The most recommended books about the underworld

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to the underworld, and here are their favorite underworld books.
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Book cover of Underworld

T.L. Sturgis Author Of Flirting with Darkness

From my list on paranormal stories that takes a new a fresh approach.

Who am I?

My name is Tyeshia Sturgis, aka T. L. Sturgis. I’m an American author of horror, thriller, and fantasy. In the fantasy genre, I wanted to write something that I enjoyed reading about, and who doesn't like vampires right? My passion came from both newer and older authors and I wanted to write my vampire series but with a new world. Through hard work and dedication, I believe that I've accomplished just that. I knew it would be a challenge… but it helped me become a better writer. I write/read 6-8 hours a day and love what I do and also help mentor other authors and try to motivate people to read and write more. 

T.L.'s book list on paranormal stories that takes a new a fresh approach

T.L. Sturgis Why did T.L. love this book?

You're seeing I'm a vampire fanatic right? This is just another one of my favorite books and author. It's also another book made into a movie but trust me when I say the book is so much better than the movie itself. I loved the descriptions in this book and how another talented author created a brilliant world of vampires. It was thrilling and exciting. Another book that put me through a whirlwind of emotions. Not only was it action packed but there was romance topped with unbelievable betrayal. It will keep your interest just like it did for me. I recommend you don't watch the movie before you read the book.

By Greg Cox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The centuries-long battle between vampires and werewolves has reached a new intensity under the streets of New York City. One young werewolf called Michael is determined to end the conflict, but high-ranking vampire Selene has the strength of ten men, and plans to use it to destroy the werewolves.

Book cover of Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions: A charming detective takes on Sicily's underworld in the perfect summer read

Tania Bayard Author Of Murder in the Cloister

From Tania's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Historian Nature lover Lifelong bookworm

Tania's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Tania Bayard Why did Tania love this book?

As a writer of mystery novels, I know that a story needs a lot more than a good plot, and this delightful tale of an eccentric Bavarian woman who moves to Sicily to drink herself to death and instead finds herself investigating the murder of her handsome young handyman fulfills that requirement in spades with colorful characters; vivid descriptions of her adopted country’s culture, history, and cuisine; and a powerful sense of place.

The solution to the mystery is somewhat obvious, but what really mattered to me was the fact that after reading the book, I felt that I had actually been on a trip to Sicily.

By Mario Giordano,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Alive with a tang of lemons to set the senses zinging' The SpectatorTranslated fiction at its most charming - A Man Called Ove meets Andrea Camilleri, Auntie Poldi is this summer's most unlikely hero.Auntie Poldi can think of no finer place to wait for death than Sicily. All she asks is a sea view, fine wine (and plenty of it), and her family close around.When death instead takes her handsome young friend Valentino - and under mysterious circumstances at that - Poldi will not take it lying down.Perhaps it's in her blood (her father was a detective chief inspector); perhaps…

Book cover of The Nether World

Mick Finlay Author Of Arrowood and the Thames Corpses

From my list on the lives of the poor in 19th century London.

Who am I?

I didn’t know anything about Victorian history before I started writing the Arrowood books. The idea for the character of William Arrowood came as I was reading a Sherlock Holmes story. It occurred to me that if I was a private detective working in London at the same time, I’d probably be jealous, resentful, and perhaps a little bitter about his success and fame. That was the basis of Arrowood. I started to write a few pages and then realized I needed to learn a lot about the history. Since then, I’ve read hundreds of books on the topic, pored over newspapers in the British Library, and visited countless museums.

Mick's book list on the lives of the poor in 19th century London

Mick Finlay Why did Mick love this book?

This is a novel about life in the London slums in the 1880s. You really get a sense of just how hard it was to make ends meet in these communities. I loved it for the details about what people ate, where they lived, and the language. I trawled books like this for authentic words and expressions that I could put in the mouths of my characters in my own books.

By George Gissing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An exploration of the class struggle in nineteenth century London where a potential inheritance turns family and friends into desperate foes eager to escape their circumstance. A compelling story about greed, deception and the innate need to survive. Michael Snowdon lives like a pauper despite inheriting a massive fortune. He plans to leave his money to Jane, his neglected granddaughter, in hopes that she will spend it on charitable causes. Yet, Michael's estranged son Jonathan wants to acquire the funds for himself. He tries to create a wedge between his father and Jane, making it easier for him to make…

Book cover of Woman of the Underworld

Caitlin Davies Author Of Queens of the Underworld: A Journey into the Lives of Female Crooks

From my list on female crooks.

Who am I?

