A controversial figure due to the often-virulent racism he displayed during his life, Howard Phillips Lovecraft is nevertheless one of the most celebrated, important, and influential horror writers of the 20th century. Hailed as the godfather of cosmic horror, Lovecraft lived and died in relative poverty and obscurity, but his work has become a cultural touchstone in the years since his death in 1937. Today, Lovecraft-inspired anthologies litter bookshelves, while you can buy everything from plush slippers to action figures of some of his better-known creations.
But where do you start if you’ve never read anything by the Old Gent from Providence? What if you’ve been turned onto his work by a story or two but are unsure where to go next? Not to worry. We’ve assembled some of Lovecraft’s most important, compelling, and spine-chilling stories for you right here.
Note that we said “stories,” not books. Although this is a list of books, such volumes are not really what Lovecraft was known for. Writing during the age of the pulps, Lovecraft primarily wrote short stories, publishing only a handful of relatively short novels — and at least one of those didn’t see print in an unabridged form until after his death. Nonetheless, Lovecraft’s indispensable corpus has found its way into countless collected forms, and we’ve gathered some of the most vital of these for your perusal here …
Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
Selected by Joyce Carol Oates and featuring a cover painting by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, this “best of” collection from Harper Perennial Modern Classics is a perfect starting point for newcomers to Lovecraft’s fiction. Collecting many of his best-known and most important stories including such classics as “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Dunwich Horror,” “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and “The Call of Cthulhu,” this affordable and far-ranging volume makes an ideal entry point into Lovecraft’s oeuvre, covering many of the stories that have had the greatest impact on popular culture and our understanding of the genre of cosmic horror.
H. P. Lovecraft: Tales
For a more exhaustive collection of the Old Gent’s work, one need look no further than this indispensable hardcover from the Library of America. As one of the few horror writers who have been honored with a volume in the Library of America series, the release of this book helped to solidify Lovecraft’s importance to the canon of American letters. It also makes for a comprehensive and highly readable collection of the author’s most notable works, including early stories such as “The Statement of Randolph Carter” and “The Lurking Fear” through many of Lovecraft’s most mature and significant stories, including his nearly novel-length classic “At the Mountains of Madness.”
H.P. Lovecraft Goes to the Movies
With IMDb listing more than 200 titles adapted from his work, H. P. Lovecraft is one of the most filmed writers of the modern era. From cult classics such as Re-Animator and The Haunted Palace to modern flicks including 2019’s Color Out of Space, there are innumerable films, TV episodes, shorts, and more that have either directly adapted Lovecraft’s stories or used them as a jumping-off point to tell new tales. Enter H. P. Lovecraft Goes to the Movies, which collects several of the stories that have been so adapted, giving an entry point into Lovecraft’s work for those who are coming to them from the movies. Along with the stories themselves, H. P. Lovecraft Goes to the Movies includes fascinating information about some of the best-known screen adaptations.
Supernatural Horror in Literature: And Notes on Writing Weird Fiction
Besides writing some of the most important horror stories of the 20th century, Lovecraft was also a vociferous and tireless proponent of the horror fiction of the past. In his most exhaustive and important nonfiction work, he lays out the history of, well, supernatural horror in literature, exploring the roots of both the British and American branches of the genre, while also calling out specific favorite stories. Besides a comprehensive overview of the field as it existed prior to Lovecraft’s own contributions, Supernatural Horror in Literature also provides a far-ranging reading list of some of Lovecraft’s favorite horror stories from other writers, which is bound to send readers down all sorts of delightful rabbit holes that will lead them to new favorites of their own.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
Lovecraft’s longest novel was never published in full during his lifetime, but it has achieved a towering reputation in the years since his death. In fact, it was the first of his stories to be adapted to film, providing the inspiration for the 1963 Vincent Price picture, The Haunted Palace. It has since found its way onto screens numerous other times, including Dan O’Bannon’s 1991 splatter classic The Resurrected. For those who wish to read Lovecraft’s most expansive tale of an inquisitive mind overcome by the powers of history and the dark arts, there are few better places to begin than in the Apollo Library edition of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, which features an introduction by modern master of horror Ramsey Campbell.
At the Mountains of Madness
Besides being adapted to the screen innumerable times, Lovecraft has also provided plenty of inspiration for graphic artists over the years. Perhaps no other graphic novelist’s take on Lovecraft’s work has ever been as faithful or as inspired as that of Japanese artist Gou Tanabe, who has been adapting a variety of the Old Gent’s stories to manga for years. The two-volume adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness just might be Tanabe’s masterpiece so far. It’s a dynamic, cinematic take on one of Lovecraft’s most epic and most beloved tales that has to be seen to be believed.
The H. P. Lovecraft Collection
Fair warning: Most folks who dig into the works of H. P. Lovecraft can’t ever get enough. Unfortunately, Lovecraft only wrote so many stories. For those who want pretty much all of them gathered in one place, the expansive, attractive, and affordable H. P. Lovecraft Collection from Arcturus Collector’s Classics offers a good solution. In six small hardcover volumes, this slipcased collection features the vast majority of Lovecraft’s tales, from his best-known works of cosmic horror to his more obscure stories of the Dreamlands and many more besides.