First up is Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind. This is a book for true book people. On his tenth birthday, Daniel Sempere's father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. He tells his son that he is to pick one book from the cemetery and that he is to be the guardian of that book from here on out. The book Daniel chooses is Julian Carax's Shadow of the Wind. The boy falls in love with the book, but when he seeks out other works by Carax, he discovers that the man is a virtual unknown. Not only that, but what is known about him is shrouded in mystery. As Daniel grows older, he becomes even more determined to learn more about this strange figure. Shadow of the Wind is, and will probably always remain, one of my absolute favorite books of all time. It's dark and gothic and atmospheric and utterly addicting.
Next up, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This is the tale of two magicians in an age when magic is pretty much gone. It's very Victorian in style and even features footnotes (enough to drive the average reader mad until you discover the little gems found there - Clarke's own fairy tales). I loved this book. Sure, I was very intimidated by the size of this whopper, but it's well worth the read, trust me!
Finally, there's Elizabeth Kostova's Historian. A book about Dracula that had even the biggest book snob reading about vampires. Four years in the making and well worth all of the hype. It does have a slower pace, but is very gothic in tone, so if your reader enjoys things like Jane Eyre, they should like this one. The book is about three generations searching for the truth behind the legend of Dracula. It begins with a teenage girl who discovers a strange book that begins her on her own search. She soon find that her father and his mentor also began the same journey many years ago. Packed full of fascinating historical facts and vivid imagery, this is a stand-out novel for me and is another one that makes my top 10 list of all-time faves.