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Best Gothic Books Of All Time

Making its debut in the late 18th century, Gothic fiction was a branch of the larger Romantic movement that sought to stimulate strong emotions in the reader - fear and apprehension in this case. Gothic fiction places heavy emphasis on atmosphere, using setting and diction to build suspense and a sense of unease in the reader. Common subject matter includes the supernatural, family curses, mystery, and madness.

When adding books to the list, please make sure "gothic" is listed on the book's main genre page.
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4.01 avg rating — 1,112,617 ratings
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3.18 avg rating — 29,013 ratings
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20

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3.95 avg rating — 48,298 ratings
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4.29 avg rating — 123,541 ratings
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25

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3.56 avg rating — 51,654 ratings
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3.98 avg rating — 50,825 ratings
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27

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3.74 avg rating — 6,171 ratings
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28

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3.45 avg rating — 37,145 ratings
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29

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4.14 avg rating — 7,121 ratings
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30

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3.71 avg rating — 4,747 ratings
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4.01 avg rating — 8,933 ratings
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3.88 avg rating — 41,302 ratings
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3.91 avg rating — 8,676 ratings
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34

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3.51 avg rating — 5,099 ratings
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35

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3.76 avg rating — 5,615 ratings
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36

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3.77 avg rating — 22,573 ratings
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37

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3.80 avg rating — 2,505 ratings
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38

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4.24 avg rating — 76,767 ratings
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39

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3.74 avg rating — 25,307 ratings
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40

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41

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3.88 avg rating — 74,167 ratings
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42

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3.92 avg rating — 52,170 ratings
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43

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3.46 avg rating — 6,894 ratings
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44

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3.67 avg rating — 7,980 ratings
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45

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3.92 avg rating — 5,970 ratings
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46

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3.84 avg rating — 4,928 ratings
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47

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4.08 avg rating — 32,974 ratings
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48

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3.90 avg rating — 17,213 ratings
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49

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50

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3.68 avg rating — 253,515 ratings
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51

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56

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3.97 avg rating — 5,319 ratings
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57

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3.72 avg rating — 9,109 ratings
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3.83 avg rating — 7,274 ratings
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3.90 avg rating — 3,978 ratings
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60

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3.93 avg rating — 19,385 ratings
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61

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3.61 avg rating — 1,829 ratings
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62

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3.93 avg rating — 6,200 ratings
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63

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64

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4.05 avg rating — 14,634 ratings
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65

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3.83 avg rating — 6,433 ratings
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66

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4.19 avg rating — 6,696 ratings
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4.10 avg rating — 3,300 ratings
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3.79 avg rating — 257,274 ratings
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3.84 avg rating — 3,159 ratings
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4.04 avg rating — 36,651 ratings
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3.38 avg rating — 3,222 ratings
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3.39 avg rating — 1,751 ratings
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73

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3.75 avg rating — 2,421 ratings
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4.05 avg rating — 1,283 ratings
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79

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4.03 avg rating — 9,068 ratings
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80

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4.21 avg rating — 290 ratings
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81

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4.25 avg rating — 1,324,917 ratings
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82

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4.05 avg rating — 12,899 ratings
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83

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3.70 avg rating — 12,060 ratings
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84

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3.96 avg rating — 15,452 ratings
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85

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3.99 avg rating — 103,203 ratings
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86

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3.95 avg rating — 48,007 ratings
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87

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4.09 avg rating — 1,221 ratings
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88

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3.89 avg rating — 3,113 ratings
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89

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3.78 avg rating — 2,380 ratings
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90

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3.92 avg rating — 840 ratings
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91

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3.87 avg rating — 26,174 ratings
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92

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3.46 avg rating — 4,318 ratings
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93

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3.62 avg rating — 5,073 ratings
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94

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4.22 avg rating — 61,910 ratings
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95

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3.82 avg rating — 720 ratings
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95

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3.91 avg rating — 18,201 ratings
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97

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3.81 avg rating — 4,536 ratings
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98

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4.07 avg rating — 4,808 ratings
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99

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3.67 avg rating — 409 ratings
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100

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3.40 avg rating — 4,573 ratings
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379 books · 3,106 voters · list created December 15th, 2008 by Rachel (votes) .
1529 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Rachel 429 books
28 friends
Julenew 615 books
114 friends
Cathy 2253 books
96 friends
Corine 468 books
129 friends
Clarice 259 books
41 friends
Andy 507 books
94 friends
Laura 12411 books
314 friends
Ana 727 books
57 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-43 of 43 (43 new)

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message 1: by Julenew (last edited Dec 15, 2008 10:41PM) (new)

Julenew I'm afraid I'm not up on the latest authors. And I can't vote for a book or an author I haven't read . . .

