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5 Must-Read Mary Shelley Books & Where To Start Reading

We recommend starting with one of these five excellent books.

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

Mary Shelley

Step into the haunting world of Mary Shelley as we dive into the depths of darkness and uncover the twisted tales that have captivated readers for centuries.  So in this article, we will explore the captivating themes and chilling narratives that make Shelley’s novels the epitome of Gothic literature.  From the secrets and horrors that lie within man’s desire for power and immortality to the tragic consequences of playing god, Shelley’s stories delve into the darkest corners of the human psyche.

Prepare to be bewitched by the atmospheric descriptions and complex characters of Mary Shelley as we journey through the haunted landscapes of her imagination.  We will analyze the impact of her works on literature and popular culture and explore why Shelley’s legacy continues to resonate with audiences today.  So, gather your courage and join us on this exploration of the timeless tales of Mary Shelley!

About Mary Shelley

Who is Mary Shelley?

Mary Shelley was an English novelist, short story writer, and dramatist best known for her groundbreaking novel “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus” (Amazon or Bookshop.)  Born in London in 1797, she was the daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist activist Mary Wollstonecraft.  Tragically, her mother died a few days after giving birth, and Shelley was raised by her father and stepmother.  Her unconventional upbringing allowed her to pursue her passion for writing, and she began crafting stories at a young age.

What was Mary Shelley famous for?

Mary Shelley achieved enormous fame for her novel “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus” (Amazon or Bookshop.)  Published in 1818, the novel is considered one of the first examples of science fiction literature and has had a profound influence on the genre.  The story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a man who creates a sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment, has permeated popular culture and remains synonymous with themes of ambition, science, and the supernatural.  Beyond “Frankenstein,” Shelley’s literary contributions also include a body of work consisting of other novels, short stories, and biographical writings, cementing her status as a prominent figure in English literature.

About Mary Shelley Frankenstein

What caused Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein?

Mary Shelley was inspired to write “Frankenstein” (Amazon or Bookshop) during a summer stay in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1816.  She was in the company of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and John Polidori.  During a period of incessant rain, they decided to entertain themselves by reading ghost stories.  This eventually led to a competition among the group to write the best horror story.  Mary Shelley, then only 18 years old, conceived the idea of “Frankenstein” from a dream.  In her dream, she saw a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made.  This dream, combined with the intellectual discussions she participated in with her companions, laid the groundwork for her masterpiece, “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus.”

What is the difference between the 1818 and 1831 edition of Frankenstein?

The 1818 and 1831 editions of “Frankenstein” have some significant differences.  The initial 1818 version was published anonymously and presented a more radical rendition of the story.  This edition was more daring and forward-thinking with its themes, reflecting Mary’s youthful idealism.  On the other hand, the 1831 edition, published under Mary Shelley’s name, incorporated a number of revisions and additional material.  The revised version portrays Victor Frankenstein as a more sympathetic character and the monster as a more evil entity.  Mary Shelley added an introduction to this edition, explaining the circumstances that led to the creation of the novel.  Moreover, the 1831 edition reflected Shelley’s altered views, tempered by personal tragedies and societal expectations.  The revisions made the story less radical and more conforming to the prevailing ideologies of Victorian society.

Mary Shelley books

What was one meaningful quote from Mary Shelley?

One of the most meaningful quotes from Mary Shelley is from her novel, “Frankenstein”: “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”  This quote beautifully captures the central theme of her novel, emphasizing the disorientation and fear that come with unforeseen transformation, much like what Victor Frankenstein experiences in her story.

About Mary Shelley Books

Did Mary Shelley write anything other than Frankenstein?

Yes, Mary Shelley was a prolific writer and penned numerous works apart from “Frankenstein.”  Her other notable works include “The Last Man,” a dystopian novel set in the future, and “Mathilda,” a tragic novel exploring father-daughter incestuous love.  She wrote several short stories, essays, and travel narratives as well.  Shelley’s works often explored themes of love, death, and the supernatural, weaving a rich tapestry of Romantic and Gothic literature.

How many books did Mary Shelley write?

