The best Lord Byron books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Lord Byron and why they recommend each book.

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Romantic Outlaws

By Charlotte Gordon,

Book cover of Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley

The giants of English biography (Janet Todd, Claire Tomalin, Lyndall Gordon) have written brilliant books about Wollstonecraft, but the one I went back to time and again (most dog-eared, underlined, annotated) was this dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley. An absolute page-turner, it reads like a novel, bringing this extraordinary mother and daughter to vivid life in alternating chapters that reveal parallels in who they were, what they believed, and how they lived.


Who am I?

After 15 years as a screenwriter (and some heartbreaking near misses with the big screen), I turned my pen to novel writing, with an adaptation of a script I’d sold four times. My new book, Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft, is hot off the press this year and tells the story of one of the great writers and thinkers of the late 18th century, mother of Mary Shelley, and widely regarded as the mother of feminism. I’m drawn to larger-than-life, brilliant, charismatic, complicated figures whose own trajectories have altered our own. I’m now at work on a collection of short stories and an adaptation of Mr. Dickens and His Carol for the stage.


I wrote...

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

By Samantha Silva,

Book cover of Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft

What is my book about?

Midwife Parthenia Blenkinsop has delivered countless babies, but nothing prepares her for the experience that unfolds when she arrives at Mary Wollstonecraft’s door. Over the eleven harrowing days that follow, as Mrs. Blenkinsop fights for the survival of both mother and daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft recounts the life she dared to live amid the impossible constraints and prejudices of the late eighteenth century, rejecting the tyranny of kings, men, and marriage, risking everything to demand equality for herself and all women. She weaves her riveting tale to give her fragile daughter a reason to live, even as her own strength wanes. Wollstonecraft’s urgent story of loss and triumph forms the heartbreakingly brief intersection between the lives of a mother and daughter who will change the arc of history and thought.

In radiant prose, Silva delivers an ode to the dazzling life of Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the world’s most influential thinkers.

Ada, Countess of Lovelace

By Doris Langley-Levy Moore,

Book cover of Ada, Countess of Lovelace: Byron's Legitimate Daughter

This was the first biography of Ada. It is opinionated, comprehensive, and entertaining. Ada’s short, tumultuous life is related with little attention to mathematics or proto-computing, but much to her psychology and that of her family and friends. It’s a gothic tale of emotional hypocrisy and cruelty. Ada’s mother, Lady Byron, encouraged the aura of wickedness surrounding Lord Byron and styled herself its victim. Virulently self-righteous, she encouraged her daughter’s mathematical gifts in order to smother her imaginative ones. Despite Victorian piety, superstition, Old Boy network science, drug addiction, the confinement of women - and her overbearing Mother - Ada managed to engage the latest ideas in England and Germany and, working with Babbage, to produce an astonishingly prescient analysis of the “first computer.”


Who am I?

I’ve enjoyed a long career as an author-illustrator of picture books for children. I search for stories of girls and women whose greatness has been overlooked: - Caroline Herschel, pioneering astronomer, - Oney Judge, the slave who escaped from George and Martha Washington, - Margaret Knight, the inventor who fought the man who tried to steal her idea and won in court - and Lizzie Murphy, the big-league baseball star. Every one of them had to overcome centuries of fierce resistance to female empowerment. A few of my biographies began as picture books, but their subjects quickly outgrew that format.


I wrote...

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business - And Won!

By Emily Arnold McCully,

Book cover of Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business - And Won!

What is my book about?

Tarbell’s brave, scrupulous, serial expose of Rockefeller in McClure’s Magazine riveted the nation and led to the breakup of the Standard Oil monopoly. Her work made her the most famous woman in America. The only female Muckraker, Tarbell was born in Western Pennsylvania just as oil was discovered there. During her early years, Oil came to dominate the industry and seep into every other aspect of modern life. Using predatory and illegal tactics, John D Rockefeller came to dominate Oil.

As a single woman in a hyper-masculine age, Tarbell found a way to be one of the boys, and was uniquely respected for her views on issues of the day. She is a complex, flawed, but admirable model for girls and young women drawn to journalism, or the history of ascendancies over a world stubbornly shaped by male entitlement.

Passion

By Jude Morgan,

Book cover of Passion

Passion features major artists and poets from a long-past yet oddly familiar period: the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a time in some ways like our 1960s and 70s: free love, revolutionary acts, creative and sexual freedom, and advances in art, science, politics, and literature. The novel stars riveting, romantic, larger-than-life literary figures: Mary Wollstonecraft, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Augusta Byron. Why can’t I time travel and inhabit such bygone eras – for a while, anyhow! But a good historical novel is the next best thing.

