Picking Your Next Gothic Read

My bookshelf--aka where I go to find my next gothic read
My bookshelf–aka where I go to find my next gothic read.

Summer is winding down, but you’ve still got time to squeeze in a few more summer reads! The only question is what to choose. If you don’t already have a stack of TBRs piled next to your bed like I do, finding your next book can be a daunting task. But not to worry, that’s what librarians are for! As your virtual Gothic Librarian, I’ve compiled some tips for helping you find your next dark and decadent read:

  1. Dig down to the roots of your favorite genre.

So you know that you like paranormal romance. Or horror. Or mysteries. But do you know where these genres came from? Where did the authors of these books get their ideas? I find that reading some of the pioneer books of a genre help give me a greater appreciation for the genre as a whole. You’ll catch tons of allusions and references you missed before, you’ll pick up on more trends and tropes, and you’ll be able to have an intelligent conversation about literary influences and the history of the genre. I’ve posted recently about the roots of Gothic literature as a whole. You can also check out my post on the vampire literary canon for the origins of the modern vampire genre. Keep an eye out here for discussions of other genres or take a trip to the classic literature section of your local library or bookstore. And remember, Google and Wikipedia are your friends. The best part of classic novels? Many of them are available for free or very cheap as ebooks!

  1. Get a recommendation from a friend.

This is how I find practically all of my books. And good taste in books is one of the first qualifications I look for in a new friend. Getting recommendations is a great way to find a book that you already know will be good instead of taking a risk on something that may turn out to not be worth your time. Don’t have any friends who share your dark proclivities? Well, now you’ve got me! Check out a book I’ve recently reviewed or see The Gothic Lit Starter Kit for some suggestions of where to start.

  1. Judge a book by its cover.

book collage for picking next gothic read copyWhile this method can sometimes lead you astray, I have found some of my favorite books by falling in love with their covers. I remember being struck by the creepiness of the shadowy figure on the cover of one of the first vampire novels I ever read, Companions of the Night by Vivian Vande Velde. And say what you want about the Twilight series, but you have to admit they have beautiful covers. I’m also personally a sucker for covers with ethereally beautiful girls in flowing black dresses like Fallen by Lauren Kate or Darkness Before Dawn by J. A. London.  Of course, there’s some sense to the idea that a book’s cover doesn’t always accurately represent what’s inside, but keep in mind that the design department makes many deliberate choices about how to present a book, and a good cover can often give you a clue to an unknown book’s genre and tone.

  1. Try comic books and manga.

Chibi vampire coverDue to their illustrated nature, it’s easy to identify graphic novels with a gothic aesthetic! Find an art style you like and indulge your need for eerie illustrations. There are tons of gothic manga out there, and I’ve been really meaning to hop on this train for some time. One of my favorites from my middle school manga days was Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino. And though I haven’t managed to get my hands on a volume of it yet, I love the art of Chibi Vampire by Yuna Kagesaki. Who could say no to both cute and creepy? As for comics, the obvious suggestion is Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. The Crow and The Walking Dead are some other celebrated classics that have yet to make it to the top of my personal reading list. Go peruse your local library, book store, or comic book store and see what art draws you in.

  1. See if any of your favorite bloggers have written books or have a favorite.

Bloggers are authors whose style you already know you like! And bloggers publishing their own books is the new trend these days. I’ve already posted reviews of two books from my favorite bloggers: Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Jillian Venters’ Gothic Charm School. Check to see if any of your favorite bloggers have a book out on the same topics they blog about. (Don’t expect one from me any time soon, though. Sorry to disappoint.) And if you can’t read something by them, find out what books they recommend! Bloggers are like friends, with even better taste. You can trust us.

…And lastly, try asking a librarian or bookseller for help. It is, after all, their job.

How do you find your next read? Do you have any recommendations for those who are looking? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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