Vampire stories are pretty popular, from the classic vampire stories that shaped the genre historically, to the more modern imaginings of vampires that dip into young adult fiction.
The genre is hard to define beyond just literature that has vampires in it. The genre often deals with themes such as forbidden love, carnal desire, isolation, addiction, and more.
Part of why it’s hard to define is that vampire stories can fit snugly into most genres, most notably fantasy, horror thrillers, or romance.
In this article, we are going to discuss some of our favorite vampire novels out there, ones that defined the genre, and some others you may not be aware of.
Keep reading to learn more about the vampire genre as well as to find books to satiate your own desire for blood.
Best Vampire Books
Listed below are our favorite vampire stories you can buy and read today!
Dracula is of course perhaps the original Vampire story albeit not the first mention of blood sucking beasts in literature.
Vampires were actually not created by literature but were the result of a ‘vampire craze’ back in the early 1700s, mainly in Serbia and other Eastern European countries.
This led many officials to exhume bodies, trying to root out vampires in their own society and soon after the legend of the vampire as a societal myth was born and was of course reimagined through literature.
Much of Bram Stoker’s story is influenced by this original vampire craze, but it’s also likely that Stoker was influenced by Celtic mythology, being an Irish author.
Many think that Dracula was based on Vlad the Impaler but this has been rejected by many scholars.
Stoker’s Dracula is more broadly a work of gothic literature, adhering to many of these tropes such as the gothic castle, and more. Yet, Dracula is also a horror story as well as a story of romance.
Dracula is actually what you would call an epistolary novel, meaning it is mainly told through correspondence, letters and such.
There isn’t really a main character beyond Dracula himself. We see certain people visit his castle in Transylvania until Dracula chooses to haunt a small Yorkshire town in England called Whitby.
It is in this town he is hunted by vampire hunters and notably Van Helsing.
Stoker introduces many ideas we now associate with vampires, such as vampire brides, the idea of Transylvania, vampire hunters, and the female vampire Lucy Westenra, one of Dracula’s first English victims who later becomes an active vampire
The presentation of this vampirism as a disease that can be passed through systemic intake, or being bitten, echoes the fears of disease around the time the novel was written in the late 1800s when tuberculosis, syphilis, and many other infectious diseases were common and feared.
- An early example of vampirism in literature
- Actually a really good and unique story told in a non-secular way
- Being written in 1897 some may find the tone and language used a little foreign
Without a doubt, one of the most famed vampire stories is the romance series and subsequent film adaptations of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.
They check all the boxes for vampire literature within the series, but the novels are mainly of the romantic genre, focusing on the relationship between Edward Cullen, a vampire who must fit in with society while also not interacting with it, and Bella Swan, a midwest teen who falls in love with Cullen.
She soon finds out he is a vampire and becomes entangled in the goings-on of the vampire coven Edward is part of.
Vampirism isn’t really explained too much in the novels, although we can generally piece together bits and pieces.
Vampires in Meyer’s world have supernatural powers and speed. They are fast, super strong and some of them have unique powers gained from their vampirism, such as Edward who can read others’ thoughts.
The Cullens are a specific vampire coven who try not to hunt humans, but maintain themselves on animal blood and meat. Edward is 103 years old, stuck in his 17-year-old body.
The Cullens are mainly linked together through their adoptive ‘father’ Carlisle. Carlisle is the oldest in the coven being born in 1640 and having been a vampire hunter himself.
He was eventually bitten and resolved to use his powers for good only turning people into vampires to save their lives, which is what happened with Edward and the rest of the Cullens, having been turned into vampires to save their lives.
The first novel mainly focuses on the relationship between Edward and Bella, the revelation he is a vampire, how this affects Bella, and the fun vampire scenes that Bella becomes witness to as she is welcomed into the Cullen coven.
While Edward loves Bella he must hold back his carnal urges to taste her blood which brings him a serious amount of pain, often leading to an on and off again relationship.
As this is markedly young adult fiction, the romance is tailored for this audience and certain readers may find it a little too kitsch or serious.
Equally the presentation of Edward Cullen is really unique and complex within vampire literature at large.
