Dangerous, salacious, and blood soaked – vampire stories never go out of fashion. No matter the era, vampires exude style and draw readers in with that distinctive, enticing push and pull between the grotesque and the arousing.
What are some of the best, the utterly sanguine and sensual? We believe there’s a blood sucker out there for everyone, so read on for vampire books that are sure to give you chills.
1. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova
For impeccably written literature, history and masterful suspense, look no further than The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It is a story within a story about a young girl’s investigation into her father’s twisted past. The tale starts when a young man finds an esoteric book in a university library. Its contents inexorably pull him and his family into the path of true darkness.
Readers will revel in the rich settings across Europe and the creeping dread as you and the narrator brush closer and closer to the legend of Vlad Dracul.
2. The Passage, by Justin Cronin
The Passage seems like a Stephen King and Michael Crichton collaboration on an epic vampire sci-fi. You’ll be engrossed by the startling depth of character of King and enjoy the genre innovation and suspense of Crichton – it’s impossible to put this book down!
Cronin delivers a totally unpredictable, mythic, tender yet terrifying tale with a fascinating new take on an old monster.
3. Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Let the Right One In is the perfect pick for the horror enthusiast looking for a psychologically chilling vampire thriller that eschews the romanticism and fripperies which so often overburden the vampire genre.
Twelve year old Oscar may have finally found a friend in the new kid who just moved into his bland Swedish tenement. Eli is different like him, but as their relationship blossoms in the cold depths of winter, Oscar slowly realizes that Eli is more than he could have possibly imagined. Sweet, awkward and utterly terrifying, this is a one-of-a-kind take on vampires that cannot be missed.
(And don’t let the title miss-match throw you for a loop – the American remake of the movie was re-titled Let Me In. Either title is the same fabulous book!)
4. Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison
The heroine of this excellent series is Rachel Morgan – bounty hunter, witch, and sarcastic badass. The Hollows where Rachel works has a gritty, noir-ish cop drama feel that draws you in but never takes itself too seriously.
With a whole lot of magic, mischief, witty banter and a dash of the hot and steamy, you’ve got a hilarious series that fans of True Blood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer will tear through with glee.
5. The Queen of the Damned, by Anne Rice
For sensuality, grandiose drama, and romantic prose, you can’t get any better than Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Readers will be spellbound by the great and terrible Akasha – ancient Queen of the vampire race – in this electrifying novel.
Though the series can be read out of order, it is more satisfactory to devour these books chronologically to get the full effect of subtly shifting themes and narrators. The brooding and tormented Louis in Interview with a Vampire and the dark and hedonistic Vampire Lestat lead to Lestat and Akasha in the thrilling third book, The Queen of the Damned.
6. Sunglasses After Dark, by Nancy Collins
If you’re tired of the overly romanticized, frilly vampire novels where the undead are misunderstood and tormented, grab yourself the first volume of this metal-fanged roller coaster of a series. Enter the world of the vampire hunter Sonja Blue, where demons and ghosts and psychics are all just barely beyond the reach of everyday human perception.
The best part? The vampires that Sonja battles are actually scary. They are dead, cold, and hungry. Collins pulls back the veil and gives us a glimpse of the brutal and utterly hypnotic occult underbelly of the world. It will linger in your mind and make you look at your surroundings and wonder if there’s more than meets the eye.
7. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
For a shorter, more young adult accessible vampire story, check out Sunshine. In this dark fairy tale, we get vampires at their best – an alarming blend of sensual and horrifying. This is great stuff for Twilight fans who have grown up and want something with more bite.
As with so many of her books, McKinley takes the vampire genre and elevates it beyond what we know to create a funny yet suspenseful page-turner.
8. Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Before Stoker’s Dracula, there was Carmilla – an enigmatic and ancient vampire who seduces young women to their untimely endings. Our narrator is Laura, Carmilla’s latest obsession. You will find yourself as hypnotized as Laura as the horror unfolds.
Equal parts gothic romance, monster story, and cautionary tale, this was the first vampire story ever published in 1872. If you enjoy Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, or Edgard Allan Poe, Carmilla will be right up your alley.
9. Night World, by L.J. Smith
The Night World series by L.J. Smith satisfies cravings for angsty and melodramatic books you can quickly devour. They’re like soap operas for the goth kids – full of vampires, hot and heavy action, and unrepentantly broody atmosphere.
“Night World is their secret society, a secret society with very strict rules. And falling in love breaks all the laws…” How can you say no to that tagline? Next time you have an itch for moonlit romance and junk food fiction, tear open a bag with Night World.
10. Fledgling, by Octavia Butler
Shori wakes up on the cold ground, naked and confused… and hungry. What our narrator soon learns is that she is not the 10-year-old girl she appears to be, but a blood-thirsty creature of the night.
