These are my favorite books of all time, more than 50, actually, and growing. I wish there were time and space to explain each one. If you want to know why any are on this list, just ask. The numbers 1-8 are a sort of ranking by importance to me. Something in the 8th rank may be just as readable and captivating but for me, the content may not have had as much impact as a book with a higher ranking.
Yes, I've read them all, some more than once. And I can warmly recommend almost anything else written by any of the below authors; I just refrained from listing every work each one has written and which I have read. (There are exceptions. Nothing else by Joseph Heller rises to the inspired genius of Catch-22.) No other book glows with the beauty of the English language like Lolita by the Russian author Nabokov, even though the story shocks many readers. (And Nabokov's Russian roots conceal his early acquaintance with the English language. His command of both certainly contributed uniquely to his linguistic power.)
And, sadly, my favorite juvenile novel of all time, The Lion's Paw, is extraordinarily hard to come by. If you look for it, prepare for an arduous search. (The author fell out of favor with his family, who own the publishing rights.) I have a new copy which I obtained right after its very limited 50th-anniversary re-publication in 1996, but I originally read it in my youth.
If you are looking for a book to read, you can't go wrong if you choose from this list, although if you're not "into" non-fiction, then I will not be responsible if you don't enjoy, for instance, Big Bang. If you do enjoy non-fiction, I will be surprised if your reaction to Big Bang isn't similar to mine - the most engaging, suspenseful, and faith-restoring book I have read in a quarter century.
I am specific about the edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotation, by the way. I fear that, over succeeding editions, important quotations will be deemed expendable to make space for later, and probably deserving, entries. So, if you do obtain a later edition, pair it with the fourteenth (or earlier), and if you have the fourteenth and you obtain a later one, keep them both.
I could add a thousand more books, (if I have read them). It pains me to leave some out, for instance William Bennett's compilations under the titles of The Moral Compass and The Book of Virtues. Perhaps, some day, I will compile a book of lists of books...
I am certain that I have forgotten to include a few titles which, if I were to think of them, I would be chagrined to realize I have omitted. When they come to mind I will edit this list.
1. Big Bang by Simon Singh
2. In the Empire of Genghis Khan by Stanley Stewart
3. The Great Evolution Mystery by Gordon Rattray Taylor
3. King Solomon's Ring by Konrad Lorenz
3. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
3. The Way of a Pilgrim by author unknown
4. Ken Purdy's Book of Automobiles by Ken Purdy
5. The Code Book by Simon Singh
6. The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
7. The Best-loved Poems of the American People compiled by Hazel Felleman
7. Cosmos by Carl Sagan
7. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
7. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White
7. Familiar Quotations, Fourteenth Edition compiled by John Bartlett
7. Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman
7. The Life That Lives on Man by Michael Andrews
7. Game Management by Aldo Leopold
8. Quotations from Chairman Bill by William F. Buckley, Jr.
8. Small Is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher
BOOKS OF ESSAYS
1. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer
1. Parliament of Whores by P. J. O'Rourke
2. One Man's Meat by E. B. White
3. The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner
1. Memoirs of a Superfluous Man by Albert Jay Nock
1. Pogo by Walk Kelly
2. Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
1. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
1. Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
1. The Enormous Room by e. e. cummings
1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
1. The Lion's Paw by Robb White
1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
1. Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts
1. The Oxbow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clarkson
1. Penrod by Booth Tarkington
1. Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford
1. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
1. The Source by James A. Michener
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. Follow the River by James Alexander Thom
2. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
2. Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
2. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
2. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
3. Halic: The Story of a Gray Seal by Ewan Clarkson
3. Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow
4. All Creatures Great and Small by James A. Herriot
4. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
4. Come Spring by Ben Ames Williams
4. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
4. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
5. A Fine and Pleasant Misery by Patrick F. McManus
6. Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
6. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Feel free to recommend more!
Addendum, 1 September 2010: How could I forget...?!
1. The Way of a Pilgrim by an unknown author
1. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
1. Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie
2. Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Freeman