These are the books I'd recommend to you if you were me. I recommend lots more books to lots of different people, but these are the books I've liked best. So if you're me, you'll like these too. If you're not, but you think you might enjoy what I enjoy, try one of the following books out. Books are listed in alphabetical order by author.
Recommended to read yourself:
Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg
A sweet, luminous tale of family and friendship in difficult circumstances. The main character/narrator Lainey is what draws me back to this book time and again. Not my normal sort of fare, but the slight touch of magic realism drew me in and kept me reading.
Lakeland by Allan Casey
Casey takes a ten-chapter tour of important Canadian lakes, delving into aspects of culture, economics, biology, and sociology. It's well-written, engaging, and about a topic near and dear to my heart. Very Canadian, but not necessarily exclusive; a good primer for anyone wanting to know more about Canada, as it delves into our collective psyche well.
Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP
A wonderfully kind look at love and relationships in the guise of an action-filled save-the-world plot. A classic of the "magical girl" genre of manga, I like how Sakura always makes me feel better about life, the universe, and everything.
The Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon
This whole series is an incredibly satisfying fantasy epic, but is raised well above that "satisfying" level by the harrowing and brilliant third book, The Crow. A seriously underrated fantasy series.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
For a tale that starts in one place and then circles around to eat its own tail in the most astonishing, satisfying ways, you can't go wrong with this book. Just for its careful craft I'd recommend it, but the tale is unique and wonderful too.
An Ecology of Enchantment by Des Kennedy and A Blessing of Toads by Sharon Lovejoy
Gardening nonfiction, these are both books of short essays. Kennedy's is chronological, an essay for every week of the year; Lovejoy's is a somewhat random collection of gardening columns about gardening and the wildlife in it. Different but both well worth reading if you have or want a garden.
The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip
Actually, read anything by McKillip. Read it regularly and often. My favourite author has many books, some better than others; this slim volume, often classified as YA, is one of the best and most accessible of her works. I entered McKillip's work via Riddle-Master, and would recommend that, this book, or her more recent The Bell at Sealey Head as good places to start with her. I don't see enough people reading her light-filled, sometimes melancholy, sometimes challenging, always lovely poetic prose.
The City & The City by China Miéville
Straight up gritty police procedural that gets weirder and weirder in wonderful ways. Reading this book is like peeling back layers of an onion, except that at the centre of the onion is a pearl, unexpected and perfect. A gripping, inventive mystery-thriller that astonished me in all the right ways.
His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
The Napoleonic Wars... with dragons. Bigger and better than it sounds; in Novik's hands, these books go beyond fun to moving, fascinating, thought-provoking, and riveting. Have not yet met a non-human character I'm half as fond of as I am of Temeraire, and have seen few fictional friendships as deeply real and wonderful as that between Temeraire and his rider Laurence.
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Translated from the Japanese. Slow, and not a lot happens, but beautiful in writing and beautiful in character. The nameless narrator and her son develop a very special friendship, based on math and baseball, with a former math professor with a debilitating memory disorder. A very special book that makes one look at the world with fresh eyes, and not just a day or two later, but months down the road.
Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley
A graphic novel about growing up and opening up oneself to the world, done so perfectly that the eighteen-year-old I was sat up and took notice when I read this book. Also involves lost souls and many, many cats. Funny and touching and instantly recognizeable. O'Malley is the author of the Scott Pilgrim series, but this book is even better than those.
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
Brother Cadfael is easily one of my favourite characters of all time, a Benedictine monk I find comfortable to spend time with, a man with superior powers of observation and an unfailing understanding and tolerance of human nature. This is the first of a long series -- when you finish this one, you'll be glad the series is so long.
Pyramids and The Wee Free Men by Sir Terry Pratchett
Look, just read all the Discworld books. But if you have decided you are only going to read two, read these two. Pyramids won a British Fantasy Award the year it was published, and it is an absolutely wonderful, really brilliant piece. The Wee Free Men is a later work, and full of humour, tenderness, and wonder, and was the book that convinced me to read Pratchett at all.
A Place Between the Tides by Harry Thurston
More Canadian nonfiction, great choice for naturalists or people who love nature and the East Coast. Thurston packs years of observations on the edge of a saltmarsh into a chronology and does so incredibly successfully. Thurston is also a poet, so he writes really beautifully about the things he sees and knows.
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Took me a while to get into this book, but once there I never wanted to leave. Time-travel, mystery, romance, and funny, funny, funny book set mostly in Victorian England but occasionally in London during the Blitz and sometimes in future Oxford. Lots of love of literature and animals and a clever homage to Golden Age mysteries.
Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf
fishy keeps rolling his eyes at me in company because I am constantly bringing this book up. Read partially for work and partially for interest, this incredibly interesting book discusses reading and the way it changes our physical brains and thus our lives and larger cultures.
Recommended to read to your smallfry:
The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker
Beautiful fantastical story, about loss, friendship, change, and loyalty. Language is clear and simple, but the story is not at all simplistic.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
In another deceptively deep story, we meet India Opal Buloni and her dog Winn-Dixie and follow them over the course of an incredibly well-described southern summer, where they touch lives and are touched by those around them. Not as sappy as it sounds, honestly.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, Ill. by Susan Jeffers
We all know the poem, or at least know of it. But what makes this particular edition so special is the wonderful, magical, silent drawings illustrating the text. Jeffers brings the poem to life, and the poem brings Jeffers' illustrations to life. A very special picture book.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Creepy enough to alarm the kid in me, but deliciously so, this is a tale of a young girl who must rescue her parents from a frightening alternate world by her wits and with only a little bit of help. Coraline's a great main character and the cat is a fun, and wise, sidekick.
A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
Not read by nearly enough people, this historical tale should appeal to fans of Anne of Green Gables, and other similar tales. Our main character is a spunky and not always likeable orphan taken in by three elderly sisters who are not quite what they seem. Maud's voice is pitch-perfect and extremely evocative.
Feathers by Jaqueline Woodson
I can't recommend this book enough, but it's likely best for slightly older kids; the younger kids I know who read this for book club found it difficult and boring. The story follows a black girl growing up in the 1970s over one winter in Harlem and touches on family, grief, bullying, religion, friendship, and race relations in matter-of-fact and refreshing ways. Beautifully written and quietly lovely.