Octavia Butler is a criminally under-read mistress of science fiction, and she turns her ingenious eye to vampires in Fledgling. She leans into well-known mythology but just when you’re feeling nice and comfortable, she delivers surprises you never saw coming. Pick up this novel for a delightful vampire society and Butler’s characteristic delivery of disturbing and erotic chills.
11. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King
Something is rotten in Jerusalem’s Lot, and it has been seeping into the foundations to suck the life out of the small town. The narrator, Ben Mears, and a rag-tag group of townsfolk are about to come face to face with incomprehensible darkness – an evil of staggering power and patience.
One of King’s best works, Salem’s Lot is pure horror and exemplifies the classic American vampire novel.
12. Night Watch, by Sergei Lukyanenko
With a genre like “Russian urban fantasy vampire noir,” how could you not take a closer look? Night Watch is set in modern-day Moscow filled with street sorcerers, vampires, and shapeshifters just at the corners of human perception. It’s a world where the powers of Light and Dark are constantly struggling for power, and the stalemate is about to be upended.
Furiously paced, pulse-pounding and brimming with heavy metal style, Night Watch is the next epic series to add to your reading list.
13. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix
Hilarious, addictive and oddly sweet, Hendrix’s approach to horror is one of a kind. Mix a middle-aged ladie’s book club crowd with a vampire showdown and Tina Fey’s appeal for the perfect literary getaway .
Billed as “Steel Magnolias meets Dracula,” this delightful story will please horror lovers and haters alike with its charm and wit.
14. Guilty Pleasures, by Laurell K. Hamilton
Before Buffy, there was St. Louis’s best vampire huntress: Anita Blake. What’s a girl to do when teamed up with the steamy, dreamy enemy that she’s sworn to destroy? Get into trouble, that’s what.
Hamilton blends action, romance and horror with panache. The seductive world of Anita Blake will tug readers in as supernatural hungers face the equally dangerous desires of the heart.
15. N0S4A2, by Joe Hill
As readers may expect from the son of Stephen King, Hill’s bone-chilling take on vampires will have you blazing through this book straight to the stunning conclusion. Charlie Manx isn’t your typical vampire; all he wants is to fill his home with children. Welcome to Christmasland, “where every day is Christmas Day and unhappiness is against the law.”
But one very special girl gets away, and she must make a decision nearly a lifetime later: keep running or stop Manx – the monster with an unholy thirst for youth – forever.
16. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
Those with a love for romance and books will be pulled into A Discovery of Witches from page one. Our heroine is Diana, a young scientist who comes from a long line of witches.
Tragedy in Diana’s past keeps her magical heritage at arm’s length, but the discovery of a lost alchemical manuscript changes everything. A skeptical Diana is suddenly thrust into a world of fantastical creatures, forbidden passions, and Renaissance-era history come to life. A world where vampires and witches aren’t supposed to work together, let alone fall in love…
You’ll cheer Diana on as she discovers not just her magic, but her own strength. Steamy, adventurous and stimulating, Harkness’s series is a hit for art and history fans looking for a magical thrill ride.
17. Dracul, by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker
Dracul is a prequel to the famed Dracula and stands out from the crowd with an actual descendant of Bram Stoker as co-author. Working with special access to his great-grand-uncle’s texts and notes leftover from Dracula, Dacre Stoker reveals both the origins of the famed author and Dracula himself.
When vampire hunting runs in the family, you can’t pass up on this compelling story that blends history and fiction into a supernatural thriller.
18. Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman
Newman meshes the style and wit of Sherlock Holmes with paranormal suspense in this beguiling Victorian thriller. It’s a world where Queen Victoria is married to Vlad the Impaler, and Jack the Ripper roams the streets.
Follow two members of the Diogenes Club, vampire detectives Charles Beauregard and Geneviève Dieudonné, as they explore the depths of London and try to stop one of the most vicious serial killers of all time. This alternate history mixes mystery, horror, politics, and romance for a steampunk vampire winner.
19. Fat White Vampire Blues, by Andrew Fox
Looking for a vampire novel that hardly takes itself seriously? Feast your eyes on the ridiculously funny Fat White Vampire Blues. Magnificently fat Jules Duchon has been a taxi driver in New Orleans forever… and that’s not an exaggeration. He is a vampire, a cunning and cold blood-sucker who just wants to get a cute girl’s phone number every once in a while.
Snag this and the sequel, Bride of the Fat White Vampire, for an audacious and truly entertaining parody of the vampire genre.
20. Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Who could have a best-of vampire list and not include the classic Victorian tale that started the Western world’s obsession with vampires?
This epistolary novel begins with a young man’s business trip to Romania, and becomes a supernatural thriller full of mystery and madmen. Though a bit of a quiet burn at times, the creeping dread builds to a masterful pitch of horror and insanity that make this classic completely worth the read.