Vampires; since the beginning of civilization, almost every culture has had their own stories of inhuman creatures who feed off the blood and bodies of humans. Whether these beings resemble humans, monsters, or some twisted version of the two, there is no question that the allure and fear of these beings have brought them to the forefront of media for years. Personally, I am obsessed with vampires in every form.
From the association with gothic subcultures, to the profoundly metaphorical idea of consuming blood, I simply cannot get enough of the vampiric. Nearly all of my spare time is spent watching vampire movies, drawing sanguine characters, and of course, reading vampire books near exclusively.
For about two years now, I have been collecting vampire books. Through secondhand bookstores, thrift stores, and randomly finding them scattered across little free libraries and clothing swaps, I have accumulated approximately 112 vampire books.
Have I read all of these? No. But should I be known as the world’s resounding vampire expert, and everyone refer to me as such? Absolutely.
As the world’s resounding vampire expert, I approach you today to present my five favorite books in my collection. Please be warned... some are completely warranted as a "good read," and some are pure self-fulfillment/enjoyment. At the end of the day, I am a teenage girl, and not much has changed with teenage vampire fans since the Twilight craze of the 2000’s.
5. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
A historical fiction novel set in the Civil War era, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter delivers exactly what you’d expect. The fictional biography spills the untold story of President Lincoln’s secret mission to defeat all vampires in America in a quest to avenge his late mother, a mission that will eventually lead to him becoming the 16th US president and ending slavery.
Despite what I initially thought when I picked up this book, there is no comedy beyond the absurdity of the plot. The vampires are formidable villains, and there is a grave severity placed on the events Lincoln faces. It is interesting to see how various real historical events are interpreted, even those which occurred outside of the 19th century, such as a vampire who was a firsthand witness of the infamous vanishing Roanoke colonists. However, the issue of slavery is probably my least favorite part of the book, as Lincoln “ends” it to stop vampires, not for the benefit of the enslaved (which in retrospect, is not that far off from the real reason he signed the Emancipation Proclamation).
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is a surprisingly intense and violent read for anyone who is a fan of Civil War history, or who just enjoys a classic vampire hunting story. I easily read this book in less than a day due to the excitement. There is also apparently a Tim Burton movie based off of it, which I have never seen, but apparently is pretty good. Why not read the book and compare it to the movie?
4. Bloodline by Kate Cary
Part Dracula continuation, part historical fiction, Bloodline is another war-set vampire story, this time in World War I.
Bloodline follows the documents of Lutenant John Shaw, his sister Lily, and his love Mary Seward as they follow the mysterious Quincy Harker, who they believe to be connected to the familiar, strange events occurring wherever they go.
Bloodline acts as a continuation to the classic Dracula novel, this time focusing entirely on the descendants of the original novel’s characters. Quincy Harker is believed to be carrying the same powers Count Dracula once had, which reminded me of Dracula’s Child by J. S. Barnes. It feels believable that this novel could have been written in the 1910’s, if not in dialogue, then in setting. It makes sense that a vampire would stalk the viscerally grimy, sickening trenches and hospitals of WWI, which you can really feel with the slow-burn nature of this book.
If you’re a big enjoyer of Dracula or Dracula fan work, you’d be remiss to pass up Bloodline. It’s a great combination of Victorian horror tropes with early 20th century realist horror and serves as a great supplement to the original Dracula story.
3. Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
If you want even more Dracula adjacent books, you’re in luck! Dracul takes Bram Stoker, real life author of Dracula, as the protagonist of this deeply disturbing gothic adventure. Here, we learn the childhood experiences Bram and his sister Matilda with their mysterious nanny Nanna Ellen, who may or may not be evil, and may or may not be a vampire.
I had been desperate to buy this book for years since I first heard of it, and I am happy to report that it was just as good as I wanted. Dracul feels more horrific than any other vampire book I have read, but never resorted to flat out gore or overly dramatic scenes to make you feel scared. Instead, as the mystery of who Nanna Ellen really is unfolds, you find yourself more and more creeped out, and more intrigued to see where the story leads.
Dracul perfectly captures the gothic literature of the Victorian era, and blends seamlessly with the understanding of the original Dracula. If you suspend your mind a bit, it can almost convince you the retelling of the book’s events are real.
2. Bite Me by Christopher Moore
Now we enter the world of my guilty pleasures. Bite Me, despite being the third in a series, was the first vampire book I read, and my gateway into the world of Goth culture and vampire obsession. As soon as I read about Abby, the flamboyant goth girl who spends her time stalking the city with her androgenous best friend, going to goth clubs, and working for a vampire couple, I instantly wanted to be her. The comedy, though undoubtably there, was lost on me, as I was 12 at the time and too infatuated with the characters to pay attention.
Bite Me is barely serious or scary, but is incredibly fun, and you can live vicariously through the characters. It feels like a happy-go-lucky action cartoon, where the stakes are there, but the characters are so with it and nonchalant that the drama comes not from the issue, but the enjoyment you’ll get from watching them solve it. I’m not sure why but Bite Me seems like a recollection of a time I’ll never get to live, but rather than make me sad, it makes me want to explore the book further.
An incredibly silly, fun, and enjoyable book, Bite Me may be better enjoyed after you read the first two in the series (Bloodsucking Freaks and You Suck), but I still found it extremely great and impactful. If you enjoy the Halloween archetype of a vampire, then it’s for you!
And my current FAVORITE book on my vampire book shelf...
Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber Vampire Kisses is the least serious and substantial book on this list, and it is my favorite vampire book of all time. It’s even more dramatically teenage goth-emo fanservice than Bite Me, and even less sensical. Those who despise Twilight will have their eyes roll to the back of their head and never come out at this book. It’s absolutely everything I could want in one.
It’s clear who Vampire Kisses and the rest of the series was written for: Me. Like Twilight or the Vampire Diaries, the main character is a teenage girl who the teenage reader is meant to self-insert themselves in, as it acts as a fantasy of some hot vampire guy who comes and is their perfect boyfriend. But unlike the helpless, often personality-less protagonists of those series, Raven (yes, the name is a bit on the nose. But at least her name isn’t Ebony Darkness Dementia Raven Way) is a rebellious, yet not stereotypically over the top rebel, who is bored by the conformity of her town and longs for someone like her- which just happens to be the new guy and love interest of the book: Alexander Sterling.
Yes, this book can be cheesy and amateurish at times, but I don’t really care. While I wanted to be Abby from Bite Me, I think I’m scarily like Raven from Vampire Kisses, and yeah, I do get a little satisfaction from her getting to have an incredibly perfect vampire boyfriend. Yet again, this book isn’t serious, but it owns its lack of self-awareness in a way that if you too go along with it, you can take it seriously. It’s pretty much perfect for someone like me, and if it’s not for you, who cares! It has found its perfect audience, so either join me or leave me to it!