But, if we're talking "Greatest Gothic Novel of ALL TIME" one would be a fool to limit oneself only to authors who have published in the last 10 - 25 years. To be truly considered for the crown of "Greatest of All Time," a book must stand toe-to-toe with those known to have stood the test of time: Shelley's Frankenstein; Dracula; some of Edgar Allen Poe's works, to name only a few.


message 2: by Elettaria (new)

Elettaria There are a few problems with this list. One is that some of the texts aren't novels, they're short stories, such as "The Yellow Wallpaper", or collections of short stories, such as M.R. James. Then we get to Poe's poetry, which is even further away from a novel! Others are indeed novels, but they're not gothic novels, they're novels which include parodies of gothic, namely "Northanger Abbey" and "Lady Oracle". I'd suggest pruning the list of anything which is very definitely not a novel, to begin with. Novellas such as "Carmilla" are probably OK, but anything ten pages long is nowhere near a novel.


message 3: by Clarice (last edited Jul 06, 2009 11:10PM) (new)

Clarice The list is titled "Best Gothic Books of All Time" - this makes our life easy as any type of fiction can be included, no matter whether novella, short story, short story collection or novel. Why should we limit ourselves to novels unnecessarily? I do agree that Northanger Abbey, for example, is a parody of the genre. However, as a parody it still contains all the elements necessary to be classed as a "gothic novel". It therefore should not be excluded from the list.


message 4: by Werner (new)

Werner Elettaria has a case, in that collections of short stories may have diverse subject matter and not all be Gothic in nature; and poetry is rarely "Gothic," since that's mainly a type of fiction. Both points would apply to Poe's collected fiction and poetry; but I still voted for that selection, because it includes so many masterpieces of Gothic literature, such as "The Fall of the House of Usher." I'm inclined to side with Christine's more inclusive approach.

That said, I don't think that "Gothic" is the most accurate description of The Island of Dr. Moreau. Wells was a writer of the Romantic school (in his own time, his novels were called "scientific romances"), and he certainly evoked fear and dread in that novel. IMO, though, it doesn't have a traditionally Gothic setting or subject matter. But maybe I'm just nit-picking! :-)


message 5: by Wallace (new)

Wallace What about Beloved? Am I completely off base? Why is Beloved considered a gothic novel. Also, doesn't gothic refer to a specific time period? There is some fairly modern literature on this list...


message 6: by Werner (new)

Werner Coconut Library, I haven't read Beloved, so I'll let somebody else comment on that. But as to your question about the time period, the answer, at least as far as the publishing industry and book trade is concerned (I'm a librarian, so I have to keep up with that milieu), is "no." The Gothic school of fiction originated in the late 1700s; but literature written later --even books being written today-- are still called "Gothic" if they have the same characteristics.


message 7: by Wallace (new)

Wallace Werner wrote: "Coconut Library, I haven't read Beloved, so I'll let somebody else comment on that. But as to your question about the time period, the answer, at least as far as the publishing industry and book t..."

Thanks... good to know.


message 8: by Seth (new)

Seth I demand more Shirley Jackson. She is right up there with Poe himself. The Sundial please.


message 9: by Werner (new)

Werner Actually, Seth, it isn't only the person who created this list (whoever he/she is) who can add books to it --you, and the rest of us, can too. So, you can consider yourself duly authorized to see that Ms. Jackson gets the representation here that she deserves. (I haven't read The Sundial myself, but I sure voted for The Haunting of Hill House!)


message 10: by Seth (new)

Seth Thanks Werner. :)


message 11: by Kristy (new)

Kristy Cassidy I think the best darkest and most Gothic tale was Bram Stoker's Dracula. Vlad was truly evil in every sense and even love wasn't strong enough to smother the demon inside him.


message 12: by J10 (new)

J10 Cool list, this provides me with lots of ideas for new books to read!

