Vampires have gone from being seen as unfortunate creatures operating under a dread curse (Nosferatu) to pretty, brooding superheroes (Twilight). They’re the ultimate bad boys: tall, dark, and handsome taken to a feral, gothic extreme.
There are all sorts of vampires in the list below: angry, scared, young, old, terrifying, hilarious, confused, weak, strong, monstrous, and human.
At an exclusive girls’ boarding school, a severely disturbed sixteen-year-old girl records her most intimate thoughts in a diary. The objects of her obsessions are her roommate Lucy and Lucy’s friendship with their new and disturbing classmate: Ernessa, an enigmatic, moody presence with pale skin and hypnotic eyes.
Dark rumors, suspicions, and secrets swirl around Ernessa as a series of ominous disasters cause fear to spread through the school. Suddenly, Lucy isn’t Lucy anymore, and fantasy and reality mingle until what is true and what is dreamed bleed together into a waking nightmare riddled with the anxieties, lusts, and fears of adolescence. Is Ernessa really a vampire, or has the narrator trapped herself in the fevered world of her own imagining?
“Klein’s fanciful heroine, driven by her jealousies and imagination, is a compelling informant on the complex relationships of girls in boarding schools and on the parallels between obsession and the apprehension of the supernatural.”
— Booklist (starred review)
Carmilla is the first vampire thriller, written twenty-six years before Bram Stoker penned Dracula.
Seemingly by happenstance, the mysterious and beautiful Carmilla comes to stay with the young and virtuous Laura, who has been living a lonely existence with her father in an isolated castle. Laura finds herself enchanted with her exotic visitor. As the two become close friends, however, Laura dreams of nocturnal visitations and begins to lose her physical strength.
“[T]his haunting tale is surprisingly fresh, avoids cliché and builds well to its climax. Particularly interesting are the sexual overtones that develop between the two women.”
— Publishers Weekly
It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction, Anno Dracula follows vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders.
“[T]he first mash-up of literature, history and vampires, and now, in a world in which vampires are everywhere, it’s still the best, and its bite is just as sharp.”
— Neil Gaiman
Sunshine is chained and imprisoned in a once-beautiful decaying mansion. Alone but for the vampire Constantine shackled next to her, Sunshine realizes that she must call on her own hidden strength if she is to survive. But Constantine is not what she expected of a vampire, and soon Sunshine discovers that it is he who needs her, more than either of them know.
“McKinley knows very well—and makes her readers believe—that the insides of our own minds are the scariest things there are.”
— Publishers Weekly
Who’s been killing the vampires of London, tearing open their coffins to let in lethal sunshine as they sleep—and then drinking their blood?
“Hambly’s examination of vampirism is beautifully detailed, with a fine, realistic background and strong sense of atmosphere… Will give Anne Rice a run for her money.”
— Publishers Weekly
In this fun and surprisingly thoughtful indie novel, a philosophically-inclined vampire turns gumshoe and investigates an unsolved murder.
“An utterly readable fusion of vampire fiction and labyrinthine whodunit powered by a highly intelligent narrative… Anne Rice meets Dashiell Hammett at a Zen Buddhist monastery.”— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
In 1860, the centuries-long breeding experiments of vampires finally produce “The Golden,” a mortal whose blood is perfect and powerful. Mobilized by the news of this discovery, aristocratic vampire clans arrive at the looming Castle Banat, where they plan to partake of the sublime blood. To their shock, the guests find that The Golden, a young girl, has been brutally murdered and her blood already drained. Inspector Michael Beheim—a recent vampire—is assigned to track down the killer. The inspector navigates his way through the unfamiliar vampire world and the baffling crime therein.
“Shepard adds a wild, phantasmagoric element to his vampire lore through the sprawling mystery of Castle Banat.”
— Publishers Weekly
That’s right. The A Game of Thrones guy wrote a darn good vampire book, too.
Abner Marsh, a struggling riverboat captain, suspects that something’s amiss when a wealthy aristocrat with a lucrative offer approaches him. The hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet; nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment. York’s reasons for traversing the powerful Mississippi are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious York’s actions may prove. Not until the maiden voyage of Fevre Dream does Marsh realize that he has joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare—and humankind’s most impossible dream.
