76 books like Dark Tales

By Shirley Jackson,

Here are 76 books that Dark Tales fans have personally recommended if you like Dark Tales. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of American Gothic Tales (William Abrahams)

Paula Uruburu Author Of American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the "it" Girl and the Crime of the Century

From my list on the American suburban gothic.

Who am I?

As someone who grew up a child of the sixties amidst suburban conformity but with a decidedly nonconformist gothic sensibility, I have wanted to find a way to combine these contradictory forces. Happily, as a professor of literature and film studies at Hofstra University, I was able to achieve my goal last year when I taught "(Un)Dead Girls and (Un)Safe Spaces: The Suburban Gothic in Film" and "Suburban Horrors" (a literature class). Unaware however that a global pandemic would mean teaching these courses via Zoom, my students and I found ourselves trapped within the confines of our own boxes in a suburban nightmare while discussing fictional and film narratives about sinister neighbors, monsters in closets, murderous family members, conspiratorial racists, and uncanny house hauntings. Oh, the horrible irony.

Paula's book list on the American suburban gothic

Paula Uruburu Why did Paula love this book?

As the best introduction to the American Gothic chosen by one of the most prolific modern masters of the genre, this anthology spans two centuries. It offers insightful context and an engaging historical road map to the current site of the genre, the weird and wounded world of the suburbs.

Joyce Carol Oates, who has written some of the most chilling contemporary examples of American Gothic fiction, dissects the shadowy heritage of our national preoccupation with the macabre themes that haunt the American Dream. From Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville through James and Wharton to Anne Rice, Raymond Carver, Stephen King, and several lesser-known writers, Oates provides readers with a provocative selection that probes beneath superficial normality to reach the dangerous psychological abnormalities of our national identity.

By Joyce Carol Oates (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Gothic Tales (William Abrahams) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This remarkable anthology of gothic fiction, spanning two centuries of American writing, gives us an intriguing and entertaining look at how the gothic imagination makes for great literature in the works of forty-six exceptional writers.

Joyce Carol Oates has a special perspective on the "gothic" in American short fiction, at least partially because her own horror yarns rank on the spine-tingling chart with the masters. She is able to see the unbroken link of the macabre that ties Edgar Allan Poe to Anne Rice and to recognize the dark psychological bonds between Henry James and Stephen King.

In showing us…


Book cover of The Virgin Suicides

Nash Jenkins Author Of Foster Dade Explores the Cosmos

From my list on teenage sentimentality.

Who am I?

I do not remember a time when I wasn’t captivated by stories about adolescence. This was the case when I myself was a teenager—when I sought in these overwrought sagas the sort of sentimental melodrama that eluded the banality of my own life—but curiously it’s no less true at thirty, for reasons that are fundamentally the same but somehow more urgent. Becoming an adult is an exercise in hardening; to grow up is to forget what it’s like to be beholden to one’s own autobiographical romance. The following titles offer a respite from the cynicism that is adulthood; as a writer and a human, I'm forever in their debt.

Nash's book list on teenage sentimentality

Nash Jenkins Why did Nash love this book?

I’d normally abstain from the pompous sin of quoting one’s own fiction, but I’m doing it here only to contextualize this recommendation.

“Adolescence is an exercise in coveting what exists just beyond our grasp,” my book’s narrator tells us in his preamble to his telling of Foster’s story. “It is this inaccessibility that sustains its magic.” To be fifteen is to be a voyeur looking wistfully in on the poignancy of others’ lives: this is the idea I tried to operationalize through the narrator’s project, with full knowledge that I’d never do it as lyrically as The Virgin Suicides. 

Nominally, the main characters of Eugenides’ debut are the five titular Lisbon sisters, who successively take their own lives, but we encounter them chiefly as figments of a collective imagination: in the captivated minds of a faceless group of teenage boys who witness the tragedies from afar.

As a sort of…

By Jeffrey Eugenides,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Virgin Suicides as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introducing the Collins Modern Classics, a series featuring some of the most significant books of recent times, books that shed light on the human experience - classics which will endure for generations to come.

That girl didn't want to die. She just wanted out of that house. She wanted out of that decorating scheme.

The five Lisbon sisters - beautiful, eccentric and, now, gone - had always been a point of obsession for the entire neighbourhood.

Although the boys that once loved them from afar have grown up, they remain determined to understand a tragedy that has defied explanation. The…


Book cover of Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories

Noel Anenberg Author Of The Karma Kaper

From my list on majestic stories that lift our spirits.

