The best stories told by monsters

Who am I?

My mother was a student who divorced when I was very small. Lacking resources, we moved frequently, rarely staying anywhere for more than a few months. It has left me with an abiding sympathy for stories of outsiders trying to figure out what exactly they did to be relegated to the other side of the glass, peering in. This is why when I decided to write about werewolves, I made them wolves first and humans only very secondarily. Because my sympathy is always with the monsters.


I wrote...

The Last Wolf

By Maria Vale,

Book cover of The Last Wolf

What is my book about?

Silver Nilsdottir is at the bottom of the Great North Pack's social order, with little chance for a decent mate and a better life. Until the day a stranger stumbles into their territory, wounded and beaten, and Silver decides to risk everything on Tiberius Leveraux. But Tiberius isn't all he seems, and in the fragile balance of the Pack and wild, he may tip the destiny of all wolves. 

A double Rita finalist and a Library Journal and Amazon Best Book of 2018, The Last Wolf is the first volume in The Legend of All Wolves paranormal romance series. Vulnerable and strong, courageous and afraid, the wolves of the Great North will fight to the end for their pack, their land, their loves and their sacred wild.

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).

Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein

Why this book?

If someone else at the Villa Diodati had come up with the idea of Frankenstein, I believe the Creature would have been a two-dimensional foil, good only for a quick scare in that “year with no summer.” Not much better than Frankenstein himself, who had the hubris to create but not the courage to nurture. Abandoned by his progenitor, rejected by society, Shelley’s Creature is a battered soul in stitched skins. He is capable of wonder at the natural world and desperate to give and have kindness. There are so many descriptions of him looking through windows or through chinks in walls. In someone else’s hands, we would have only seen the terrifying face pressed against the glass, we would not have seen his view on the lives gathered around a table, that would never have a place for him.

Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

26 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…


Grendel

By John Gardner,

Book cover of Grendel

Why this book?

“And so begins the twelfth year of my idiotic war.” Gardner packs a lot into this slim beautiful volume about a monster’s quest for the point of it all. Grendel’s consciousness starts evolving the moment he realizes that he is a thing apart from the rollicking Danes and the Geatish hero, Beowulf. But what? He tries to discover a purpose to his otherness. (“My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it,” is the rather unhelpful advice of the all-knowing dragon.) Poignant, funny, brutal, and poetic, this was my first introduction to stories told by a monster and remains the gold standard.

Grendel

By John Gardner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic and much lauded retelling of Beowulf follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic.

"An extraordinary achievement."—New York Times

The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic Beowulf, tells his own side of the story in this frequently banned book. This is the novel William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions."


The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

By Steven Sherrill,

Book cover of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

Why this book?

Five thousand years after leaving the labyrinth, the Minotaur has traded in a diet of virgins for a job as a cook at a North Carolina joint called Grub’s Rib, a casually cannibalistic reference that gives a sense of Sherrill’s dark humor. His life is punctuated by problems that are both conventional (he lives in a trailer park and pines for one of Grub’s waitresses) and un- (his horns are awkward in the tight confines of kitchen and trailer, his tongue makes speech difficult, his penmanship is disastrous). What makes the Minotaur so appealing is that unlike the mortals around him who really have no excuse for cynicism, “M” clings desperately to possibility. “Even in the most tedious unending life there comes, occasionally, hope. One simply has to wait and be ready.”

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

By Steven Sherrill,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Five thousand years out of the labyrinth, the Minotaur finds himself in the American South, living in a trailer park and working as a line cook at a steakhouse. No longer a devourer of human flesh, the Minotaur is a socially inept, lonely creature with very human needs. But over a two-week period, as his life dissolves into chaos, this broken and alienated immortal awakens to the possibility for happiness and to the capacity for love.

Steven Sherrill is a graduate of UNC Charlotte and holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The recipient of a NEA…


Wide Sargasso Sea

By Jean Rhys,

Book cover of Wide Sargasso Sea

Why this book?

Technically Bertha Mason is not a monster, but in Jane Eyre, she is called not only “monster” but “goblin,” “vampyre,” and “clothed hyena.” Jean Rhys, who knew a thing or two about not belonging, explores the deterioration of the Jamaican-born, Creole beauty, Antoinette Cosway, into Bertha Mason, Thornfield Hall’s notorious “madwoman in the attic.” It is a harrowing story of hypocrisy and the dismantling of a passionate, intelligent woman for the sin of not being quite “us.”

Wide Sargasso Sea

By Jean Rhys,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Wide Sargasso Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys's return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction's most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed…


A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Book cover of A Monster Calls

Why this book?

Monsters can be stand-ins for something external that must be fought—social injustice, racism, fate—but Ness’s yew tree monster is a stand-in for something internal that must be accepted. This monster is beautifully ambiguous, sometimes appearing as the shadow left by loss. Sometimes it seems to be 13-year-old Conor’s hyperactive neurons firing off dream stories to help him deal with his mother’s premature death. Or maybe it is an ancient, primal force, giving Conor permission for the destructive expression of pain. Not that it really matters in the end. I’ve seen this called a middle-grade book, I suppose because of the main character’s age. It’s really a book for anyone who has known grief.

A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked A Monster Calls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling novel and major film about love, loss and hope from the twice Carnegie Medal-winning Patrick Ness.

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It's ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in monsters, the West Indies, and cancer?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about monsters, the West Indies, and cancer.

Monsters Explore 101 books about monsters
The West Indies Explore 16 books about the West Indies
Cancer Explore 83 books about cancer

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Once and Future King, Song of Kali, and Towing Jehovah if you like this list.