The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis- I read these books over and over as a kid and still learn something when I read them. I still love the asides that the narrator makes to the reader, that sharing a chuckle just between we two. The real impact of these books was to help me retain a belief in goodness, in God, in sacrifice at a time when not much else was making sense.
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Leguin- I read this in college for a 'Language and Culture' class and it struck a chord. How trust is developed, how cultures are set aside and we see the person underneath the rules of behavior, someone that we can love. And some of the most beautiful and nuanced writing ever, but still highly readable and engaging.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- A friend recommended this to me last year, and it was such a relief to read a book that I could just enjoy and not pick apart as I read.
The Giver by Lois Lowry- You have to read The Giver. It's "1984", masquerading as a beautifully written YA novel. One of my favorite books of all time.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien- This is the cover that I read, I think. Published in 1965. It must have been my mom's or my grandfather's maybe, since I found a copy of the Sillmarillion on his shelves. I read and reread these books in high school, probably 10 or so times each. These books said to me- no matter how bad you think things are, it could be worse. And anyway, it'll all work out. Pure escapism.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and the rest of the series. Mormons can swear? Nu-uh. When Mr. Bryson and I lived in Tampa, Orson Scott Card was asked to do a fireside (a talk about his life and writing and the gospel) but we couldn't find the building (in South Tampa, a building I'd never been to but thought I knew where it was) so we missed it. I'm even more bummed now than I was then. Sigh.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. I read this book aloud to my kids and they loved it, too. I love the beautiful sense of hope that Kate DiCamillo infuses her stories with. We all loved "The Magician's Elephant", too.
A Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood- Read this for school. It changed my expectations about what books had to say, somehow. It felt even more subversive to me than 1984. I usually liked the books we read in school, except for those by Hemingway and Steinbeck. Blech!