Edward is an anti-hero while he could likely murder the whole school and raise an army of vampires himself, most of the girls scream for him rather than at him.
Needless to say, the vampires in Twilight are markedly more powerful than in Stoker’s Dracula, but Edward is more obsessed with Bella than anything else.
- Large series of novels to read after this
- Interesting take on the vampire genre
- Well written
- Young adult romantic fiction isn’t for everyone
- In this initial novel, the vampire content is secondary to the romantic plot
‘Salem’s Lot ‘is a vampire novel and actually King’s only second published book at this point.
He has previously described it as the favorite of all his novels, for what it says about small towns.
Having taught a fantasy and sci-fi class, the story goes that King imagined what would happen if Dracula had come back to a 20th-century American small town.
The novel’s main character is Ben Mears, a writer, who returns to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot.
He visits his town to try to write his next novel about the long-abandoned Marsten House, where he had a haunted experience as a child.
But when he comes to the house he finds that Kurt Barlow, an Austrian immigrant, and Richard Straker have taken up residence in the house for business. It is soon revealed Barlow is an ancient Vampire and Straker his familiar.
Now Means is embroiled in his vampiric conspiracy as Barlow seemingly seeks to spread vampirism across the whole town, as Means seeks to stop his own life and those around him are put in danger.
There is an interesting theme of churches and Christianity in the story that allows us to see other tropes consistent in the vampire genre such as crosses being used against vampires, wooden stakes being a weapon, as well as vampires not being allowed to go into churches.
The novel is written in King’s classic horror style and bits of the novel are certainly scary and spooky more than being bothered with romance. This is your pretty typical vampire story about a town ravaged by one powerful vampire.
- Classic vampire horror story
- An interesting pilot that isn’t predictable
- Remains relevant to modern-day America even with its fantasy elements
- No sequel that many fans have pushed for in the past.
This is an interesting take on the vampire genre and is a novel that has been turned into at least 3 films.
If you are reading this, having already seen the Will Smith film, you may be wondering where the vampires come in, as this film adaptation doesn’t actually touch too much on what causes the zombie-like creatures to be the way they are.
Matherson’s novel combines both post-apocalyptic genres with vampire genres, albeit in a fairly unique way.
The novel details the life of Robert Neville as navigates the post-apocalyptic world in the novel.
An apocalypse of sorts has occurred after the outbreak of a pandemic, vampirism, that has turned the human population into vampires.
They fulfill the stereotypes of the creatures being blood-sucking, nocturnal, pale-skinned, and averse to light.
At night Neville barricades himself away in his house with the typical vampire repellents to protect him such as garlic, mirrors, and crucifixes.
The novel actually details some reasoning behind the vampirism the infected exhibit. Neville spends a lot of time researching and experimenting on the infected trying to figure out if he could develop some cure.
What he does work out is that there are two different types of vampirism at play here, conscious living vampires who are dealing with their infection, and undead vampires who were dead but now reanimated.
Neville actually comes across a living woman, named Ruth, who he forms a romantic relationship with.
He shows her some of his studies and asks to study her, to check if he is immune as he postulates.
She knocks him unconscious and leaves a note explaining she is actually a living conscious vampire, not pathologically violent like the undead type, and she is part of a society of vampires trying to develop a new society.
Many suggest the book is not a vampire novel and has actually had more influence on the zombie apocalypse genre, but it’s undoubtedly a novel that delves into how vampirism might occur in reality.
The sciencey parts can make the novel feel long but in terms of a vampire novel it is particularly nuanced and not so bothered with spectacle but instead with the philosophical and scientific matters that surround the genre.
- An in-depth look at vampirism
- Can be enjoyed by those who like post-apocalyptic works
- A unique manifestation of the genre
- Can be quite slow-paced with only one character and particularly the scientific explanation parts.
This is another interesting take on the vampire genre at large, that is somewhat building the epistolary origins of the genre in Stoker’s Dracula.
As the title suggests an unnamed reporter goes to interview a vampire known as Louis de Pointe du Lac who divulges how he became a vampire and his general story.