One thing... As much as I love Germinal - I wouldn't consider it Gothic in any way. If I'd want to put a label on it, I would rather say it's realist, naturalist or socialist.


message 13: by E (new)

E Hi guys, bit of a loose end now. I am trying desperately to think of some ideas for an extended essay on Gothic Novels. I was thinking along the lines of gender differences for authors or within the novels themselves. Any of you lovely people fancy giving me any more ideas? Get in contact with me however you like! Much appreciated!


message 14: by Joanna (new)

Joanna 'Beloved' does not belong on this list.


message 15: by Katarzyna (new)

Katarzyna Bartoszynska Beloved often gets read in relation to the Gothic by lit scholars, and does feature a lot of tropes usually found in Gothic lit (like ghosts). Clarissa, on the other hand, is not Gothic at all. I would love to hear why the five people who voted for it feel that it belongs on this list.


message 16: by Leslie (new)

Leslie I think that the graphic novel of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" should be replaced with the actual book, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving... I suspect a lot of people voted for this thinking it was the original book (I know I almost did)


message 17: by Werner (new)

Werner Done, Leslie! Thanks for catching that mistake.


message 18: by Noel (new)

Noel Yale Lem's Solaris isn't a Gothic book, why is it in this list?


message 19: by Anitha (new)

Anitha Reghunathan I think you should also include Patrick McGrath's "Grotesque" and "Dr.Haggard's Disease".


message 20: by Werner (new)

Werner Anitha, you can add those yourself! Just click on the "add books" link near the top, and then use the search function to bring up the titles you want to add.

Noel, I haven't read Solaris (so, of course, I'm not the person who added it here!). But I have read a friend's review of it, and I'd have to say that while it's not traditionally Gothic, the plot and premise DO make use of some basic Gothic tropes. The lonely, isolated research station with its handful of humans functions as a sort of haunted house, and the protagonist sees hallucinations (or are they hallucinations?) of a dead love interest while he grapples with an ominous-seeming mystery. I could see how whoever put it on this list could reasonably argue that it's appropriate.


message 21: by Alyne (new)

Alyne Winter Pleas add The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
I hope someday my novel Mara, Book One of The Roses of the Moon will make this list!


message 22: by Alyne (new)

Alyne Winter Also The Bloody Chamber and Magic Toy Shop by Angela Carter also ed as Blood by Tanith Lee and her Secret Books of Paradys. Must be on here! :)


message 23: by Werner (new)

Werner Alyne, The Turn of the Screw is already on this list (it's number 41). You can add the ones by Carter and Lee yourself. And best wishes for success with Mara!


message 24: by Iris (new)

Iris great list....much appreciated! great way to find books in the genre i'm interested in....found some great creepy horrors on this list also.


message 25: by David (new)

David Nice list but I'm pretty sure Lovecraft and his fellow Weird authors are fairly far removed from the Gothic definition. Granted Otranto has the mysterious limb of the Galactus-sized Giant in the hall so perhaps I'm wrong in this belief.


message 26: by Pd (new)

Pd great list indeed


message 27: by MomToKippy (new)

MomToKippy Does "gothic" refer to writing from a certain era or about a certain era or is it only the stylistic elements described above? Can a story that takes place in the present time be considered gothic?? thanks!


message 28: by MomToKippy (new)

MomToKippy Rhiannon wrote: "Aren't some of these more... historical horror than gothic?"
I'd like to know too.


message 29: by Werner (new)

Werner As I understand it, the term Gothic refers to a particular literary style/subgenre. So yes, a book that exhibits those kinds of characteristics is Gothic, regardless of when it's written.


message 30: by Neveen (new)

Neveen MomToKippy wrote: "Does "gothic" refer to writing from a certain era or about a certain era or is it only the stylistic elements described above? Can a story that takes place in the present time be considered gothic..."

It's mostly about the elements no matter when or where the story takes place. There is also Gothic Horror as sub genre.


message 31: by Hildaguard (new)

Hildaguard  Houdini I voted for Bram Stoker's Dracula because I believe it holds the top spot of gothic masterpieces. The first book that actually made me feel multiple emotions on every single page it hung onto every word. I still can't stop talking about how much I loved this book. Dracula is the book I be seen reading on my death bed.


message 32: by Alice (new)

Alice B Gothic isn't gothic without a castle, monastery, convent, some living architecture with its own secrets. Haunting of Hill House is the best example.
http://flickeringlamps.com/2015/04/03...
Go here to see Walpole's house.


message 33: by George P. (new)

