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I like to think that I’ve read all of the mainstream books and also the ones few and far between. I’ve tried fantasy, sci-fi, realistic fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction, autobiographies, fairy tales, and just about every YA book you could think of. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I found my favorite genre: gothic fiction.

Over the past few years, I’ve read close to 50 individual works by this brilliant writer. Known for her dark sense of humor, psychological plot twists, and her most famous piece, The Lottery, Shirley Jackson is a 1960s feminist author you *need* to add to your “Must Read” list. Keep scrolling to see five of my Shirley Jackson recommendations.

"All She Said Was Yes"

From Jackson’s collection Dark Tales, this short story details the passing of a young girl’s parents and her neighbors' obligation to take her in until her extended family comes to get her. The neighbors are quite concerned about the lack of emotion the young girl is displaying but write her off as distraught. Throughout the story, they fail to pick up on small clues the girl provides to them. As always, this piece ends with a plot twist-cliffhanger combination that will leave you shaking your head. 


This stand-alone piece has been deemed “predictable” by certain critics, but I have to disagree. If you’re willing to suspend belief and play along with this humorous tale, it’ll leave you laughing about just how sneaky some children can be. Not sure where to access it? Find the story here


We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Published in 1962, this mystery novel still captivates audiences today. This book also showcases Shirley Jackson’s frequent motif of integrating feminist views, which was uncommon at the time. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a favorite of mine for its detailed imagery, complex characterization, and rich plot. The focus of the novel revolves around the main characters, Merricat and Constance, as they attempt to hide from the world after a devastating tragedy. If you’re looking for an old creative mystery that incorporates the cottagecore (or cottage-mansion core?) lifestyle, this novel is definitely for you.


Ready to feel completely unsettled? "Paranoia" comes from the most recent Shirley Jackson collection, Let Me Tell You, edited and compiled by Jackson’s own children. In this wonderfully tense work of literature, you’ll follow Mr. Beresford on his way home from work, trying to pick out a nice box of candy for his wife’s birthday. What could go wrong there?

V: "I’d Like to See You Get Out of That Sentence"

And finally, for all my lovely writer friends, I implore you to head to Section V of Let Me Tell You for the most creative and inspiring writing tips of all time. This section contains five lectures on how Jackson goes about crafting her work, how she responds to the critics, and where she pulls her inspiration from. My personal favorite essay from this section is “Garlic in Fiction” in which she explains how important and delicate word choice can be. Let Me Tell You has been my “writer’s Bible” for several years now, and if you’re looking for a new source of motivation, this is a true necessity. Copies sold on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

While reading the author’s work is an incredible journey in itself, I immensely enjoyed a Shirley Jackson profile by Zoe Heller from the New Yorker. In her article “The Haunted Mind of Shirley Jackson,” Heller details the true nature of Jackson’s life and death in a beautiful and tributary way. This piece allowed me to connect further with Jackson and find symbolism in her work. Please feel free to check out this article here

Happy reading! If you like any of my suggestions, let me know on Instagram @juliaboyland.

Julia is from Westchester, NY and is a senior majoring in Exercise Science & Kinesiology. When she's not writing or studying anatomy, she loves hanging out with her dog, Molly, and watching New Girl on repeat.
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