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Despite the long-held assumption that supernatural belief would eventually decline as science advanced, this has simply not been the case.¹ Whether embedded in everyday life or seasonal customs, the pages of horror fiction, or the goriest of slasher films, supernatural narratives remain prevalent and offer valuable insights into cultural fears and values, historical and contemporary issues, and individual experiences and behaviors.

For its fall 2021 reading list, the International and Area Studies (IAS) Department of the UCLA Library presents 42 works that explore the inexplicable, otherworldly, and frightening. The list includes works of fiction; collections of folktales, legends, and myths; and scholarly studies by folklorists, anthropologists, historians, and film scholars. It is organized alphabetically by country, island, or territory, with some multi-regional works included at the end. Click on the linked titles to access the books through the UCLA Library.

May you find something here to help you pass these longer, darker nights of autumn. To borrow Count Dracula’s beckoning words to Jonathan Harker, “Once again . . . welcome . . . Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.”

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  1. See Goldstein, Diane E. “Scientific Rationalism and Supernatural Experience Narratives” in Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore, edited by Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie B. Thomas. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2007.

Armenia

The Flower of Paradise and Other Armenian Tales (2007) translated and retold by Bonnie C. Marshall; edited and with a foreword by Virginia A. Tashjian

"This enchanting sampling of traditional Armenian tales was gathered by the author in her travels and translated from Russian sources. A broad selection of more than 50 tales are organized by type-myths and legends, animal tales, fairy tales, stories of everyday life, and wits and dimwits." (Publisher's description)

Australia

Ghost Bird (2019) by Lisa Fuller [on order]

When her twin, Lainy, disappears, Stacey starts having dark and terrifying dreams about her and knows without a doubt that she needs her help. The author weaves Indigenous beliefs and experiences into this spooky young adult novel.

The Balkans

Tales From the Heart of the Balkans (2001) retold by Bonnie C. Marshall; edited by Vasa D. Mihailovich

"The diverse peoples of the former Yugoslavia offer us a rich folk tradition with lively tales to delight readers of all ages. Marshall has selected 33 stories that represent all major population groups of the region, including South Slavic, Yugoslav Albanian, and Yugoslav Romany. Translated from their original languages and retold for a broad audience, these tales demonstrate the diversity and unity of the region." (Publisher's description)

Bangladesh

Djinn City: A Novel (2017) by Saad Z. Hossain

“ . . . . When Dr. Kaikobad falls into a supernatural coma, Indelbed and his older cousin, the wise-cracking slacker Rais, learn that Indelbed's dad was in fact a magician―and a trusted emissary to the djinn world. And the Djinns, as it turns out, are displeased. A 'hunt' has been announced, and ten year-old Indelbed is the prey . . . . ” (Publisher’s description)

Cameroon

Ceux qui sortent dans la nuit (2013) by Mutt-Lon

"In Africa, the ewusus have always existed, but we dare not speak of these mysterious beings. Alain Nsona, to avenge the death of his little sister, will become an ewusu, able, at night, to make himself invisible, to fly freely and to go back in time. He will live trying and amazing adventures." (Publisher's description, translated)

Czech Republic

Old Czech Legends (1992) by Alois Jirásek; translated with an introduction and glossary by Marie K. Holoček

"Written in the early 1890s, before Czech independence and in an age of patriotic upsurge and romanticism, these thirty-four tales quite naturally reflect a glorification of the Czech past. While the details of the legends are necessarily archaic, peopled by kings and noblemen, ghosts and magic, the themes are universal." (Publisher's description)

Dominican Republic

Trece cuentos supersticiosos del sur (2000) by Marino Berigüete

"Beyond a simple book of scary stories, tales where witches, the devil, and ghosts weave a complex web of myths, legends and fantasy that trap the reader's soul." (Publisher's description, translated)

Eastern Europe

A Study of Household Spirits of Eastern Europe (2019) by Ronesa Aveela

"Household Spirits, the first book in the series, takes you on a journey of discovery of spirits closest to home. You'll learn historical facts, discover intriguing and horrifying stories, and enjoy beautiful illustrations to gain a complete experience of these elusive house spirits." (Publisher's description)

Egypt

Living with Djinns: Understanding and Dealing With the Invisible in Cairo (2008) by Barbara Drieskens

“The djinn is an invisible spirit with a will of its own that may lurk at the bottom of your teacup or seep through your pores to possess you. Djinns have long been an explanation for illness and misfortune or an excuse for unconventional behavior.” (Publisher’s description)

Finland

Geisterglaube in Ingermanland (1962) by Lauri Honko

Finnish folklorist Lauri Honko examines the legends, beliefs, and memorates (personal supernatural experience narratives) of Ingrian communities near the Gulf of Finland.