If it’s full of intrigue, romance, fantastic settings, and the occasional steamy encounter in which characters shed cool-sounding period clothing, even better...plus, the author’s uncanny ability to convincingly inhabit the minds of these exciting people, in first-person voice, was impressive. Highest accolade: by story’s end I wished I’d written it myself!  


Who am I?

I’m a nosy world traveler who loves visiting archeological sites, medieval castles, museums of the strange, and other people’s gardens. As both writer and editor, I know there’s nothing more powerful than finding and using the perfect words. A story can only engage others if it’s told vividly and well. I wrote my first in fifth grade, self-published for classmates on paper purloined from the teacher’s supply closet. Since then I’ve produced poetry, short prose, children’s books, and historical and contemporary novels. In my role as small-press editor, I love coming across a good manuscript by another writer and midwifing it to a final, polished birth as a wonderful book.


I wrote...

The Raven’s Bride

By Lenore Hart,

Book cover of The Raven’s Bride

What is my book about?

There are many novels and biographies about Edgar Allen Poe, but few capture his young cousin and wife, Virginia Clemm. Yet she was, according to Poe, the great love of his life. Some details are known: her striking musical talent, their odd marriage when she was only thirteen and he twenty-seven, the couple’s many moves, with her mother, from Norfolk to Baltimore to New York City as Poe gained and lost writing jobs, and Virginia’s illness and eventual early death from tuberculosis. It’s a convincing portrait of the young woman whose childhood crush became a tragic, lasting love affair – inspiring Poe to create his greatest works. Her untimely death at 27 nearly destroyed him. Part historical drama, part ghost story, The Raven’s Bride explores their lives and the enduring lifelong romance – and beyond.        

The Vampyre

By John William Polidori,

Book cover of The Vampyre: A Tale

As contemporary Gothic author and artist Franklin Bishop observe, John Polidori ‘was responsible for introducing into English fiction the enduring image of the vampyre in the guise of a suave, cynical, and murderous English Lord. With the presentation of Lord Ruthven [Byron] as a vampyre, Polidori created a personification of evil that countless authors have since imitated in attempting to satisfy the enormous public interest in this genre of literature. The literary-metamorphosed vampire that emerged from the Villa Diadoti ‘ghost story’ contest quickly developed a life force of its own – which was not surprising since it was the collective brainchild of Byron and his physician John Polidori – and created a minor literary scandal when it was published in 1818. The Vampyre was based on Lord Byron’s unfinished story "Fragment of a Novel," but it is arguably the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century.

I loved…


Who am I?

I started my professional writing career in 1987 having founded the small press writers’ magazine, Quartos, which ran for nine years until its merger with Acclaim in 1996 to become The New Writer, as well as authoring several creative writing how-to books – including Horror Upon Horror.  In addition to acting as judge for national writing competitions, I've also tutored at writers’ workshops including The Annual Writers’ Conference (Winchester College), The Summer School (University of Wales), Horncastle College (Lincolnshire), and the Cheltenham Literature Festival.  Having been a staunch supporter of the Gothic Society and a regular contributor to its quarterly magazine, Udolpho, I have also created the series of The Vampyre’s Tale novels.


I wrote...

Charnel House Blues: The Vampyre's Tale

By Suzanne Ruthven,

Book cover of Charnel House Blues: The Vampyre's Tale

What is my book about?

A view of vampire culture through the eyes of Lord Ruthven - the first vampire in the literary world taken from John Polidori's The Vampyre. Written as faction, Lord Ruthven rarely appears in vampiric anthologies and has never been filmed - neither has he ever been vanquished! Life - seen through his Lordship’s eyes, gives it that compelling intensity that is the signature trademark of all good vampiric fiction as well as having its own brand of gallows humour.

She Made a Monster

By Lynn Fulton, Felicita Sala (illustrator),

Book cover of She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

Everyone’s heard of Frankenstein, but a lot of people may not know that this legendary monster was created by a woman named Mary Shelley. In this fascinating picture book biography, Fulton doesn’t cover Mary Shelley’s entire life from beginning to end. Instead, she hones in on the most fascinating part—Lake Geneva, a stormy night, and a ghost-story challenge—that prompted Shelley to explore her imagination and write what has become one of the most famous monster stories of all time-- Frankenstein.

