What are the five most important works of fiction that you read, and why?
Please note I do not say favorite, but most important
My answers. Interesting that I read all of these as a teen.
1) The Lord of The Rings. Tolkein takes mythic archtypes and creates a stage on which epic questions of morality and challenges to the human spirit play out. But his characters remain powerful, the issues complex, and his resolutions stirring. Above all, the sacrifice of the elves, who risk everything to create a better world they know they will not inherit.
2) The Great Gatsby. An important lesson in the colatteral damage caused by self-absorbed "careless people," and the power of a dream to drive a man. Also contains one of my favorite throw away lines: "The American people, while occassionally willing to be serfs, have never been willing to be peasants."
3) A Man For All Seasons. "Would you give even the Devil the benefit of the law?" "Yes! For when you have cut down all the trees of the law find the Devil, where will you hide when the Devil turns on you?"
4) Starship Troopers -- Introduced me to radical concepts about the idea of citizenship: it flows both ways. Above all, whatever law may say, one chooses whether or not to be a citizen. Those who worship Heinlien as one of the great anti-government Libertarians would do well to consider both Starship Troopers and his short story "Coventry."
5) The Catcher In The Rye -- Mixed up teen looking for the meaning of life in all the wrong places. Good to read at age 15.