(In no particular order)
1-Redwall by Brian Jacques. If it weren't for fantasy literature, and especially this series, I would be a VERY different person. I was an early reader and always loved it, but this series launched me into the realm of devouring books and eagerly anticipating the next one. The first time I stayed up past 11pm was when I just HAD to finish the first book of the Redwall series because I couldn't wait to experience the finish. Hugely influential book in my life.
2-The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey. Recent read, within the last year, but this book just exploded my conception of how to coach and how to approach competition and personal effort. I cannot recommend it enough to coaches, athletes, and PEOPLE.
3-Friday Night Lights by Buzz Bissinger. Kind of a cliche, but I loved this book nonetheless. Excellently written, perfectly executed with great depth and analysis of almost every aspect of that football season. Reveals the ugly, the good, and the insightful. Not for the faint of heart, however.
4-Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. Good Lord, what a book! Hugo LOVES his characters, he writes them with passion and fervor and empathy as he tells a remarkable tale that spans several decades of a man's life and explores many, many deep issues, the central of which is the nature of redemption and forgiveness. I love this book, it took me a long while to read because I had to stop, chew on what I'd just read, absorb it, think about it, before I could allow myself to move on. Not because it was difficult, but rather because it was SO GOOD that I had to savor it. Probably my favorite of all time.
5-The Malazan Book of The Fallen by Stephen Erikson. Technically 10 books, but it's my list, so deal with it. Erikson is an amazing author who creates fantastically interesting and deep characters, along with an entire universe that is never fully explained, but revealed as the stories go on. The first book, Gardens Of The Moon, is a labor to get through, but it's worth it. Erikson shows such discipline as a writer that the main focus of the series doesn't even appear until the THIRD NOVEL, with at least 1100 pages in the first two. After college, I'd been pretty burned out on reading for fun, what with being an English major and all, but this series restored that love to me.
6-The Bible. I'm a born-again Christian (OH NO HE SAID IT!) and the Bible has been an amazing thing in my life. I don't read it as much as I should, which is unfortunately a bit of a meta-statement about my faith, but it's a journey, not a destination. Wonderful parables and stories, the best selling book of all time!
7-A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado. Written for Christians by a Christian pastor, Lucado uses the very famous passage of I Corinthians 13:4-8 (Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.) as a starting point for a series of essays about the nature of love in a Christian setting and how we can use God's love for us as an example in our own lives.
8-A Season Of Life by Jeffrey Marx. Excellent read, another that I'd consider a must-have for football coaches. Examines what it is to be a man, what our roles as coaches is, and tells a beautiful story about a man's reunion with his fairly estranged father. Touching book, easy read, no reason not to do it.
9-Norton Anthology Of Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, always have, always will. I can't really single out any one thing, but some of my favorites: A Winter's Tale, R&J, King Lear, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Henry series, it goes on... Fantastic storyteller and writer, I've never read a play by Shakespeare and been disappointed by it. Hell, I even liked Shakespeare In Love (movie) because of all the references/tributes/nods to famous lines and events in his life and stories. Plus Gwenyth Paltrow reminds me of a girl I went on a few dates with.
10-The Dragonlance series by Margret Weiss and Tracy Hickman. Total fantasy lit nerd, one of the better fantasy lit series made, chubby childhood, roll them together and you get me! I'm no longer chubby or a child (I like to think fit and young adult) but the other two are still true and, like Redwall, I read the shit out of these books. Somewhere in my parent's basement are BOXES of books from this series that I read several times. Hell, I still remember important lines of dialogue and it's been like, a decade and a half.