These are those books for me.
1. Harry Potter
Duh. But seriously, from my very first reading of the first book, I was transformed. I can't even begin to explain how - I can barely remember the years I spent without this book. Not only was I swept up in the amazing story and characters for a good 10+ years of my life, but I also found out what it felt like to be completely immersed in a world that somebody had written. I've never wanted to be a part of something so much as I've wanted to be a part of J. K. Rowling's world.
2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Inkheart confirmed what I had already believed my whole life: stories are a form of magic all on their own. This is a totally original book that inspired me to devoted my life to storytelling.
3. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
Besides being an utterly sweet and heart-wrenching romance, Boy Meets Boy presented me with another world I wanted to be a part of: a world where everyone was accepted and loved. This really spoke to my 14-year-old oddball self. This is one of the books that made me want to write.
4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The first adult book to make this list! I read this when I was 17 and obsessed with superheroes. The characters are so human it's hard to believe that this isn't a biography. I loved how Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier's struggle for their American Dream wasn't glossed over - it was hard as hell for them to climb the ladder from poverty to affluence, from obscurity to comic book creator legends. I also loved the epic scope of this book, taking Sam and Joe from age 18 to well into their 30s. I think their long, hard struggle spoke to me on a writerly level - everyone feels like they're talentless hacks sometimes, even Sam and Joe, and they ended up at the top.
5. Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
L. M. Montgomery is better known for Anne of Green Gables, which I was never able to get into. But Emily - wow. Obsession. I discovered this book when I was 8 (same age as HP... this was a crucial literary year!). My best friend was reading it, and I was a bit of a follower so I picked it up too. WOW! The story of a poor little orphan writer girl really, really got to me. I was her age! I was a writer too! I was Emily! This is the first book series I ever read that had a romance in it, and I was hooked. I read that midnight kissing-in-the-graveyard scene over and over again. Over the course of three books, Emily goes from an 8 year old orphan to an 18 year old published novelist, and I was convinced that was going to be my path, too. It was after reading this book that I really started to write, and really picked that as my "destiny." I was so dramatic.
There you have it! These books are all highly, highly recommended.
And now, I want to know what books changed YOUR life!