Louis tells how he was a plantation owner in 1791 who was distraught from his brother’s death and wishes to die. Louis is approached by a vampire named Lestat who offers to turn Louis into a vampire.
Originally Louis doesn’t understand the nature of killing and disagrees with Lestat who feeds off Louis’ slaves.
They eventually escape to New Orleans where Louis embraces his killing side. At one point Louis feeds off a plague ridden five year old girl.
When Louis thinks of leaving Lestat, the latter chooses to turn the girl into a child vampire for them to treat as a daughter. She is given the name Claudia and is a large part of the novel.
The novel then details much of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia’s relationship, how they deal with immortality, and loneliness, and how they find connection within this matrix.
While the original novel is very well received, Rice went on to write many sequels that form a wider collection known as The Vampire Chronicles.
The novel blends many genres together well including horror, more gothic themes, as well as romance.
It is very emotional and it’s hard not to see the novel through the eyes of Rice who wrote the novel in a state of serious grief, reeling from the death of her own daughter from cancer.
Many of the descriptions of Claudia and ideas of death are undoubtedly related to her own grief much of which colors the novel into its success,
- Large series of sequels
- Poignant often poetic writing that is compelling
- Are some parts that are strangely erotic and sexual and some won’t like this
Fledgling by Butler is a very interesting reimagining of the vampire novel, she combines the vampire genre with that of science fiction, presenting vampirism as a biological phenomenon rather than supernatural.
In short, the ‘vampires’ in Butler’s novel are known as the Ina. A species that lives mutually alongside humans.
Adhering to traditionality, the Ina are nocturnal, long-lived albeit not immortal, and derive sustenance from feeding on human blood.
Yet, not traditionally, the Ina have a symbiotic relationship with humans where a human can drink, and subsequently become addicted to, Ina’s venom.
The Ina often form relationships with humans who feed on the Ina’s venom as they feed on the human’s blood, the humans are called ‘symbionts’ in the novel.
The novel follows the story of Shori, a 53-year-old who exists in the body of a 10-year-old African American female body.
It is believed that she is a genetically engineered version of the Ina, with her being darker in skin tone it is suggested this is part of a modification for this vampiric species to exist more comfortably in the sun.
Interestingly the story of the Ina and their relationships with humans as symbionts is effectively an allegory for race.
Shori learns to live with the symbionts in a mutual and balanced way, while she is outcast by her own species due to her genetic modification which she seemingly had no choice over.
The flip of this is the Ina who chose to hunt Shori for her genetic modifications, fueled by an idea of a pure race.
One Vampiric stereotype that Fledgling adheres to is the eroticism and romance in the act of feeding on victims. Like in Twilight, Shori chooses her victims based on scent and other carnal desires.
The symbionts that Shori takes on demonstrate that the Ina have polyamorous relationships that are pansexual, with the Ina as the primary partner in that relationship.
Put simply, sexuality is centered around the ritual of feeding rather than societal norms, this is clear in Shori’s relationship with her first symbiont Wright.
If you are looking for a vampire story that is quite different and breaks the normal conception of vampires, or you are just looking for a vampire story that leans more into sci-fi as a genre, then Fledgling is worth checking out
- A very different take on vampires
- Combines vampire genre with science fiction
- Shows vampires in a different light to what we usually see
- Can still make unique observations on modern culture
- Eroticism and sexuality in the novel can put certain readers off
- Requires a willingness to indulge in the sci-fi stuff to really enjoy it
We have all likely heard of Martin before from his success writing the A Song of Ice and Fire series that was eventually adapted into the Game of Thrones series. Here, we see Martin tackle the vampire genre in a unique setting.
The novel is nautical in its setting, Martin himself noted that the novel was inspired by the time he spent in Iowa watching steamboats.
Abner Marsh is a highly skilled riverboat captain grappling with the financial crisis of 1857 when he is contacted by Joshua York, a rich gentleman who promises to finance his boat.
They construct a magnificent steamboat that is everything Marsh dreams of.
They christened the boat ‘Fevre Dream’ and Abner is the sole captain and man of the ship.
Soon questions are raised about the mysterious Joshua and his mysterious and interesting circle of friends on the ship who only seem to come out at night.
