The Tale of Samuel Whiskers I love Beatrix Potter. I love her pictures, the big words she uses. Samuel Whiskers may be the first book I read which had a proper plot, with clues, and a non-linear time sequence. I was horrified recently to realise my children have the same names as the two rats in this story. I also love the Tale of Peter Rabbit. I should have called them Cottontail and Benjamin.
Red Shift by Alan Garner. I read this when I was a young teenager and it may be the first book that made me feel as if I was in another person's head. Garner is deeply strange, and this book made me feel deeply strange. Great.
The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban. Grief, fate, the meaningless of existence, the ambiguity of resolution. All told through the medium of wind-up toys and squirmy insects. The windup mouse child spends a winter at the bottom of a pond, staring at a dog food can. On the label of the can is a dog looking at a picture of the can, on the picture of the can is a dog looking at a picture of the can... and so on into infinity, the dogs becoming small as dots inside dots... Where is truth? Asks the mouse child. 'Out among the dots beyond the last dog.'
Watership DownYou know why I liked this book, and why it is another first for me: it's a story about a complementary group, not about a hero. OK they are rabbits, and they aren't on a space ship. Nobody's perfect.
More than Humanby Theodore Sturgeon. I read many SF novels as a child, none of which were at all suitable. I think this one had the biggest impact on me. Another book about a band. A book about equality and comradeship, and the strangeness of other people. ' a black and grey world, punctuated by the white lightning of hunger and the flickering of fear." Highly recommended.
ETA - I've been reading the Amazon reviews of these just now. Here's one for Red Shift:
Short of giving your kids "American Psycho" or "The 120 Days of Sodom", I can't
think of a better way of messing with their heads. I read it at 13 and it freaked me out.
It's all really in Tom's over-intellectual, working-class, sexually-confused head as he
tries to make sense of everything moving away from him. Cheshire's greatest contribution
to world culture.
LOL. No wonder I liked it as a kid.