Who am I?

I enjoyed writing The Karma Kaper. Just as there's tragedy and comedy in every aspect of our lives there's humor in crime. It's fun bringing that humor to my audience. I also believe in justice for all. Sadly, as American courts are currently more concerned with criminals' rights than victims' rights there are no guarantees victims will receive the justice they deserve. No one can predict if a jury of 12 will find a defendant who has committed a crime guilty. Then, there's the highest court of appeal - fiction! Between the covers of a novel, a crafty writer can ensure just verdicts and devise macabre punishments for the bad guys! It doesn't get any better! 

Noel's book list on majestic stories that lift our spirits

Noel Anenberg Why did Noel love this book?

Flannery O’Connor’s saturnine stories of the American South are jewels of American literature.

They are laced with humor and violence but are at the same time deeply spiritual. In fact, the Catholic Church banned her work until it was discovered that her stories were written to show Grace in the lives of her parochial characters.

In Everything That Rises Must Converge, a story from A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories published in 1955, O'Connor writes about Julian, a young college-educated writer who lives with his mother in a decadent neighborhood that lost its prominence as the Old South faded.

His mother who believes she must uphold the dignity of her family's antebellum name insists on "keeping up appearances." For instance, she likes to tell folks that Jason's first job as a writer "selling typewriters" was a good sign because "Rome wasn't built in a day."

She…

By Flannery O'Connor,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Everything That Rises Must Converge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Flannery O'Connor was working on Everything That Rises Must Converge at the time of her death. This collection is an exquisite legacy from a genius of the American short story, in which she scrutinizes territory familiar to her readers: race, faith, and morality. The stories encompass the comic and the tragic, the beautiful and the grotesque; each carries her highly individual stamp and could have been written by no one else.


Book cover of Ghost World

Priya Huq Author Of Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin's Hijab

From my list on graphic novels that use environment as storyteller.

Who am I?

Environmental storytelling in comics is something that I’ve always admired and want to be better at. As a cartoonist I’m always thinking of better ways to tell visual stories, because it’s fun.

Priya's book list on graphic novels that use environment as storyteller

Priya Huq Why did Priya love this book?

I don’t think I like Ghost World, but it belongs on this list. When I think of Clowes’ work I think of caricature, but the environments in Ghost World pull most of the storytelling weight. You can hear the hum of the fluorescents in the grocery store and the wind between buildings on an empty street.

By Daniel Clowes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ghost World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1998 Ignatz Award Winner, Outstanding Graphic Novel: The inspiration for the feature film and one of the most acclaimed graphic novels ever.

Ghost World has become a cultural and generational touchstone, and continues to enthrall and inspire readers over a decade after its original release as a graphic novel. Originally serialized in the pages of the seminal comic book Eightball throughout the mid-1990s, this quasi-autobiographical story (the name of one of the protagonists is famously an anagram of the author's name) follows the adventures of two teenage girls, Enid and Becky, two best friends facing the prospect of growing up,…


Book cover of The Quick and the Dead

Emma Smith-Stevens Author Of The Australian

From my list on “funny-sad” contemporary novels.

Who am I?

Much laughter is born out of sadness. Humor can be a way to cope or even reinvent our realities in ways that bring relief—and release. There's a misconception that “serious literature” should be humorless; crack a smile and you’re a fraud. However, the worlds and characters that emerge from this way of thinking do not ring true to me. Who among us hasn’t joked to help deal with sorrow? Or to satirize the outrageous? Or simply because life--however brutal—is also sometimes funny? The more a writer allows laughter to intermingle with tears, the more I believe in the story, and the more I enjoy it. That is why I wrote a “funny-sad” novel, The Australian.

Emma's book list on “funny-sad” contemporary novels

Emma Smith-Stevens Why did Emma love this book?

Alice, Corvus, and Annabel, children without mothers, traverse air-conditioned buildings and desert landscapes, strewn with symbols and signs of mortality—from the preservation of those teetering on the brink of death at a nursing home to a wildlife museum full of taxidermies; and these teenagers are orbited by agitated, confused adults who seem wholly unaware of the strangeness—and messages—defining their lives. Joy Williams is a master at dark humor in literary fiction, and The Quick and the Dead is one of her finest achievements.

By Joy Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • From one of our most heralded writers comes the “poetic, disturbing, yet very funny” (The Washington Post Book World) life-and-death adventures of three misfit teenagers in the American desert.

Alice, Corvus, and Annabel, each a motherless child, are an unlikely circle of friends. One filled with convictions, another with loss, the third with a worldly pragmatism, they traverse an air-conditioned landscape eccentric with signs and portents—from the preservation of the living dead in a nursing home to the presentation of the dead as living in a wildlife museum—accompanied by restless, confounded adults.

A father lusts after…


Book cover of Living on Hope Street

Amra Pajalić Author Of Sabiha's Dilemma

From my list on YA fiction that represent marginalised communities.

Who am I?

I spent my adolescence reading young adult novels that featured characters who were nothing like me, and yearned to read about characters who shared my struggle in mediating my community’s cultural expectations as a first-generation Australia. This is the inspiration for writing own voices stories as these are the books I wished I’d been able to read. I draw on my Bosnian-Muslim cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like me, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. Own voices books are an opportunity to learn and celebrate culture and diversity, and to show young people that they are not alone in the world.

Amra's book list on YA fiction that represent marginalised communities

Amra Pajalić Why did Amra love this book?

A stunning novel that represents the true beating heart of Australia I grew up with cultures that represent all the different waves of migration in Australia.

Divaroren has created such distinct voices for each of her characters which is a feat as each perspective is written in first person, from seven-year-old Sam who is terrorised by his father, to 70-year-old Mr. Bailey who is a Vietnam vet and struggling with the changing face of Australia.

I fell in love with the characters and loved that there was so much reality and heart, but most importantly hope in this beautiful novel that celebrates multiculturalism and belonging. 

By Demet Divaroren,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living on Hope Street as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

'Living on Hope Street is a big-hearted, compassionate work. Divaroren is a ferociously good storyteller and every character breathes life, every character convinces. This book is an absolute joy to read.' CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS" We all love someone. We all fear something. Sometimes they live right next door - or even closer. Kane will do everything he can to save his mother and his little brother Sam from the violence of his father, even if it means becoming a monster himself. Mrs Aslan will protect the boys no matter what - even though her own family is in pieces. Ada wants…


Book cover of Little Children

Brandi Reeds Author Of Trespassing

From my list on starring empowered women.

Who am I?

My life, in particular, has been a series of challenges to overcome, from an attempted kidnapping at age eight to surviving breast cancer (twice!) before the age of forty-five. I believe in a world of equal opportunity, but I know the pursuit of happiness takes hard work. As a general contractor in the male-dominated construction industry, I’m well aware of gender biases in our world and the dedication it takes to overcome them. However, the struggle empowers us all, and even small victories inspire us to overcome adversity. Life is a survival story, and art imitates life. So I crave, read, and write novels starring empowered women.

Brandi's book list on starring empowered women

Brandi Reeds Why did Brandi love this book?

I love a book rich with flawed characters; this one is full of them. Perrotta’s peek into the mundane life of a stay-at-home mother at war with her lot in life is delicious. Sarah once coined herself a feminist, and now, she’s wiping noses. It’s a struggle many mothers of little children face, and while most don’t go to the lengths Perrotta’s characters explore, it’s a valiant example of losing oneself for the sake of a higher calling: motherhood. 

I first read this book at graduate school, with two babies at home. Perrotta taught me that exploring the human condition is necessary for connecting with readers. I’ve received many letters from readers citing that they connected with Veronica on the pages of Trespassing, and that’s the best accolade.

By Tom Perrotta,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Unexpectedly suspenseful, but written with all the fluency and dark humor of Tom Perrotta's The Wishbones and Joe College, Little Children exposes the adult dramas unfolding amidst the swingsets and slides of an ordinary American playground.

Tom Perrotta's thirty-ish parents of young children are a varied and surprising bunch. There's Todd, the handsome stay-at-home dad dubbed "The Prom King" by the moms of the playground; Sarah, a lapsed feminist with a bisexual past, who seems to have stumbled into a traditional marriage; Richard, Sarah's husband, who has found himself more and more involved with a fantasy life on the internet…


Book cover of Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States

Howard Yaruss Author Of Understandable Economics: Because Understanding Our Economy Is Easier Than You Think and More Important Than You Know

From my list on inspiring people to improve the world.

Who am I?

