So, you liked the book/movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? You’re a fan of Mad Max: Fury Road? Then…
Start reading Fingersmith (2002) by Sarah Waters
Why you’ll like it: Fast-paced, brilliant plot twists, and developed characters. This suspenseful narrative is an excellent gateway to forming a reading habit; you’ll want to keep reading to find out what happens next! Sarah Waters also earned her PhD in English and taught at a university before turning to novel-writing full time, so she clearly knows her craft and her British history.
Length: 511 pages
The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) by Margaret Atwood
Why you’ll like it: Even if you’ve seen the Hulu series, the book is worth reading. The direct but evocative writing style will give you chills, plus a great opportunity to compare what is lost (and gained) by translating a story from print to screen.
Length: 311 pages
The Bloody Chamber (1979) by Angela Carter
Why you’ll like it: Short stories are easier to read in one sitting and pack so much in a small amount of space—high payoff! Carter transforms all the classic fairytales (and some you might not know) in a bewitchingly intelligent and radically imaginative way.
Length: 128 pages
Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker
Why you’ll like it: Besides feeling proud that you’ve read the original edition of the most famous vampire story, you’ll be intrigued by the multiple perspectives of the narrators tied together by the editorial genius of Mina Harker, a woman with a “man’s brain” and “woman’s heart”… oh, you Victorians.
Length: 488 pages
Carmilla (1872) by Sheridan Lefanu
Why you’ll like it: You thought Victorians were prude? Lesbian, sister-ish vampire story… that’s all I’m going to tell you. Stoker gets all the credit for starting off a vampire craze, but there were plenty of vampire stories before Dracula. Carmilla, in my opinion, is the most beautifully written; far more sensual than Dracula!
Length: 108 pages
“Goblin Market” (1862) by Christina Rossetti
Why you’ll like it: This is a poem that’s easy to understand the words, but there are so many ways of interpreting its meaning! Let your imagination run wild while reading this hauntingly playful and perverse poetic tale.
Difficulty: Moderate/Hard (if you’re intimidated by poetry, but I promise it’s an easier one!)
Length: 567 lines (which sounds like a lot, but many of the lines have only a few words)
Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Brontë
Why you’ll like it: It seems like a basic love story, until you find out what’s going on in the attic. It’s an Victorian novel, so not fast-paced like Fingersmith, but the slower pacing has a big pay-off in emotional intensity. You will become psychologically invested in these characters and the strange gender and racial politics of their world.
Length: 507 pages
Hauntings and Other Fantastic Tales (1890) by Vernon Lee (pseudonym of Violet Paget)
Why you’ll like it: These tales are so gracefully written that you forget you’re reading a scary story, until something really strange happens and you’re struck by how a situation that’s so creepy can be written in such exquisite language. Vernon Lee is a master of the femme fatale story, so be prepared for some mysterious, subversive, and magnificently powerful supernatural females.
Length: 352 pages
María; or, The Wrongs of Woman (1798) by Mary Wollstonecraft
Why you’ll like it: Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the first proto-feminists and wrote the then-famous tract A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (playing off Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man). María is a novella that depicts her complaints about British society’s treatment of women and represents her ideals for female empowerment. It’s the classic throw-her-in-the-insane-asylum story… but don’t be fooled by its old publication date: María’s rebellious speeches and illicit love affair are relatable and invigorating for the modern feminist!
Difficulty: Hard (the language is old, but not super old, and the story is unedited/fragmented; Wollstonecraft died before finishing it)
Length: 138 pages