So, in no particular order:
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Monty Python: Just the Words
OK, one of these is a book of TV scripts, but I read both obsessively as a kid; gave me a sense of English identity, which was nice since I had an English accent, but only lived there 'til I was six.
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Maybe this resonated more with me, reading it after Mom died, but this book blew me away.
LA Confidential, James Ellroy
I read most of his stuff, and it's all great, but this one is the most spectacular display of the 50s LA in Ellroy's (sorta messed-up) head. Part of me wants to swagger around that Los Angeles, planting evidence and beating confessions out of bad guys.
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut
I loves me some short stories. I only remember the one where the strong and beautiful were weighed down and uglified so that all were equal, and the one where the guy was forced to play chess with people. I should read it again.
Elements of Style, Strunk & White
Omit needless words.
Maus, Art Spiegelman
All of his children's books, Roald Dahl
So brilliantly subversive; no better way for kids to learn that sometimes adults are fallible dicks.
Can't remember the name, it was the first short story in a collection I grabbed around freshman year. It was a fairly standard fairy tale, but things weren't going well, and I kept expecting things to turn around, and kept checking how many pages were left, and got to the end, and holy shit things never turned around. After growing up with western storytelling, it was a big shock to read a story where everything turned to shit and stayed that way.
Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald
Anti-Nuclear war fiction written by a professor in 1959. Another high school library find. I had a big military, Tom Clancy, Top Gun kinda kick in middle/high school, and this was one of the things that made me realize that war isn't as sexy and cool as I had been lead to believe. Holy craps, Wikipedia says he lives in Silver Spring. We were neighbors for awhile!
The Shell Collector, Anthony Doerr
Can't find my copy, all I remember is the story about people displaced by Chinese dam construction had this amazing imagery of the setting and weather, and I felt like I was there just reading it.
Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot, Al Franken
One of the greatest, angriest, most vindictive works of smart-assery.
Nine Stories, JD Salinger
Salinger had this amazing ability to make the most mundane settings and events completely captivating, and at times crushing. Again with the short stories, but I love all his stuff.
The Long Walk, Stephen King
I've always liked King, but I'm not big on horror, so I'm always happy when he explores other genres. And I do enjoy his penchant for futuristic blood sport game shows. This one really struck me as a teenager; I could've been any of those kids, marching along for money and fame, getting shot for falling behind.
Hm, I think that's only 14. Bonus not-a-book! Joe's big religion sucks revelation was CS Lewis, mine was the song Tomorrow, Wendy by Concrete Blonde.
I told the priest, don't count on any second coming /
God got his ass kicked the first time he came down here slumming /
He had the balls to come, the gall to die and then forgive us /
No I don't wonder why, I wonder what he thought it would get us
Pretty shocking stuff for a young, generally oblivious preacher's kid, and the first thing that made me question religion.
OK, back to that midterm.
I'm not sure how easy this is to see, but the first picture is a hose that attaches to your car's exhaust pipe, and you pump CO into the mole hole, killing them with one of the more popular 20th century suicide methods, apparently because it's cheaper than a tiny gas oven, and easier than tying adorable little nooses.