Mary Shelley is credited with writing seven novels, including her most famous work, “Frankenstein.”  The other six novels are “Valperga,” “The Last Man,” “Perkin Warbeck,” “Lodore,” “Falkner,” and “Mathilda,” which was published posthumously. Besides her novels, Shelley also wrote a number of short stories, essays, and travel books throughout her writing career.

What themes can be found in Mary Shelley’s works?

Some recurring themes in Mary Shelley’s works include the dangers of ambition and playing God, the consequences of scientific advancement, the power of nature, and the complexities of human relationships.

Who was Mary Shelley’s biggest influence?

Mary Shelley’s biggest influence was her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft.  Despite tragically passing away shortly after Shelley’s birth, Wollstonecraft had a significant impact on her daughter’s life and works.  Wollstonecraft was a prominent feminist thinker and writer who advocated for women’s rights and education, and Shelley read and reread her mother’s books which instilled and encouraged her daughter’s love for literature and encouraged her to think critically about social issues.  This influence is evident in Shelley’s writing, which often challenges societal norms and explores themes of gender and equality.

Exploring the Haunting World of Mary Shelley Books

Where to Start Reading Mary Shelley Books

What Mary Shelley book should beginners read first?

For those new to Mary Shelley’s works, “Frankenstein” (Amazon or Bookshop) is undoubtedly the best place to start.  It not only introduces readers to her writing style and themes but also remains one of the most iconic novels in literature.  After reading “Frankenstein,” consider diving into some of her other works, such as “The Last Man” and “Mathilda,” to fully appreciate the breadth of her talent.

5 Must-Read Mary Shelley Books

For readers looking to explore books by Mary Shelley, here is a list of five must-read books:

  1. Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus
  2. The Last Man
  3. Mathilda
  4. Lodore
  5. The Mortal Immortal
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

“Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus” is Mary Shelley’s profound exploration of ambition, knowledge, and nature. This novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Despite its monstrous appearance, the creature initially seeks love and companionship. However, his continuous rejection by society, including his creator Victor, engenders a violent hatred and a murderous vengeance. The narrative further explores the moral consequences of Victor’s relentless pursuit of knowledge and his abdication of responsibility toward his creation. The novel compellingly encapsulates the perils of playing God and the catastrophic outcomes of unrestrained scientific endeavor.

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The Last Man by Mary Shelley

The Last Man by Mary Shelley

“The Last Man” is a gripping and evocative tale by Mary Shelley that plunges readers into a dystopian future.  Set in the late 21st century, the novel explores the theme of human isolation and existential dread through its protagonist, Lionel Verney.  Verney, the titular ‘last man,’ is the lone survivor of a devastating global plague that has exterminated humanity.  The narrative chronicles his harrowing journey through the desolate world, juxtaposed with his poignant memories of loved ones lost to the plague.  Shelley’s eloquent prose and vivid imagery imbue the story with a haunting melancholy, making it a powerful exploration of human resilience and the inescapability of death.

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Mathilda by Mary Shelley

Mathilda by Mary Shelley

“Mathilda” is a tragic novel by Mary Shelley that delves into the depths of forbidden love and society’s expectations.  The titular character, Mathilda, is a young woman who grows up without her mother, who died giving birth to her.  She becomes infatuated with her father and harbors incestuous feelings for him.  Her father, too, is consumed by his love for her and ultimately confesses his feelings on his deathbed.  The novel follows Mathilda’s struggle to come to terms with her father’s betrayal and the societal ostracization that results from their unconventional relationship.  Shelley’s poignant writing delves into complex themes of guilt, shame, and societal pressures, making “Mathilda” a thought-provoking read.

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Lodore by Mary Shelley

Lodore by Mary Shelley

“Lodore” is an emotionally charged novel that examines the intricacies of familial relationships and societal expectations.  The story follows Cornelia, who marries the wealthy Edward Villiers, despite her love for another man.  After their marriage, they move to his estate, “Lodore,” where Cornelia struggles with her husband’s oppressive nature and societal pressures.  She eventually leaves him and flees with their daughter, Ethel, to Italy.  The narrative delves into the complexities of motherhood, independence, and love through Cornelia’s journey as she tries to create a better life for herself and her daughter.  Shelley’s nuanced portrayal of characters makes “Lodore” a compelling read that explores timeless themes.

