Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I had already cut a lot of meat out of my diet, but this book pushed me the rest of the way to become a vegetarian.
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It didn’t make me a left-winger (I already was that), but Zinn showed me an alternative way of looking at U.S. history.
Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson. Until high school, mystery was my favorite genre, with science fiction and fantasy distant seconds. In tenth grade, an upperclassman gave me his copy of Lord Foul’s Bane and I pretty much abandoned mystery for the next two decades.
The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais. Shortly after we got married, I mentioned to my wife that I was getting bored with science fiction and fantasy. She recommend this modern classic of hard-boiled detective fiction and it not only rekindled my love of mystery, but also channeled my writing in a new way.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I read this book in tenth grade and although I’d had aspirations to write fiction before, suddenly I knew why. I wanted to tell a story that powerful, that evocative. If not for Hemingway, writing might have been just another hobby that I lost interest in somewhere along the way.