I’ve loved vampires for as long as I can remember. There is something spooky about a monster who looks just like a regular human until you notice the fangs. Vampires are also undoubtedly the sexiest of monsters, with their often inhuman good looks and perpetual youth. Then of course there’s the conflagration of bloodlust with the regular, sexual kind, and the sexual metaphor of the vampire bite.
But it’s more than that. Vampires are a useful metaphor for all kinds of larger, philosophical issues: death and mortality of course. But also desire. Perhaps most of all, the difference between good and evil, and the grey area we as humans inhabit.
“Almost all of these current vampires are struggling to be moral. It’s conventional to talk about vampires as sexual, with their hypnotic powers and their intimate penetrations and their blood-drinking and so forth. But most of these modern vampires are not talking as much about sex as they are about power.”
I was seriously scared by Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, but I am equally delighted by Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace. Vampires are ubiquitous in popular culture, but these are my favorites.
Favorite Vampire Books
And you think your family is dysfunctional! The satirical domestic drama of a vampire family living in a sleepy English village is laugh out loud funny. Imagine if the Cullens had an “accident” and lapsed in their vegetarianism while living in a quiet English town and had to call in the rogue brother-in-law to help them clean up the mess, and you’ve got the basic plot, but don’t assume this is bad Twilight fanfiction. The subtle, biting humor and equal treatment of the storylines of the parents and teenagers makes this a must read for any vampire fan.
If someone once told you that vampire novels couldn’t be literary, this is the book that proves them wrong. Marcus Sedgwick writes beautifully, with layered plots and elegant prose. This time he just happens to write about a young British solider who sees a vampire right after the liberation of Paris during WWII. A dark thriller, this is a welcome new addition to the canon of vampire fiction. I love Sedgwick’s literary YA novels, especially Midwinterblood, but really enjoyed his foray into vampire fiction adults, too.
The main character of this novel is a genetically modified vampire and though 53 years old, has the body of a child. Ultimately, this story explores what it means to be human. Thought-provoking and grotesque, this is a page-turner. Butler is an amazing feminist sci-fi writer, and I highly recommend all of her works.
My love for the Sookie Stackhouse knows no bounds. For the record, I think her and Eric had an epic kind of love that is on par with other great star-crossed lovers, like Romeo and Juliet and Archer Newland and Ellen Olenska.
Still, whether you like Bill for his southern charm and tortured conscious, or Eric for his Viking glory and swagger, this is a fun, frothy take on vampires who “come out of the coffin” in a small Louisiana town.
And as fluffy and fun as they are, I think Harris has a lot to unpack as far as her characters motivations. They are nuanced, complicated. Believe me, I’ve discussed this as length on the internet.
The ultimate genre mash up. Vampires! Zombies! A dystopian government! Though it definitely follows the tropes of all these genres, it’s still an engrossing read.
Holly Black writes spell-binding paranormal YA, and her take on vampires is unique and sexy. This novel also ends up being a critique of our modern reality TV and social media obsessed world. It’s witty, dark, and delightful. If you’re at all interested in audiobooks, check this one out. The narration is impeccable.
The master of modern fantasy wrote a vampire novel before I was born. OF COURSE HE DID.
The Night Huntress series is the equivalent of junk food reading. Indulgent, fun, and a nice treat every once in a while. Cat is a self-loathing half vampire who does her part to keep the undead population at a minimum. Then she meets her match in Bones, a British vampire who will be a hit with anyone who loved Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (so, um, me). I only made it through the first few in the series, and didn’t like the spin off books, but it was sexy fun time while it lasted.
With a stream of conscious narration from a character in an altered state, this is a book with a bold, experimental style. Perhaps not for the faint of heart, but readers who long for something different should check this out.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Okay, so if you’re going to call yourself a fan of vampire fiction, you have to read Dracula. My preferred edition features an introduction by Holly Black, but you can find many editions of Dracula by Bram Stoker. If you’re at all into audiobooks, I recommend the edition narrated by Simon Vance.
Honorable mentions include: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (ridiculous, terribly written, but completely engrossing), Twilight by Stephenie Meyers (I have lots of feelings about Twilight, ask me and we can talk about it), the creepy, completely unsexy vampires in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Soulless by Gail Carriger, which is more werewolves than vampires but utterly delightful, and The Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill, which fall in the campy, sexy, fun category.
This graphic should help you find which one you’ll like the best — I swear, there is a vampire novel for everyone.
And just because I love reading, doesn’t mean I don’t make time to watch movies, too.
Favorite Vampire Movies
Susan Sarandon and David Bowie. That’s all I’m going to say.
This is an adaptation of the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, but the Swedish film is just absolutely terrifying but equally thoughtful. A lonely, bullied boy befriends the new girl in his neighborhood, but can’t help but notice that the violent murders that have accompanied her arrival.
A delightful mash up of horror, western, and drama. You need skateboarding teenage Iranian vampires in your life.
Hilarious mockumentary on vampires from the duo behind Flight of the Concords.
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are suffering from the interminable ennui of living forever. With stunning visuals and a enthralling soundtrack, this is everything you ever wanted from a vampire movie.
Shout out to Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the silent film Nosferatu, and The Lost Boys.
Are werewolves more your thing? Check out this list of werewolf books at Fourth Street Reading.
Did I forget your favorite vampire book or movie? Let me know in the comments. I am always up to talk vampires. We didn’t even get to TV shows!?