for Patricia, who asked:
Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain , particularly "Taran Wanderer". Alexander is hands-down my favorite writer for children/young adults, amazing with the fantasy genre and so beautiful at the sentence level as well, and Taran's search for himself as reflected in his friends and embodied in the work he learns to do is perfection.
Margaret Atwood "Cat's Eye" because it's a perfectly constructed novel and because its description of friendship, among women in particular, still hits me between the eyes.
Jane Austen's "Emma" because it made me go back and re-examine that whole period and wonder if it wasn't a lot smarter and funnier than I'd thought (it was!). It was my introduction to sophisticated irony, maybe.
Nicholson Baker's "The Mezzanine" because it does what I wanted "Ulysses" to do; it takes the reader inside a moment and makes the nuances of that moment visible through his eyes; and it made me see the value in examining my own moments more carefully.
Kazuo Ishiguru's "Remains of the Day" ... I went through a long period of fascination with characters who knew their hearts but couldn't speak them (Prufrock, too; actually it's an undercurrent with a lot of poets I like, including Parker and Bukowski). I feel like I've moved past that but the clarity that Ishiguru brings to that fear and the resulting anguish is still beautiful.
Judith Martin's "Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior" because it's one of the funniest and smartest books I've ever read.
Josef Skvorecky's "The Engineer of Human Souls" was a huge factor in deciding to live here, and the translation really influenced how I feel about what translation can and should do, so it's affected me professionally as well as just generally being a great book.
Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" because time travel and regret and memory and everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing..." because "Infinite Jest" is a masterpiece, fictionwise, and I admire it intellectually, but his essays are where he shows his heart and where he took mine.
Jeanette Winterson's "Written on the Body" because I love a gimmick novel and because it's just so poetic. And the questions of when to let love go for the sake of the beloved and when to fight for it for yourself are still interesting to me.