Read enough vampire books, and you might think you’ll encounter a real one someday. While “Twilight” may have sparked a vampire craze in publishing, our fascination with the creatures appears to be as immortal as the vampires themselves. And given how frequently vampires appear in pop culture, from movies to TV shows, and even in vampire-inspired baby names, that should come as no surprise.
Yes, throughout 300,000 years of human evolution, one finds a multi-millennial obsession with man-eating monsters that lurk in the shadows. Greek folklore warns of fanged “Vrykolakas” that hunt the sacrilegious. Romanian folklore tells of dreaded “Strigoi” rising blood-thirsty and menacing from graves. Whether they shine or burn in the sunlight, a shared human history of fear and intrigue has proven that vampires can both terrify and enthrall.
But immortality is a long commitment. If you were unlucky enough to find your moil coil undeadified, which type of vampire would you hope to be most? The below books, selected for an age range and for a range of scares, show an array of spooky possibilities. The list includes fantasy and romance selections, and a few that are way darker than the others.
The teen romance “Twilight” has vampires who sparkle in the sun. “Vampire Academy,” a series perfect for tweens (a.k.a readers around the age of 12), has multiple classes of vampires all under the same boarding school roof. “My Soul to Keep,” a hidden gem for adults from the ‘90s, reinvents the myth entirely. And in the young adult Oklahoma-set series “Marked,” people are “chosen” to become vampires — and can’t reject the offer.
Take a load off and join us as we honor some of the most blood-curling vampire stories of the past few decades based on the thing they excel at: The vampires themselves.
17th century Oxford scholar Dr. Diana Bishop is done with magic. That’s what she tells herself anyway, as she tries to escape the legacy of being descended from witches from the Salem trials. Then a mythical book appears before her and forces her right back into the world of demons, vampires and witches she fought so hard to escape. Flaws aside, the vampires of Oxford are elegant and worldly. They have long standing hobbies, intricate traditions, and family values. Sure they’re prone to a disease that makes them uncontrollable killers and unable to make other vampires. But at least they have class.
Shori Matthews wakes up in a cave outside Seattle with ravenous hunger and no memory of who, what, or where she is. Exploring the world around her, she discovers three things: she’s Black, she appears to be a child and she's a vampire. Shori’s specific species of vampire is built for connection. A born race of bloodsuckers that is biologically created for symbiosis, found family, and eternal love. Even in the face of a judgmental second species of vampires that would seek to get rid of Shori’s kind. Vampires in the "Fledgling"-verse are not immune to the prejudice and racism that permeates our world. But their ability to bond with and maintain healthy connections (even humans) at least ensures that you won’t be spending the rest of your days in endless loneliness.
Radioactive dust clouds have transformed everyone except Dr. Robert Neville into full-fledged vampires. Isolated and paranoid, he embarks on a quest to discover everything he can about the new monsters who have overtaken his world. As the sole survivor of an extinction-level event, Neville’s perspective on vampires aren’t exactly the highest–especially when they’re content tormenting him each night. However when you pull back a bit, readers start to realize that the vampires are actually having a blast, compared to Robert. For one, they’re not alone! They can never eat garlic again and may get a third degree sunburn here or there, but those are occupational hazards that don’t seem too hard to get over.
Oh, to be a high-class vampire teen at a magically protected boarding school in the Poconos. Not wealthy? That’s okay, all full vampire “Moroi" come equipped with one of five different elemental magics: water, earth, fire, air, and one special secret that’s only available if you’re rich in main character energy. If you can ignore the everlasting threat of being hunted and eaten down by the monstrous immortal vamps known as “Strigoi”, and the fact that the Moroi nobility is content sacrificing half-vampire “Dhampir” children to protect from them, then you may find a home amongst our deuteragonists Princess Lissa Dragomir and her Dhampir best friend Rose Hathaway. Watch the new adaptation for another foray into the world.
