The best monster books

33 authors have picked their favorite books about monsters and why they recommend each book.

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By John Gardner,

Book cover of Grendel

“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.

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.


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.

Monster Mama

By Liz Rosenberg,

Book cover of Monster Mama

A literal splash of colors by Stephen Gammel makes this picture book beautiful to behold. Liz Rosenberg tells the tale of a little boy who, with the help of his fierce Monster Mama, is able to mend bridges with some wild boys who threaten him. The surprise ending is wonderful—and delicious!

Who am I?

I have published over 50 books, including award-winning and bestselling titles. I am also a publishing executive and editor with 20+ years of professional experience. My latest The Twins of Auschwitz: The Inspiring True Story of  Young Girl Surviving Mengele’s Hell, with Eva Kor, got a stellar review by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and is an international bestseller. As well as spearheading four publishing startups, I have run my own business, Editorial Services of L.A. I was Editorial/Publishing Director for Golden Books, Price Stern Sloan, Intervisual Books, Hooked on Phonics, and more. I am also the Publisher & Editor in Chief of NY Journal Of Books, the premier online-only book review site.

I wrote...

The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

By Eva Mozes Kor, Lisa Rojany,

Book cover of The Twins of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a young girl surviving Mengele's hell

What is my book about?

Eva Mozes Kor was just ten years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Subjected to sadistic medical experiments, she was forced to fight daily for her and her twin's survival. In this incredible true story written for young adults, readers learn of a child's endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil.

The book also includes an epilogue on Eva's recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. 

Monsters 101

By Cale Atkinson,

Book cover of Monsters 101

I love funny books! In Monsters 101, three hilarious professors share little-known, laugh-out-loud facts about monsters of all shapes and sizes. Readers will get a kick out of the non-fiction format and bright visuals. The author-illustrator of the book is the same illustrator of my book If I Had a Gryphon, so he knows a thing or two about drawing monsters!

Who am I?

When I worked at a children’s bookstore I noticed there were tons of books about dragons and unicorns, but not a lot of picture books about other kinds of mythological creatures. I thought this was strange, especially since Harry Potter was so popular and those books were full of magical creatures. I have always loved pets and mythology, so I thought maybe I could write a primer on magical pet care. I also noticed how much the kids at storytime loved rhyming books, so I put all of these things together and If I Had a Gryphon was born!

I wrote...

If I Had a Gryphon

By Vikki VanSickle, Cale Atkinson (illustrator),

Book cover of If I Had a Gryphon

What is my book about?

Dragons and unicorns get a lot of love in picture books, but what about gryphons and krakens and chupacabras? This delightful picture book imagines what it would be like to take care of 20 magical creatures drawn from mythology and lore from around the world. When a kitten sneezes it’s adorable, but when a dragon sneezes? DISASTER! Kids and adults will love this primer on magical pet care featuring clever rhyming text and hilarious illustrations.

Autobiography of Red

By Anne Carson,

Book cover of Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse

Based on the tale of the Tenth Labour of Herakles, this queer, lush, and cheeky novel grabbed my heart from the moment I was assigned to teach it. I did an undeclared minor in Classics during my undergrad, and aside from being extremely clever with the wordplay, I was delighted by how Carson absolutely takes the mickey out of academic writing around mythology, classical archeology, and translation. Told as a form of free-verse poetry, this novel is comprised of some of the most incredible word-crafting I've ever experienced.

By changing the word “arrows” in the original tale to “eros”, Carson skews and plays with the relationship between the monster Geryon and the hero Herakles, all the while letting Geryon speak to the reader directly.

Who am I?

I’m an actor as well as a writer. I’ve spent more hours than can be counted dissecting stories and characters in order to better understand and transmit them to an audience. While standing on a stage, an actor is never unaware that they are performing for others. We may lose ourselves in a moment, in a character, in emotion, but the applause and the gasps, and the laughter always bring us back. As a writer, I spend a lot of time tapping into that feeling of ignoring-while-being-totally-aware of the fourth wall. I love books that wink at readers the way actors can at audiences.

I wrote...

The Untold Tale

By J.M. Frey,

Book cover of The Untold Tale

What is my book about?

This book follows Pip, who is pulled against her will into the epic fantasy novel series she’s loved since she was a teenager. However, the world is darker and far more dangerous than she could have ever predicted, especially when it turns out the hero is a much bigger misogynistic ass than she knew.

