I freaking love vampires. Of all the creatures that populate our stories, vampires have always been my favorite. I can place the blame for this on a number of factors, most of which include me getting my hands on some major works of vampire media at a questionably young age. But whatever it was exactly that jump-started my obsession, it continues unabated to this day. And I’m certainly not alone! Vampires hold an almost universal fascination across cultures. Just look at the sheer number of vampire books that are published each year!
And the vampire, I’ve found, cuts as neatly across genres as it does cultures. In fact, the hardest part of this list wasn’t picking titles, it was breaking them out into genre categories. As you’ll see, there’s going to be a lot of overlap! My personal belief is that everything with a vampire in it counts, at least to some degree, as horror. But most folks would agree that there’s a big difference between a vampire romance novel and a vampire horror story, even if the latter has romance in it and the former is full of plenty of blood spillage and nightmares. So I’ve done my best to draw lines between those nebulous distinctions here, but feel free to come find me on Twitter and tell me how horribly wrong I got it. We’ll compare notes!
HORROR VAMPIRE BOOKS
Look for Me by Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn
Why am I starting this list off with a young adult horror book originally from 1995? Well, I have a very good reason: it’s terrifying. In fact, I would argue — and have argued — that Look for Me by Moonlight is even more frightening to me as an adult than it was when I first read it as a child. It’s a book in which the vampire really is a predatory creature who has to work to blend into the world around him to appear harmless to his prey. Vincent is a man out of time, the world speeding on around him as he stays fixed — even returning every year to the same inn in Maine where he’s picked his victims for decades. And 16-year-old Cynda, who feels like an outcast amongst her family, is the perfect target for this sinister killer’s charms. 10/10 can still feel the cold dread radiating from these pages. To this day, Look for Me by Moonlight holds a place of honor on my shelves.
The Wicked and the Willing by Lianyu Tan
Here’s our first cross-genre read. I could just as easily have put The Wicked and the Willing into either the Historical or Romance categories, but I leaned into its penchant for bloody terror and decided it was most at home here. Set in 1927 colonial Singapore, Lianyu Tan’s second novel is a gorgeous work of horror about a maidservant who ends up falling in love with both her vampiric mistress and her mistress’s majordomo, kicking off an F/F love triangle that — in a unique twist — is up to the reader to resolve. The novel contains two complete, exclusive final acts, allowing readers to decide how they want the story to end.
The Vanquishers by Kalynn Bayron
I love it when vampires are confronted with the one thing they should truly fear: small children! Malika “Boog” Wilson is growing up in a world that has finally eradicated vampires after years of being hunted and besieged by the undead. They were wiped out by the Vanquishers, vampire hunters whom Boog and her friends would give anything to be like, even though there are no more vampires to fight. In fact, most of her classmates’ families have given up on anti-vampire measures altogether. Except, that is, Boog’s parents, who still insist on early curfews (well before sunset) and wreaths of garlic. It’s embarrassing! But when one of her friends goes missing, Boog starts to reconsider her parent’s insistence on outdated practices and the possibility that vampires may not be as extinct as she’d been led to believe.
The Route of Ice & Salt by José Luis Zárate (translated by David Bowles)
Here we have another novel that could easily have been tucked into the historical section of this list, but given that it is a particularly grim (though beautiful) and genuinely creepy retelling of Dracula (albeit only in part), I tucked it in here. The Route of Ice & Salt is a queer retelling of a small portion of Bram Stoker’s original novel: the journey of the doomed Demeter. Varna to Whitby is a route the steadfast captain of the Demeter has traveled many times, alone among his men, his dreams are full of longings and pleasures he cannot permit himself. But something about this journey is different. Wrong. Rumors spread that something evil is stalking the captain’s ship, and the crew are uneasy, looking to their captain to protect them.
Night’s Edge by Liz Kerin
I read Night’s Edge earlier this year and found Kerin’s take on vampirism fascinating. We’ve seen “viral vampirism” before, sure, but there was something about the Saratov virus in Night’s Edge that felt fresh and frightening. Mia doesn’t have friends. She doesn’t let anyone into her life because no one can ever find out about her mother. If the world finds out her mother is infected with the Saratov virus, she’ll disappear, stuffed into one of the special facilities designed to “rehabilitate” the modern vampire. But it’s a lonely life, being her mother’s blood donor and caretaker, and Mia feels the weight of her isolation. So when she meets Jade, a musician with a family history (almost) as complicated as Mia’s own, and gets her first taste of freedom, everything starts to change.
ROMANCE VAMPIRE BOOKS
My Roommate is a Vampire by Jenna Levine
The premise of My Roommate is a Vampire is so fluffing adorable. We love a good “roommates awkwardly navigating the fact that, oh no, their roommate is hot” trope, and when you add to that the fact that Cassie’s roommate is undead? I mean, come on. That’s delightful. Not that she knew Frederick was dead when she moved in! She was desperate to find a new apartment, and the building was so nice! In such a nice neighborhood! And yeah, Mr. Frederick J. Fitzwilliam is a little…weird. But he’s nice, and attractive, and the best kind of roommate: the one who works an opposite schedule and who you almost never see. Aaaaaand then she finds the blood on the fridge. Which, yeah. Red flag, Frederick.