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The Mortal Immortal by Mary Shelley

The Mortal Immortal by Mary Shelley

“The Mortal Immortal” is a short story that showcases Shelley’s skill in weaving captivating tales.  The story follows Winzy, who drinks an elixir of immortality and lives through centuries while everyone around him ages and dies.  Despite his initial excitement at the prospect of eternity, Winzy soon realizes the loneliness and pain that accompany immortality.  Shelley’s writing deftly captures his emotional turmoil as he grapples with the consequences of his decision.  The story is a poignant meditation on life, death, and the beauty of mortality, making it a must-read for any Mary Shelley fan.

Buy from Amazon or Bookshop

Mary Shelley books

Frequently Asked Questions About Mary Shelley

What are 5 facts about Mary Shelley?

  1. Mary Shelley was only 18 years old when she wrote “Frankenstein.” During a vacation near Geneva in Switzerland, she and her companions, including the poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. This challenge led to the creation of one of the most acclaimed Gothic novels in literature.
  2. Despite being known primarily for her writing, Mary Shelley was also a dedicated editor. She spent years working on editions of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry after his death, ensuring his literary legacy.
  3. She was a mother to four children, but tragically only one survived into adulthood. These personal losses deeply influenced her writing, with themes of life, death, and resurrection permeating her works.
  4. Mary Shelley was a visionary in her writing, with many of her works exploring ideas that were groundbreaking for her time. For instance, “The Last Man,” an apocalyptic novel published in 1826, is often considered one of the first works of dystopian fiction.
  5. She led an unconventional life for a woman of her time. Her relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley began while he was still married to his first wife, and their circle of friends consisted of prominent members of the Romantic literary movement, known for their rebellious and unconventional lifestyles.

Did Mary Shelley write Frankenstein on a dare?

Yes, it could be said that Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein” on a dare.  During their stay in Geneva, Lord Byron proposed a competition to see who among them could write the most terrifying ghost story.  This challenge spurred Mary Shelley to create “Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus,” a novel that would revolutionize the genre of Gothic literature and create the foundation for science fiction.

What inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein?

Mary Shelley’s inspiration for “Frankenstein” came from a dream she had while staying in Switzerland with her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, and their friend Lord Byron.  The group had been discussing the nature of life and the possibility of reanimating a corpse when Mary had a nightmare that would become the basis for her iconic novel.

At what age did Mary Shelley write Frankenstein?

Mary Shelley began writing “Frankenstein” when she was just 18 years old.  After conceiving the idea during the summer of 1816, she completed the novel by May 1817, making her just 19 years old at the time the book was finished.  It was published the following year, in 1818, when Shelley was 20.  This remarkable achievement at such a young age solidified her place in the annals of literature.

How much money did Mary Shelley make from Frankenstein?

The exact earnings Mary Shelley made from “Frankenstein” are not definitively known.  However, it is documented that she sold the copyright for the novel to her publisher for a lump sum payment rather than claiming a royalty on every book sold.  The rights to the first English edition were sold for £500, a significant amount for the time.  Despite the book’s immense popularity, this means that Shelley likely did not profit extensively from its subsequent printing and adaptations.  It’s important to note that the earnings from her novel did not bring her great wealth, and she faced financial difficulties in later life.

What genre does Mary Shelley write?

Mary Shelley is most commonly associated with Gothic literature, a genre characterized by dark and supernatural elements, suspense, and heightened emotions.  However, she also wrote in other genres, such as science fiction and historical fiction.

Mary Shelley was a prolific writer who left behind a rich literary legacy and whose works continue to captivate and inspire readers.  From her iconic novel “Frankenstein” to her lesser-known works, her writing continues to resonate with audiences and explore timeless themes.  So, whether you’re a fan of Gothic literature or just looking for a hauntingly good read, be sure to add some of Mary Shelley’s novels to your reading list.  The dark and twisted world she created awaits.  Happy reading!

What do you think about these Mary Shelley books?

Have you read any books by Mary Shelley?  Are any of these books or his other works on your TBR?   What book by Mary Shelley is your favorite?  What other Mary Shelley books would you add to this list?  Let us talk about it in the comments below.


Exploring the Haunting World of Mary Shelley Books

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