I read a little Lovecraft when I was young, but recently I've wanted to get back into it, and truly experience the origins of some of my favorite beasties. I've been reading some of the short stories, including rereading The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
My question for the boards is, what are the must-reads?
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"At the Mountains of Madness" is probably Lovecraft's best work of all time, not coincidentially because it also happens to be his longest. I have also always been partial to "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath". It is very much unlike his other stuff, which invariably has some New Englander protagonist being driven mad by some nameless/shapeless horror. "Dream-Quest" is much more fantasy-like, but the depth and texture of the setting is incomparable. Plus, it sets you up to enjoy the Hero of Dreams series, by Brian Lumley. Of all the authors who belong to the modern narrators of the Lovecraft Mythos, Lumley is, in my opinion, one of the best.
The Colour Out Of Space is head and shoulders above most of the rest of HPL's work.
The Lurking Fear might be my favourite story.
Entombed With The Pharaos is great, as is Herbert West: Re-animator and The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward.
Elsewhere, The Rats In The Walls manages to be both awe-inspiringly idiotic and really, really creepy - an impressive two-fer. Pickman's Model is pretty good, as is The Dreams In The Witch-house.
Finally, I belong to the camp that thinks At The Mountains Of Madness is one of his worst stories - because it is far too long. I also don't think The Call Of Cthulhu is all that great. Don't bother reading Dagon, either.
Read everytning of Lovecraft's then switch to August Derleth and Brian Lumly's Cthulhu stories.
DON'T read August Derleth. The man, though a good writer, screwed up what Lovecraft was trying to do. I will also give him props for keeping Lovecraft in print.
And if you're going to read Lumley, read his early stuff.
As for others to read, Ramsey Campbell is the first that comes to mind. And not just his Lovecraftian stuff either.
Search out other writers like Robert Bloch, Clask Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and a lot of the other Weird Tales writers. And if you really get into the Tales, look for all the in jokes.