Top Gothic Books
Reading is not a lost art. There are many great books that can be read, across genres and across different styles.
If you are looking at this article, chances are that you are interested in reading those books that have a slightly more gothic bent to the proceedings, wherever that’d be because of the horror themes,, wherever it’d because of an analysis of death, or whatever definition of gothic you want to use.
Here are the top examples of gothic literature that you can find:
House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
The ultimate in gothic horror, in haunted houses, in geography warping, not just in terms of plot or characters, but also in pages.
Much has been made of how the book plays out like a piece of poetry, in that the page layouts will constantly shift, with words appearing inside boxes, with footnotes infested into footnotes and merging with the main text, with text getting smaller and smaller on the page, with some pages only having a few words here and there scattered.
What is not made so much off is how this all comes together. How all of the twisting layouts isn’t a matter of Mark Z. Danielewski just throwing things in to make a unique book. Ever page shift, every change in the layout, is done for a thematic, plot driven reason that plays with you as much as it plays with the characters in the book.
As to the plot? It’s somewhat simple on the face of it. A family move into a house, with the father being a documentary film maker who sets up cameras all around. But slowly, just like any house in any horror story, the house starts warping and changing the people inside of it.
But then you have how this story has been presented. In the narrative of the book, it is another character who has found the manuscript detailing about the house, and he is writing what he is finding while assembling the manuscript together, his research into trying to find out if it is true, and how the act of reading the story has changed him.
Just like this book will change you.
The Sandman – Neil Gaiman
If there is one comic book/graphic novel you should read, it is The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.
This doesn’t feature superheros. Instead, the main character is a personification of dreams.” The lord of all that is not, and shall never be.” The one true muse. The one who shoes what life is really like to those willing to have his gifts.
Perhaps the greatest character to come out of the Sandman series, especially for the goth audience, is Death, Dream’s sister. As opposed to the menacing idea of the grim reaper, Neil Gaiman wanted “a death who agonised over her role, or who took a grim delight in her job, or who didn’t care. I wanted a death that I’d like to meet, in the end. Someone who would care.”
And he more than got that. She also features my favourite “twist” on the idea of someone taking you away once you have died, in that she is there at the start of your life as well to great you into the world. In that sense, going into the next life is just meeting back up with an old friend.
Everything by H.P. Lovecraft
No Gothic Book list would be complete without mentioning the true master of Victorian, gothic, ethereal horror himself, Lovecraft.
Writing of things that humans can sense, but are beyond human comprehension. If wanting to gain knowledge, and the danger of gaining that knowledge. Of family ties, and how sins can pass down from generations. Of creatures, gods and aliens that care not for human lives in the same way we care not for the ground we walk on.
Written in the standard Victorian prose, with lavish descriptions constantly compounding on each other with each sentence. There are also dressings of the new, Edwardian era aesthetics within his work, keeping behind each sentence with a tentacled eyeball. H.P. Lovecraft isn’t just a master of horror, he quickly became a pioneer of writing.
Exquisite Corpse – Poppy Z Brite
Written by Poppy Z Brite, the pen name of Billy Martin, Exquisite Corpse is an absolutely unflinching look into a word of dark horror, or serial killers, and of homosexuality.
The best way to describe the writing style of this book is like a perfume. Rich, taking you to far off memories and far off places that you only think or wish you have been. Oh, and the perfume is coming from a poisonous flower that wishes to in snare it’s routes around your brain until all you can do is think of it.
If you think you can handle a book that features two serial killers bonding and falling in love over their shared compulsions, of descriptions of bodies and murders that make you feel as if you are the one there, then you will be more than satisfied with this book.
The Collector – John Fowles
Are you into your psychological thrillers? Hannibal fan? Or got a series of crime novels on your shelf? Then if you haven’t read The Collector, this is one book you must read.
Seen as the prototype of Psychological Horror, John Fowles The Collector features a man, with the hobby of collecting butterflies, deciding to add one more thing to his ‘collection’, a female artist who he has been stalking from afar
One of the creepiest things about this book is that it starts off from the Collector’s (Frederick) perspective, as he coldly, callously, breaks down all of his rationalisations to you, until it gets to such a point where you can start feeling for him. Then, in comes the diary entries of the woman he kidnaps (Miranda), and everything is shattered very quickly.
Graham Joyce – The Tooth Fairy
The 1960’s English Countryside is apparently the perfect place for creepy, sublime, skin crawling horror as this book proves.
Don’t be fooled by the title, or that the main character a young boy (who grows up while you read the novel), The Tooth Fairy is no more of a children’s novel than Lolita is.
After seeing a tooth fairy one night, Sam is told that they are now unfortunately bonded. They will be around each other and see each other. of course, only Sam can see her. And of course, this starts opening up questions of if the Tooth Fairy is real or if Sam is having a delusion.
But what is really unique about this novel is that the Tooth Fairy isn’t a simple figure. For a start, it’s gender seems to change depending on Sam’s mental state, often to the opposite one of what he’d like to be seeing. It is foul mouthed, violent, unpredictable. Imagine The Joker having made it’s mission to torture a young boy while growing up.
Graham Joyce himself is an extremely economical author. No word is wasted in his description, but yet a full mind-cinema is gained with every single line.
This is a rare gem, that many people don’t know of, but it is one you should read the moment you can.
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