I grew up in Brooklyn in a family that often faced financial difficulties and started working in my early teens in my father’s grocery store. These experiences made me painfully aware of the great disparities in education, security, material well-being, and opportunity in our society.  I saw how these inequalities caused some people to become cynical, resigned, or indifferent—while others became determined to overcome them. I became fascinated by them.  I felt that if I wanted to live in a more just and productive society, I first had to understand how it worked. My recommended books inspired me further and helped me to gain that understanding.

Howard's book list on inspiring people to improve the world

Howard Yaruss Why did Howard love this book?

This book brings together economics, education, and urban development by showing how our public policies advantaged wealthy suburbanites over less wealthy urban dwellers after World War II. Many people think there is a natural migration to the suburbs after couples have children. Jackson does a masterful job of showing why that is not the natural order of things. It is the result of specific policy choices such as how we fund infrastructure, what tax incentives we provide, who has access to credit, and how we draw political boundaries. His insights offer a blueprint for a more equitable society.

By Kenneth T. Jackson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize, this book is the first detailed history of suburban life in America from its origin to the drive-in culture of today.


Book cover of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir

Chris Lukather Author Of Homes by Byrd: The Art & Architecture of Robert Byrd and His Son, Gary

From my list on Southern California architecture history.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in art and architecture. I studied Fine Arts at CalArts. I’ve written three books on Mid-century home builders and designers, William Mellenthin, Jean Vandruff, and Robert Byrd, whose life and work in Southern California had gone mostly unnoticed during their lifetimes—with very little information written about them in the press. I spent three years on each book working with the families to uncover their lives and place in local history. This is information that would have otherwise been lost. When you research the life of one person in this profession, you inevitably learn about the life and work of others—some famous, some not. 

Chris' book list on Southern California architecture history

Chris Lukather Why did Chris love this book?

D.J. Waldie’s writing reminds me of a Raymond Carver short story. His short, deliberate style draws the reader in immediately. You are hooked.

He walks to work. He lives in his parent’s original tract home, part of a planned development built in the 1950s in Lakewood, CA. It was the first one on the west coast. Waldie observes his friends and neighbors, the neighborhood, and its unique place in Southern California history.

After my parent’s divorce, my father lived in Lakewood and Long Beach, so I spent a lot of time down there when I was a kid. Does anyone remember Buffums department store?

By D.J. Waldie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Holy Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its publication in 1996, Holy Land has become an American classic. In "quick, translucent prose" (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times) that is at once lyrical and unsentimental, D. J. Waldie recounts growing up in Lakewood, California, a prototypical post-World War II suburb. Laid out in 316 sections as carefully measured as a grid of tract houses, Holy Land is by turns touching, eerie, funny, and encyclopedic in its handling of what was gained and lost when thousands of blue-collar families were thrown together in the suburbs of the 1950s. An intensely realized and wholly original memoir about the way…


Book cover of Don't Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party

Robert L. Fleegler Author Of Brutal Campaign: How the 1988 Election Set the Stage for Twenty-First-Century American Politics

From my list on explaining today’s polarized US politics.

Who am I?

I'm a history professor at the University of Mississippi and I've been a political junkie for a long time. I really began following politics during the 1988 presidential election and I vividly remember reading about the race in the newspaper every morning and then watching the evening news coverage each night. Thus, it seemed like the perfect topic for my second book. It was really fascinating to see the similarities and differences between my memories and the sources from the time.

Robert's book list on explaining today’s polarized US politics

Robert L. Fleegler Why did Robert love this book?

This book is engaging because it shows how the base of the Democratic party has changed since Franklin Roosevelt first assembled the New Deal political coalition in the 1930s. 

Today, it is increasingly the party of college-educated suburban voters and reflects their cultural and political priorities. From the Great Depression until the 1960s, however, working-class urban voters formed the heart of the party. Geismer uses metropolitan Boston as a template to depict this important transition, which helped produce suburban candidates such as Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, whose political career emerged from and was shaped by his life in Brookline, MA.  

By Lily Geismer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Blame Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don't Blame Us traces the reorientation of modern liberalism and the Democratic Party away from their roots in labor union halls of northern cities to white-collar professionals in postindustrial high-tech suburbs, and casts new light on the importance of suburban liberalism in modern American political culture. Focusing on the suburbs along the high-tech corridor of Route 128 around Boston, Lily Geismer challenges conventional scholarly assessments of Massachusetts exceptionalism, the decline of liberalism, and suburban politics in the wake of the rise of the New Right and the Reagan Revolution in the 1970s and 1980s. Although only a small portion of…


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