What Are Some Good Books About Monsters?
Posted on 28th of February, 2019


The scariest monsters to me are always the human ones as we never expect our fellow man (or woman) to be as vicious and warped as some of them can be. If I had to pick one such "monster" from a book it would have to be Clayton Broom from the Lauren Beukes book, Broken Monsters. This guy is basically a failed artist who goes completely off the rails when his life doesn't turn out the way that he expected. When he becomes a serial killer he doesn't just murder his victims, but use his creative flair to transform them into something very disturbing. Like all good horror books, Broken Monsters does have some paranormal elements, but honestly the killer would be extremely chilling if he existed in real life.
For me the master of monster books will always be Stephen King. He has come up with so many memorable monsters over the years that it is hard to keep track of them all. In 'Salem's Lot he gave us vampires, while in Cujo, he manages to turn a rabid dog into a terrifying monster. Then there is Pet Sematary, that contains some very chilling zombies, and in his book The Tommyknockers, it is aliens that step into the role of monsters. Then there is one of my all time King favorites, Needful Things, where the monster is a man named Leland Gaunt, who may or may not be Satan himself!
A lot of the answers that you will get to this question is going to depend on whether people interpret it as fictional monsters or the real-life ones. I'm going to try and cover all based, at least in terms of fictional monsters, so here are some books I suggest you read if they catch your fancy.

1. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - This one is rather obvious, but also not because it says "monster" right there in the title, but the monster in this book is not a traditional one. No, you see, this monster is a massive humanoid shaped yew tree that visits the protagonist in the middle of the night and tells him stories. Although this description doesn't make the monster sound very frightening, it does threaten to eat the protagonist if he doesn't tell him a true story of his own after listening to the ones by the monster. It is a really good book and has also recently been turned into a really good movie. While it is perhaps not the type of "monster" story you may be looking for, I would still recommend it wholeheartedly because it is awesome.

2. Jaws by Peter Benchley - I don't know about you, but I'm scared to death of sharks and I think this book had a lot to do with it. Like most other people I saw the movie first, of course, but when I returned much later to the book, I still found it very enjoyable. I think this is probably one of the rare cases where the movie actually enhances your reading experience as you can already picture the characters and setting more vividly. The other reason to read the book is that it isn't exactly the same as the movie. There are some added elements that make things a bit more interesting, but I'm not going to spoil anything here. And, of course, the shark is still pretty terrifying and definitely qualifies as a monster.

3. It by Stephen King - Almost any book by Stephen King would probably fit here, but It is one of his best "monster" books in my opinion. There is just something about clowns that are inherently creepy and the way that the one in this book just preys on the phobias and fears of kids is downright scary. Just a word of caution, the book contains a couple of things that both the two-part miniseries and the recent movie did not want to touch with a ten-foot stick, so don't read it if you are easily shocked.

4. The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro - Vampires count as monsters right, but instead of the same old Dracula story, why not read this interesting take on a classic monster by Guillermo Del Toro. Even if you don't know the name, you'll have definitely watched one of his movies like Blade 2, Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak or The Shape of Water. If you enjoy The Strain, also be sure to read the sequels, The Fall as well as The Night Eternal. There is a television series based on the books as well, but as with most of these things, it doesn't really capture the essence of the story.

5. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris - Not all monsters have fangs and claws with Red Dragon by Thomas Harris being a good example. It is the novel that introduced the world to Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who is a talented psychiatrist, who also happens to be a serial killer with a penchant for eating his victims. The book also received two sequels in the form of Silence of The Lambs, which was released in 1988, and Hannibal, which came out much later in 1999. Most people know these books from their movie counterparts, but they are great works that stand on their own as well.
There is certainly no shortage of monster fiction available and here are plenty of great recommendations already, so let me suggest something a little different for you. One only has to switch on the television to see that our country is completely obsessed with monsters, aliens, ghosts and other paranormal stuff. Some people are understandably very skeptical about these things, while others are passionate believers who are convinced that everything they see on these reality shows are the truth. Yet, even the most absurd and improbable "monster" myth or legend must have had its origins somewhere. This is a question that is explored in a non-fiction book called Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan. The author is not only a science journalist, but also a fan of monster myths, which makes him an ideal candidate to explore the monster phenomena from an objective and scientific viewpoint. It is quite refreshing to read something about monsters that isn't written from a viewpoint of debunking everything or breathlessly believing even the most circumstantial of evidence. Matt doesn't just look at recent lore either, but explores stories from throughout history. If you enjoy monster stories, but need a break from all the fictional stuff, then you won't be disappointed by this book. I know that there are a couple of other ones that explore similar topics, but this one is the best that I've read so far.
As long as we are going with obscure books I'm going to recommend War with the News by Karel Čapek. He is the same author who wrote R.U.R and this book is written along similar lines, but still very good. The "monsters" in this book are basically a race of intelligent newts that are discovered by humans in the Pacific. As is usual for humans, they then enslaved these creatures and exploit them. This leads to growing tension that eventually erupts in a full blown war between the humans and the Newts. I've heard stories that the author actually used extinct giant salamander as the basis for his monsters. Fascinating to think that such things once walked the Earth (although obviously not as intelligent as the ones in the story I would presume.)
You may think that monsters only reside in horror novels, but as an avid reader of science fiction, I would beg to differ. While I don't go out of my way to read books about monsters, I have read plenty of science fiction novels and I have come across a few of them that feature monsters that could rival anything horror authors could come up with. First up you have the giant sand worms from the planet Arrakis in the Dune series of books by Frank Herbert. These things are basically giant, wriggling mountains of teeth that can swallow man and machine whole. To make matters worse, they live under the desert sands that cover the entire planet and pop up when they sense vibrations, which is bad news for anyone trying to walk around.

