You’re glad The Shape of Water won Best Motion Picture of the Year? Me too. You’ve got to read these…
Fangland (2004) by John Marks
Why you’ll like it: A post-9/11 re-telling of Dracula that makes you question whether the “monster” is a blood-sucking supernatural being, technology, infectious disease, the patriarchy, or ideological Others. Ignore the bad reviews on Goodreads. This is a fine entry-level novel that combines salacious masturbatory scenes with social criticism (if you think more deeply about it).
Length: 387 pages
Frankenstein in Baghdad (2018) by Ahmed Sadaawi
Why you’ll like it: Another re-write of a 19th Century classic, this novel combines grippingly horrifying prose with black humor for a surreal take on U.S.-occupied Baghdad. This Frankenstein’s monster is a little too real for comfort sometimes, but it makes a powerful point.
Length: 288 pages
Till We Have Faces (1956) by C.S. Lewis
Why you’ll like it: A classic story of two princesses—one beautiful and the other hideous—who love each other enormously… until the beautiful one is sacrificed to the god of the mountain. When the ugly sister searches for her, does she find the fair one with a monster, a deity, or a deluded imagination? A beautiful re-writing of classical mythology and Romantic poetry, Lewis’s language is simply yet intensely honest, and touches the core of painful truths. Be prepared to have your heartstrings pulled.
Length: 313 pages
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (written in the early-20th Century) by H.P. Lovecraft
Why you’ll like it: This collection contains stories of varying length, but each one is sure to captivate you with its shadowy demons, bizarre monsters, and unthinkable deeds. Lovecraft is the master of straightforward, but devastatingly powerful sentences. His imagery will show you almost nothing, yet make you feel everything. You need to experience this for yourself!
Length: 420 pages
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) by H.G. Wells
Why you’ll like it: One of the first science fiction novellas (the name didn’t even exist back then, so Wells called it a “scientific romance”), this journalistic account introduces you to a world of Beast-Folk created by a mad scientist and his alcoholic assistant. This is the origin story for countless miscegenation tales today, including the excellent TV show Orphan Black (2013-2017)
Length: 153 pages
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde
Why you’ll like it: It’s jam-packed with hilarious and witty epigrams like: “Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.” Not to mention, it’s dripping with sensuous language and arch sexuality: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” This classic story is not one to skip! Even if you know the basic premise, you won’t regret reading the original. And, when you’re finished, go read Will Self’s Dorian: An Imitation afterwards; one of the most clever rewrites/homages ever written!
Length: 175 pages
“The Mark of the Beast” (1890) by Rudyard Kipling
Why you’ll like it: Though Kipling deservedly gets a bad rap for his paternalist poem “The White Man’s Burden,” his early short stories are more ambivalent about the white man’s superiority. “The Mark of the Beast” is a werewolf story that makes you question whether the monster is the Indian native or the occupying English troops.
Length: 14 pages
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Why you’ll like it: The plot is straightforward and lots of people are probably already familiar with it… a goody-two-shoes scientist makes a potion that transforms him into an alter ego that commits unspeakable crimes. Even if you’ve seen or read a version of this, the original novella does interesting things with the structure of storytelling and variations on the narrator. You’ve acquired the skills by now to be able to do some “close reading.”
Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley
Why you’ll like it: No matter how harshly Victor Frankenstein condemns “Ambition” in this novel, the epic opening speeches on greatness never cease to inspire me to want to achieve great things (just not create a new life-form). And just you wait until the chapter where the so-called monster tells HIS side of the story.
Lamia (1820) by John Keats
Why you’ll like it: Keats was (and remains) (in)famous for his gooey romantic poetry. You’ll get a sweet taste of it here: “his eyes had drunk her beauty up, leaving no drop in the bewildering cup, and still the cup was full.” But there’s a wonderfully weird twist: it’s about a man who falls in love with a sexy snake-woman… You thought Angelina Jolie was hot as Grendel’s mom (ugh, that movie was so bad!)? Just wait until you read about this oddly provocative transformation.
Length: 397 lines