I first became fascinated by the portrayal of female criminals when I wrote a novel, The Ghost of Lily Painter, based on the first women to be executed at Holloway Prison in London in 1903. Holloway was the most infamous female jail in Europe and shortly before it closed down in 2016, I was given access to the prison archives. That led to Bad Girls, nominated for the Orwell Prize, and it also led to the discovery of a forgotten criminal aristocracy -  the women who were once so notorious they were Public Enemy No.1. 

Caitlin's book list on female crooks

Caitlin Davies Why did Caitlin love this book?

This is the book that started me off on Queens of the Underworld. It’s a thrilling, and sometimes disturbing, tale of Zoe Progl’s life of crime and her escape from Holloway Prison in 1960. When I learned that a tabloid journalist had ghostwritten the book, it made me want to find out the truth – and to see if I could discover other women who were happy to call themselves a queen of the underworld.

By Zoe Progl,

Why should I read it?

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

Book cover of Urban Underworlds: A Geography Of Twentieth-Century American Literature And Culture

Stephen Graham Author Of Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers

From my list on the subterranean of cities.

Who am I?

I've been obsessed with the material aspects of places - and the infrastructures that make them work - since I was a really young boy! (I remember, aged around 7, sitting on a bridge over the M6 motorway near Preston watching the traffic). This obsession was channeled into studying Geography, becoming a qualified urban planner, and completing a Ph.D. on how digital technologies effect urban life. A preoccupation with the subterranean realms of cities is also long-standing; it drove the 'Below' parts of my 2016 book Vertical: The City From Satellites to Bunkers. (I must admit I suffer from both claustropobia and vertigo! So, sadly, a lot of my work is necessarily desk-based!)

Stephen's book list on the subterranean of cities

Stephen Graham Why did Stephen love this book?

The subterranean worlds of cities have long been represented as a literal ‘underworld’ – a hidden and shadowy realm inhabited by all sorts of marginalised and spectral figures and communities.

Very often, such communities – real, imagined, and mythical – have been deemed by elites to be morally, socially, and biologically threatening the above-surface city. As someone who does not generally read a huge amount of fiction, Heise’s wonderful book was a huge inspiration for me.

It explores and reveals like no other book how American urban underworlds have been represented across a range of American literature.

From New York through Chicago and Los Angeles, what emerges is a rich a vibrant history through which the lived and imagined world below cities have been pivotal in key novels.

By Thomas Heise,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Urban Underworlds is an exploration of city spaces, pathologized identities, lurid fears, and American literature. Surveying the 1890s to the 1990s, Thomas Heise chronicles how and why marginalized populations immigrant Americans in the Lower East Side, gays and lesbians in Greenwich Village and downtown Los Angeles, the black underclass in Harlem and Chicago, and the new urban poor dispersed across American cities have been selectively targeted as ""urban underworlds"" and their neighborhoods characterized as miasmas of disease and moral ruin.

The quarantining of minority cultures helped to promote white, middle-class privilege. Following a diverse array of literary figures who differ…

Book cover of Underland: A Deep Time Journey

Rosemary Sullivan Author Of Where the World Was: A Memoir

From Rosemary's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Biographer Poet Literary journalist Creative Writing mentor/professor

Rosemary's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Rosemary Sullivan Why did Rosemary love this book?

Macfarlane took me under the earth: I climbed with him into dark caves miles deep, into prehistoric burial sites 65,000 years old, into the understory of living creatures just beneath our feet and the wide web of the forest that connects all trees into a community, and into underground spaces where physicists unravel the cosmos searching for dark matter.

I now know there is a doomsday vault in the Arctic that preserves ninety million seeds for a post-apocalyptic future. I can never look at trees, the earth, or the cosmos in the same way. He warns of “species loneliness” if extinctions continue. But Macfarlane offers hope.

The world is utterly precious. Mystery abounds. There is so much to discover. 

By Robert Macfarlane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Underland, Robert Macfarlane delivers an epic exploration of the Earth's underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself. Traveling through the dizzying expanse of geologic time-from prehistoric art in Norwegian sea caves, to the blue depths of the Greenland ice cap, to a deep-sunk "hiding place" where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years to come-Underland takes us on an extraordinary journey into our relationship with darkness, burial, and what lies beneath the surface of both place and mind.

Global in its geography and written with great lyricism, Underland speaks powerfully to our present…

Book cover of The Dream and the Underworld

Jenny Alexander Author Of Writing in the House of Dreams: Unlock The Power of Your Unconscious Mind

From my list on dreams for writers who want to boost creativity.

Who am I?

