Dracula's one of those books that you think you know well before you read it.
Because Dracula the character has been so completely, ruthlessly assimilated into our collective pop consciousness, it's easy to say just about every person in the western world who's walking and talking knows about him, however vaguely. And it's true--Dracula as an archetype/stereotype is around for most people from childhood on. He's one of the very first monsters we know the name of, and his visage has glowered from every conceivable consumer durable that can be manufactured, from movies to cereal to condoms to Sesame Street. Even if the name isn't used, "vampire" and "Dracula" have become synonymous.
But like most things we know, we don't really know much until we go to the source material. And Bram Stoker's novel Dracula is a book that managed to dip into a very deep well of the human heart and mind, not through its general use of a vampire antagonist but through his very specific creation, of one extraordinary man who longed for more, with such iron will and ferocious ambition that he outstripped his humanity.
I first read Dracula in college. I picked up the Bantam Books paperback that had "Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon" on it:
And, after being startled by the fact that the book "wasn't what I expected" (although what I did expect remains hazy to me) I devoured it, read my original copy to shreds and have read the book every year, around this time, ever since. Every time I do, new facets of this group of characters--a bunch of So Very Victorian Vampire Hunters, and their raging prey--get clearer to me.
(Okay, before we go any further: I'm going in depth here, talking about the entire book, INCLUDING the ending. So if you have for some reason eluded the story of Dracula thus far and want to keep it as a surprise, don't read any further, okay? Also, is it nice on your compound? Can I see your guns?)
All righty then...