Literature, much like society, has always been fascinated by the unknown. There has forever existed a curiosity for the eerie, the monstrous, the motions of darkness. From our folklore to modern psychology, monsters have lurked around, taking new shapes through our imaginations. In this article, I’m going to be looking at some of the best books about monsters of all time.
Best Monster Books To Read!
These books aren’t just about strange creatures, they’re often a commentary on the recesses of our imaginations and anxieties. They show us what it means to be human, how conflicts within us shape and mold us into how and what we are, and how to confront those bizarre aspects of our world. Let’s begin this journey then, where the line between reality and imagination is as blurry as it can get, and the worst nightmares are those that we carry within ourselves.
Published over two centuries ago, Frankenstein remains as popular as ever for its moral dilemmas around humanity versus science. The novel is written in the form of letters and personal accounts, with the young scientist named Victor Frankenstein in the middle of it all. He wishes to understand life and death and to do so, he tries to create new life itself. The Creature, as we know him, is the result of his experiments but he instantly abandons him.
What transpires next is the premise of this story. Written in a time when scientific discoveries were taking place left, right, and center, the book calls for ethical implications of science getting too ahead of itself. The Gothic elements of the novel add to the mystery of it, from its eerie surroundings to the discovery of the secret forces of nature. Science has since continued to progress, but as was the question with the advent of nuclear weaponry as it is with artificial intelligence today, are we going too far? You can get the book here! 📖
2. It by Stephen King
Perhaps his most popular and enduring story of all time, “It” is Stephen King at his very best. Set in the town of Derry, Maine, there are two parallel timelines in this novel. A group of childhood friends called the Losers’ Club, are brought together by the trauma of an entity that haunts their town, often taking the shape of a clown (you may know him as Pennywise). The other timeline is of the 1980s, wherein these kids, now grown up, will go back to face their past and fears.
The novel contains many themes, particularly the loss of innocence and the sharpness of memory and trauma that can haunt you for your entire life. The classic trope of fear of the unknown is perfectly used here, and Pennywise is the culmination of all those fears, why he remains one of the most horrifying antagonists ever written in literature. If you’re someone who enjoys reading long books that keep you turning one page after another, this would just be the perfect story for you. You can get the book here! 📖
Published in 1897, this epistolary novel is a chilling and atmospheric tale of horror, love, and the eternal struggle between good and evil. Built through a series of diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings, journal excerpts, and more, the novel’s narrative structure helps lend an air of mystery to it while making it less imaginary for you, the reader. We follow Jonathan Harker as he travels to Transylvania to help Count Dracula in regards to a real estate transaction but in no time, as you can guess, things go wrong. Very wrong.
Stoker’s depiction of Dracula popularized vampires in a way any work has seldom done before or after. But the story is more than a simple tale of good versus evil. There are themes of colonialism, Victorian sexuality (there’s a reason why the Twilight series was so successful), and the common trope of the fear of the unknown. The Gothic landscapes of the story help better establish the darkness of the character and his abilities and Stoker’s prose only adds to it. There’s no denying the fact that Dracula has shaped our popular culture globally, over the decades, from cinema to literature, which should be reason enough for you to read it. You can get the book here! 📖
4. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
It’s hard to find someone today who hasn’t watched the Steven Spielberg movie inspired by this book. But why not read the original story itself? It’s certainly as adventurous and thrilling, if not more. The book is similar to Frankenstein in a way for it also serves as a warning against unchecked scientific development. Billionaire John Hammond has created a dinosaur theme park on the island of Isla Nubiar through genetic technology. Things certainly can’t go wrong there now, can they?
As expected, things go horribly wrong, and it’s a battle for survival for the visitors and staff of the island. One of the best parts about the novel is the scientific research that’s gone behind it. Not only do those concepts make the story more grounded, but they also create a very believable story. As we progress further and further ahead in genetic engineering (as well as other domains like artificial intelligence), it requires asking where we need to stop. But outside of the dilemmas, fans of dinosaurs would find much to enjoy here, from their detailed descriptions to the never-ending action. You can get the book here! 📖
5. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
Like Dracula, World War Z uses an interesting narrative structure: that of first-hand accounts and interviews to paint a comprehensive picture of a post-apocalyptic world. The narrative style helps in making the story more believable while also taking you through the multiple perspectives seamlessly and you can see why, like Dracula, it too is a classic in its genre. The interviews span across countries and continents, each interviewee bringing in their unique experiences of the zombie pandemic.