Radical and refreshing, Jewell Gomez’s 1994 “The Gilda Stories” imagines life — eternal life — as a Black lesbian vampire. The decades-spanning novel opens with a runaway slave girl who is taken in by a kindly, if a bit strange, woman named Gilda. She has the chance to live like Gilda and her lover forever, if she agrees to the terms of their offer. The vampires of their order, they explain, use their powers to give back to humans, rather than take from them. They consider blood an “exchange,” and provide energetic boosts to their targets — though not all vampires have the same philosophy. After the process is finished, she takes on the name Gilda, and begins to chart her own path through a changing America, including into a dystopian future.
Zoey Montgomery is your average teenage girl from Oklahoma. That is until a handsome tattooed vampyre tracker marks her as one of his kind and changes her life forever. Vampyres are sworn to the immortal Night goddess Nyx, an ephemeral and seemingly omniscient figure who has ambitions of making Zoey her High Priestess. Vowel substitution aside, vampyres in this book differ from their supernatural contemporaries in a few notable ways. They’re not immortal, instead aging at a fraction of the normal human rate, are publicly known to the human world, and have been known to develop abilities based on their gender identity. Don’t worry, Nyx is trans inclusive. Zoey is invited to live at the Tulsa House of Night, an exclusive boarding school meant to protect vampyre Fledglings where she learns that what seems evil might be good; and what seems good may threaten the world as she knows it.
We first meet Elena Gilbert in the throes of an identity crisis. Having narrowly escaped the car accident that orphaned her, she finds herself out of rhythm with the mundanity of her small-town Virginia life. Then she meets a mysterious Italian boy with a dark aura and an even more mesmerizing older brother. In mythical Fell's Church, Virginia, vampires run the grambit on traditional abilities. They’re faster, stronger and with the right conditions can even enjoy a nice beach trip. Not a bad way to spend immortality.
A morose Bella Swan moves in with her estranged father so as not to complicate her mother’s desire of following her minor league baseball player boyfriend to Jacksonville, Florida. In dreary, rainy Forks, Wash., our dear protagonist is lured into a found family of immortal pubescent vampire vegans by a golden-eyed boy who just happens to be older than the first band-aid. Epic love story aside, "Twilight"’s vampires don’t seem like they’re built for everlasting good times. Sure you’re stronger, faster, and may even develop a special ability, but a painful transition process leaves your skin the texture of granite and you with an inability to survive on anything that’s not blood. Consider that generational dreamboat Edward Cullen has never tasted a french fry and suddenly the fang life seems dramatically less titillating.
A grieving and depressed slave owner is transformed against his will by an older vampire seeking ownership of his plantation. The two enter a multi-year entanglement and forge forward in a codependent relationship that ensnares and traps a young woman in everlasting childhood. If there’s one defining characteristic about vampires here, it’s that they’re, well, jerks. Anne Rice may have given life to the concept of the modern, non-Dracula vampire as we know it today, but what’s the point of being an immortal if all your vampire friends are content on burning bridges. In some ways literally!
Jessica thinks David is perfect. And on the surface, he is: An intellectual, handsome jazz professor.. But while Jessica is an investigative reporter for a Miami newspaper, she misses the obvious truth about the father of her child. David is keeping a secret: He’s actually a member of an elite order of people who, centuries ago in Ethopia, found the key to immortality. In exchange, they swore off developing relationships with humans. David (or should we say, Dawit), is now dead-set on bringing Jessica and their daughter into his way of life, and won’t take no for an answer. There’s no blood letting, per say, but the book captures the mentally draining experience of a relationship filled with lies.
Patricia Campbell and her book club of true crime loving southern housewives are forced to become monster hunters when they discover their mysterious pale new neighbor may be attacking their children. Using the sleuth skills only capable of a true crime fanatic, Patricia uncovers a dark secret about the place she calls home, and realizes she must do everything in her power to protect it. Admittedly, vampires don’t have the best PR campaign here. They’re racist, violent, and make all around terrible neighbors. Not a great eternal reputation to be taking on yourself after you’ve just turned.