1. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson: You might know her for her horrifying short story, "The Lottery," but her memoir, which is really a collection of short stories about her wacky family, is absolutely brilliant and hysterical. I bought it for a dollar at a used bookstore when I was in 7th grade and impressed the heck out of my English teacher with my quirky choice of reading. (She actually asked to borrow it.)
2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce: Anyone that knew me in high school or college is aware of my obsession with this book. I have multiple copies if you want to borrow one. And if you'll let me, I'll happily talk your ear off with my theory about language and keys and Berlitz and Joyce and babies. It's a good one.
3. Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl: A delicious and inspiring memoir of the former NY Times food editor/current EIC of Gourmet Magazine.
4. Rosie by Anne Lamott: Something about the way Lamott writes makes me want to write. I have the worst time getting through her books, because I keep putting them down to go dash off my pages. It's the best way to get through a block. Also, I always see myself in her characters.
5. My Sister's Bones by Cathi Hanauer: I read the first chapter of this in Seventeen magazine when I was about 14 and then waited 10 years to finish it because I kept forgetting to buy the book. It was worth the wait.
6. Underworld by Don DeLillo: Huge book, but absolutely incredible. I love the detail. Bought it when I lived in Italy and read most of it sitting (under the Tuscan) sun in the Piazza Republica.
7. The Good Life by Jay McInerney: McInerney once again manages to make tortured rich New Yorkers sympathetic
8. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: sad and lovely. I think it's the first book that actually made me cry.
9. The Map of Love by Ahdaf Souif: heartbreaking and incredibly sensual romance by the Middle Eastern journalist/writer. I read it for my Middle Eastern Lit class in college.
10. Crescent by Diana Abu Jaber: I have a hard time describing this book because I just loved it so much. It's at time poetic, sexy, romantic, political, and delicious. Yes, delicious, because the main character is a chef and it discusses the intersection of food and life and culture. Oh, and it has recipes too. Wonderful ones!
11. A Literate Passion: Anais Nin & Henry Miller: An erotic and erudite collection of letters between the two lovers/friends/writers.
12. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde: Most. Hysterical. Play. Ever!!
13. The Awakening by Kate Chopin: Another writer whose use of language I adore. Also check out her short story "Ripe Figs" (http://classiclit.about.co
14. Striped Ice Cream by Joan Lexau: The first book I ever loved! And one that still pops in my head all the time. Particularly when eating striped (Neapolitan) ice cream...
15. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warren: Technically a series, but I can't think of any other book(s) that tickled my imagination (and desire to run away and live in the woods) more than this.