Spoiler Warning: This post may contain spoilers for Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Series (a.k.a. The Sookie Stackhouse Series), and by extension, the HBO show True Blood.
Editor's Note: Chelsea is also a major True Blood fan, if you're looking for more, check out her recaps of the show.
Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries brought a fresh take to paranormal. It offered a look at the normalization of vampires in the open world. The books were urban fantasy in a rural setting. Sookie and her companions offered Southern charm, grit, and plenty of bloody plot twists.
Whether you started reading when the first book Dead Until Dark was released in 2001, you dived in after everyone started calling the series “the Sookie Stackhouse books,” or you came to the books after developing an addition to the pulpy HBO adaptation True Blood, the series has obvious high points.
We’re here to tell you exactly which books are the best in this series. Expect spoilers, because we can’t talk about the 13-novel series without dropping some bombs. If you’re ready, here is Heroes & Heartbreakers definitive ranking of Sookie Stackhouse novels.
13. Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse #13)
Admittedly, those who weren’t Eric/Sookie ‘shippers may not stick this book lowest on the list. It’s hard to end a series, but one of the things I appreciated so much about this series were the clever plot lines. This one involved quite a bit of Sookie thinking, which even when done with great writing (as Charlaine Harris consistently does) isn’t the most thrilling. I’d always guessed the game plan was for Sookie to end up with Sam, but the manner it was done set it up like she was settling.
Plus: Sookie and Eric deserved each other. Damn it.
12. Dead in the Family (Sookie Stackhouse #10)
This was a bridge book. It gave a few answers as to why Eric wasn’t there to save Sookie at the end of Dead and Gone and we start to see her become a bigger part of the supernatural world, setting up plot points for future books. It’s worth reading, but not a big game changer.
11. Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)
I loved this book when I was reading it. Then I finished and started noodling on what I missed. Not enough romance for my PNR-loving heart. Lots of setting up for more fae drama, but no action yet. Vamp politics do threaten to take over Sookie’s life, though, which is always entertaining. The action in this one—particularly involving Victor—was primo, though.
10. Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12)
I have to give it up to Charlaine Harris, she follows through with consequences for her characters. The mystery element of Deadlocked, too, was genuinely twisty and the final reveal was a surprise. This one was released amid other “breather books,” which made it even more of a standout.
9. Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #6)
Quinn didn’t do a damn thing for me. Maybe it’s that every time they described him I imagined a giant toe. Kind of like Vin Diesel. Maybe it’s that he wasn’t strong enough to put Sookie first. He was an odd blend of alpha and pushover, which made for interesting reading, but left me missing Alcide, Eric, and Bill.
However, getting more insights into the Queen of Louisiana and venturing to New Orleans definitely scores points. Unraveling Hadley’s past and what that means for Sookie was good reading and pulled Sookie in deeper into the vampire world.
8. Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse #2)
If Dead Until Dark drew us into this unique, Southern, supernatural world, Living Dead in Dallas makes readers invest fully. Sookie now owes her life to the vampires, and Eric doesn’t wait a second before calling in a favor. (You have to appreciate the vampire’s knack for leveraging resources to the fullest.) He needs help finding his maker, and that puts Sookie and Bill in Dallas. The mix of past stories and current threats helps us understand the scope of this world and the reminder of how ancient some of the people we encounter are.
7. Dead as a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse #5)
Shifter politics, a murderer who might be after both Jason and Sookie, and a nice dash of Fangtasia drama? Sookie uses her powers in this one to try and help solve a murder. Not the first time, but it does mark the transition of her doing it more and more of her own volition than via barter for having her life saved. Sookie steps up, and we like it.
However, this is the point in the series when many readers started to ask if Sookie has magic lady parts because every supernatural hottie that passes through Bon Temps want her. As such, we’re sticking it in the middle of the pack. Heh. Pack. Get it?
6. Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #3)
Werewolves, y’all. This book is higher on the list for a few reasons. One, the world opens wider as we meet the packs. Two, Alcide is reason enough to have this book higher. Despite the fact he and Sookie never really worked out, he was a charmer. Three, werewolf bars look super fun.
5. Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)
Fae war! ‘Nuff said.
4. From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)
You’d think the book dealing with the fallout from the events in All Together Dead would provide a lull. Nope. Sookie is reeling after the bombing, and Quinn is missing. Her entire life is upheaved and trying to wade through it all while dealing with the stress of a MIA boyfriend and a brother getting married to a were-panther makes for great reading. We don’t need explosions to make a Sookie book a single-sitting read.
3. All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse #7)
The Sookie Stackhouse books are generally considered urban fantasy (despite the rural setting), and in the early days they were considered paranormal mysteries. All Together Dead, though? We could call this a paranormal thriller. The pacing is tight and the plot tension-laden. Every page drives you to the next trying to figure out who is behind each event. This is edge-of-your-seat excellence with a host of vampire goodness on top.
2. Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse #1)
Many times the first book in a fantasy series suffers from the “first book syndrome.” It’s hard to explain an entire world in a single book. Charlaine nailed it with Dead After Dark. This book held readers rapt with Sookie’s sweet charm, and her fascination with the vampires, which is mostly borne of curiosity. We meet Bill and as they develop a relationship we get a better understanding of this new “mainstreaming” vampire trend. The small-town dynamics established in Dead After Dark set the pace for the series and Sookie’s overall worldview. Basically, this book is totally re-readable multiple times.
1. Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse #4)
Long-time H&H readers may think my placing Dead to the World atop this list is purely due to my love of Eric Northman, but there’s more to it than that. The fourth book in Charlaine Harris’s series is when we start to get a better understanding of the world and what it means to be “other.” A big part of that comes via Eric and his amnesia. We have a vampire who has forgotten who he’s become. When those memories come crashing back, the clear difference of human vs. vampire in terms of how interactions and, more widely, the world come into play.
Plus, yeah, Eric + Sookie forever.
Learn more about the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris, order the first book Dead Until Dark: