3 of YOUR Favorite Books That Are Now MY Personal Favorites

So, if you recall, this past summer I complied of list of my readers’ all-time favorite books. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been using that extensive book list as my personal reading list for the past several months.

Now, I haven’t finished reading all 100 recommendations, but here’s my preliminary report covering what I’ve read (or tried to read) so far:

I have to admit, there were some books on the list I didn’t like, some I couldn’t even finish, and some I liked very much but that haven’t become my new all-time favorites. However, I am happy to report that of the books I’ve read on the list so far, there are three in particular that I’ve fallen in love with.

Here are those three:

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Ironically, popular culture has sucked the character of Dracula completely dry. He’s been relegated to two-dimensional, cartoon depictions on the cover of cereal boxes, and to puppet-impersonations on Sesame Street. Finally, over the decades, Dracula has been reduced to the standard, uninspired costume of every third grader on Halloween.

Poor Bram Stoker. The dismal fate that his infamous antagonist has suffered at the hands of the mainstream is a shame and it proves that there is such a thing as overexposure.

It’s a shame because Bram Stoker’s original epic, the one that features his infamous antagonist, is surprisingly refreshing, innovate, bold, daring and–yes–frakkin’ scary as hell. I would argue that the original manifestation of the character Dracula has far more depth and more personality than even a Lord Voldermort or a Lord Sauron. But most people will avoid the original Dracula because even the mere mention of the name “Dracula” reminds us all of those cheesy special effects in old black and white films–or those cheap, plastic fangs you can get in bulk at your local 99 cents store.

If popular culture has made you a skeptic of Bram Stoker’s original masterpiece, all you need to know is this: the original book is told through letters, newspaper clippings, and journal entries written from more than five different character perspectives. How fantastic is that?

Also, for what it’s worth, Stoker helped me solve a pressing problem in my own novel. So, I am very thankful that the dark literary classic can still keep intriguing new readers despite pop culture’s attempt to deprive it of its very soul.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Willams

I think I finished this book in about 15 minutes, but it was one of the most moving, touching, inspirational, and (for lack of a better word) accurate tale I have ever read. I say “accurate” because Williams describes something about life that somehow we always knew but none of us could ever quite put into words. In fact, I don’t think I can put it into words here without showing you Williams’ prose to you–and asking you to read it yourself. Truly, truly, outstanding. I think I even learned one of the most important lessons I have ever learned in life by reading this book.

But I don’t want to give too much away. It’s not that I don’t want you to know the ending (I think we all know what happens in the end from growing up and hearing about this story from peers and teachers) it’s just that I think there’s something wonderful and special about discovering the magic of this little book all on your own.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Now, how exactly has one of the greatest novels ever written remained under so many of our radars over the years? This is Oscar Wilde’s most stellar work, and it deserves to be right up there with the greatest love stories of all time, like Ana Karenina and Great Expectations.

So why isn’t it up there? The reason that so many skip over Dorian Gray is pretty clear to me: it’s a gay love story–and you know, we’d all like to think that gay people are more of a modern phenomenon.

Whatever it is, I think our youth are missing out by not having Dorian Gray as part of their school curriculum. The book deals with an issue that couldn’t be more timely for the younger generation today–a younger generation who is growing up in a culture where youth, beauty, and the ability to acquire wealth is valued higher than more enduring traits such as character, integrity, skilfulness, and talent. Moreover, the shocking increase of gay teen suicides across the country should be seen as a red flag to teachers that they ought to seriously consider introducing stories that feature gay characters.

Please, it’s about time we bring old Dorian Gray out of the closet and dust him off. (By the way, brilliant touch by Oscar Wilde in literally leaving his main character in the closet at the end of the book.)

Read this book. It’s amazing.

Thank you readers, again, for your recommendations. All of the books, even the ones that didn’t end up being my favorites, have truly enriched my life.

much “I❤ Books,”

Ollin

Did you get a chance to read any of the books that my readers recommended? If you did, please share your thoughts about them in the comments below!

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24 comments on “3 of YOUR Favorite Books That Are Now MY Personal Favorites

  1. Catherine Johnson says:

    Great pics, Ollin. I ought to read those too. Have a great weekend!

  2. Christina says:

    I have to read Bram Stoker then:)

    And you’re right about introducing more relevant books into the high school curriculum – I would also add books about anorexia, suicide, drug addiction etc.

    • Ollin says:

      Very interesting topics to put into the curriculum. I wonder if we shield are teenagers too much. We should teach them how to cope with reality, instead of denying that any of these things exist.

    • jenblot says:

      Hi. I;m new to the blogging thingy but I have landed upon your blog and am really enjoying it. Keep it coming Oliin!

      I do have a comment: I’m an RE teacher and couldn’t agree more about introducing more relevant literature into the curriculum. I am lucky enough, through RE and PSHE, to be able to explore these highly relevant and gritty issues with my classes already. I have taught about anorexia (and other eating disorders), depression, drug education, aspirations and careers, and wellbeing. I will be able to think about introducing these issues in ever more interesting and creative way thanks to your comments and posts.

      From a hopeful writer and lover of Dorian Grey since 1999. JenBot🙂

      • Ollin says:

        How wonderful. That is so wonderful. I wish we had more teachers like you! Keep it going and welcome to the C2C. I am glad you are enjoying it.