George P. The Shadow of the Wind, which I've read, is not listed as Gothic genre on it's Goodreads listing page, and I don't see it as belonging, it's more of a creepy mystery.


message 34: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Inheritance by Tom Savage. I don't know if it completely fits the genre, but it's as close as I have found in recent books. Excellent book, anyway, regardless, but to me it was gothic.


message 35: by Mary (new)

Mary Gothic fiction, which is largely known by the subgenre of Gothic horror, is a genre or mode of literature and film that combines fiction and horror, death, and at times romance or happiness. Its origin is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) "A Gothic Story". Wikipedia


[on hiatus] The rockabilly werewolf from Mars I'm not quite sure why The Catcher In The Rye is on this. It has been a while since I read it, but I don't recall anything especially gothic about it.


message 37: by Werner (new)

Werner The rockabilly werewolf from Mars wrote: "I'm not quite sure why The Catcher In The Rye is on this. It has been a while since I read it, but I don't recall anything especially gothic about it."

My guess is that putting it on this list was somebody's idea of a joke. I'm a Goodreads librarian, so I can delete it, if you'll tell me what number it is on the list. (That'll save me some time hunting for it!)


message 38: by Werner (new)

Werner The rockabilly werewolf from Mars wrote: "I'm not quite sure why The Catcher In The Rye is on this. It has been a while since I read it, but I don't recall anything especially gothic about it."

Since this comment was posted, I've discovered that there are LOTS of books on this list that don't have anything especially Gothic about them, not just this one! In the last two days, I've probably deleted at least two dozen improperly added books, and expect to delete a lot more.

"Gothic" might be a hard term for many modern readers to define, but the list description gives you a convenient rule to follow: add only books that list "Gothic" as a genre on the book's main Goodreads page. Not every book set in the historical past, or every book that involves a murder mystery, or even every book with a supernatural premise, is automatically "Gothic!" (And just because an author wrote one Gothic novel doesn't necessarily make everything else that he/she ever wrote automatically "Gothic," either.)


message 39: by Werner (new)

Werner The Catcher in the Rye has been found and deleted!


message 40: by Jon (new)

Jon Bergquist Werner, I appreciate the work you've done on cleaning up the list. It needed it. But it appears that a lot of books that most fans of the genre would consider 'gothic' are no longer there. The most apparent example being Dracula, which was at one time in the forefront on this list. If the main consideration for a book's inclusion is it having the genre listing of Gothic on its book page, is there a way to make such a thing happen? I have considered this list a valuable resource for finding good reads for some time. And will consider it so still. Just not quite so highly as I once did. Thanks for listening (er, reading... :)


message 41: by Werner (new)

Werner Jon wrote: "If the main consideration for a book's inclusion is it having the genre listing of Gothic on its book page, is there a way to make such a thing happen?"

Jon, good question! There is; but one person can't do it alone. When you join Goodreads, the program automatically sets your bookshelves up with three basic shelves (read, currently reading, and to read). But many people go on to create customized shelves of their own, sometimes by genre (including "Gothic"). Some very simple, generic shelf names, like Gothic, are used by a LOT of people, even though they don't coordinate with each other.

On the book records, where a list of "Genres" is supplied, the Goodreads program apparently lists every customized shelf name (like "Gothic," "Fiction," "Horror," etc.) that a certain number of people have all shelved the book as. (I don't know how large that number has to be.) The more people who have a "Gothic" shelf (I don't myself) and list a particular book on it, the more likely it is that Goodreads will list "Gothic" as one of the book's genres.

"Gothic" can be a relatively subjective term, not as cut-and-dried and easy to define as some even for people who know literature; and many other people are relatively clueless about what it is (as some of their list additions demonstrate!) I don't know the list creator, Rachel; but I'm guessing she set up that criteria as a way of bringing in an objective yardstick, and replacing idiosyncratic individual judgement with the collective perspective of many readers (in the hope that the latter would be more likely to be accurate).

All of that said, I can see Gothic elements in Dracula, though I personally usually associate "Gothic" with something set strictly in or around one particular sinister building. If you want to re-add it, I won't delete it again, even if it's not on the requisite number of people's "Gothic" shelves. :-)

Hope this helps!


message 42: by Werner (last edited Oct 31, 2019 04:25PM) (new)

Werner Just by way of update, Dracula is on the list as #158. It doesn't look like a recent re-addition, so I'm guessing it wasn't deleted after all.


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