Court of the Vampire Queen by Katee Roberts
I love this series. It’s so wild. No notes. 10/10. Definitely a dark romance, Court of the Vampire Queen falls into the trope family of “I ripped your throat out by accident because you got me off so well. Whoopsie.” Which, I won’t lie, I kind of love. Basically, Court of the Vampire Queen collects four previously published novellas into one volume, and it’s a dark polyam romance about Mina, a half-vampire, and her four bloodline vampire lovers who believe that Mina is their means to defeating her father and freeing themselves from the threat of his power. This book is…omg, please just read it because I don’t even know. Sex causes fires. Literal fires. Just go. Read. For better or worse, come yell at me after.
Better Off Red by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Team sapphic vampires forever. (We’ve got lovely jackets.) Rebekah Weatherspoon’s Better Off Red is about, wait for it: a vampiric sorority. In fact, it’s the first book in a series about this particular vampiric sorority! Alpha Beta Omega appears on the surface to be your typical college Greek organization, a bunch of beautiful, confident women eager to welcome new sisters into the fold. Except when Ginger Charmichael pledges — despite being sure that it’s the last thing she wants out of her college experience — she finds herself swearing a lifelong pact of service to the vampiric sisters of ABO. And when she falls hard and fast for the queen of the nest, her new life of service becomes doubly sweet. And Ginger finds all her priorities changing.
A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
I’m sorry, did you think we were getting off this list without talking about Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series? Oh, dear friend. I may have wandered far from my romance roots, but even I must pay homage to the holy (bananapants) texts of my people. May I present: Lachlain MacRieve, leader of his clan of werewolves, sworn enemy of all vampires! Too bad that long-awaited mate he’s been searching for so many years is …(can you guess?)…a vampire. Half of one, anyway. (Emmaline is also part Valkyrie!) Inconvenient. But, of course, fate has spoken, and the plot provides peril and adventure into the mix to ensure that Emmaline and Lachlain have plenty of time and opportunities to realize they really are meant to be.
(Pssst. Want more pure chaos bananapants plots? Check out season one of the Fated Mates podcast!)
In the Roses of Pieria by Anna Burke
Listen, I am a simple creature. I like vampires. I like the fae. I like scary fungi. And Anna Burke was like: here, have all three at once! So, of course, I bought the book. In the Roses of Pieria is about Clara Eden, an archivist in desperate need of a job. So when the eccentric Agatha Montague reaches out to Clara with a job offer, she leaps at the chance. The project is special: the correspondence of two lovers. A love affair thousands of years old. But Agatha isn’t telling Clara everything, and the longer the project goes on, the deeper her suspicions grow. But the truth may come too late to save her and the one she loves.
HISTORICAL VAMPIRE BOOKS
Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas
This has got to be one of the more interesting vampire books I’ve read this year. Cañas’s vampires are somehow both more and less than monsters, and I find them fascinating! Though to say more would be to give too much away. Nena and Néstor were childhood sweethearts growing up on her father’s ranch in Mexico until the night that Nena was attacked by a terrifying creature, and Néstor vanished into the night, sure he would be blamed. Years later, they’re brought together again as war looms with the United States. When the horrors of the battlefield give way to the nightmares of their past, the only way for Nena and Néstor to protect their home and the ones they love is to put their past behind them and work together.
Blood Countess by Lana Popović
I just can’t resist a Báthory retelling. I don’t have it in me. And Lana Popović has a particularly lovely and compelling writing style that I adore, so Blood Countess is a win-win! Anna is just a scullery maid brought on to work in the castle of the glamorous, beautiful Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Anna catches the Countess’s eye, she finds herself elevated above her station to the role of the Countess’s personal maid and companion. Confidante. And ultimately, plaything, as Anna is soon drawn deep under the Countess’s influence and isolated from everyone she knows and loves. The prisoner of a murderer, being Elizabeth’s pet, will only spare Anna’s life for so long before the Blood Countess eventually turns on her as well.
A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
Listen. I don’t say this lightly but: A Dowry of Blood is the perfect vampire book. Perfect. It’s gorgeous, romantic, dark, violent, and polyamorous! All boxes checked. A Dowry of Blood is the story of Dracula’s brides, told from the perspective of Constanta, the first of three brides whom Dracula creates to be his companions over the course of the novel. It is written as a farewell letter to the man she loved and hated in equal measure, detailing a hundred lifetimes of tenderness, abuse, and the unexpected love that develops between her and her fellow brides.
