The Greatest "Gothic" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Gothic

Gothic literature is a genre that combines elements of horror, death, and romance, often set against dark, brooding landscapes and decaying architecture, such as haunted castles or monasteries. Originating in the late 18th century, it delves into the human psyche, exploring themes of madness, the supernatural, and the sublime. Classic Gothic novels often feature a sense of dread and the unknown, with characters confronting their deepest fears and societal taboos. The atmosphere is typically heavy with mystery and melancholy, and the narrative may include ghosts, monsters, or otherworldly beings. Gothic fiction seeks to evoke a visceral emotional response, such as fear or awe, and often contains a critical look at the time's social, cultural, and moral attitudes. Notable authors in this genre include Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker, whose works have left an indelible mark on literature and continue to influence modern horror and suspense.

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  1. 1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

    This classic novel is a tale of love, revenge and social class set in the Yorkshire moors. It revolves around the intense, complex relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine's father. Despite their deep affection for each other, Catherine marries Edgar Linton, a wealthy neighbor, leading Heathcliff to seek revenge on the two families. The story unfolds over two generations, reflecting the consequences of their choices and the destructive power of obsessive love.

  2. 2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

    The novel follows the life of Jane Eyre, an orphan who is mistreated by her relatives and sent to a charity school. As she grows up, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the brooding and mysterious Mr. Rochester. However, she soon learns of a dark secret in his past that threatens their future together. The story is a profound exploration of a woman's self-discovery and her struggle for independence and love in a rigid Victorian society.

  3. 3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    This classic novel tells the story of a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The scientist, horrified by his creation, abandons it, leading the creature to seek revenge. The novel explores themes of ambition, responsibility, guilt, and the potential consequences of playing God.

  4. 4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    A young woman marries a wealthy widower and moves into his large English country house. She quickly realizes that the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, haunts every corner of the estate. The housekeeper's obsessive devotion to Rebecca and the mysterious circumstances of her death continue to overshadow the second wife's attempts to make a happy life with her husband. As secrets about Rebecca's life and death are revealed, the new wife must grapple with her own identity and place within the household.

  5. 5. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, this novel tells the story of a woman who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. She is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her dress as a sign of her adultery while her lover, a revered local minister, remains unnamed and unpunished. Throughout the book, themes of sin, legalism, and guilt are explored.

  6. 6. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

    This is a tragic tale of a young woman named Tess who comes from a poor family in rural England. Tess is sent to work for a wealthy family, where she is seduced by a man who abandons her after she becomes pregnant. The baby dies, and Tess is ostracized by her community. She falls in love with a kind man, but when she confesses her past, he rejects her. Desperate and heartbroken, Tess murders her former seducer and is eventually captured and executed. The novel explores themes of fate, injustice, and the oppressive sexual morals of its time.

  7. 7. Dracula by Bram Stoker

    This classic horror novel tells the story of Count Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The narrative is composed of journal entries, letters, and telegrams written by the novel's protagonists, providing different perspectives on the gruesome events unfolding. The book touches on themes of sexuality, gender roles, and the clash of modern science with traditional superstition.

  8. 8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    The novel follows the life of a handsome young man who, after having his portrait painted, is upset to realize that the painting will remain beautiful while he ages. After expressing a wish that the painting would age instead of him, he is shocked to find that his wish comes true. As he indulges in a life of hedonism and immoral acts, his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque, reflecting the damage his actions have on his soul. The story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of vanity, selfishness, and the pursuit of pleasure without regard for consequences.

  9. 9. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

    This collection brings together all of the author's most famous works, including poems, short stories, and novellas. Known for his macabre and gothic storytelling, the author's works are filled with themes of death, love lost, and human frailty. Notable inclusions are the haunting poem "The Raven," the chilling stories "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher," and his only complete novel, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym."

  10. 10. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

    This novel is a postcolonial prequel to "Jane Eyre," exploring the life of Mr. Rochester's mad wife, Bertha. Set in Jamaica during the 1830s, it follows the story of Antoinette Cosway, a white Creole heiress, from her youth in the Caribbean to her unhappy marriage and move to England. Caught in a society that both rejects and exoticizes her, Antoinette is ultimately driven into madness by her oppressive husband and the haunting legacy of colonialism.

  11. 11. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

    A captivating tale of mystery and suspense, "The Woman in White" follows the story of a young art teacher, Walter Hartright, who encounters a mysterious woman dressed in white on a moonlit road. The woman is revealed to be a mental asylum escapee, and as Hartright delves into her story, he uncovers a web of deceit, madness, and dangerous secrets involving a wealthy, titled family. The narrative explores themes of identity, insanity, and the abuse of power, with a complex plot filled with twists and turns.

  12. 12. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

    This novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, a working-class young man who dreams of becoming a scholar. The traditional class structure in 19th-century England prevents him from realizing his dream and his only solace is his love for his cousin, Sue Bridehead. Their scandalous relationship and the tragic events that follow form the heart of the narrative, which explores themes of love, class, religion, and morality.

