A couple months ago I read about a popular trend amongst bloggers to post their 10 most influential books in chronological gut-feeling based order... So I will do just that.
1. Where the Wild things are - Well I don't remember my exact reactions to the book, but I do remember that this was my favorite book read to me as a child and definitely plots a course that I've maintained (both in the books I've read and in the work I've created). So here's my earliest nod to the world of monsters and fantasy.
2. Grunts - Maybe I'm jumping ahead here and skipping over like 8 years or so of constant fantasy novel reading, but I gotta be somewhat discerning about this list. Grunts, written by Mary Gentle (a purposely ironic pen-name I'm guessing), is the tale of a group of inherently evil Orcs who stumble upon a cache of Guns and Ammunition and begin to wreak havoc on elves and sprites and other fairytale creatures. It's replete with gore, violence and sarcasm; I loved it.
3. Brave New World - (Written by Aldous Huxley) Another couple year jump ahead in time, my first dance with the Distopia genre; a genre which I would grow to love and devour. Maybe it wasn't my single favorite distopic story, but it was damn close and it set the pace.
4. Discworld novels and a Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy - okay so I'm condensing and combining a lot in this one. Discworld novels by Terry Pratchette are fantastically well written comedic stories which take place in a phantasmagorical world which rests on the back of four elephants who stand atop a turtle who is floating through outer-space; I must have read ten or fifteen of these. Similarly Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is probably one of the funniest and most brilliant takes on a futuristic sci-fi ever written, and I doubt anyone will argue that point.
5. Choke - Chuck Palanhiuk's book about Sexaholism is sick, disturbing, grotesque, strange, stylish, funny and brilliant all rolled into one. It was also my real first non-sci-fi/fantasy novel that I read for something other than a school assignment. I went on to read most everything he wrote and enjoyed a good 80-90% of it.
6. Stranger in a Strange Land - This tale of a superhuman born on mars with the ability to see and in hear in a completely different and transcendent way, felt more like a book of beautiful philosophy than it did like a futuristic sci-fi. But I enjoyed both aspects immensely.
7. Atlas Shrugged - Well, yeah, I did the Ayn Rand thing and I read em both (Fountainhead first) and I'm not gonna lie, I really enjoyed them. Opinions of the late Mrs. Rand aside, the book is a stellar read and when you look at objectivism in very simplistic terms and ignore the inhumanity of it, well then you have very driving and motivational concept.
8. Blue Beard - I really have a lot of trouble picking one Kurt Vonnegut novel, but Blue Beard does still reign as my favorite. Kurt Vonnegut waxing, well... Vonnegut, about the Art Expressionists movement is right up my ally. But I can't dwell on that novel; Vonnegut's humanist conceptions and curmudgeonly ramblings have grown to be a great treasures which I store somewhere in the depths of my brain or, as he would call it: my two and a half pounds of dog-food.
9. The Wild Sheep Chase - Picking my favorite Haruki Murakami novel is even harder than picking my favorite Vonnegut. His inimitable style is so spiritual and ephemeral that all of his books have sort of melted together to create a strange surreal fabric... it's hard to explain, sort of like any one of the novel's he's written. The Wild Sheep Chase, though not as in depth as Kafka on the Shore or The Wind Up Bird Chronicles was my introduction to his poetic nature and I have been a huge fan ever since.
10. Infinite Jest - What can I say about this epic novel by David Foster Wallace... I dunno. It's unquantifiable. It's like life.... only.... with a (useful) appendix. Undoubtedly the greatest novel I ever read, but I still will not recommend it to anyone.
11th runner up : Voltaire's Candide because he's right "We must cultivate our gardens"
notable mentions: Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of being, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, Dave Eggar's Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Cervantes' Don Quixote (I really should have figured out how to get this one in there), Goerge Orwell's 1984
I'm sure I'm forgetting stuff