The best urban legend books

2 authors have picked their favorite books about urban legend and why they recommend each book.

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Never Have I Ever

By Isabel Yap,

Book cover of Never Have I Ever: Stories

Yap's debut collection is full of brilliant moments and haunting images. She wraps together Filipino folklore with characters who are endlessly rich and fascinating, and the result is sometimes terrifying, sometimes weird and unsettling, and always gorgeous. This book will leave you feeling as if uncanny worlds are waiting for you to discover them, just out of view. Many of these stories go to dark places, but then you stumble on a sweet tale like "A Spell For Foolish Hearts," involving a gay magician, a love potion, and a complicated relationship. You'll wish you could read this book for the first time more than once.

Who am I?

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which Time Magazine listed as one of the hundred best fantasy novels of all time. Her other books include The City in the Middle of the Night, Victories Greater than Death, and Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories. She organizes the long-running spoken word series Writers With Drinks, helps to organize tours of local bookstores, and also co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Her short fiction has appeared in Tin House, Conjunctions, Wired Magazine, Slate, and the Boston Review.

I wrote...

Even Greater Mistakes

By Charlie Jane Anders,

Book cover of Even Greater Mistakes

What is my book about?

Even Greater Mistakes is a collection of 19 short stories that straddle the line between speculative fiction and literary fiction. These stories explore the saving power of love, friendship, and community in the face of total absurdity and weirdness. In "Six Months, Three Days," two people who can see the future enter into a relationship they know is doomed. In "Don't Press Charges and I Won't Sue," a trans woman is trapped in a nightmarish facility with her former best friend. In "The Bookstore at the End of America," the United States has broken into two separate countries, with a tiny bookstore straddling the new border.

These stories have won the Hugo, Locus, and Sturgeon awards.

Ember Burning

By Jennifer N. Alsever,

Book cover of Ember Burning: Book 1 Trinity Forest

After Ember loses her grandmother, she finds herself retreating from the Real World and going into the woods. They’re no ordinary woods though. They’re a portal to another world. One where Ember isn’t lonely. The only catch? She can never return to her real life. This book I felt had a lot of good metaphors for depression and grief mixed with the fantasy elements to give it both a powerful message and an entertaining feeling.

Who am I?

I’m a writer of all genres that’s found a lot of love, particularly in fantasy and thrillers. My love for epic fantasies first began when I was young, and like all young readers, was introduced to Harry Potter and the Magic Tree House series. The idea of being whisked away to a magical world captivated me, and so, I started to create my own stories to keep that magic alive. 

I wrote...

The Council

By Kayla Krantz,

Book cover of The Council

What is my book about?

The Council is the governing Coven over the Land of Five, a region entirely inhabited—and split apart—by witches with varying powers. Lilith Lace, a witch thought to be born powerless, happily resides in Ignis, the Coven of Fire, until she suddenly develops telekinesis, an ability only seen in some witches born in Mentis, the Coven of the Mind. She's terrified of it, unsure who she can trust. Her best friends, Helena and Clio, are hot and cold about what she can do, leaving Lilith even more unsure about her future.

At her Arcane Ceremony, the truth comes out. When the Council learns what she can do, she’s taken under their wing and is finally told the truth—everything she’s learned about the Land of Five, herself included, have been nothing but lies.

Rules for Vanishing

By Kate Alice Marshall,

Book cover of Rules for Vanishing

It’s been a year since Sara’s sister played “the game” and went missing, vanished down the forest road—a mysterious path that appears only once a year like a mirage in the desert. Sara is consumed with the mystery of her sister, convinced that she will never know what really happened. Until an anonymous text message pings onto her phone, inviting her and her estranged friends to play “the game” for themselves and seek out local ghost legend, Lucy Gallows. Sara is convinced that following the road is the only way to get Becca back, but she can’t predict how changed they’ll all be on the other side. Half a cup of Blair Witch with a dash of ghost-bitten Wizard of Oz, this book was an adventure like no other. Rules for Vanishing was claustrophobic in the best way. It felt like entering a warped Oz, where nothing was what…

Who am I?

I was a late reader. I was, in fact, forcefully against reading. You’d have had to drag me by my ear to get me anywhere near a book. I was dyslexic, suffered with Irlen syndrome, and detested the embarrassing fact that I found reading too difficult. I thought my mother had invented some kind of cruel torture when she insisted I read to her every day. It never worked. And then… it did. I read my first book at the age of 12, and it was written in the form of letters. It was Animorphs Book 1 by KA Applegate, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I wrote...