The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez
Rule #1 of vampire book lists: we don’t leave out The Gilda Stories. It’s a two-time Lambda Award winner and every bit as much a foundational text of vampire literature as the much-lauded Vampire Chronicles. It begins with a young girl’s escape from slavery in the 1850s and follows her journey over the next 200 years as she becomes a vampire, takes the name Gilda for herself, and sets out into the world in search of companionship and belonging. It’s a must-read of vampire fiction, and if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet, I highly recommend you add it to your TBR!
A Long Time Dead by Samara Breger
Set in 1837, A Long Time Dead is about two vampires — the newly turned Poppy and the ancient Roisin — who start out the story in a country house, with Poppy having just woken up as a vampire. Roisin guides Poppy through her transformation and her new life as a vampire, and soon, an attachment forms between the two immortals. But you don’t live for hundreds of years without accumulating some secrets, and before long, Roisin’s past comes calling, uprooting their peaceful coexistence. What follows is a raucous adventure in classic Gothic fashion, spanning continents and full of wild events and unforgettable characters. And in the background, behind the pirates and the found families, lurks the villain of the piece, waiting to destroy Poppy and Roisin’s happiness once and for all.
FANTASY/SCI-FI VAMPIRE BOOKS
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Speaking of unique takes on the vampire story, Certain Dark Things has, hands down, one of the most creative I’ve yet had the pleasure of reading. It’s bursting at the seams with various species of vampires! All different. All fascinating. In Mexico City, street kid Domingo is just trying to survive when he meets a vampire named Atl. Atl is the descendent of Aztec blood drinkers, on the run from a rival vampire clan. Their meeting happens by chance, but as time goes on, the two find themselves working together to escape the dark streets with their lives intact.
House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve recommended this book to people, and I’m nowhere near done. I’m honestly obsessed, but it’s a good look for me, so I’ll own it. If you want a gorgeous, grim, blissfully Gothic take on the Báthory mythos, I’ve got you covered. The House of Hunger is perhaps the most infamous and powerful of the noble houses in the North and is presided over by the seductive and beautiful Countess Lisavet, and if Marion — the house’s newest bloodmaid — does her job well, she’ll be set for life. So when the beautiful but fearsome Lisavet fixes her eye on Marion, it certainly seems that Marion’s fortunes are on the rise. But a string of disappearing bloodmaids throws her new life into chaos, and if Marion can’t discover the truth about the House of Hunger, she may soon find herself numbered among the missing.
The Witch and the Vampire by Francesca Flores
I’ve had this on my TBR ever since I saw that gorgeous cover! Two friends become enemies after a vampire attack on their town leaves Kaye without a mother and Ava without her freedom. Ava was turned during the attack, and now both she and her mother are vampires. Ava’s magic is the only thing that can disguise what has happened to her mother, so her mother keeps her captive. When their town is attacked a second time, Ava sees her chance to escape and takes it. Hot on her heels is Kaye, now a fully trained witch, determined to do her duty and destroy any vampire that threatens her home. Even if that vampire is Ava. She manages to convince Ava that they’re still friends and that they should travel into the forest together. But the forest is full of secrets, and soon Kaye finds herself questioning everything she thought to be true about the world and Ava’s place in it.
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
The Immortal Rules features one of my favorite “the vampires are definitely evil in this one” tropes: Blood Cattle. Yes, the dystopian “vampires now rule the world and now humans are livestock” is a sinister convention that, when it’s well done, makes for a truly chilling story. In Kagawa’s novel, the “blood cattle” are free-range, living on the outer rim of a walled-in city called Fringe. Allison spends her days trying to find enough food to survive and her nights just trying to survive in general. Until the night Allie dies and becomes a vampire herself. Forced to give up her friends and her home, Allie ends up joining a group of pilgrims, making their way towards a place that may not exist. But if it does exist? The secret it holds may change the world and stop in its tracks the terrible monsters that threaten both humans and vampires alike.
Immortal Pleasures by V Castro (2024)
And we’re rounding out the list with one to wait on! V. Castro’s new book won’t be out until April of next year, but Immortal Pleasures promises to be the perfect kind of vampire book: dark, sensual, and fantastical. So yes, I have already pre-ordered my copy, and no, I absolutely cannot wait. Malinalli is a vampire who has spent hundreds of years traveling the world, stealing back the stolen treasures of conquered peoples and returning them where they belong. But in all those centuries, she’s been alone. Even though she longs for love and pleasure, she has never found someone with whom to share her long life. Until that is, she finds herself in Dublin on the trail of a pair of stolen Aztec skulls and encounters not one but two men who will change her life forever. One mortal, drawn to rather than frightened by what she is, and one immortal, whose darkness speaks to her own.
If 20 books aren’t nearly enough to sate your (blood)lust for vampire fiction, never fear! Book Riot has a whole archive of vampire-centric recommendations for your delectation and delight. Everything from “Neckcessary” reading in the form of the best vampire books of all time to 10 of the scariest vampire books you’ll ever read, to 8 of the queer vampire books to add to your shelves.