Pip knows how to circumnavigate the Hero’s Journey and the pitfalls and loopholes of this particular world – but what will happen to her beloved characters outside of the comfort of the fantasy they were written for? And what happens when it’s not the male-power-fantasy hero, but the hero’s overlooked and bullied little brother who proves to be her biggest champion?

Beasts of Prey

By Ayana Gray,

Book cover of Beasts of Prey

This book is brilliant! The blurb alone was enough to hook me, and I couldn’t put it down until I reached the last sentence! The story was interesting, and the world-building was vivid, and the magic system was so interesting. Give it a shoot, you won’t regret it! 

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by fantasy and sci-fi books since childhood – ever since I read Harry Potter and my parents took me to Disneyland Park. My parents had a giant library, and they used to encourage me to buy books and read them. I enjoy reading books that mix genres with unexpected twists and turns, and I am always on the hunt for a good story to enjoy and review.

I wrote...

The Crossing Gate

By Asiel R. Lavie,

Book cover of The Crossing Gate

What is my book about?

In the kingdom of Elpax, juveniles must walk through the mysterious Crossing Gate to become adults-and seventeen-year-old Lenora is determined that her third attempt at crossing to adulthood will be successful. Even though adulthood means facing horrible realities, such as sin-spots appearing on her body whenever she commits a sin, it also means being able to have a job. And Lenora needs to work to support her struggling family. But Lenora's Crossing Day goes horribly wrong. 

Accused of trying to start a revolution, Lenora must obey the kingdom's laws to the letter if she wants to take suspicion off herself. But following the rules isn't as easy as it sounds. Especially when she meets a mysterious and handsome stranger who makes her feel emotions she's never experienced before-even though juveniles in Elpax aren't supposed to be capable of falling in love. With the long arm of the law looming over her and her family, Lenora must walk a tightrope between following the rules and investigating why she's unable to cross. 

The Mist

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Mist

I actually kind of hate all the characters in this novella (I’m actually not a huge Stephen King fan), but the creatures and the horrifying nature of this world made me half to read it (and I wasn’t disappointed). Mist in itself makes everything creepy. Now fill that with nightmarish things flitting about and some truly grizzly deaths, and I’m liable to never go outside in the fog ever again! It’s the monsters that made this one for me, and it is a testament to King that my imagination still wonders just what were those horrid things and where did they come from?

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by horror, particularly the dark and imagination-inciting creatures produced by it (even though I’m a big scaredy-cat, haha!). In a time when slasher films and haunted houses tend to dominate the horror genre, I set out to create a creature-feature similar to the 80s and early 90s classics I grew up with (Aliens, The Thing, Phantoms, Dawn of the Dead). I fell in love with creating truly nightmarish monstrosities and deep, vulnerable but strong characters to battle them. The books on this list are definitely huge inspirations in my own work, so I hope you enjoy the beasties in them as much as I have!

I wrote...

Pandora (The Organization)

By Joshua Grant,

Book cover of Pandora (The Organization)

What is my book about?

A cruise ship disappears without a trace, reemerging a week later and transmitting a single word: Pandora. Business tycoon and owner of the cruise line Patrick Carver sends a band of mercenaries to land on the ship and figure out what happened. For reasons beyond her, young doctor Aubrey Pittenger is chosen to go along for the ride. But all is not as it seems aboard the crumbling cruise liner, and evil comes in many forms. Now the ragtag team will have to band together in order to survive the night in this Aliens/The Thing homage horror thriller from the mind of bestselling author Joshua Grant!

A Deadly Education

By Naomi Novik,

Book cover of A Deadly Education

I would be the first person to die in a horror movie. Not from the villain. I would die from fear. I scare that easy. This is why A Deadly Education had me practically reading with my eyes squinted. And it was amazing. This book has a slight Harry Potter vibe… If Hogwarts was a prison riddled with monsters hunting the witches and wizards trapped inside. One of the best parts about this book is that it takes the “savior” and “villain” trope and turns it on its head. Not to mention the romance is one you will want to root for over and over again. You’ll find yourself up until 3 am reading this one, desperate to find out how it ends.

Who am I?

I’ve always let my imagination wander wild, like a modern-day Anne Shirley—which is one of the reasons I became an author. I love reading (and writing) books that add fantastical elements to our world or the worlds of far-off characters. As an author and die-hard bookworm, I love to genre hop within the Young Adult age range. You can find me nose-deep in anything from science fiction to a gritty paranormal fantasy.

