to keep separate become the same battleground. Ghosts become real, enemies become haunting, and Skylar begins to realize that this may actually be the end of everything… including herself.

The books I picked & why

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By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of Rebecca

Why this book?

This is my all-time favorite book. From the brooding and mysterious Maxim de Winter to the beautiful landscape of Manderley, this story shows how dangerous our perceptions of others can be. The unnamed narrator who marries Maxim is haunted by his first wife, Rebecca, simply by how all the other characters speak of her. The fact that no ghost ever makes an appearance almost makes the book more suspenseful because you can practically feel her there without actually getting the satisfaction of seeing her. Also, the twisted ending makes this book a must-read!

The Picture of Dorian Gray

By Oscar Wilde,

Book cover of The Picture of Dorian Gray

Why this book?

A clever account of vanity-gone wrong, I thought this novel was a great metaphor for how becoming obsessed with appearances (or just yourself in general) can have consequences. Dorian is so vain that he sells his soul in order to stay young and beautiful, all while his beautiful portrait ages and takes the brunt of his amoral lifestyle. What’s amazing about this story is not only does Dorian’s portrait suffer consequences – showing his true ugliness with each immoral act – but the characters around Dorian suffer as well, some of them terribly. It’s a very good reminder that not everything beautiful is good.

And Then There Were None

By Agatha Christie,

Book cover of And Then There Were None

Why this book?

I grew up on Agatha Christie, from watching the movies and TV shows to browsing my grandmother’s complete collection of stories. While I have a few favorites, this one’s by far the best. As one of Christie’s more sinister plots, this story is about ten strangers who are invited to an island by their host, and over the course of their stay, end up being murdered one by one in the same style as the nursery rhythm “Ten Little Indians.” While the ending has to do with justice, the big takeaway was how the characters were written. I wanted so badly for them to make it to the end, until I realized that each character wasn’t who they seemed to be, making the ending that much more twisted.

The Count of Monte Cristo

By Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (translator),

Book cover of The Count of Monte Cristo

Why this book?

The ultimate revenge story! At its core, this novel is an adventure story, but it also has a huge Gothic undertone, from the gloomy atmosphere of the prison to the dark psychology of seeking personal justice. While I loved the movies, I loved even more how the novel was darker, with Edmond Dantes setting up his nemeses like dominoes just to watch them fall. He not only inflicted justice, but he did it in such a psychological (and financial) way that it became even more damaging to those who wronged him, to the point that most succumbed to their own demises. Now that’s something I can get behind.

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

By Edgar Allan Poe,

Book cover of Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

Why this book?

Although I saved him for last, I’m a die-hard Poe fan. I was first introduced to his work by my grandfather, who gifted me a leather-bound edition of Poe’s complete collection when I was in middle school. I ate through that book, falling in love with his style, descriptions, and downright passion in his macabre outlook. Each poem has its own rhythm; each story its own moral. While “The Raven” is his most widely known work, my personal favorites are the poem “Annabel Lee” and the short story “The Oval Portrait.” Poe led me in the direction of Gothic literature, and to this day that’s the genre I both love to read and write in. 

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