The Dead House

By Dawn Kurtagich,

Book cover of The Dead House

What is my book about?

In the charred-out ruins of a once-illustrious high school, a diary is found written by a girl who doesn’t exist. Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge High School in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

A Psalm for the Wild-Built

By Becky Chambers,

Book cover of A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Becky Chambers is an auto-buy author for me. I loved her Wayfarers series and this novella didn’t disappoint. A lot of science fiction can be dark, but this little book was full of so much loveliness and hope and beauty. It’s about a tea monk searching for their place and when they encounter a robot in the wilderness, there are plenty of funny and sweet moments to get your serotonin levels up.

Who am I?

I have anxiety and depression. While obviously not a replacement for therapy and/or medication, reading books that somehow make me feel good is an important part of my self-care. They can be silly or witty or charming or whatever, but a book that makes me smile or giggle or just swoon is one I’ll reach for when I’m feeling down.

I wrote...

One of the Guys

By Lisa Aldin,

Book cover of One of the Guys

What is my book about?

Tomboy to the core, Toni Valentine understands guys. So Toni is horrified when she's sent to the Winston Academy for Girls, where she has to wear a skirt and learn to be a "lady" while the guys move on without her. Then Toni meets Emma Elizabeth, a girl at school with boy troubles, and she volunteers one of her friends as a pretend date. Word spreads of Toni’s connections with boys, and she discovers that her new wealthy female classmates will pay for fake dates. Looking for a way to connect her old best friends with her new life at school, Toni and Emma start up Toni Valentine’s Rent-A-Gent Service. The business meets a scandal when Toni falls for one of her friends – the same guy who happens to be the most sought-after date.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail

By Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh

Book cover of Holy Blood, Holy Grail

This book is a near-perfect example of how an ancient myth can spawn a modern urban myth or conspiracy theory. Best known today for having inspired Dan Brown’s blockbuster The da Vinci Code – so much so that the authors unsuccessfully sued Brown’s publisher for plagiarism – this book weaves together fragments of myth and mysticism, strange events from more recent history, and political intrigue to create a fascinating tale about the lost bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalen.

Who am I?

Graeme Davis has been fascinated by myth and folklore ever since he saw Ray Harryhausen’s creatures in Jason and the Argonauts as a child. While studying archaeology at Durham University, he became far too involved with a new game called Dungeons & Dragons and went on to a career in fantasy games. He has written game sourcebooks on various ancient cultures and their myths, and worked as a researcher and consultant on multiple video games with historical and mythological settings.

I wrote...

Thor: Viking God of Thunder

By Graeme Davis,

Book cover of Thor: Viking God of Thunder

What is my book about?

Thor is best known today as a superhero in Marvel comics and films. In many ways he is the ultimate Viking: bluff, hearty, strong, and direct. And so he was in the earliest surviving stories from Norse myth. The thunder god has survived Roman attempts to conflate him with Classical gods, the bowdlerization of early Christian writers, Nazi attempts to co-opt him and his symbols, and more – and he has done so remarkably unchanged.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

By Alvin Schwartz, Brett Helquist (illustrator),

Book cover of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

What horror list would be complete without this infamous selection? Is there a more accessible horror collection? The Treasury collects all three Scary Stories books, preventing anyone from missing out on any of Schwarz’s memorable retellings of classic folklore and urban legend. These are the stories told around the campfires and slumber parties of youth. The stories still traded by adults when conversation turns to ghost stories. Though simply worded and easy to read, these are the stories that come to mind late at night when you’re all alone. Every horror enthusiast knows a creepy story or two, and at least one of them is from this collection. It’s a perfect anthology for anyone who wants a 5-minute chiller, or a good turn-of-the-century ghost story.

Who am I?

I’ve been ensconced in horror since childhood—from the Monster Double Feature to Creepy and Tomb of Dracula. I’m part of the Monster Squad; I’m what goes bump in the night. I live for the scare. My love for all things spooky started young, growing up with Bradbury and Matheson, before graduating to King, Koontz, and Straub. I continued to absorb horror wherever I could: books, films, and comics, drinking it in as quickly as it came out. Eventually, I found that I’d absorbed so many stories, I had one or two of my own to contributeso I began writing short stories and novels to terrorize the genre myself!

