Lets go for a bit more artsy here. Well depending on your modd I suppose. I, like most people, enjoy a book that I can sort of shut down my brain on, suspend disbelief and have fun with. This list isn't for those books, so apologies to Lee Child, Vince Flynn, James Lee Burke, and so on.
Again in no order, here are some of my favorite novels.
On the Road - Jack Kerouac : This isn't one that appeals to all, but at the time I read it, (3rd year of college) it really set me on fire. I loved the stream of consciousness, the almost manic pace that Kerouac sets forth. It made me wish I was born 40 years earlier just so that I could hitch hike with safety. A really great English Prof helped out too, explaining all the back stories, and even having eat apple pie with ice cream. He probably would have been all for a hitch hiking weekend.
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas : Flat out love this. Written, obviously in a much different time, so the wordiness can be a bit much at times, but nothing so bad as approaching Dickens or Hawthorne. Just a little bit of eveything a good story needs; love, action, revenge, humor, redemption, forgiveness. Could easily read all 1800 pages again.
Less than Zero - Bret Easton Ellis : With a thanks to Ben B. for this recommendation as well. This is much like a Cather in the Rye for a later generation. Not quite mine, but much closer. What literary critics saw in C.i.t.R., and I didn't, I saw in this. Very much a lost soul, Clay goes off the deep end with just about every vice, only to realize promise in life and start anew. (possibly, if you like Disney endings, book isn't clear) Good stuff.
A Long Way Down - Nicholas Hornby : If you haven't read any oh N.H.'s stuff, you're missing out. Very clever, witty and varied, he writes many characters with a depth not typically found. To be able in this book, to bounce 4 completely different characters back and forth and not lose any personality is quite impressive. Any of his books are great, so you could try High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, About a Boy, or Slam. I am currently on Juliet, Naked.
A Separate Peace - John Knowles : A story about friends and the subversive feelings between them during a difficult time in history. Two friends, very different, at a boarding school during the Second World War. Gene, returns 15 years after the events unfold and the story is his recollection of his times at the school with Phineus. Real quality and I think it still plays, even though it was written in the 50's about the 40's.
Ok, so there ya go. I am sure at the time I hit post, I will think of others, but...Oh well. This is a varied list, and encompasses, I hope, my varied taste. Enjoy, love to hear yours!