Okay, okay. Trying not to hyperventilate. I could go on for a long time on books. I’ll try to keep it short.
Mixing fiction and non; no particular order…
The Great Gatsby* by F. Scott Fitzgerald: A nearly perfect book. Love it.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: Hilarious and sad. This book totally bowled me over when I read it. One of the few books I’ve read more than once (I’m a very slow reader).
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol: The first half of this book is one of the greatest works ever written. The second half has more to do with the extratextual events of the writer. We’ll never see how the book was supposed to end.
The Manuscript Found in Saragossa by Jan Potocki: It shocked me how exciting this book was for the era it was written in. Up there with Catch-22 for the most fun read.
Don Quixote by Cervantes: Possibly the greatest novel ever written. Quite engaging. Surprised me in that way, like Moby Dick.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf: Hard to choose one, but Virginia Woolf is the best writer the world has ever seen.
The Epic of Gilgamesh*: Again, blew me away. The oldest story; a sad, haunting tale about mortality.
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov: And so is this one. Relevant today. A jarring portrait of the dangerous of inertia.
100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez: I’ll need to read this one again, but I was quite taken with it when I did. A reading experience I cherished.
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende: Possibly the best YA book ever written—and I’ve read Matilda. Brilliant metanarrative and inventive use of physical text.
True Grit* by Charles Portis: Another haunting, perfect book, like Gatsby. The recent film adaptation was actually quite good; very close to the feel of the book. Was quite pleased with it.
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov: Another inventive use of text. Nabokov’s writing has influenced mine a great deal, like Joseph Heller.
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: Incredible albeit sad story.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: Ralph Ellison may be the greatest American prose stylist. This book is amazing.
Death of a Salesman* by Arthur Miller: It’s a play, but I read it as a book. The only book I ever picked up and started to read casually that I absolutely could not put down until I finished it. Shocking and powerful.
Cat’s Cradle* by Kurt Vonnegut: His best. Extraordinary.
Moominland Midwinter* by Tove Jansson: Okay. Kids’ book, yes. Short story collection, yes. Not a typical entry in the series (they’re mostly novels), yes. But one of the most depressing and insightful examinations of human loneliness I’ve ever seen. Some of these stories just…wow.
Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt: Potentially fabricated? Yes. Nevertheless important and powerful? Definitely. The dream is extraordinary.
Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins: His best. The only story he ever gave an ending.
Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev: Heartbreaking.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Probably everyone reads it in high school now, but you know what? That’s a good thing. Incredible story.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Another incredible prose stylist. The writing is astounding.
Not even going to get into picture books (Mr. Plumbean, The Paperbag Princess, The Missing Piece, The Giving Tree…). Also didn’t list the huge books (Journey to the West, War and Peace, Ullyses, The Buru Quartet), all of which contain multitudes. Also didn’t get into the weird stuff I read (most of it by E. T. A. Hoffmann). But this is a start. I put an asterisk next to the short ones (at least those I remember as being short. Some are close). Some of the most influential books I read, though; some of the best. Got a lot on my “to read” list. I’ll get there.