Sink your teeth into this lit
Vampire folklore dates back 3,000 years, with the oldest myths coming out of Mesopotamia, though cultures from ancient Egypt to China had stories of creatures rising from the grave to drink blood, said Sue Schopf, an associate dean at Harvard University Extension School who teaches a course called The Vampire in Literature and Film. They were blamed for disease, decay, death and other phenomena people didn't understand. Reports of vampire sightings persisted into the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in Eastern Europe, where corpses would be dug up, beheaded, their hearts burned, for fear that they were behind such epidemics as
Vampire literature draws from some of the lore, but much of it is born in the minds of the authors. While the oldest vampire literature depicted blood-thirsty evildoers that must be destroyed, an explosion of vampire literature in the 1970s introduced more nuanced
that could fight the temptations of their nature or make ethical choices (
wasn't the first or only one, though she was the first to go mainstream), said Margaret Carter, author of several nonfiction works on vampirism in literature, most recently "Different Blood: The Vampire as Alien," as well as numerous novels and short stories.
Here are some notable vampire novels:
"The Vampyre: A Tale," by John William Polidori (1819)
The first important literary vampire, Lord Ruthven, was a seductive and cruel British aristocrat.
"Carmilla," by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)
A graceful vampiress poses as a damsel in distress and slowly drains the life of her female victims — introducing the first lesbian vampire.
The diabolical caped foreigner — with pointed ears, hairy palms and bad breath — became the prototype of the classic vampire.
"I Am Legend," by Richard Matheson (1954)
The sole human survivor of a
pandemic that turned mankind into vampire-like creatures discovers, ultimately, that he's the enemy in a new society.
"'Salem's Lot," by
A Maine town falls prey to an evil master vampire.
"The Vampire Chronicles," by Anne Rice (1976-2002)
The vampires themselves, depicted as beautiful,
terrifying yet regretful and thoughtful beings, give lush first-person accounts of existing with "the dark gift."
"The Vampire Tapestry," by Suzy McKee Charnas (1980)
A naturally evolved vampire, Edward Weyland, is that last of his species and a respected anthropology professor who must confront society's reaction when people discover what he is.
"Vampire Junction," by S.P. Somtow (1984)
Adolescent rock star idol Timmy Valentine is actually a 2,000-year-old vampire who enlists the help of a psychiatrist to understand his existence.
"Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter," by Laurell K. Hamilton (1993-?)
A 21-book (and counting) erotic/detective series about a crime investigator who specializes in raising the dead in a world where vampires, zombies and werewolves have been declared legal citizens.
," by John Ajvide Lindqvist (2004)
A 12-year-old boy who is the target of school bullies forms a loving, mutually protective friendship with the vampire child who moves in next door.
"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," by Seth Grahame-Smith (2010)
The secret diaries of the 16th president reveal vampires were behind most historical events (even John Wilkes Booth was a vampire) and that Abraham Lincoln was an ax-wielding avenger bent on destroying them.
"The Strain Trilogy," by
and Chuck Hogan (2009-2011)
Human survivors struggle to contain a virus that transforms people into horrific vampires that suck blood through stingers that shoot up to six feet from underneath their tongues.
"The Passage," by Justin Cronin (2011)