“An adventure into the heart of darkness that transcends even the most inventive vampire novels . . . Fevre Dream runs red with original, high adventure.”
— Los Angeles Herald Examiner
Edward Weyland is far from your average vampire: not only is he a respected anthropology professor but his condition is biological, rather than supernatural. He lives discrete lifetimes bounded by decades of hibernation and steals blood from labs rather than committing murder. Not that he cares about humans—they’re cattle, after all—but murder tends to draw unwanted attention. But after being wounded by a vampire hunter, Weyland must form an uneasy empathy with his prey in order to survive.
“Devastatingly powerful… Savage and intense and brilliantly satisfying… rich and impressive… a serious, startling, and revolutionary work.”
— The Washington Post
This book jumps around quite a bit, but if you can hang on, it’s a really fun read.
Young necromancer Koristad is recruited by the Lightwielders, an order of warriors dedicated to protecting the innocent from wicked magic users and vampires. He picks up a sidekick in the form of naïve Peril.
After Koristad and Peril are tasked with protecting an ancient artifact, a long extinct bloodline of mages emerges, and suddenly, the pair are fighting for more than they ever imagined.
“A scattered but enjoyable romp through creative supernatural history.”
— Kirkus Reviews
Late one night, while exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of—a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.
The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known—and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself in order to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago.
Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana… until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life—and one of her coworkers checks out.
Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.
“A fun, fast, funny, and wonderfully intriguing blend of vampire and mystery that’s hard to put down, and should not be missed.”
— Bestselling author Susan Sizemore
Two years after a horrible incident made them run away, best friends Rose, half-human/half-vampire, and Lissa, a mortal vampire princess, are caught and returned to school at St. Vladimir’s Academy.
“[B]lends intricately detailed fantasy with a contemporary setting, teen-relevant issues, and a diverse, if sometimes stereotyped, cast of supporting characters.”
When St. Louis’s most powerful vampire comes to Anita Blake for help, she is faced with her greatest fear—a man capable of arousing in her a hunger strong enough to match his own.
“Death and gore galore… Hamilton writes with ease and vigour.”
— Shivers (UK horror magazine)
Some jobs just suck. This one bites.
Nobody kills vampires better than Jack Crow, the leader of VAMPIRE$ Inc. His crack team of hunters take down blood suckers with a combination of cojones and crossbows.
After members of Jack’s team are ambushed and slaughtered, however, the survivors need to rethink their strategy. With a new recruit from the Vatican—a priest who’s not afraid to wield a stake—and a sharpshooter loaded up with silver bullets, it’s payback time. The only problem is that the vampires have no intention of going down easy. They have their own hit list—and Jack Crow’s name is scrawled in blood right at the top.
The original title of this book was Vampire$ (dollar sign), but that was changed to the much more dull, “Vampires” (no dollar sign). In either case, it’s good, gaudy fun.
“Exciting and surprising…a real genre bender that keeps the best elements of both.”
“Something is murdering my men.”
Thus reads the message received from a Nazi commander stationed in a small castle high in the remote Transylvanian Alps. Invisible and silent, the enemy selects one victim per night, leaving the bloodless and mutilated corpses behind to terrify its future victims.
When an elite SS extermination squad is dispatched to solve the problem, the men find something that’s both powerful and terrifying. Panicked, the Nazis bring in a local expert on folklore—who just happens to be Jewish—to shed some light on the mysterious happenings. And unbeknownst to anyone, there is another visitor on his way—a man who awoke from a nightmare and immediately set out to meet his destiny.
The battle has begun. On one side, the ultimate evil that man has created, and on the other, the unthinkable and unstoppable terror that man has awakened.
“Spellbinding, chilling, bloodcurdling.”
― Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Louisiana, 2065. The bloodthirsty Reapers have come to Earth to establish a New Order built on the harvesting of human souls. They rule the planet. And if it is night, as sure as darkness, they will come.
But on this pitiless world, the indomitable spirit of man still breathes in Lieutenant David Valentine. And his mission is to win back Earth.
Fledgling is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted—and still wants—to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself.
“Butler has created a new vampire paradigm—one that’s more prone to sci-fi social commentary than gothic romance—and given a tired genre a much-needed shot in the arm.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.
“It’s easy to compare Lindqvist to Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman.”
― Dagens Næringsliv (Norway)
Despite the fact that this book is pure science fiction, it deals with vampires in such a unique and interesting way that I had to include it in this list.
Echopraxia is a tightly-written sequel to Blindsight, and again author Watts explores the craziness of space, aliens, vampires (he makes them work, even more believably than he did in Blindsight), and how malleable human brains are. His central idea is that human consciousness is like a flea riding a dog, thinking it’s in charge of everything, when really the dog, i.e., the rest of our brain, makes all of the decisions. (This is something that a lot of studies are actually agreeing with.)
In addition to all that, it’s a smart, fantastic read, and his best book since Starfish, one of my absolute favorites.
“A paranoid tale that would make Philip K. Dick proud, told in a literary style that should seduce readers who don’t typically enjoy science fiction.”
― Kirkus Reviews
I Am Legend is one of the most influential vampire novels of the twentieth century. The monsters are perhaps 70% vampire and 30% zombie.
A terrible plague has decimated the world, and those who were unfortunate enough to survive have been transformed into blood-thirsty creatures of the night. Except, that is, for Robert Neville. He alone appears to be immune to this disease, but the grim irony is that now he is the outsider. He is the legendary monster who must be destroyed because he is different from everyone else.
“[I]t is perhaps the greatest novel written on human loneliness.”
— Dan Schneider
Jody never asked to become a vampire. But when she wakes up under an alley dumpster with a badly burned arm, an aching back, superhuman strength, and a distinctly Nosferatuan thirst, she realizes the decision has been made for her.
Making the transition from the nine-to-five grind to an eternity of nocturnal prowling is going to take some doing, however, and that’s where C. Thomas Flood fits in. A would-be Kerouac from Incontinence, Indiana, Tommy (to his friends) is biding his time night-clerking and frozen-turkey bowling in a San Francisco Safeway. But all that changes when a beautiful undead redhead walks through the door and proceeds to rock Tommy’s life—and afterlife—in ways he never thought possible.
I’m a big Christopher Moore fan. His books often feel like an urban version of Terry Pratchett.
’Salem’s Lot is Stephen King’s second published novel and according to several interviews, his favorite. I have to agree with him, and a lot of that is due to how well crafted the actual town of Jerusalem’s Lot is. Even with a bunch of vampires roaming around, it feels real, and that realism makes the book scarier than almost any other vampire book out there.
Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem’s Lot in the hopes that living in an old mansion, long the subject of town lore, will help him cast out his own devils and provide inspiration for his new book. But when two young boys venture into the woods and only one comes out alive, Mears begins to realize that there may be something sinister at work and that his hometown is under siege by forces of darkness far beyond his control.
With so many novels treating the bloodsucking undead as either sexy rock stars or angsty philosophers, it’s great to read a vampire story that doesn’t try to humanize the monsters.
Interview with the Vampire is one of the most famous vampire books ever written and made author Annie Rice a gothic superstar. Its genesis is not a particularly happy tale, however.
In 1970, while Anne Rice was attending a graduate program in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University, her daughter Michelle, then about four years old, was diagnosed with acute granulocytic leukemia. Michelle died of the illness two years later, and Rice fell into a deep depression, turning to alcohol in order to cope.
In 1973, while still grieving the loss of her daughter, Rice began reworking a previously written short story. Thirty pages long, it was written from the interviewer’s perspective. She decided to expand “Interview with the Vampire” into a novel at the encouragement of one of her husband’s students, who enjoyed her writing. It took her only five weeks to complete the 338-page novel: she did research on vampires during the day and often wrote during the night.
Upon publication, it was not universally loved. “To pretend that it has any purpose beyond suckling eroticism is rank hypocrisy,” wrote Edith Milton of The New Republic. That didn’t keep it from selling over 8 million copies, though.
Dracula is so famous that I’ve heard people think “Dracula” is a synonym for “vampire.”
During a business visit to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count’s transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula’s grim fortress, but a friend’s strange malady—involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds—initiates a frantic vampire hunt.