Who am I?

I’m an award-winning children’s author of more than 100 books, including many biographies. I first fell in love with biographies when I was a child and read about young blind and deaf Helen Keller. Blind and deaf? I couldn’t imagine. Yet, page by page, as I stepped into little Helen’s world, I felt as if I experienced her struggles, triumphs, and tragedies right along with her. I discovered that in spite of her great challenges, she succeeded. That’s why I love biographies and why I write them. I hope my biographies open a door into someone else’s world that can remind readers that they can succeed too, in spite of obstacles in front of them. I try to write the sort of picture books I love—funny, whimsical, captivating, and unforgettable.


I wrote...

Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey

By Lori Mortensen, Chloe Bristol (illustrator),

Book cover of Nonsense! The Curious Story of Edward Gorey

What is my book about?

Nonsense! is about one of literature’s most creepily creative authors and illustrators who was the inspiration behind a generation of creators, including Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Tim Burton.

Instead of following the crowd, Gorey did things his own way, writing strange stories with peculiar titles like The Abandoned Sock, The Galoshes of Remorse, and The Gashlycrumb Tinies. When other publishers rejected his work, he published them himself—curious stories that mingled sweetness and innocence, danger and darkness, all mixed with his own brand of silliness. Edward Gorey—mysterious, brilliant, a one-of-a-kind original. Will the curious stories of Edward Gorey ever end? Nonsense.

Mountains of the Mind

By Robert MacFarlane,

Book cover of Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit

Nobody uses language like Robert Macfarlane, and I’m always amazed (and a little envious!) when I’m reading his transportive prose. All of his books are fantastic, but this history of the mountaineering movement, mixed with his own experiences navigating trails, is a nice introduction to his masterful way of stringing words together.  


Who am I?

As a journalist who explores the intersection of human health and planet health, I've long been fascinated by how stepping outside into a healthy environment can boost our well-being. I also believe that we are more likely to take positive climate actions when we have a rich connection to the natural world around us, so a lot of my work focuses on helping people get out into nature—whatever that looks like for them.


I wrote...

Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us

By Emma Loewe,

Book cover of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us

What is my book about?

Return To Nature explores how eight distinct landscapes impact our mental and physical health: grasslands, deserts, forests, mountains, oceans, rivers, icy terrain, and cities. The book weaves together new research and ancient knowledge on how every inch of the natural world can be a salve for the stress, anxiety, and burnout of today’s age. Over the course of this landscape-to-landscape guide, you’ll pick up fresh ideas on how to restore yourself in the nature around you—be it a sprawling forest or a row of street trees. You’ll also learn about meaningful actions we can all take to give back to the landscapes that give so much to us.

Vampyres

By Christopher Frayling,

Book cover of Vampyres: Genesis and Resurrection: From Count Dracula to Vampirella

Frayling’s book is very much a forerunner of Groom’s, being one of the first serious (but also immensely readable) studies of the vampire in culture. This one keeps its sights trained more on the nineteenth-century vampire. It begins with The Vampyre, the story written by John Polidori at the Villa Diodati at the same infamous gathering that spawned Marty Shelley’s Frankenstein. Polidori was Lord Byron’s physician, but the two men fell out badly, and Polidori’s aristocratic bloodsucker Lord Ruthven is widely regarded as modeled on Byron. Although now little remembered, The Vampyre began the Victorian craze for vampires that culminated in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Frayling is the perfect guide, being not only a cultural historian of wide learning but also a splendid communicator.


Who am I?

I have written more than 20 non-fiction books on a wide range of topics. I was trained as a chemist and physicist, and as both an author and a journalist I am mostly concerned with the sciences and how they interact with the broader culture – with the arts, politics, philosophy, and society. Sometimes that interest takes me further afield, and in my new book The Modern Myths, I present a detailed look at seven tales that have taken on the genuine stature of myth, being retold again and again as vehicles for the fears, dreams, and anxieties of the modern age. Ranging from Robinson Crusoe to Batman, this list also inevitably includes Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula – leading him to examine how we have used the legend of the vampire in the past and present.


I wrote...

The Modern Myths: Adventures in the Machinery of the Popular Imagination

By Philip Ball,

Book cover of The Modern Myths: Adventures in the Machinery of the Popular Imagination

What is my book about?

