"One: The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare. No single author has ever had an impact on the English language like Shakespeare did.
"Two: The Collected Stories of Raymond Carver. Carver was a master storyteller, and his characters feel like real people who struggle with contemporary problems: paying the bills, responding to disappointments, and chasing impossible dreams in ways that define their lives.
"Three: Road Atlas: Prose and Other Poems by Campbell McGrath. A hodge-podge of poems and prose poems by a poet with just about the finest ear for the American vernacular; smart and witty poems by a vastly talented writer.
"Four: In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan. The quintessential post-apocalyptic hippy novel of the 1960s. A visionary, playful, clever, joyous and heartbreaking novel written in flash chapters.
"Five: Brutal Imagination. Cornelius Eady’s story of Susan Smith’s drowning of her children becomes more horrifying and heartbreaking as Eady explores the effects of scapegoating an imagined black perpetrator; a profound study of racism.
"Six: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. A stunningly funny collection of nonfiction essays by one of America’s finest humorists and cultural commentators; it’s hard to see holidays the same way after reading this book.
"Seven: Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. The finest post-coming-of-age book written. Franny quits college because nobody discusses wisdom, and Zooey explores how everyone plays to an imaginary audience.
"Eight: Dancer by Colum McCann. The author’s prose dances across the pages the ways it’s protagonist, Rudolf Nureyev, danced across the stage; an exhilarating historical novel by a master writer.
"Nine: Immortality by Milan Kundera. Franco-Czech writer Kundera’s humorous and thought-provoking novel takes up the question of how we live to be remembered, questioning what we lose from our lives by living for the afterlife.
"Ten: Watership Down by Richard Adams. Written in the tradition of the Old World beast fable, Adams writes an inspiring story of a band of rabbits seeking to establish a utopian society; the interweaving of rabbit myth with the struggle to survive makes for a timeless story."