Despite their age, classics like The Picture of Dorian Gray continue to tackle important and controversial issues. For example, Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel Dorian Gray is a vehicle through which he examines the relationship between beauty and morality; art and imitation; negative consequences of influence; and superficiality in society.
With the help of new friend Lord Henry Wooten, Dorian sells his soul in exchange for the ability to look exactly like he did in a recent photo shoot: young and handsome. As a result, while the painting in question would begin to show the ravages of Dorian’s hedonistic lifestyle, he would remain as youthful and attractive as ever.
But, as with all bargains with the devil, nothing lasts forever.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many other titles like The Picture of Dorian Gray out there. I’m confident you’ll enjoy this mix of classic Victorian literature and contemporary works that explore similar, timely themes.
Books like The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, by Victor Hugo
We feel particularly poignant about our first novel given the fire at Notre Dame in 2019 as it was written during the French Revolution when the cathedral was in a state of disrepair. At its core are themes of jealousy, revolution, social strife, prejudice and above all love. This supreme structure is embedded in tragic irony.
When archdeacon Claude Frollo and king’s archer Phoebus de Chateupers both want to marry the beautiful and young Romani girl, Esmerelda, Quasimodo, the hunchback bell-ringer, becomes entangled in their schemes to get their hands on her. It’s important not to judge people based on their appearance, and Quasimodo’s selflessness is an example of that.
Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, has many themes that are at odds with Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. However, there is still a great deal to enjoy for fans of Wilde’s work.
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton’s pitiful Lily Bart from her 1905 novel The House of Mirth is one character who, like Dorian Gray, I’m sure would take a similar deal with the devil.
Many men lust after Lily because of her beauty and charm, but in New York social circles, charm and beauty aren’t enough. There are a number of things that Lily’s and your finances are in decline, as well as the quality of your friends and the amount of time you have left.
Despite being innocent, Lily has been caught out with the wrong men a few too many times, and as a result of the rumors that circulate, she slowly but surely loses everything and falls out of favor with the rest of society as she approaches the age of 30.
When it comes to portraying life in the upper echelons of society and the role, or lack thereof, of unmarried women, Wharton does an excellent job. Because of Wharton’s keen observation of society’s superficiality, fans of novels like The Picture of Dorian Grey will enjoy The House of Mirth as well.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Dracula, Bram Stoker’s enduringly popular novel, joins The Picture of Dorian Gray as a Gothic novel in this next installment.
A wealthy Transylvanian nobleman known as Count Dracula is introduced to us through letters, diary entries, telegrams and ship’s logs (and centuries-old vampire).
To spread his vampiric curse, he sets out from Transylvania for England in search of fresh blood. To assist the Count with the transition, Jonathan Harker, a newly qualified solicitor, is hired.
A string of unexplained deaths and mysterious disappearances begin to occur at the same time as the Count arrives in England, and we learn from Harker that the Count is handsome, intelligent, and charismatic.
Stoker’s Dracula is more than just a frightful vampire story; it’s an in-depth look at the darker aspects of human nature, good versus evil, the influence of money, and a glimpse into the supernatural.
Is this a well-known gothic novel? Our list of books similar to Dracula is here!
Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
A list of books like Dorian Gray would not be complete without mentioning Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the original devilish tale.
The plot remains the same: a man bargains with the devil for something in exchange for his soul, based on German legends about the titular Faust. A German doctor (Faustus) decides to start practicing magic because he is fed up with the limitations of traditional knowledge such as law, religion, and medicine.
It is only after learning the Dark Arts and summoning the demon Mephistopheles that Faustus is forced to give up his soul to Lucifer in exchange for his service to Mephistopheles for a period of twenty-four years.
Over the course of twenty-four years, Mephistopheles showers Faustus with gifts and books on magic, but like all good things, devilish deals must come to an end.
I prefer Marlowe’s telling of Faust’s story in Doctor Faustus even though it is a play and there are many other books based on it.
The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, a timeless classic about love, jealousy, appearances, and magic, has supernatural elements, as do many other novels like The Picture of Dorian Gray.
At a Parisian opera house that is said to be haunted due to a number of strange happenings, including suspicious suicides, chandeliers falling from the ceiling and the disappearance of entire companies of performers among so many other oddities.
The story revolves around Christine Daaé, a lesser-known operatic soprano, who the narrator claims is the work of The Opera Phantom. After her father’s death, he promised her that the “Angel of Music” would watch over and protect her, but he had no idea how well-meaning this “Angel of Music” would be.
Despite the numerous adaptations and the book’s enduring influence, Leroux’s original The Phantom of the Opera is the darkest and most intense of them all, and a pure delight to read in its original form.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a fantastical and satirical novella about a man who ages backwards, is a great choice if you’re looking for more books like The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Benjamin Button was born in 1860 as a frail and elderly man. Although his age and maturity allow him to take on more of life’s experiences, he does so in reverse, starting a business, falling in love, having children, attending Harvard University, then returning to school and kindergarten before relying on a nurse once more.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, is a must-read for classic literature fans.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
In order to be considered relevant and speak to us on so many levels today, books like The Picture of Dorian Gray and our upcoming novel have to be doing something right, and our next novel does just that in terms of gender relations, anxiety and uncertainty, love and self-reliance. Classic Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre, is the subject.
In this bildungsroman, we follow the titular Jane as she faces the many challenges that life has for her to deal with. At Lowood, she was a victim of her aunt’s abuse and endured horrendous living conditions, but she eventually found love and acceptance.
Bront’s portrayal of Jane’s spiritual and moral growth in the first-person first-person perspective revolutionized prose fiction.
Novels like The Picture of Dorian Grey and Jane Eyre are ideal for those who enjoy reading to escape because of their complex storylines and powerful imagery.
Already familiar with and enamored with this well-known work of literature? If you like Jane Eyre, check out our list of books that are similar!
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has a lot to offer Dorian Gray fans, such as morality, class, appearance versus reality, and human nature’s double-edged swords, among other things.
John Gabriel Utterson of London is first introduced in the 1886 novel Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in which he is asked to investigate the strange happenings between his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the mysterious Edward Hyde.
After initially telling Utterson that he could get rid of Hyde whenever he wanted, Dr. Jekyll soon reveals to him that this is not the case…
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a literary achievement, even if many are familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson’s story because of the numerous adaptations (the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” even entered the vernacular to describe characters with dual personalities).
These books, all of which have stood the test of time and been hailed as literary masterpieces, offer something for literary fans of all stripes to appreciate.