I wrote...


By Andy Lockwood, Brian Ritson (illustrator),

Book cover of Threshold

What is my book about?

After the death of her grandmother, Cate inherits an antique mirror. The frame is detailed, ageless. The glass unmarred. Impeccable. Cate can't put her finger on it, but there's something wrong with the way her reflection looks back at her.

Cate assumes the mirror has a storied history, but it doesn't seem to have any history at all. Previous owners have all disappeared, leaving Cate to piece together its mysterious origin. At first, this didn't seem like a problem, but Cate's life is twisting in unusual ways since taking ownership of the artifact. Plagued by nightmares and haunted by her own reflection, she can hardly close her eyes. Perhaps it is exhaustion. Perhaps it is something else entirely.

Slender Man

By Anonymous,

Book cover of Slender Man

Weird, right? The author of the story is unknown. Some may say it’s just a narrative of the main character’s story, but no one really knows the truth behind the mythical monster. Slender Man was a decent book, a very quick read too for four-hundred pages. While the story was slow, it pitched in its genre of suspense, mystery, and terror. We live in the real world, but we’re also living in a world of wonders. I’d recommend this story to anyone who loves mysteries and evil entities, even gamers who run around the worlds of Fallout and Skyrim.

Who am I?

Growing up, I melted into the cinematic universe. And it was always the fantasies that made me feel wonderous. Star Wars, Skyrim, Fallout, Dune, The Hunger Games, you name it, they all sucked me in during the darkest times in life. That’s why I write, for the children and the young adults. I want them to experience my worlds to understand their own. I earned my BFA in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. I hope to translate my books into screenplays while my dream and goal is to watch my own story on the big screen with a bucket of popcorn in my hands.

I wrote...

Tolerance Book One

By Ethan Marek,

Book cover of Tolerance Book One

What is my book about?

In an overpopulated, climate-crisis world, the country of Haven prepares for an upcoming war with the neighboring country of Zovia. They're on the brink of nuclear battle, but an experimental idea may swing the power to the citizens who live on Haven's frozen crust.

Kids between the ages of six and eighteen are drafted to Project Tolerance, a digital warfare simulation, constructing supersoldiers by exposing them to pain, reaching for a high pain Tolerance.

This book is available for pre-order on the author's website.

How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass

By Christopher Dicarlo,

Book cover of How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Asking the Right Questions

If there is one book I wish I’d written myself, it is How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass. One of the things I admired most about the people who shaped my education and career path most was their ability to listen carefully and ask critical questions that uncovered even more than what was first expressed. Christopher DiCarlo’s book is a manual to practicing these traits. The book provides all of the tools needed to question beliefs and assumptions held by those who claim to know what they’re talking about, while at the same time providing practical solutions for today’s world of misinformation. The book also convinced me that faulty reasoning can be spotted by asking the right sorts of questions—what better gift to give someone? 

Who am I?

As an experimental social psychologist, who has conducted years of empirical research on bullshitting behavior and bullshit detection, I’ve found compelling evidence that the worst outcomes of bullshit communications are false beliefs and bad decisions. I’m convinced that all of our problems, whether they be personal, interpersonal, professional, or societal are either directly or indirectly linked to mindless bullshit reasoning and communication. I’m just sick and tired of incompetent, bullshit artists who capitalize by repackaging and selling what I and other experimental psychologists do for free. It’s time the masses learn that some of us who actually do the research on the things we write about can actually do it better.    

I wrote...

The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit

By John V. Petrocelli,

Book cover of The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit

What is my book about?

Bullshit is the foundation of contaminated thinking and bad decisions that leads to health consequences, financial losses, legal consequences, broken relationships, and wasted time and resources. No matter how good we think we are at detecting bullshit, we’re all susceptible to its unwanted effects. While we may brush it off as harmless marketing sales speak, it’s actually much more dangerous. It’s how Bernie Madoff swindled billions of dollars from experienced financial experts with his Ponzi scheme. It’s how Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward resulted in the deaths of 36 million people from starvation. 

But with doses of skepticism and commitment to truth seeking, you can build your critical thinking and reasoning skills to evaluate information, separate fact from fiction, and see through bullshitter spin.

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