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Dracula - Bram Stoker I read this during my vampire phase in high school, during which I devoured anything I could find about those enigmatic, hypnotic fiends. One of my best friends and I spent our math classes writing overwrought, thinly veiled Anne Rice pastiches about our vampire alter-egos. Mine was called Juliana. I forget the name of hers. I read. I watched movies. I secretly stayed up late every night for Dark Shadows reruns on the local PBS station, keeping the sound on the TV in my bedroom turned low enough that it wouldn't wake my parents.

And I read Dracula, not quite the book that started it all (that would be Polidori's The Vampyre), but the one that launched vampires into the popular consciousness and kept them there for more than a century after its publication. And it did that because it's a crackling good yarn that I find readable even though my taste has turned toward a more minimalist prose style these days. He knew how to use a verb, our Mr. Stoker.

And this quote has stayed with me for close to 20 years now:

"Whilst I live on here, there is but one thing to hope for, that I may not go mad, if, indeed, I be not mad already."

I pretty well summed up how I felt about my life at 15 or 16, whatever age I was when I first allowed Dracula to seize me by the throat. I still kind of feel that way now.

Had to throw these in just for fun: