My Top 15 Essential Gothic Reads

Hello my lovely readers, and welcome to Gothic Week on White Rose of Avalon!   For day one I have decided to write up a list of my 15 essential Gothic reads.   This will not be a ranked countdown like most of my lists, as it is nearly impossible for me to choose a specific ranking of these incredible novels.   Without further ado, here is my 15 essential Gothic reads!

  1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

~This novel is one of my favorite books of all time, and I adore absolutely all of Emily Bronte’s writing.   It tells the tale of Catherine and Heathcliff, and in Heathcliff features one of my favorite Byronic heroes!

2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

~Emily’s elder sister wrote a novel that is still considered the platinum standard of Gothic romance literature.   In Jane Eyre we meet and intelligent heroine with a haunted past.   She falls in love with her employer, only to find skeletons in his closet (or attic as it is)!

3. Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

~This is the first Gothic novel ever written, and for that reason it is truly essential!   It is a bonus that the novel is also extremely short, making it an easy enough read.

4. The Monk by Gregory Lewis

~This novel is one of the most demented examples of Gothic romance.   It contains all of the staples of the genre, and bends them to horrifying extremes!   This one is not for the faint of heart, but it is an early Gothic masterpiece in its own right.

5. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

~Mrs. Radcliffe was the grand dame of Gothic romance novels, and this book was her masterpiece!   It tells a tale of an orphaned young woman who is taken in by her aunt.   She ends up being tormented by her aunt’s new husband in his Gothic castle!

6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

~If you are not a horror fan but still want a taste of the Gothic, then this Jane Austen novel is the perfect choice!   It is a parody of the popular Gothic romances of the day, especially the above mentioned Mysteries of Udolpho!   I love this as a work of satire, and it has a healthy dose of the classic Austen wit.

7. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

~This is the classic tale of a doctor who experiments with a formula that ends up bringing out his dark side in a huge way.   It is a novel that was originally written (first draft) in three days!   This was a work of serious inspiration, and it is a quick read that I have spent many a stormy night with.

8. House of the Seven Gables by Nathanial Hawthorne

~I have loved this book forever, and it is my favorite Hawthorne work.   Actually getting to visit the house that inspired it (as well as Hawthorne’s birthplace and his grave) while honeymooning in Salem only made my appreciation for this classic work deeper.   I highly recommend reading the novel, and visiting the site if you are ever in Salem!

9. Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

~In this novella we meet the titular Carmilla, who is a badass female vampire.   During the course of the book she seduced the protagonist, Laura (yes this is also one of the earliest lesbian books) and we learn she has had a long history of seduction!

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker

~I wonder how many of my readers were waiting for this one to pop up!   This is the novel that inspired countless film and stage adaptations, and I think I need not discuss it further here!

11. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

~This is another of my favorite books of all time, by one of my absolute favorite authors!    In the case of Mary Shelley, I love not only her literature, but also her true life story.   She was someone who really lived the bohemian Romantic lifestyle!   The story is one of a mad scientist playing God and creating a Monster.   If you have only seen the films, you do not know the full story, as Shelley’s original is much darker than any film!

12. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

~Wilde is probably the only one who could have written this tale of decadence and vanity.   Young Dorian is obsessed with his own beauty and will do anything to stay handsome forever!

13. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

~I adore this book, and actually re-read it around my wedding!    It is a strange read for a wedding weekend, but I adore the tale of the Phantom, and his love for Opera singer Christine.   This is my absolute favorite musical of all time, and the original novel had to be included in this list of essentials!

14. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

~The story of Ichabod Crane and Katrina van Tassel is one that was so beautifully written, and has inspired so many adaptations.   Yes I know Katrina is not very present, but she is the only named female in the story, so I include her in being an important character!   There are many celebrations in upstate New York this time of year, since that is where the story was set!

15. Liegia by Edgar Allan Poe

~This is my absolute favorite Poe tale!    I love the premise of a witch cheating death to return to her opium addict husband!   There is so much to unpack in such a short tale, was it magic or hallucinations?   Read it and decide for yourself!

~I hope you have enjoyed my list.   Did I forget any essential reads?   Let me know in the comments below!