- The Stand by Stephen King. When I was working at the Hedberg Library in Janesville I picked up this massive novel, not sure what to expect. Everyone's heard of how good of a writer that King is, but I'd never read any of his work until The Stand. And holy cow, might as well start with his best work, eh? A sprawling novel that covers nearly all of America and dozens of characters, King's ideas of good & evil and human nature really make you think. A great read for anyone that can handle such a thick tome.
- Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Back in middle school we had a program called Accelerated Reader, where we would read novels and then take quizzes for extra points. One of the books was Two Towers, which I'd never heard of before, but another book by Tolkien, The Hobbit, had been pretty decent. Plus Two Towers was worth a lot of points towards Accelerated Reader. So I started reading it and then realized it was Part 2 of a trilogy....doh! Fellowship of the Ring wasn't on the list, so I just kept reading Two Towers, then Return of the King, and finally Fellowship of the Ring when it was finally added to the list. Needless to say things made a LOT more sense after reading the first one. Since then I've read all three about 6 or 7 times, and watching the movies just made me love them even more. My mom picked up the trilogy from a garage sale when I was in high school that was still sealed in the original plastic wrap. Little did I realize that these were actually printed in the 70s, with leatherbound covers. Probably some of my most treasured possessions.
- Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis and Larry Sloman. Let me tell you, if you want to read an autobiography and not be bored your best bet is to read one about a rockstar. Kiedis's life is downright ridiculous, from starting drugs at 12 to numerous girlfriends and drug binges he'd been through. Everytime he relapsed after being sober for months made me upset, but Kiedis managed to get up everytime he fell down. A very inspirational/interesting/downright funny account of his absurd life.
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Castaway before there was the movie, this is one of my favorite novels from when I was a little guy. Reading Brian's attempts are trying to survive in the Canadian wilderness directly caused me to spend more time outside camping and trouncing in the woods looking for flint and trying to make bow and arrows. And failing miserably. Regardless, nothing fires up the imagination of "what would I do in this situation" like a survival novel, and this one is one of the best.
- Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz. More twists that a pice of licorice, great characters, lots of good advice to apply to your life, basically everything you could want in a novel. Some people might write off Koontz as an author who pumps out novel after novel, but having only read this one I can safely say that if all his novels are as good as thing one I'll keep on reading. The Tock family is full of some kooky characters, but when it comes down to it they'd do anything for their family, just the way it should be.
Honorable Mention: Harry Potter series, Jurassic Park, Watchmen