Next, I can recommend the novel Alien by Alan Dean Foster. If you have watched the original Ridley Scott movie, then you'll already know what to expect from the book as it is basically a novelization. However, it is still well written and the alien is one of the most terrifying monsters ever in my opinion.

But what about those monsters that you cannot fight off with bullets and bombs? Disease is arguably one of the scariest real "monsters" we can ever face and this theme is explored in a book called The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey. It features a type of disease that is busy infecting the minds of everyone on the planet and the only way to make a vaccine is to harvest it from children who are immune to the disease. It is a great book (I haven't seen the movie adaptation yet) and one that will make you wonder if the scariest monsters on the planet are not humans after all.

My last choice is Event Horizon by Steven E. McDonald. This is another novelization of a movie, so if you have already seen the film, there's not much in the book that is really new. I do know that if you are squeamish about seeing blood and gore on film, then the book is probably a better bet, depending on how vivid your imagination is. Anyway, the monster in this book is actually a massive, derelict space vessel that has literally been to hell and back. The way in which it offs the salvage crew that boards it is pretty much the stuff of nightmares.
You want monsters? Here are a couple of them for you:

The Tescara from "It Lives in The Basement" by Sahara Foley. In terms of monsters, this one from the book It Lives in The Basement is pretty unique. I'm not going to describe it here, because most of the book involves people trying to figure out what it is and how to stop it, but let's just say you would not want to run into it.

Zombies from "The Hand That Feeds" by Michael W. Garza. Yes, I know that zombies are a dime a dozen these days, but they are still monsters and The Hand That Feeds is one of my favorite books featuring them. If you are looking for a lot of action, then this isn't the best book for you, but if you can appreciate a well told story with plenty of human drama, then go grab it now. It is about a couple who lose their son, only to see him come back from the dead as a zombie. What happens next I will leave up to you to find out.
There is only one "book" monster that scared me and that is The Judge from Blood Meridian. I read the book because somone told me it's an "anti-western" which sounded intriguing, but Judge Holden is the scariest antagonist I've ever encountered in literature.
Cthulhu from The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft. Imagine a combination of a dragon and octopus with a humanoid shape and you have some inkling of an idea what Cthulhu looks like. You wouldn't actually want to see this monster, though, as according to Lovecraft, it can drive people insane merely by them seeing how it looks. Fortunately for humanity, Cthulhu remained trapped in the book, but if he were ever to return, then our planet would be in deep, deep trouble.

The Triffids from The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. Menacing, human eating monster plants are not new in literature, they've been around for years and years, but there's just something about the Triffids that terrifies me. Not only can they grow up to ten feet tall, but unlike other plants, these freaking things are mobile, so they can basically chase you down and kill you. Then there's their stingers, which can be up to ten feet long and is used to lash a person in the face to kill them. These plants also don't devour you like the one in Little Shop of Horrors, but simply take root besides your decaying corpse to feast.

The Woman in Black from The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. A lot of people will disagree with me here, but in my opinion, ghosts are monsters, especially the malevolent ones. The Woman in Black is one of my favorite ghosts as you can understand why she is haunting the Eel Marsh House. However, she also causes a lot of pain and suffering for many people, which makes her a monster. The book was written by Susan Hill in 1983, but ignore the sequel that came out in 2014 as it from a completely different author and comes nowhere close to the original.

The Horla from The Horla by Guy de Maupassant. I'll end things off with a bit of an obscure one, but it is an important one nonetheless. It first came out in 1887 and even managed to intrigue Lovecraft, with many claiming that it served as inspiration for his own book, The Call of Cthulhu. The Horla is basically a type of psychic vampire that drains the life force from its victims while they are sleeping. This obviously has an impact on their sanity as they can feel this malevolent presence around them dominating them.

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FEATURED AUTHOR - Shilah Ferr grew up in Morristown, New Jersey with her brother and sister. We share treasured memories of high school, the Jersey shore, and skiing with cousins in Mt. Snow, Vermont, all of which became part of April's Heart. She went to college in Washington, DC, and became a teacher. Shilah lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with my husband of thirty years. Her two boys are in their twenties making their own way in the world. She enjoys cooking (has done some catering), her daily power walks (… Read more