I am occasionally asked what my favorite vampire novels are. And although I still have a tall pile of vampire novels to read on the floor of my office (I’m currently reading I am Legend), here, in no particular order, are my current top 10.
1. Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)
The original and still best. People often underestimate Stoker’s classic but for my money, this is a fine example of vampire literature. It is also a good look at the anxieties plaguing the British Empire at the turn of the twentieth-century. Dracula is a clear embodiment of what people at that particular historical moment feared.
2. Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book (2009)
Yes, there is a vampire in The Graveyard Book. I suppose that doesn’t make it a vampire novel per se, but I still love it. Gaiman is a favorite and this is his version of The Jungle Book. It is funny, charming, and terrifying.
3. Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian (2005)
Sort of a sequel to Dracula. The story bogs down a little in the middle but the concept of the whole project is brilliant. If Vlad Tepes, the historical figure most commonly thought to be the inspiration for Stoker’s Dracula, was a crusader for the Holy Roman Empire, and yet he is a monstrous figure in the West, how must he be received in the East?
4. Robin McKinley, Sunshine (2003)
My cousin and my dad disagree with me on this, but I think this is a good antidote to vampire novels like Twilight. McKinley imagines a world in which magic is real and everyone knows that vampires, and other “dark others” exist. So what’s a human to do? Don’t go out alone at night, for one thing. Too bad the human heroine does just that.
5. Suzy McKee Charnas, The Vampire Tapestry (1980)
I love this book. A really thoughtful story and quite a different story than the typical vampire tale. You can read my previous blog on it here.
6. Laurell K Hamilton, Guilty Pleasures (1993)
The Anita Blake series has veered off in directions that are not to my tastes, but the first 4 or 5 books are smart and fun, a true delight and a guilty pleasure. Hamilton writes great supernatural mysteries and her premise about vampires is perfect: of course vampires would run strip clubs!
7. Hideyuki Kikuchi, Vampire Hunter D (1983 – present)
I am a huge fan of all things connected to Vampire Hunter D. There are two anime films and now there is a manga following the adventures of D – a half human, half vampire who is trying to find his father. A powerful vampire who’s name ALSO starts with D. Can you guess who? There are currently 20 volumes of Vampire Hunter D books and rumor has it that Kikuchi has begun the final story arc. Also impressive are the “Author Notes” that Kikuchi writes for each book. They are witty commentary on vampire literature and movies. I would like to work on the history of the vampire in Japan someday.
8. Asuka Katsura, Blood+ (2005-2007)
The world of Blood+ is vast. Blood+ is a manga series that was released in July 2005 before an anime series of the same name debuted in October of the same year. I love both the manga and the anime series. There is a second manga series called Blood+: Adagio, written by Kumiko Suekane and telling of Saya and Haji’s adventures during the Russian Revolution—Rasputin was a vampire, of course. And there is a third manga series called Blood+: Kowloon Nights, written by Hirotaka Kisaragi. It focuses on Haji as he tries to find Saya. There is a feature length animated film called Blood: The Last Vampire (2000), a live action film called Blood: The Last Vampire (2009), and two litght novel adaptations. All are good, except, alas, the live action film.
The world of Blood+ is a slightly different take on vampires, called Chiroperans here. But Hagi, the cello-playing vampire is delish. And Saya kicks ass with her katana. Seriously. He plays the cello.
9. Penguin Book of Vampire Stories (1988)
I use this anthology for my Vampire Literature class. A fascinating look at the historical development of vampire literature starting with the eighteenth century. A great way to get a sense of how broad the vampire literature genre really is.
10. Kouta Hirano, Hellsing (1997-2008)
Another manga and anime series I adore. This is a violent, excessively bloody and violent series. But I like how the story sticks surprisingly close to Stoker’s Dracula. The series imagines what would have happened if instead of killing Dracula, Van Helsing had captured him and forced him to work for the British Empire as a monster killer. PS. Evidently, Dracula and the Queen of England had a thing going back in the day.