Working on a list of favorite books and authors. Having too much stuff is one of my eternal fears, so I usually donate books to Ithaca's Friends of the Library sale after reading (which is also where I get most of my books). As a result, I'm having a hard time remembering everything I've read. Here is what I have so far for my favorite list...
Wicked, Gregory Maguire. My all time favorite book (and the musical is stellar too if you can get over the fact that it is completely unfaithful to the book). The rest of the quartet (Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men and Out of Oz) is really good too. I've read a few of Maguire's other books. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is pretty good. Mirror, Mirror not so much.
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry. Was all time favorite book before I read Wicked. I've read lots of other McMurtry books and enjoyed them all. Except for the atrocious, horrid, despicable Texasville, the sequel to The Last Picture Show.
Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond. Nearly as good is his next book, Collapse. In the same socio-bio-theo-anthropology vein are books like The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins; God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens; and Why People Believe Weird Things, Michael Shermer all of which are fascinating reading. I'll also add Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner; The World Without Us by Alan Weisman; The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan; Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely; and Blink and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (Tipping Point is pretty good too). What all of these books have in common is a rational exploration of human nature and the environmental niche we occupy.
Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver. Her books Prodigal Summer and The Bean Trees are also excellent. I also enjoyed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
The Plague, Albert Camus. I'm not just throwing this in to smugly proclaim myself an intellectual. It really is a good book. I've enjoyed several of his other novels too, especially The Stranger. I also enjoyed The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho who is a Brazilian Camus. If you like all those, Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a quick read. Not nearly as good, but in the same genre.
Everything E.L. Doctorow has ever written. Especially Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and World's Fair. Ragtime also gets the nod as one of my all time favorite musicals.
Trinity, Leon Uris' best book. Also nearly as good are The Haj and Exodus. QB VII, Mitla Pass and Redemption are a notch below the other three, but still worth reading. His books are tough reading for the first 100 pages and the endings are always terrible -- like Uris gets tired of writing and decides to end the book by pointlessly killing a character (I'm not spoiling the books by telling you this, Uris spoiled the books by ending them this way). But the middle 600-or-so pages are always enough to overcome those flaws.
Hawaii and Space by James Michener. Like Uris, Michener writes sweeping historical fiction that I really enjoy. Other books that do a good job of weaving a really good fictional story through the backdrop of historical fact are Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, Shalimar The Clown by Salman Rushdie and The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder. With books and movies, I'm a big fan of good nonfiction (except they call it a documentary when it is a movie).
Lord of the Rings Trilogy, JRR Tolkein. My grandma gave me these books for my 10th birthday. I loved them then and I still love them today. The movies were awesome too. The seven Harry Potter books are the only other fantasy I've read (unless Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials counts as fantasy... enjoyable books). JK Rowling's series is fun and enjoyable (Goblet of Fire is my favorite), but not in the same league with Lord of the Rings (nor are the movies). I admit that I finished Deathly Hallows two days after it was released. That probably makes me more than a casual fan, but less than a complete fanatic. Is "fanat" an appropriate word for a state between fan and fanatic? Also, I've read all of the Game of Thrones books which have been released to date.
I feel like I ought to include some sci-fi in this list. The problem with sci-fi is that it is rarely better than mediocre. Asimov's Foundation series is pretty good and his detective books, starting with Caves of Steel, are enjoyable. Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke is a really good book with an actual plot, fully developed characters, and believable science. I recommend this book even to people who don't normally read sci-fi.
Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum. I used to be a huge fan of the spy thriller novel -- Ludlum, Forsyth, Follet, etc. Bourne Identity is the best I've read in that genre. The movies were only vaguely based on the books and were not nearly as good.
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. Yeah, I read climbing books. The second edition of Climbing Anchors by John Long and Bob Gaines is one of the best treatments of the subject (now in its third edition). Alpine Climbing by Mark Houston and Kathy Cosley is another book that I highly recommend.