France

Ghost Stories in Late Renaissance France: Walking by Night (2011) by Timothy Chesters

“This study examines a large and hitherto unexplored corpus of ghost stories in late Renaissance French writing. These are shown to have arisen in a range of contexts far broader than was previously thought: whether in Protestant polemic against the doctrine of purgatory, humanist discussions of friendship, the growing ethnographic consciousness of New World ghost beliefs, or courtroom wrangles over haunted property.” (Publisher’s description)

Haiti

Hadriana in All My Dreams: A Novel (2017) by René Depestre and Kaiama L. Glover

“A beautiful young French woman, Hadriana, is about to marry a Haitian boy from a prominent family. But on the morning of the wedding, Hadriana drinks a mysterious potion, collapses at the altar and transforms into a zombie. Set against a backdrop of magic and eroticism, and recounted with delirious humor, the novel raises universal questions about race and sexuality." (Publisher's description)

Hungary

Elizabeth Báthory: The Blood Countess (2016) by Jill Keppeler

"Sixteenth-century Hungarian noblewoman Elizabeth B[a]thory became known as the Blood Countess after being accused of torturing and killing numerous young women. She was never convicted of these crimes, but accounts of her life became intertwined with bloody folklore . . . This gripping biography relates the fascinating facts and the gruesome and grisly tales that hound this woman[']s legacy." (Publisher's description)

India

A Face in the Dark and Other Hauntings: Collected Stories of the Supernatural (2004) by Ruskin Bond

"In Ruskin Bond’s stories, ghosts, jinns, witches—and the occasional monster—are as real as the people he writes about . . . . Featuring thrilling situations and strange beings, A Face in the Dark and Other Hauntings is the perfect collection to have by your bedside when the moon is up." (Publisher’s description)

Jinnealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi (2018) by Anand Vivek Taneja

"In the ruins of a medieval palace in Delhi, a unique phenomenon occurs: Indians of all castes and creeds meet to socialize and ask the spirits for help. The spirits they entreat are Islamic jinns, and they write out requests as if petitioning the state . . . Taneja's Jinnealogy provides a fresh vision of religion, identity, and sacrality that runs counter to state-sanctioned history." (Publisher’s description)

Indonesia

Apple and Knife: Stories (2018) by Intan Paramaditha; translated by Stephen J. Epstein

“Inspired by horror fiction, myths and fairy tales, Apple and Knife is an unsettling ride that swerves into the supernatural to explore the dangers and power of occupying a female body in today’s world. These short fictions set in the Indonesian everyday . . . reveal a soupy otherworld stewing just beneath the surface.” (Author’s website)

Iran

The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny (2018) by Alireza Doostdar

“What do the occult sciences, séances with the souls of the dead, and appeals to saintly powers have to do with rationality? . . . . Drawing on years of ethnographic and archival research, Alireza Doostdar shows that metaphysical experimentation lies at the center of some of the most influential intellectual and religious movements in modern Iran.” (Publisher's description)

Iraq

Frānkishtāyn fī Baghdād: riwāyah (2013) by Aḥmad Saʻdāwī; Frankenstein in Baghdad: A Novel translated (2018) by Jonathan Wright

"From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi--scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café--collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them a proper burial . . . . With white-knuckle horror and black humor, Frankenstein in Baghdad captures the surreal reality of contemporary Iraq." (Back cover)

Israel

Osama (2011) by Lavie Tidhar

"In a[n] alternate world without global terrorism Joe, a private detective, is hired by a mysterious woman to find a man: the obscure author of pulp fiction novels featuring one Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante . . . . Chased by unknown assailants, Joe’s identity slowly fragments as he discovers the shadowy world of the refugees, ghostly entities haunting the world in which he lives." (Publisher's description)

Unholy Land (2018) by Lavie Tidhar

Unholy Land presents an alternative history in which a Jewish homeland has been established in East Africa in the early 20th century (as historically proposed). The protagonist returns home to Palestina, which both closely resembles and is profoundly different from the Israel of our world. He is followed by two government agents who are trying to stop the destruction of "borders," though it is unclear whose side they really are on.

Italy

I benandanti: ricerche sulla stregoneria e sui culti agrari tra Cinquecento e Seicento (1966) by Carlo Ginzburg; The Night Battles: Witchcraft & Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries (1992) translated by Anne Tedeschi and John A. Tedeschi

“Based on research in the Inquisitorial archives of Northern Italy, The Night Battles recounts the story of a peasant fertility cult centered on the benandanti, literally, "good walkers." These men and women described fighting extraordinary ritual battles against witches and wizards in order to protect their harvests . . .” (Publisher’s description)

Kenya

The Sacred Seed (2003) by Rebeka Njau

In this gothic novel, Tesa, a talented high school music teacher is raped by a corrupt politician and flees the city. She seeks help from Mumbi, a traditional woman who runs a sanctuary for abused and traumatized women inside a forest. Mumbi immediately recognizes special powers in Tesa and asks her to plant a sacred seed in which the dreams of love and hope sprout.

Malaysia

The Ghost Bride (2013) by Yangsze Choo

In 1890s British Malaya, young Li Lan is asked to be the “ghost bride” of the deceased son of a wealthy family, and she is soon drawn into the shadowy world of the Chinese afterlife. She faces romantic and supernatural twists and must ultimately uncover family secrets to prevent being trapped in the ghost world permanently.

Middle East

Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural (2016) by Francesca Leoni and Christiane Gruber

“Spanning from Morocco to China and the 12th to the 20th century, the books, vessels, garments and jewelry showcased in Power and Protection: Islamic Art and the Supernatural present divinatory and talismanic arts as intellectual resources and founts of artistic inspiration . . . they also reveal how the human quest for protection and good luck has often overlapped with the belief in God's all-powerfulness.” (Publisher's description)

Alif the Unseen (2012) by G. Willow Wilson

"In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients, dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups, from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble . . . When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death . . . " (Publisher's description)

Nigeria

White Is for Witching (2009) by Helen Oyeyemi

" . . . Miranda begins suffering strange ailments. An eating disorder starves her. She begins hearing voices. When she brings a friend home, Dover’s hostility toward outsiders physically manifests within the four walls of the Silver house, and the lives of everyone inside are irrevocably changed." (Publisher's description)

Nordic Countries

​​Storied and Supernatural Places: Studies in Spatial and Social Dimensions of Folklore and Sagas (Studia Fennica Folkloristica vol. 23) (2018) edited by Ülo Valk and Daniel Sävborg

“This book addresses the narrative construction of places, the relationship between tradition communities and their environments, the supernatural dimensions of cultural landscapes and wilderness as they are manifested in European folklore and in early literary sources, such as the Old Norse sagas.” (Publisher’s description)

Oceania

Pacific Monsters (2017) edited by Margrét Helgadóttir [on order]

The 4th volume in a coffee table book series about monsters, Pacific Monsters features stories and art based on the folklore and mythology of Oceania. Written by authors from Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands.

Poland

Poganka (1846) by Narcyza Zmichowska; The Heathen (2012) translated by Ursula Phillips

" . . . The Heathen, rendered here in a crystalline English translation by Ursula Phillips, is the tale of a doomed love affair between Benjamin, a young man from a poor but patriotic rural family, and Aspasia, a femme fatale who is older, beautiful, worldlier, and more sexually liberated." (Publisher's description)

Romania

Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker

A Gothic horror story, Dracula follows a young English lawyer, Jonathan Harker, as he embarks on a business trip to Transylvania, where he intends to meet with Count Dracula, a client of his firm. The locals warn him about his destination and equip him with charms against evil, but Harker continues to the dilapidated castle to meet Count Dracula himself.

Russia

Russian Fairy Tales a Choice Collection of Muscovite Folklore (2014) by William Ralston Shedden-Ralston

"For fans of folklore and mythology, this comprehensive volume offers the best of both worlds: an astute introduction to and overview of the common themes and motifs in Russian fairy tales, plus an eclectic collection of charming and enchanting fables, stories, and vignettes." (Publisher's description)

Samoa

Telesā: The Covenant Keeper (2011) by Lani Wendt Young

Telesā: The Covenant Keeper is the first in the urban fantasy and supernatural romance Telesā series. The main character is a Samoan American who goes to Samoa to learn about her mother’s side and finds out that she’s a telesā, one of the beautiful and fearsome spirit women who protect villages and nature with their elemental powers.

Southeast Asia

Ghost Movies in Southeast Asia and Beyond: Narratives, Cultural Contexts, Audiences (2016) edited by Peter Braünlein and Andrea Lauser

“Ghost movies are embedded and reflected in national as well as transnational cultures and politics, in narrative traditions, in the social worlds of the audience . . . They reflect upon the identity crises and traumas of the living as well as of the dead, and they unfold affection and attraction in the border zone between amusement and thrill, secular and religious worldviews.” (Publisher's description)

Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (2020) edited by Lee Murray and Geneve Flynn [on order]

“In Black Cranes, Southeast Asian writers of horror both embrace and reject . . . traditional roles in a unique collection of stories which dissect their experiences of ‘otherness’, be it in the colour of their skin, the angle of their cheekbones, the things they dare to write, or the places they have made for themselves in the world.” (Publisher’s description)

United States

The Year of the Witching (2020) by Alexis Henderson

"A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself . . . . In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet's word is law, Immanuelle Moore's very existence is blasphemy. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness . . . [I]f Bethel is to change, it must begin with her." (Publisher's description)