Joshua reveals to Abner that they are in fact vampire hunters using the boat as their headquarters.
Joshua eventually reveals they are actually vampires themselves, and the former has developed a potion that can stop the blood lust they experience as vampires.
He is considered to be a kind of vampire messiah as a result, on a crusade to free his people.
Soon his crusade becomes known by other vampires and an ancient vampire called Damon Julian boards the boat and manages to take power of the vessel, with Joshua and Abner escaping.
They both live on for many years haunted by their lost and now demonic ship, eventually, the blood master and Abner reunite and decide to take the ship back for good.
The story is pretty run-of-the-mill vampire stuff, but the nautical setting creates an interesting side to the story that helps it seem new and unique.
Any fan of a classic vampire story will enjoy this one, but if you want something a little different this may not be for you.
- Interesting setting and a wide-spanning story that occurs over many years
- Classic imagining of vampires
- Well written
- Can be a bit run of the mill
- Isn’t particularly challenging within the genre.
This vampire novel attempts to rejuvenate perhaps default gothic themes with more modern understandings of dark and gothic ideas.
Lindqvist is a Swedish author, so the story takes place in the working-class suburb of Stockholm known as Blackeburg.
The story centers around Oskar, a 12 year old boy living with his mother and occasionally visiting his alcoholic father.
Oskar is mercilessly bullied by various tormentors, which leads him to find particularly morbid interests such as murder investigations, often fantasizing about murdering his tormentors.
Oskar meets Eli who moves into the house next door to him. Eli is seemingly a young girl who confides that she is the same age as Oskar, she lived with a man named Hakan.
It is later revealed that Eli is actually an ancient vampire and Hakan is her familiar, sourcing blood for her to feed on while she pays him, although Hakan is seemingly in love with her.
It is then later revealed that Eli is not a female but actually a male of the name Elias who was castrated before being turned into a vampire, perpetually stuck in a young body and interestingly their mind also remains young.
Eli helps Oskar get back at his tormentors and they have a close relationship throughout the novel as Hakan stops bringing her blood and they both have to deal with the vengeance people often seek from Eli.
The novel attempts to bring gothic into the modern world, this is noticeable in many aspects of the novel but also in how dark it is.
The name of the novel actually refers to a song by Morrisey of the name ‘Let The Right One Slip In’. This refers to old vampire mythology that a vampire could only enter a house when invited in.
- Shows a more modern reimagining of vampires as well as the gothic genre
- Can generate some interesting comments on modern society
- Well written
- Very dark subject matter such as pedophilia, suicide, and more
- An open ending some won’t enjoy
As you can see there are many vampire novels, some more classical presentations of vampire myth that shaped the genre, as well as many modern reimaginings of old vampire myths.
Vampire stories often merge with other genres and these books show how vampires can be imagined in many settings and genres themselves, such as science fiction, romance, and even post-apocalyptic fiction.
Whether you want to look into the traditional presentation of vampires and how they adapt mythology from older times or want to see how the vampire genre has changed with our times and culture, we hope these novels help satisfy your lust for blood.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Was The First Vampire Story?
The vampire was created outside of literature and was originally a myth like werewolves or fairies.
Much vampiric literature came out of a period in the early 1700s when many people were genuinely afraid of real vampires.
One of the first works of art to touch on the concept of the vampire was Heinrich Ossenfelder’s The Vampire from 1748, which was effectively a love poem.
A story about a man whose love was rejected by a religious woman, he pays her a visit in the night giving her the kiss of a vampire to help undermine her faith.
Gottfried Burger’s 1773 poem called Lenore also shaped much of the vampiric literature we see today but was published before Stoker’s Dracula.
While not literally about a vampire, the story is about the undead and features the famed vampire line ‘The dead travel fast’.
Lenore is the finaceé of William, a soldier fighting in the Battle of Prague. As it seems unlikely he’s going to return, Lenore denounces God.
In the night a mysterious man takes her on a long ride by horseback but he is eventually revealed to be Death himself, bringing Lenore to Willam’s grave where she dies with him in his grave.
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