Top Five Books — this is actually pretty easy. We were just comparing lists at work on this very topic.
The Killer Angels: Michael Shaara
I first had to read this book in college (under duress naturally — actually the night before a history final…) but ended up really enjoying it. A few years ago, I decided to re-read it. I loved it even more. I know it’s a novelization of events, but it really seems to come alive in a very true manner.
The Illearth War
The Power That Preserves: Stephen R. Donaldson
The final two books of Donaldson’s anti-hero Thomas Covenant trilogy (the first one). Gripping and bitter, full of despair and exultation. It’s amazing when you realize this entire trilogy would probably be one book in a modern series (you know the type — they're the ones where editors can’t seem to say “no” apparently).
A Game of Thrones: George R.R. Martin
First book of Martin’s Ice and Fire Series. Gritty, scary, and complex. Much much different than your standard fantasy fare. The best part is that he seemingly has no hesitation to kill major characters, so it really keeps you guessing. The 2nd book (A Clash of Kings) is nearly as good, though the pacing has fallen off a bit on the last two books of what I believe is supposed to be a 7 book set.
We Were the Mulvaneys: Joyce Carol Oates
I like Oates’ novels – I think better than anyone, she captures the inertia of everyday life, and the secret-selves that we hold inside, even that which we hide from our loved ones. I think “Mulvaneys” is her best: it conveys the hopes and heartbreaks of life and how random events can knock the vector of people’s lives way out of whack.
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan: Ursula K. LeGuin
First two (of four) of the Earthsea series. Incredibly simple storyline of life, growth, consequences – maybe in a way they are fantasy parables. Beautifully written. These books are incredibly “visual” in their storytelling. You could probably finish one on a lazy rainy weekend afternoon. Stop after the 3rd though – the 4th one, “Tehanu”, written a couple of decades later, was really disappointing.