I wrote...

These Wicked Waters

By Emily Layne,

Book cover of These Wicked Waters

What is my book about?

Annie Mayfield has heard all the stories and rumors about the island that is now home to the brand new Mayfield Villa resort. The island’s name alone—Viaii Nisi, or violent island—is enough to make any sane person reconsider it as a vacation destination. Not to mention the mysterious deaths of every previous owner. It’s a history Annie’s mother is quick to shrug off, but when a guest goes missing on opening night, Annie really starts to get the creeps.

And then Annie makes a truly terrifying discovery: ruins filled with bones and one skeleton that seems to be half-human and half-fish. Intrigued by the strange remains and determined to help find the missing guest, Annie channels her inner Nancy Drew in an attempt to uncover the truth about Viaii Nisi.


By Dean Koontz, Kevin J. Anderson,

Book cover of Frankenstein: Prodigal Son

Wow! What a book series. Dean Koontz took the classic tale of Frankenstein and added myth, terror, and magic. This series was a huge influence for my Canopus and Keel series, showing me how you can take classic lore and twist it into something new and exciting. The story follows the mysterious tattooed Deucalion as he arrives in New Orleans, tracking the serial killer dubbed “The Surgeon”. Could the surgeon be Dr. Victor Frankenstein, the creator of Deucalion, himself? 

Who am I?

Stephen Jarrett has been a Creative Director and creator of worlds for Disney, Nickelodeon, and Namco Bandai. The Limbo Prophecy is Stephen’s first book series and takes the reader into a fresh supernatural world, merging gods, fairytales, and folklore from different cultures and adding a few twists and surprises along the way.

I wrote...

Canopus and Keel - The Hive

By Stephen Jarrett,

Book cover of Canopus and Keel - The Hive

What is my book about?

Angels are not the creatures you have been led to believe, but creatures that feed on pain and despair. Never pray for an Angel, it makes your soul a beacon for monsters to feed on and angels are the biggest monsters of them all. Carina Keel. FBI agent, self-taught witch and dabbler in the paranormal is on the hunt for an ancient angel that has returned to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The same angel that killed Keel's father, 20 years ago. Together with her partner Jon Canopus, Keel will find the angel, discover its weaknesses, and send it back to wherever it came from. But others hunt the creature too; the Supreme with her Coven of witches and the mysterious demonic, 'Red Girl'. In a race against time, who will find The Hive first? 

Solo Leveling

By Chugong,

Book cover of Solo Leveling

Translated from Korean, Solo Leveling is the story of a world where mysterious portals have opened and lead into caves full of nightmarish creatures. To combat these “Dungeons”, humans have harnessed magic in order to awaken what are called Hunters – people who are stronger, faster, and more powerful than the average person. One of these Hunters is named Jinwoo Sung, known across Korea as the weakest hunter to have awakened. Barely stronger than a normal human, he’s nearly died hundreds of times but keeps fighting in order to support his sister and sick mother. After a sudden encounter with a strange Dungeon, he’s gained the ability to Level Up, finally giving him the chance to prove that he’s not just some weakling who needs to be protected.

This story resonates with me because you can’t help but be envious of a power like this. The more the MC fights,…

Who am I?

I’m a young writer who loves many genres such as mystery, romance, horror, and most notably Sci-Fi. My two greatest passions have always been writing and gaming. I’ve logged in thousands of hours across multiple platforms of gaming, specifically RPGs. My recent novel, Welcome to LEGEND, tells the story of two people finding love through their mutual obsession with video games. Right now, I’d like to introduce to you my top picks for books that are heavily inspired by the video games I love so much.

I wrote...

Welcome to LEGEND

By Michael Loring,

Book cover of Welcome to LEGEND

What is my book about?

Cole Matheson has dealt with depression and isolation his whole life, making it from one day to the next the best he can. The only escape he's ever had were video games, and when the largest VRMMORPG LEGEND was first released, he was immediately smitten.

It's on the LEGEND's servers that he meets Lady Oracle, another passionate gamer just like him. When they play together, Cole—in the form of his virtual alter-ego Castellan—feels a completeness he's never felt before. When he's with her he feels like everything isn't so bad. But Cole is not very good with romance and has many obstacles to face before he can admit his true feelings. He's going to need to level up his own game before he can advance any further in life.

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