Even though the apocalypse and the zombies are very much fictional, the commentary by Brooks isn’t. On one hand, he uses the story to explore the many aspects of a global crisis, from the political to the psychological. On the other, he comments on how the government and military would likely respond in a crisis like this, and how it would impact humanity as a whole. The novel’s commentary is even more haunting in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, with how humanity and global governments handled (or mishandled) the crisis. You can get the book here! 📖
6. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Human psychology is complex and illusory. At the point when this novella was written, we understood even less, why Stevenson’s story is considered to be a seminal work in psychological literature. The story is about a scientist named Dr. Henry Jekyll who’s seeking to separate his moral aspects from his immoral, creating an evil alter ego by the name of Mr. Edward Hyde. We see the story unfold through the perspectives of three characters which enhances the sense of suspense and mystery.
The duality of personalities within Jekyll is often seen as a metaphor for the internal conflicts and the struggle between good and evil within each person. Despite the concise nature of this story, Stevenson portrays the dilemmas and absurdities around human nature brilliantly, and the evasive nature of the story keeps you guessing till the very last page. You can get the book here! 📖
7. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Like many of the recommendations here, this title also has been adapted into a successful motion picture starring Will Smith. A bestselling work of sci-fi horror, the book is a study on isolation, survival, and how these factors weigh on the human psyche. The novel popularized the idea of apocalyptic pandemics and how biological advancements and ambitions can prove fatal for humanity. We see Robert Neville, the last man living in a world infested by vampires, trying to survive each day and making sure it’s not his last.
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He barricades himself during the night, using traditional vampire repellents like garlic, and ventures out in the daytime, hunting vampires and finding more information about how the vampire infestation began and their properties. It’s fascinating to read the scientific explanations that Matheson concocts for conventional vampire tropes, be it their inability to come out in the sun, or their repulsion toward garlic and cross. However, the story is largely a meditation on what it means to be alone in a world filled with despair and the human desire to find solace in others’ company. You can get the book here! 📖
8. Jaws by Peter Benchley
A Steven Spielberg movie based on a successful novel whose sequels constantly deteriorated in both critical acclaim and commercial success might have you thinking of Jurassic Park. Jaws fits this category even better. All that aside though, the novel is set around the harbour town of Amity where a white shark will risk everyone’s lives. After several attacks on the beachgoers, three men would come together to hunt down the predator.
It’s a classic nature versus man trope that keeps you on the edge of your seats throughout. Moreover, Benchley does a stellar job of creating a malevolent image of the predator through his writing to create heightened stakes for the reader. Whether you enjoy a good fictional adventure or want to read a thriller with horror elements, Jaws is the book to go for! You can get the book here! 📖
9. Watchers by Dean Koontz
Travis Cornell is a man grappling with loneliness and despair when he comes across a bizarre golden retriever in the woods. In no time, he realizes the dog, whom he names Einstein, is anything but ordinary. Linked to a government experiment that went haywire, the dog has remarkable intelligence. We’re also introduced to Nora Devon who comes with her tragic past and gets entangled with the mystery of Einstein.
But as Travis goes deeper beneath the web of secrets around Einstein, everything is at risk, particularly this new family he’s found for himself. Science experiments gone wrong have been a constant friend of ours in this list, and the addition of covert government organizations creates a thrilling story. The character development is brilliant and the various relationships are heartwarming to read while also underlining all that is at stake here. You can get the book here! 📖
10. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Dystopian novels have a charm of their own. How will our planet end? It’s one of the many questions that has plagued writers and scientists forever and the reason why we have countless theories of the same. In the world of The 5th Wave, the Earth’s population is butchered by four waves of alien attacks, increasing in intensity with each. The few survivors live in an atmosphere of mistrust and dread.
