Top Novels of All Times Include
Gothic Novels

Woman afraid

Image: Canva and Dream by Wombo

The top novels of all times cross all genres and span all periods. What makes gothic novels survive centuries? One reason is that they make people feel alive. The settings in these types of literature are chilling. People may not have felt chills for a long time, and now they reacquaint themselves with them between the pages of a book.

Berry asks, “Where would we be without gothic literature? With its seductive blend of the strange and macabre, gothic literature is one of those few genres that is also a mood: castles, coffins and claustrophobia, yes, but also darkness, secrets and vengeance.”

Let’s look at some of the top novels of all time regarding the Gothic period. You may have a different list. We all have differing opinions, but most literary critics will likely agree with the novels listed below. Gothic novels are filled with dark, melancholy, and terrifying themes. 

Top Novels of All Times Include
Classic Gothic Novels


Images: Dream by Wombo

Take a look at these 10 classic Gothic Novels that have earned their right to be celebrated over time:

  • The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1765)
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1816)
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (1831)
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson (1886)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

Most everyone has heard of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. This spooky tale has your innards sloshing around. It has an atmosphere (Sleepy Hollow) and mystery (what happened to Ichabod Crane and who is the menacing figure riding horseback?).  Of course, there is more eeriness to this story.

Let’s take a sneak peek into the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

Ichabod Crane, a schoolteacher, came to Tarry Town in the glen of Sleepy Hollow to ply his trade in educating young minds. He was a gullible and excitable fellow, often so terrified by locals' stories of ghosts that he would hurry through the woods on his way home, singing to keep from hysterics. Until late one night, he finds that maybe they're not just stories. What is that dark, menacing figure riding behind him on a horse? And what does it have in its hands? And why wasn't schoolteacher Crane ever seen in Sleepy Hollow again? (GoodReads)

Mesmerizing isn’t it? It makes you want to stay with the story until the end to find answers to these, and other, questions. Good job, Irving!

Top Novels of All Times Also Include
Contemporary Gothic Novels

The Shining
What Moves the Dead

Gothic novels are not just a thing of the past, seen through a rearview mirror. No, they serve as blueprints, a method of paying it forward, for contemporary novels. Gothic novels survived the ages because of the way they fumbled with the reader’s minds and emotions, giving them a wild ride through haunts that flirt with apparitions, insanity, monsters, not-so-nice animals, bloodied things, wicked intent, and the like, while promising them a safe return to normalcy. 

Here are 10 contemporary Gothic novels that drew their first breath in the 20th and 21st Centuries:

  • The Shining by Stephen King (1977) 
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
  • Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler (2005)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (2006)
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2010)
  •  The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (2017)
  • The Binding by B.R. Collins (2018)
  • Melmoth by Sarah Perry (2019)
  • What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (2022)
  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2022)

Let’s take one of the titles above, and peek into the innards of the story. This one is titled What Moves the Dead:

The Hugo Award-winning author delivers a twisted retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher. Alex Easton, a war veteran, receives an urgent letter from Madeline Usher, the sister of their former comrade Roderick. When they arrive at the Ushers’ house, they discover that it has been overrun by wild fungi and possessed animals, Madeline is dying, and Roderick is hearing strange voices. Alex must work with an English mycologist and a bewildered American doctor to discover what’s happening before they’re all destroyed. (Balogun)

I have a feeling that if you pick up What Moves the Dead, it will be hard for you to put it down. If the unsettling of your nerves is something you’re looking for, choose from the menu of titles above. But be forewarned: read during the day when there’s plenty of light. However, if you must read at night, leave the lights blazing and have a sane human check on you often.

Click here for more Gothic horror books to unsettle your nerves. 

Berry, Freya. The Eight Best Gothic Books of All Times, 11 July 2023,

The Big Books of Fall, GoodReads, Accessed 25 Aug. 2023.

Balogun, Taiwo. 13 Gothic Horror Books That Will Unsettle You in 2022, 12 Apr. 2022,