The best books about lovable monsters (both living and dead) dealing with existential dread

David Sosnowski Author Of Vamped
By David Sosnowski

The Books I Picked & Why

The Vampire Lestat

By Anne Rice

Book cover of The Vampire Lestat

Why this book?

I’m writing this on the morning of December 12, 2021, having just heard the news of Anne Rice’s exiting this mortal coil, and it’s safe to say I probably wouldn’t have written Vamped without first reading The Vampire Lestat. What I love about this book is how seriously it takes its subject, the way it luxuriates in the language of viscera and wonder, and the way it explores its motifs beyond easy observations like “vampires are sexy.” In particular, I love how it deals with the weight of immortality and the ability to bestow that gift-curse to others. And lastly, I love the spot-on details of period and place, from mid-1980s New Orleans to 18th-century France.  

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Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

By Christopher Moore

Book cover of Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story

Why this book?

Bloodsucking Fiends begins in the mid-1990s (the present day as of its writing) and is set in AIDS-fighting, pre-tech-boom San Francisco – a time and place rendered with great affection and plenty of humor. It’s that latter quality – the humor – that I love about this book. Beginning with the beginning, we get Moore’s take on the classic tableau of a vampire rising as the sun sets. But instead of emerging from a coffin, our vamp pops out of a dumpster that’s being peed on by a homeless, benevolent lunatic known as the Emperor. If that setup just made you smile (fangs or no fangs) then Bloodsucking Fiends is for you. It is also why, when I decided to write a funny vampire novel, I turned to Mr. Moore’s novel for inspiration.  

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Gulliver's Travels

By Jonathan Swift

Book cover of Gulliver's Travels

Why this book?

In my own writing, I love leaning in to world building and satire and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver is a master class in both. For those whose knowledge of this classic is limited to kid-friendly animated abridgments set exclusively in Lilliput, let me tell you it is so much more, very little of it kid-friendly. Take, for instance, how Gulliver pisses off Lilliput’s queen while saving her from a burning tower – by peeing out the flames. And then there’s Swift's take on immortality (one of my favorite of Rice’s themes). Unlike her immortal fanged beauties, however, Swift’s immortals are not eternally youthful. Instead, aging’s insults and injuries accumulate until the forever-lived become so bent, brittle, and sedentary, they’re like rocks, albeit ones longing for death.

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About a Boy

By Nick Hornby

Book cover of About a Boy

Why this book?

Vamped isn’t just about vampires; it’s also about the perils of parenting in a dangerous world with an unusual father-daughter relationship at its core. Subtract the fangs and make the girl a boy, and what you get is a little like Nick Hornby’s About a Boy. I first became familiar with Hornby’s story from the film adaptation starring Hugh Grant. So, when I found myself writing my own guide to questionable parenting, I decided to see how those characters were created in the original text. As a result, About a Boy became a constant source of inspiration throughout the writing of Vamped. And, being a non-parent myself (albeit one with plenty of nieces and nephews) inspiration re: the possibilities of unorthodox child-rearing was precisely what I needed. 

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Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Bernie Wrightson

Book cover of Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein

Why this book?

Well, this is a bit of a two-fer. Along with world-building and satire, I also like stories of unintended consequences and human hubris and the story of Frankenstein’s monster is the touchstone for all subsequent works based on those themes. But why this edition, as opposed to others? Because of Wrightson’s powerful and masterful illustrations. This is not a graphic novel, per se; the story has not been converted into panels and dialog balloons. Instead, the text is punctuated by full-page, black-and-white, pen-and-ink illustrations of key scenes in the text. The drawings have a chiseled quality and often include a mind-boggling level of detail. When I imagine Shelley’s classic, Wrightson’s drawings are what I see, replacing even the iconic imagery of the Whale/Karloff incarnation.

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