by Dahlia Adler
January is the birth month of Edgar Allan Poe, and while he’s frequently thought of as “That Gothic author Americans were forced to read in school,” his range was far greater than people realize…and that’s to say nothing of what he’s inspired over 150 years after his death, and the clever, nuanced books that have sprung up in recent years as homages to both his work and his mysterious life. I’m of the firm belief there’s a way to get Poe out there to everybody, and here are a collection of titles to help prove it.
For the wee ones:
Want to make an early Poe fan? There are board books for that! From Edgar Gets Ready For Bed to Edgar and the Tree House of Usher, author Jennifer Adams and illustrator Ron Stucki have paired up for the perfect reads to make bedtime that perfect combination of Gothic and adorable.
For curious big kids:
Who HQ is masterful at making sure early readers have a way to learn about as many historical figures as you can think of, and Edgar Allan Poe is no exception. Authored by Jim Gigliotti and illustrated by Tim Foley, Who Was Edgar Allan Poe? breaks down the story of the troubled boy who became a literary master.
For visual readers:
Prefer your Poe in graphic novel format? Master adapter Gareth Hinds has you covered with his Poe: Stories and Poems, which takes seven of Poe’s legendary works and converts them into graphic stories perfect for those who like their horror with artistic accompaniment. (If you happen to prefer manga, though, good news: there’s a Manga Classic adaptation too!)
For Historical Fiction fans:
Curious about Poe’s altogether questionable personal life? Lynn Cullen’s Mrs. Poe is a New York City-set fictional take on the supposed love triangle between the author, his wife Virginia, and struggling poet Frances Osgood. When Virginia gets wind of the illicit affair happening between Edgar and Frances, she makes good on the maxim to keep your friends close and enemies closer. But is it a friendship for the ages, or the last friendship Frances will ever have?
For Horror junkies:
“The Fall of the House of Usher” gets the literary horror treatment by YA author Bethany Griffin in The Fall, about a girl named Madeline Usher who’s been buried alive by her own twin brother. When she wakes up in a coffin, there’s not just a “when” and “why” to unravel; she’ll have to save them both from the cursed house that threatens to drive yet another Usher generation insane. (That’s not the only Poe-etic trick up Griffin’s sleeve, either. Dystopian devotees should check out her duology, kicking off with The Masque of the Red Death, about a girl named Araby living in a world besieged by a deadly plague and doing her best to forget it all along with her paramours at the Debauchery Club.)
For mystery aficionados:
Author-Journalist Louis Bayard takes a clever look at Poe’s fictional military time with historical mystery The Pale Blue Eye, centered on a detective investigating a curious death at West Point Academy in 1830: a cadet found swinging from a rope with his heart removed. The case must be kept quiet so as not to sully West Point’s reputation, which means the detective needs all the insider help he can get, including the offer of assistance from a young, angsty Southern cadet who happens to be none other than our young Edgar.
For Romance lovers:
Think being a Romance fan precludes you from Poe fandom? Danielle Allen is ready and waiting to prove you wrong with contemporary romance and romantic suspense inspired by some of Poe’s most notable works. Her newest is Annabelle and Lee, a second-chance romance that brings two childhood friends back together, decades after their first kiss, but make sure you also check out Tell-Tale and Nevermore!
For Twilight fans:
Edward Cullen isn’t the only pale Goth boy in town, and if you’re looking to get a fan of mysterious paranormal romance into Poe, your best bet is definitely Kelly Creagh’s Nevermore, the first in a series about a Poe stan named Varen who gets paired up with cheery blond cheerleader Isobel for a school project, resulting in an opposites-attract pairing for the ages that only gets more intense when she gets swept up into his Poe-inspired nightmare world where the legends come to life.
For historical YA readers:
If you’re a fan of historical Young Adult lit, and especially of historical fantasy, you almost definitely know the name of Morris finalist Cat Winters, and you should definitely know her newest: The Raven’s Tale, a fictional take on moody and heartbroken seventeen-year-old Edgar’s discovery of his chilling runaway muse, Lenore. No matter how much his father forbids him from pursuing his writing, there’s nothing Edgar can do to keep Lenore under control, regardless of what it may cost him.
For short story fans:
So what do I know about Poe? Well, I happen to have edited this amazing (in my unbiased opinion) anthology of reimaginings of his work done by some of YAs best and creepiest. His Hideous Heart takes on both Poe’s best-known works such as “The Raven” (remixed by superstar poet amanda lovelace) and “The Tell-Tale Heart” (revamped by psych thriller master Stephanie Kuehn) and his lesser-known stories such as “The Oval Portait” (given a social media makeover by two-time Edgar nominee Lamar Giles) and “Hop-Frog” (turned into a historical fantasy starring disabled fae with eyes on revenge by New York Times bestseller Marieke Nijkamp) and freshens them up for the modern age. (Bonus: all 13 originals are contained in the volume as well!)
Also by Dahlia Adler: