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,”
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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