Amidst all this, the story roams around Cassie Sullivan, a teen estranged from her younger brother and whom she hopes to find. When she meets Evan Walker, she might have found the ray of hope she desperately needed. Through multiple perspectives, Rick explores a world at the brink of extinction and where survival triumphs over everything through this novel. The first part of a trilogy of the same name, this YA novel is a great combination of memorable characters and chilling suspense. You can get the book here! 📖
11. In the After by Demitria Lunetta
Another dystopian novel here! In the After is the story of (and narrated by) Amy, a young woman who’s also survived the apocalypse brought about by Them, mysterious creatures without any known origin. These creatures are relentless and mindless, hunting humans by sound and almost ending humanity in its entirety. They hunt by sound and the key to staying alive is silence.
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Facing Them is one thing, maintaining your sanity in a silent world is another. She’ll find a young abandoned girl and learn to form new alliances when both of them are rescued and taken to New Hope. But things might seem to be great only from the outset, and it’ll all come down to instincts in the end. Thrilling and intriguing, the novel is part one of a duology and is yet another story of how our biggest demons lie amongst us rather than outside. You can get the book here! 📖
12. The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
Tao is an ancient and mighty alien being belonging to an alien race known as the Quasing who’ve been influencing humans for centuries. When Roen Tan, a resigned IT technician, becomes the host to Tao, his life will change forever. This is a world where alien factions strive to control the planet of Earth and Roen must become a secret agent to save his planet.
Tao is part of the peace-loving but weaker faction called Prophus, at odds with the violent and powerful faction called Genjix. The dynamic that’s formed between Tao and Roen is hilarious and entertaining to read and concepts of destiny, identity, and the choices we make interplay with each other. Loaded with action sequences and plot twists, Wesley Chu paves the way for a trilogy of novels in the same universe where the future of the planet hangs on a thread. You can get the book here! 📖
13. Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
A group of scientists is stationed in Antarctica to study and explore the region. However, everything comes to a standstill when they discover a crashed alien spacecraft that’s been buried for thousands of years. Perfectly preserved inside that ship is an extraterrestrial being whom they start investigating. Little do they know what they’re tinkering with.
The alien organism can imitate any living creature, human or animal, and now the scientists will have to work together to identify and stop this force before it destroys humanity. The sense of paranoia, isolation, and claustrophobia that the setting of Antarctica invokes is incredible, with the stakes as high as they can be. A coming together of sorts of psychological thriller, speculative fiction, and horror, the book has been adapted multiple times as “The Thing” and continues to draw audiences now as it did decades ago. You can get the book here! 📖
14. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
The first installment of the Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation revolves around the shifting and inexplicable wilderness called Area X. When a team of four women including a psychologist, a biologist, an anthropologist, and a surveyor, is sent to examine the area, they begin facing strange and unexplainable phenomena. Like the many teams before them, their sanity, more than their lives, is in danger as the lines between reality and illusions fade away.
One past team had committed mass suicide while another had all died of cancer. Yet another team killed each other in a flurry of bullets. And while this team expects to find the unexpected, they aren’t prepared to face the secrets they keep from each other. The sense of foreboding is expertly portrayed by VanderMeer. A haunting exploration of the human psyche and surreal horror fiction, this is a story you must not miss out on! You can get the book here! 📖
15. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Conor keeps having the same nightmare every night. A monstrous yew tree has been haunting him in the wake of his mother’s imminent death by cancer and his complex relationship with his family. One day, however, a giant ancient yew tree actually visits him at midnight. Promising to tell the lad three stories, he wants to hear his truth in exchange. The stories, told in a fairy-tale-like manner, act as the foundation of this heartwarming novel.
Despite being intended for a younger audience, the book works with readers of all ages through its message of hope, loss, and the courage it sometimes takes to survive in this cruel world. Conor is a beautifully depicted character with a complicated life and his sense of isolation and not being understood is something many of us can relate to. When all’s said and done, this book is the perfect example of how storytelling betters our lives, helps us cope with pain, and makes our time on this planet warmer and more magical. You can get the book here! 📖
Here are the Best Monster Books to read! You can pick these for any spooky nights or Halloween night! Happy reading!
Part-time freelance writer, full-time chemistry graduate student, Amritesh loves everything books. Gift him a book if you chance upon him, and he’ll love you forever.