  3. Oh my! Two of my all time favourite novels: Dracula and Dorian Gray! So glad you gave them both a chance. The problem with both, is that they have been filmed to death, so everyone has a very stereotypical idea of those two iconic characters, but once your forget the cheesy films, and just read the novels, it’s an amazing experience. I envy anyone who reads either one for the first time.

    I am in such admiration of Oscar Wilde, imagine coming out in his time? The balls it took. Dorian is MY favourite novel, it used to be Dracula, but Wilde’s novel was so good that Dracula moved down to second place.

    I’ve heard of The Velveteen Rabbit and you have intrigued me, so I shall have to go read it sometime🙂

    • Ollin says:

      You have exquisite taste, Alannah! Yes Dracula and Dorian Gray have moved up to the top of my all time favorites. Maybe not the top 10 but definitely in the top 50.

      And you must read Velveteen Rabbit. It’s short but oh so sweet.

  4. Cris says:

    Dorian Gray was actually required reading at my private Catholic high school.

  5. Nikole Hahn says:

    Going on someone’s reccomendation I picked up Dorian Gray. After several pages I got disgusted with it. It seemed to be going nowhere. I am not sure why it’s so wildly popular as a classic. The plot is way too slow. I’ve read classics. Favorite happens to be Count of Monte Cristo and right now I am slugging through Alice in Wonderland.

    • Ollin says:

      Really? That’s so interesting. But I can see why someone might not like it. Especially if you don’t like dark books. It’s hard for me to get through Count of Monte Cristo, and I loved Alice and Wonderland! I guess we just have different tastes. Haha.

  6. Hi,
    Let me just preface this comment that I only just recently came to follow your blog and I am now finding to be really good, interesting, and well written.
    Nice post, and since I am newish to the blog, I clicked over to see the list. Interestingly there are no science fiction or fantasy books there. Not even Tolkein or even Harry Potter. So for what it’s worth I highly recommend that any book by Arthur C. Clark or Roger Zalenzby. Two classic Sci Fi witers. Of course if you haven’t read Lord of the Rings, do it. As great as the movies are, the books are amazing. Read The Hobbit first, though. For easier fantasy there is Terry Brooks, start with his Sword of Shanarra saga. He has lots of follow ups to it. And for really fun stuff, read Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe series).
    Just my thoughts
    David Goldman

    • Ollin says:

      Thanks David! You are right to point that out. I love Lord of The Rings and I have recommended The Hobbit in the past. Will have to add your rec’s to next year’s summer reading list!

    • Kris says:

      Actually, the list had Frank Herbert’s Dune and Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, both of which I highly recommend. In fact, all of Beagle’s work is high-quality fantasy, funny and beautiful. You can’t go wrong. But there’s still a shortage of sci fi and fantasy on that list! I also recommend The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s basically what 1984 would look like if it were written by a feminist poet in the 1980’s. Atwood is one of those few sci fi writers (though her body of work is much broader than just sci fi) who is accepted as literary by people who won’t touch genre fic with a ten foot pole.

      Dracula is already on my to-read list since I just watched the Bela Lugosi movie and also the one with Gary Oldman that came out in the early 90’s. But it’s just been bumped a little higher on that list.

      Oh, and I’m another new reader. I’m also a post-grad in my mid-twenties working on my first novel, one of the drafts I’ve started during NaNoWriMo. There’s a lot here I can relate to.

      Kris

      • Ollin says:

        Welcome new reader Kris! Always love to “meet” a new reader. Thank you for pointing that out. I’ve obviously not read those books yet, so I didn’t know. I’m now very curious about The Handmade’s Tale because I love 1984!

  7. H.Renee says:

    The Velveteen Rabbit is the only book I’ve kept from my childhood that isn’t stored away somewhere in a box. It still makes me cry, and it is the first book I recommend to anyone looking for a children’s book.

  8. Your choice of books is excellent. What I loved about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was the man wrotein shorthand to his fiance so that the vampire could not detect what he’d written. I have “Dorian Gray” as a graphic novel in my classroom. As a teen, when I first read it, and now, I thought the central message was he sold his soul for eternal good looks — and the portrait in the attic revealed the flawed, evil character that he was. “Velveteen Rabbit” – haven’t read it in years, but your summary intrigues me to give it another look.
    Hope you’ll pick up “Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas” by Tom Robbins. It’d be worth you while to spend some time reading that.

  9. Your choice of books is excellent. What I loved about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was the man wrote in shorthand to his fiance so that the vampire could not detect what he’d written. I have “Dorian Gray” as a graphic novel in my classroom. As a teen, when I first read it, and now, I thought the central message was his immorality: he sold his soul for eternal good looks — and the portrait in the attic revealed the flawed, evil character that he was. “Velveteen Rabbit” – haven’t read it in years, but your summary intrigues me to give it another look.
    Hope you’ll pick up “Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas” by Tom Robbins. It’d be worth your while to spend some time reading that.

  10. tmalkin says:

    I’ve been struggling with my fiction reading lately (too much time being spent exploring the world of blogging) but will definitely try “Dorian Gray” now. On the reference to “Great Expectations”, don’t you think that “Our Mutual Friend” is an even greater love story?

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