I love to read. I do have a very particular taste when it comes to books though. First of all, I absolutely despise romance novels. Anything Mills & Boon like will not enter this house! Or chicklit. I shudder at the thought of having to attempt another try at reading the remaining Shopaholic novels. That’s what I hate, which is pretty much anything girlie. Now for the likes: I like books that have nicely developing characters or where plot lines take unexpected turns. Books that make me think. Books that haunt me. I have a knack for coming-of-age novels and novels whose protagonist are weird, strange or outright insane & evil. And there is one particular genre of books that often combines all of this in story: Gothic Fiction.
My love for Gothic Fiction started at a very young age. As a kid I quickly developed a taste for books that contained anything supernatural. As long as the stories contained vampires, witches, werewolves or flesh eating monsters I was good to go. My favorite author was Paul van Loon. I would literally eat up anything he wrote for a while.
When I got a little older, books became less important to me as my teacher told me I couldn’t read the type of books I liked the most. Most horror/ Gothic stories for children at the time were aimed at children up to the age of 12. If you were older you would have to resort to adult novels or stick to the kiddy stuff. Since my teacher forced me to read stuff I didn’t like, reading suddenly was less enjoyable for me and so I didn’t pick up any books for fun until I went to college.
Studying English, means you have to read books. Tons of books. It’s simply part of the curriculum. Every semester you take at least one course on English or American literature. Taking more is optional. In my second year I opted to enroll for one additional literature class as part of my minor in American Studies. It was called American Gothic Fiction. I enjoyed it so much that I can safely say that this course pretty much reinstated my joy for reading. These are some of the books that were on the reading list:
American Gothic Fiction: Stephen King – Needful Things, Nathaniel Hawthorne – The House of the Seven Gables, H.P. Lovecraft – At the Mountains of Madness, Richard Matheson – I Am Legend, Shirley Jackson – We Have Always Lived in the Castle
My favorite from this bunch was I Am Legend. It’s a very easy read, but the outcome of the book is magnificent. Too bad Hollywood had to go and turn into a godawful movie with Will Smith a few years ago.
Later on, once I was enrolled in the Master’s programme, I enrolled in another Gothic Fiction class. This time it combined both American and British authors and pretty much glossed over the major works in Gothic Fiction. Some of the books from that list were:
My faves from this bunch are more abundant. All books, except for Confessions, made it into my favorites list. I even ended up writing my essay for the course on a comparison of Dracula and the aforementioned I Am Legend. You can tell I like my vampires can’t ya?
It must therefore be no wonder to you that now, after graduating and being able to read novels for fun, rather than for coursework, that I have stuck to my love for vampires. Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries: I soak it all up and have read (parts of) the series or am intending to do so. I even got into Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice for a while.
However, none of these are my favorite Gothic stories. No, my absolute favorite stories are by the one and only Edgar Allan Poe (who else!). Master of suspense and author of some of the most haunting stories of his day, Poe is still liked by many today and I am one of them. His stories aren’t always as scary anymore, but you have to admit that stories such as The Pit and The Pendulum or The Tell Tale Heart are classics even in their own right.
Some of my fave Gothic novels/ stories: Joyce Carol Oates – American Gothic Tales (incl. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow etc.), Anne Rice – Interview with the Vampire, Stephanie Meyer – The Twilight Saga, Charlaine Harris – Dead Until Dark (The book to the True Blood series), Ira Levin – Rosemary’s Baby (the movie is brilliant!), Edgar Allan Poe – Forty Two Tales.
I started this post off by stating that I do not only like Gothic novels, but also novels that have slightly twisted, insane, if not evil characters. These novels do not have to be Gothic per se, but I think they do sort of fall into the whole ‘nasty’ category. What it boils down to is that as long as it’s nasty, I’ll like it. 😉 I like characters who go through extremes or great lengths to get what they want. Even though they are sometimes fools for doing so. Some of my favorite books containing ‘twisted’ characters:
Last but not least, there are a few books sitting on my shelf unread and waiting to be picked up. I have quite a few of these, as I buy/ get more than I read, but here are the Gothic novels that are on the top of my ‘to read’ list:
Q: What is your favorite genre?