Lists

9 Gloriously Feral Goblincore Books For Winter Reading

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Carolina Ciucci

Contributor

Carolina Ciucci is a teacher, writer and reviewer based in the south of Argentina. She hoards books like they’re going out of style. In case of emergency, you can summon her by talking about Ireland, fictional witches, and the Brontë family. Twitter: @carolinabeci

Goblincore books and aesthetics, much like cottagecore, is a trend that encapsulates an aspirational lifestyle. Although it shares some traits with cottagecore, namely its love of nature, goblincore embraces the raw and the feral. It is about the messy beauty of nature, about finding beauty in what’s traditionally considered ugly. The goblin is the figure at the center of this aesthetic: far from the graceful fairies of Disney movies, it embodies nature and magic in their rawest of states.

What is Goblincore?

According to European folklore, to which they belong, goblins are a type of Fae creature. They are usually portrayed as small and grotesque. Like all Fae, goblins haves pointed ears — and the mid-20th century saw the inclusion of long, hooked noses that has become a symbol of antisemitism. Over time, the stereotype of the tiny green goblin who lives in a cave has entered the collective imagination, and the more varied initial depiction of the goblin (with varying heights, weights, colorings, and personalities) has narrowed down to a more fixed image.

The Goblin in Literature

Not many goblins in Western folklore and literature have been presented as benevolent. The earliest story where this happens (that we know of) is the anonymous “The Benevolent Goblin,” a 13th-14th century tale from Gesta Romanorum. In its vast majority, however, depictions of goblins have adhered to the popular perception of this figure as a malevolent being. How malevolent changes: it oscillates between a trickster who plays harmless pranks on humans, and a truly monstrous being, with multiple in-between spots.

Goblincore: origins, aesthetics and philosophy

Goblincore is like cottagecore, in the sense that it rose to prominence during the beginnings of the COVID pandemic. However, it is also a reaction to cottagecore: where the latter is all about romanticizing slow living and nature, goblincore seeks to embrace a natural kind of beauty that is often deemed ugly. Think moss, mud, twigs, rocks: the things one might ignore, or even complain about, are what goblincore treasures. This reflects in typical goblincore outfits: sustainable, in earth tones, rejecting fashion trends and embracing individuality, in materials that are suitable for an active outdoors life. At its core, it’s about letting go of societal pressures to look, think, or act in certain ways.

Goblincore is very attractive to LGBTQ communities, particularly trans people. Mary Frances Knapp points out: “Of big goblincore importance: mushrooms, with their thousands of sexes. Goblincore defies modern gender norms, which makes it a welcoming habitat for those living beyond the binary.” It’s no exaggeration: there are few things that goblincore loves more than mushrooms. Look at literally any website or article on this trend for verification.

Goblincore is also anti-capitalism, which goes hand in hand with its passion for sustainability, foraging, and hoarding shiny objects found in nature. Those who partake in the goblincore lifestyle would rather decorate their home with a pretty rock found during a hike than with an expensive vase bought in a high-end store.

To sum it up: goblincore is appreciating the sight of deer grazing, but loving the look and sound of frogs in a pond the most. It’s finding insects more interesting than birds. It’s about rejecting societal standards, the gender binary, and capitalism. It’s gasping with delight at the sight of worms and snails, both of which you will see while foraging for mushrooms (naturally).

The Best Goblincore Books

Like all the recent aesthetics, goblincore has its own reading list. What should you read if you’re into goblincore?

The Hobbit 75h Anniversary cover

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This classic is also a beloved staple for other ‘cores, but its appeal lies elsewhere. Bilbo is great and all, but goblincore is all about the dwarves and trolls: the beings that would rather dwell in a cave, covered in mud, than squeaky clean in a Hobbit-hole.

Cover of Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Cottagecore may love flowers, but goblincore prefers the understated appeal of moss. In her signature style, Wall Kimmerer balances out scientific explanation, Indigenous knowledge, and personal reflection in this beautiful array of essays.

Cover of Goblin by Gerhard Gehrke

Goblin (Goblin Reign #1) by Gerhard Gehrke

Disclaimer: I hate this cover. It feeds into all the antisemitic stereotypes mentioned above. But contrary to what the cover suggests, the goblin is the good guy here — a main characteristic of goblincore.

Spicy has modest dreams: all he wants is to work in the goblin’s library as the sage’s apprentice. But when a human warband burns down his village and kidnaps his sister, Spicy has no choice but to venture into the unknown and the dangerous to rescue her.

The Way Through the Woods: On Mushrooms and Mourning by Long Litt Woon book cover

THE WAY THROUGH THE WOODS: ON MUSHROOMS AND MOURNING by Long Litt Woon

Goblincore is all about finding joy and peace in untamed nature. This book captures that search: shortly after Woon’s husband died, feeling adrift and mourning the love of her life, she signed up for a beginner’s course on mushrooming. Foraging through the woods, Soon began to find peace and contentment again.

Book cover of When the Moon Was Ours

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

As mentioned above, goblincore is considered a safe space for and by trans folks. And a safe space is what Sam, an Italian Pakistani trans boy, finds in his best friend, Miel.

But soon, Miel will find herself in need of a safe space of her own. She’s always been considered odd, in part — okay, entirely — because roses grow from her wrist. But now, four neighboring sisters want access to Miel and her roses. And they’re willing to go to any length to get them.

Cover of Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston

Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston

Djola is the right-hand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, which is not an easy position to be in at the best of times, let alone when poisons, death, and sadness are taking over the land. Awa is a young woman training to be a griot, her power growing by the day.

What makes this book suitable for a goblincore reading list? It features not only a harsh land, but also multiple LGBTQ characters.

Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge, translated by Jeremy Tiang book cover

Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge, translated by Jeremy Tiang

Humans, spirits, and monsters coexist in the city of Yong’an. When the protagonist decides to index every creature, she finds that neither the beasts nor she are exactly who she thought they were. This take on the complexity of identity is distinctly goblincore.

not good for maidens book cover

Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino

Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market” was pivotal in the picture of the goblin that we have today. This book, a horror-fantasy retelling of it, features a woman who has to a) accept that magic exists, b) so do goblins, and she must rescue her aunt from them before it’s too late.

Book cover of Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

As far as goblincore is concerned, there are few things more beautiful or treasured than mushrooms. In this incredible book, Sheldrake dives into the dazzling world of fungi: he tells us about the history of this organism that is neither plant nor animal, and explores how it might hold the key to all life.

Get more goblincore suggestions (but tailored just for you!) with our service TBR. It’s like StitchFix, for books!

a gif with the text: Tailored Book Recommendations: Real Book Nerds Making Tailored Recommendations That Are Really, Really Good