  13. 13. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

    This classic novel explores the duality of human nature through the story of a respected London doctor who creates a potion that transforms him into a sinister, violent alter ego. As the doctor increasingly loses control over when the transformations occur, his alter ego's evil deeds escalate, causing havoc in the community. The narrative is a chilling exploration of humanity's capacity for evil and the struggle for individuals to reconcile their public personas with their private desires.

  14. 14. The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire

    "The Flowers of Evil" is a collection of poems that explore themes of decadence and eroticism, and the changing nature of beauty in the rapidly industrializing Paris during the 19th century. The work is renowned for its exploration of the paradoxes of pleasure and pain, the exotic and the commonplace, and the boundaries of morality and aesthetics. The poems challenge traditional notions of good and evil, suggesting that beauty can be found in unexpected and even disturbing places.

  15. 15. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

    A young governess is hired to care for two children at a remote English estate. However, she soon becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted by two former employees who have taken control of the children. As she fights to free the children from these apparitions, the line between reality and her own fears becomes increasingly blurred, leading to a chilling and ambiguous conclusion.

  16. 16. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

    The book is a chilling tale that revolves around a group of four individuals who decide to stay in a notoriously haunted mansion to conduct a paranormal investigation. The main character, a shy, reclusive woman with a troubled past, becomes increasingly unstable as she experiences terrifying phenomena and becomes obsessed with the house. As the supernatural events escalate, the lines between reality and imagination blur, leading to a shocking and tragic conclusion.

  17. 17. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

    Set in 15th-century Paris, this novel follows the story of Quasimodo, a deformed and hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre-Dame Cathedral, who is shunned due to his appearance. Despite his physical deformities, Quasimodo falls in love with the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda. However, his love is unrequited as she is in love with a handsome soldier. The novel explores themes of love, rejection, and the human struggle against fate and societal norms.

  18. 18. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

    "Nightwood" is a modernist novel that explores the complex relationships and sexuality of a group of Americans and Europeans living in Paris in the 1920s. The story primarily revolves around the tumultuous love affair between two women, one of whom is a married aristocrat. The narrative, known for its poetic and dense language, delves deep into the characters' psyches, exploring themes of identity, gender, and desire. The novel is also notable for its frank and groundbreaking depiction of homosexuality and transgender issues.

  19. 19. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

    Set in 18th century Scotland, the novel explores the psychological downfall of a deeply religious man who believes he is predestined for salvation and thus justified in committing a series of murders. He is driven to this path of self-destruction by a mysterious stranger who may be either a devilish tempter or a manifestation of his own deranged mind. The book serves as a critique of religious fanaticism and a chilling exploration of the dark side of human nature.

  20. 20. Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin

    "Melmoth the Wanderer" is a gothic novel that tells the story of John Melmoth, a man who sells his soul to the devil for 150 extra years of life, and spends that time wandering the earth in search of someone who will take over the pact for him. The narrative is a complex series of nested stories, told by many different characters, and it explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the inherent evil of mankind.

  21. 21. The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    This novel revolves around the cursed Pyncheon family, who live in a gloomy New England mansion, cursed due to the actions of their ancestor who had an innocent man hanged as a witch to seize his property. The story explores themes of guilt, retribution, and atonement, and the narrative is interspersed with the author's philosophical musings. The present-day Pyncheons include an old maid, a daguerreotypist, and their elderly, reclusive cousin who returns to the house after a mysterious absence of many years.

  22. 22. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

    Set in a vast, crumbling castle named Gormenghast, the story follows the life of Titus Groan, the heir to the Earl of Groan. The narrative explores the complex, rigidly structured society within the castle and the struggles and intrigues of its eccentric characters, particularly the scheming kitchen boy Steerpike. As Titus grows older, he begins to rebel against the stifling traditions of Gormenghast, setting the stage for a dramatic clash between the old and the new.

  23. 23. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

    The novel is a gothic fantasy set in the bizarre and intricate world of Gormenghast Castle, home to the ancient and eccentric Groan family. The story begins with the birth of Titus Groan, the seventy-seventh Earl, who stands to inherit the castle and its strange traditions. The narrative follows the castle's eccentric characters and their bizarre rituals, including the ambitious kitchen boy, Steerpike, who seeks to manipulate the castle's traditions for his own gain. It's a dark and surreal exploration of ritual, power, and madness.

  24. 24. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

    The novel is a dark and atmospheric tale of a centuries-old vampire, Louis, who shares his life story with a young reporter. He recounts his transformation into a vampire by the charismatic and ruthless Lestat, their complex relationship, and their encounters with other supernatural beings. The narrative explores themes of immortality, loss, identity, and the human desire for love and companionship. The book is known for its rich detail and its philosophical and historical depth.

  25. 25. Against Nature by J. K. Huysmans

    The novel follows the life of an eccentric aristocrat who retreats from society to live in isolation, dedicating himself to the pursuit of excessive aestheticism. He surrounds himself with art, literature, and music, and indulges in sensual pleasures and extravagant interior decoration. The protagonist's obsession with artifice over nature and his quest for absolute individualism and self-gratification are explored, reflecting the decadent movement of the late 19th-century France.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download