I came to writing after twenty years of working with dreams, so I already had lots of techniques for coming and going easily between the everyday world and the inner worlds of imagination, and I’m sure that’s why I’ve never suffered from any creative blocks or anxieties. In a career spanning 30 years, I have written about 150 books, both fiction and non-fiction, for children and adults, and scores of articles including a monthly column in Writing Magazine. I have taught creative workshops for major writing organisations such as The Society of Authors, The Arvon Foundation, and The Scattered Authors’ Society, and I offer a varied programme of courses independently throughout the year.

Jenny's book list on dreams for writers who want to boost creativity

Jenny Alexander Why did Jenny love this book?

James Hillman is the kind of writer you sometimes have to stop, think and re-read, to work your way into what he is trying to say, but it repays the effort because what he says is always interesting. This book, about fantasy and imagination, explores the idea that we are more than our personal story, more than ego and self. For me as a writer, it changed the way I see the creative process, with imagination not being something we need to spark and drive, but a space we already inhabit. Imagination is our essence; we are the dream.

By James Hillman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a deepening of the thinking begun in The Myth of Analysis and Re-Visioning Psychology, James Hillman develops the first new view of dreams since Freud and Jung.

Book cover of Falling into Rarohenga

Mandy Hager Author Of The Crossing

From my list on feature indigenous Pacific or Māori characters.

Who am I?

As a writer from Aotearoa New Zealand who cares deeply about social issues and human rights, I believe fiction has the power to change hearts and minds and bring us all together with greater compassion and understanding. When I was growing up here, there were few books published by Pacific or Māori writers and we were taught little about their customs or mythologies. I’ve loved watching this change over the last forty-odd years (and particularly the last ten years) and can see how access to these stories has not only empowered Māori and Pacific youth and brought them closer to their culture but enriched everyone who lives in our pacific paradise! 

Mandy's book list on feature indigenous Pacific or Māori characters

Mandy Hager Why did Mandy love this book?

Tui and Kae, fourteen-year-old twins, are sucked into the Māori underworld, Rarohenga, and must rescue their mother before they’re all trapped there forever. Exciting, mysterious, and full of Māori mythology, this book shows how, in order to truly understand our own unique identity, we must also understand who and where we came from. 

By Steph Matuku,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Falling into Rarohenga as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It seems like an ordinary day when Tui and Kae, fourteen-year-old twins, get home from school – until they find their mother, Maia, has disappeared and a swirling vortex has opened up in her room. They are sucked into this portal and dragged down to Rarohenga, the Māori Underworld, a shadowy place of infinite dark levels, changing landscapes and untrustworthy characters. Maia has been kidnapped by their estranged father, Tema, enchanted to forget who she really is and hidden somewhere here. Tui and Kae have to find a way through this maze, outwit the shady characters they meet, break the…

Book cover of White Rabbit: The Fall

K.T. Samois Author Of No Time for Caution

From my list on steamy romances with bad guys who make it look good.

Who am I?

K is an INTJ, 5w4, and a cat person. She loves a pulse-thudding plot and a heat level hotter than a gun barrel on a battlefield. She enjoys accurate action sequences, scary villains, and smokeshow heroes with redemption arcs. T is an ENTJ, an 8w7, and a dog mom. She writes villains who square up, heroes who step up, and heroines who level up. She prefers her romance with a side of high-stakes geopolitical brinkmanship, because the only thing better than saving the world is celebrating the win afterward. K and T are long-time readers of high heat dark romances and look forward to sharing their writing with other spice aficionados.

K.T.'s book list on steamy romances with bad guys who make it look good

K.T. Samois Why did K.T. love this book?

He’s heir to a violent legacy. She’s on the hunt for a story that’ll launch her career from Page Six to the six o’clock hour. When their paths cross, she knows she’ll follow this lead anywhere. I love it because Miller’s really good at writing dark romance. It’s a tricky genre to get right because of the subject matter, but if you can nail it you get a sort of grim satisfaction from the underworld justice. But then one has to ask: what happens when someone comes around asking questions? What happens when emotions get in the way of objectivity or professionalism? And what do you do when someone you’re falling for is revealed to be a monster amongst monsters?

By London Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Karina Ashworth is willing to pay any price to be with the man she loves—a notorious fixer and the only man capable of making her walk away from everything she has ever known.

But power corrupts the soul too easily, and once Uilleam Runehart has his taste of it, there’s nothing he craves more. And when it comes to what he wants most, there is no line he won’t cross to get it.

With secrets plaguing them, and truths becoming harder and harder to tell, the things left unsaid between them might be their ruin.


How much…