The Gilda Stories: A Novel (1991) by Jewelle Gomez

“ . . . [I]n 1850s Louisiana, . . . Gilda escapes slavery and learns about freedom while working in a brothel. After being initiated into eternal life . . . by two women there, Gilda spends the next two hundred years searching for a place to call home.” An instant lesbian classic, this book explores “blackness, radical ecology, re-definitions of family, and yes, the erotic potential of the vampire story.” (Publisher's description)

Uruguay

La gallina degollada: y otros cuentos (1925) by Horacio Quiroga; The Decapitated Chicken, and Other Stories (2004) translated by Margaret Sayers Peden

"Tales of horror, madness, and death, tales of fantasy and morality: these are the works of South American master storyteller Horacio Quiroga. His stories span a wide range of short fiction genres: jungle tale, Gothic horror story, morality tale, psychological study. Many of his stories are set in the steaming jungle of the Misiones district of northern Argentina, where he spent much of his life . . . " (Publisher's description)

Vietnam

Build Your House Around My Body (2021) by Violet Kupersmith

“Two young women go missing decades apart . . . . The fates of these two women are inescapably linked, bound together by past generations, by ghosts and ancestors, by the history of possessed bodies and possessed lands. Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, . . . this is a time-traveling, heart-pounding, border-crossing fever dream of a novel that will haunt you long after the last page.” (Publisher’s description)

Multi-Regional Works

The Ashgate Research Companion to Paranormal Cultures (2013) edited by Olu Jenzen and Sally Munt

“International scholars across the social sciences and humanities [question] how and why people are seeking meaning in the realm of the paranormal, a heretofore subjugated knowledge. With contributions from the UK and other European countries, the USA, Australia and Canada, this ground-breaking book attends to the paranormal as a position from which to critique dominant forms of knowledge production and spirituality.” (Publisher’s description)

The Social Life of Spirits (2014) edited by Ruy Llera Blanes and Diana Espírito Santo

“Anthropologists have understood [spirits] as representations of something else—symbols that articulate facets of human experience in much the same way works of art do. The Social Life of Spirits challenges this notion. By stripping symbolism from the way we think about the spirit world, the contributors of this book [provide] a new understanding of spirits not as symbols, but as agents.” (Publisher’s description)

Out of the Ordinary (1995) edited by Barbara Walker

Out of the Ordinary explores the functions of belief and supernatural experience within an array of cultures, as well as the stance of academe toward the study of belief and the supernatural. The essays in this volume call into question the idea that supernatural experience is extraordinary.” (Publisher’s description)

The Terror That Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions (2015) by David J. Hufford

“David Hufford's work exploring the experiential basis for belief in the supernatural, focusing here on the so-called Old Hag experience, a psychologically disturbing event in which a victim claims to have encountered some form of malign entity while dreaming (or awake). Sufferers report feeling suffocated, held down by some "force," paralyzed, and extremely afraid.” (Publisher’s description)

About the International & Area Studies Department

The UCLA Library’s International & Area Studies (IAS) Department supports the UCLA community by cultivating research-level collections in a variety of subjects, formats, and languages and providing specialized research services. IAS staff consists of:

  • Alena Aissing, Librarian/Curator for Slavic, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies
  • Jade Alburo, Librarian/Curator for Southeast Asian Studies and Pacific Islands Studies
  • Sohaib Baig, Librarian/Curator for Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Islamic Studies
  • Ruby Bell-Gam, Librarian/Curator for African Studies and International Development Studies
  • Alice Hunt, Library Assistant for Slavic/Eastern European Studies and Southeast Asian/Pacific Studies
  • Diane Mizrachi, Librarian/Curator for Jewish and Israel Studies
  • Tula Orum, Library Assistant for African Studies and Latin American Studies
  • Jennifer Osorio, Head of IAS; Librarian/Curator for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Iberian Studies, and Ethnic Studies
  • Gissel Rios, Selection and Outreach Support Assistant
  • Shannon Tanhayi Ahari, Librarian/Curator for Western European Studies and Classics

About the IAS Reading Lists

Since early 2021, IAS has been producing reading lists on a quarterly basis. The IAS Outreach Team (Jade Alburo, Gissel Rios, Tula Orum, Shannon Tanhayi Ahari) usually selects the themes and specifies the criteria, and IAS librarians and staff provide the selections and descriptions. These lists are intended to showcase the global works collected by IAS librarians and are meant to be shared. If you have suggestions for themes or have questions or remarks, please contact any of the Outreach Team members.

Credits: Post created and formatted by: Gissel Rios | Introduction by: Shannon Tanhayi Ahari | Reading list selections and descriptions by: IAS librarians and staff | Edited by: Jade Alburo