Having wandered around the goth scene the better part of the last decade, sipping absinthe in the homes of hosts of spooky musicians, artist, and funeral home workers, I've come to the conclusion that not having a visible library is a major gothic faux pas. Every elegant sinister figure in pop culture reads, and you have to at least imply you do as well even if you don't. And let me tell you, a lot of them don't. They use books like lawyers do... as a backdrop.
Not to worry, my literarily challenged chums, I've got your back. If you're out setting up your first apartment, free to finally explode your bats and skulls all over every inch like a Michaels in October that was hit with a bomb, you can still fill up that smart-person shelf easily. Most people will be none the wiser. If someone who actually does read comes along and starts to talk about the books, just get them a drink and take off your clothes. That usually works.
Ed. Note: This isn't a plot to get dumb people naked is it? Author's Note: You ruin all my best plans.
10. Mein Kampf: Being goth involves a lot of being interested in things that make other people uncomfortable, and almost nothing makes people more uncomfortable than Nazis. You can't just pick up some World War II books at the discount shelf in Barnes & Noble, though. That's the sort of thing your dad has. No, it has to be the insane ramblings of Adolf Hitler himself. By the way, you are completely justified in not reading this book. Historically important? Yes. Well-written? I'm pretty sure that Twitter account run by actual wild birds has better sentence structure and less offensive politics.
9. A Thick H.P. Lovecraft Collection: If you actually want to read Lovecraft, Penguin puts out a great three-volume set edited by S.T. Joshi that is full of highly illuminating annotations. They also look very stylish, and you can borrow that previous sentence if you like. Barring that, there are plenty with bizarre covers and spines at slightly cheaper prices that serve just as well cosmetically.
8. Dante's Inferno: Luckily, Inferno gets assigned in school so you can usually pick it up for less than $5, even new. The John Ciardi translation is an easy read with a creepy cover to boot. For maximum impressiveness, though, you'll want to find one with the Gustave Dore illustrations. Speaking of Hell...
7. The Satanic Bible: Really, any pagan belief structure tome will do. You could just as easily swap in something like To Ride a Silver Broomstick by Silver Ravenwolf. Statistically you're better off going with Anton Lavey's Satanic work, as you're less likely to run into a true believer that will call you on it, plus it's cheaper. Do not under any circumstances put Aleister Crowley on your shelf without reading it. Anyone who will be excited you have a copy of The Book of the Law is intimately familiar with it.
6. Catcher in the Rye: Catcher in the Rye has been linked to so many famous murderers that there was a rumor for years that checking it out of the library put you on a government list. Salinger's novel is the kung fu grip of mentally disturbed and dangerous people. Make sure you buy it used so it looks like you obsessively go through it looking for meaning in your life. Underline a few sentences to be sure.
5. Just the Right Amount of Anne Rice: A lot of goths started turning up their noses at Anne Rice's books in the late '90s... but then Twilight came out and we all said how very, very sorry we were. Here's the thing about a proper Anne Rice collection on your shelf. You can't just own Interview With the Vampire because it makes you look like you have no depth. You must have at least one Mayfair Witch book, one of her non-supernatural historical novels like Feast of All Saints, and one of the smut books. If you can swing it, a complete bibliography looks keen, and you can always say you're working through it if anyone asks about one of the books.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
4. A Practical Guide to S&M: Goth and kinky sex are supposed to go together, even if you consider a weird position to be the foot of the bed. Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance and Submission is a nice thick book that will let the casual bookshelf-glancer know that you know which end of the whip goes where. You can also substitute real-world debauchery with The 120 Days of Sodom.
3. Something "Quirky" About Dead Bodies: There may be nothing more stereotypically gothic than a love of cemeteries. Fascination with burial and death is more or less the par. Cemetery Stories by Katherine Ramsland is full of easy to digest tales of weird graves, corpse adventures, and even a bit about necrophilia that you will want to bookmark for reactionary fun. After the Funeral by Edwin Murphy is also a good go-to collection of stories about the silly things that happen to famous people's bodies. This goes in the bathroom, by the way, not the shelf. It gives people the impression that you consider death light-hearted fare.
2. David J. Skal: Want something on old monster movies or horror actors? How about a cultural history of Halloween complete with murder and haunted houses? Vampires? All of these things have been the subject of scholarly books by David J. Skal, and each one of them is better than the last. Death Makes a Holiday is especially fun, exploring the most important date on the gothic calendar by looking at how Halloween is perceived across America.
1. What is Goth?: Voltaire is basically goth's court jester, there to both be highly placed and to mock every thing we do. As a musician his work is both satirical and surprisingly deep and nuanced, but What is Goth?, his basic guide to the more ridiculously over-the-top aspects of goth, is both hilariously and needed to show people you aren't above laughing at yourself. Might be a good idea to flip through the book and at least make sure the pictures don't look like you.