Myths are usually seen as stories from the depths of time--fun and fantastical, but no longer believed by anyone. Yet, as I show, we are still writing them--and still living them--today. From Robinson Crusoe and Frankenstein to Batman, many stories written in the past few centuries are commonly, perhaps glibly, called "modern myths." But I argue that we should take that idea seriously. Our stories of Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Sherlock Holmes are doing the kind of cultural work that the ancient myths once did. Through the medium of narratives that all of us know in their basic outline and which have no clear moral or resolution, these modern myths explore some of our deepest fears, dreams, and anxieties. We keep returning to these tales, reinventing them endlessly for new uses. But what are they really about, and why do we need them? What myths are still taking shape today? And what makes a story become a modern myth?

In The Modern Myths, I take the reader on a wide-ranging tour of our collective imagination, asking what some of its most popular stories reveal about the nature of being human in the modern age.

Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers

By Betty Alexandra Toole,

Book cover of Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: Poetical Science

Toole, the first expert in computing to tackle Ada’s story, gathered her letters from British archives and libraries, then arranged their highlights to tell the story of Lovelace’s life in all of its complexity. Her introductions to each decade of life set the context but Ada herself tells the story in her inimitable voice. This book was published before scholars were willing to credit Ada with her achievement. In fact, many dismissed it altogether. It was Toole’s mission to correct the record and she succeeded admirably. This is the essential Lovelace Reader.


Who am I?

I’ve enjoyed a long career as an author-illustrator of picture books for children. I search for stories of girls and women whose greatness has been overlooked: - Caroline Herschel, pioneering astronomer, - Oney Judge, the slave who escaped from George and Martha Washington, - Margaret Knight, the inventor who fought the man who tried to steal her idea and won in court - and Lizzie Murphy, the big-league baseball star. Every one of them had to overcome centuries of fierce resistance to female empowerment. A few of my biographies began as picture books, but their subjects quickly outgrew that format.


I wrote...

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business - And Won!

By Emily Arnold McCully,

Book cover of Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business - And Won!

What is my book about?

Tarbell’s brave, scrupulous, serial expose of Rockefeller in McClure’s Magazine riveted the nation and led to the breakup of the Standard Oil monopoly. Her work made her the most famous woman in America. The only female Muckraker, Tarbell was born in Western Pennsylvania just as oil was discovered there. During her early years, Oil came to dominate the industry and seep into every other aspect of modern life. Using predatory and illegal tactics, John D Rockefeller came to dominate Oil.

As a single woman in a hyper-masculine age, Tarbell found a way to be one of the boys, and was uniquely respected for her views on issues of the day. She is a complex, flawed, but admirable model for girls and young women drawn to journalism, or the history of ascendancies over a world stubbornly shaped by male entitlement.

Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein

The original gothic science fiction novel and a classic in its own right, Shelley’s Frankenstein is brimming with human need, trauma, disgust, and the tragic folly of seeking perfection. The quintessential blend of grotesque and sublime, the story turns the mirror on the worst parts of humanity and forces us to both confront the misery and appreciate the tainted beauty. And Shelley, with her incomparable prose, leads us to this with her opening page, as our frame narrator, Robert Walton, remarks: “I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves, and fills me with delight.” The ultimate expression of gothic science fiction. 


Who am I?

All my life, I have been drawn to the dark, twisty, unconventional, rebellious stories; I was always a little disappointed with the Disney-fied fairytales, always enthralled by the dark imaginings of the originals. As I grew older, I recognised that these dark fables were not just confined to stories of fantasy, but present as seeds of discontent and destruction in our own reality—in the injustices of the present, and disasters of our potential future. As an author, I use these modern parables and prophecies—in dystopian, weird, and gothic science fiction—as a way to explore and critically reflect on our humanity and its future.  


I wrote...

Tasmanian Gothic

By Mikhaeyla Kopievsky,

Book cover of Tasmanian Gothic

What is my book about?

A dark biopunk thriller of gothic proportionsSolari wasn’t alive when the radiation rained down, but she’s living with the consequences—the mutations, the gangland war, and the wall that divides Tasmania’s affluent North from its contaminated South. Alone in the southern reaches, Solari survives by cooking wildly addictive snowrock for the local crime lord and avoiding the city’s mutants. 

But, when a bad deal turns worse, Solari is forced to run—escaping retribution with a stolen van and a pair of giant wings cleaved from a mutant moth. Grafting the wings to her body will disguise Solari as one of Tasmania’s most reviled, and set her on a dangerous journey through gangland strongholds to get to the Border Wall, and safety, in the north.

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