1. The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling. This series made me aware of the joy of reading. I had read other books before, but I usually had to force my way through. I eventually learned that horse books bore me. But Harry Potter made me read. It was fun, imaginative, and inspiring. Not to mention, it wasn't wrought with long boring descriptions about things no one cares for.
2. The Giver, by Lois Lowry. This book represents everything I believe in. It is commonly mistaken for a children's story, but it typically isn't very clear to the average American child. It is about love, it is about control, and it is about safety versus beauty. It is also short and to the point, with a very open ending that I appreciate.
3. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. I haven't cried so much while reading a book in my life. This story is really an eye-opener on life in Germany during World War Two, and not as a Jew, but as a poor German child. It is cute, it is funny, it is deep, and it is dark. This story has some of the most creative and effective methods of telling itself. It introduced me to the horrors and the irony of humankind.
4. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. This is another that reminds me of the irony in humankind. This is the book that has probably made me think the most. It is very deep and philosophical. You can read the description and think "Really?" because it sounds just like every other sci-fi alien thing you've heard of, but this story goes beyond itself. It isn't about destroying the aliens. This story is about saving the main character, and ultimately about what humans really are. It explores the good and the bad in humanity. I've read this somewhere between 5 and 8 times, and it is still very good.
5. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. If you are looking for a quirky story, The Phantom Tollbooth is it. This most certainly is a children's book, but it is a children's book that everyone can enjoy. It should be a Pixar or Dreamworks animation. Nothing compares to how mind-bending, imaginative, clever and fun this story is. Everyone should read this book at some point in their life. It emphasizes the importance of intelligence, it makes you laugh, and it makes you think without being dark or scary. I would put a quote here, but to choose my favorite I'd have to put the entire book.
6. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. This book didn't have to make me think deeply. It was clever and imaginative, but ultimately with this book I just seriously felt like I accomplished something. This book is more than a thousand pages long. I persevered because it was an entertaining story, and I felt smart reading it. The British humor is fantastic, the characters are colorful, and the imagery is exquisite.
So those are the six most important books that I plan to always own and revisit occasionally. If you have not read any of these books, please read them. Well, I'd forgive you if you did not read JS&Mr.N. It is a tedious venture. But I do believe that specifically, Ender's Game and The Book Thief are something to attempt, while The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Giver are books that everyone should be required to read. About 3/4ths of the population has read Harry Potter so I'm not worried about that.