Here's my list:
Yertle The Turtle by Dr. Seuss. I could stop here, because everything you need to know about human nature, society, and politics is revealed in this book (really, its three books in one). I decided to limit the list to one Dr Seuss, but I could have included How The Grinch Stole Christmas because I love that the villain is converted in the end, rather than defeated. Horton Hears a Who because you're never too young for metaphysics. One Fish, Two Fish,, Red Fish Blue Fish ... Green Eggs and Ham.... I could keep going.
The Lord of The Rings by JRR Tolkein. Every notebook and textbook I had in eleventh grade was covered with drawings of orcs and dwarves.
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I enjoyed all the Narnia books, but this is the one that packed the biggest wallop.
The Once and Future King by TH White. (full disclosure) only the first part, The Sword in the Stone.
I loved the way Merlin taught Wart about different societies by turning him into different animals. It may be worth noting that this is the only book on my list that was assigned reading in school.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. My kids never responded to this, but was, is, and always will be one of my favorite books ever. Don't ask me about the movie.
The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton. I only have vague memories about the details in this book by the Trappist monk, but profound memories of being moved by the book. Maybe time to reread.
When The Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs. During the Reagan years I had constant anxiety about nuclear war. This book spoke to that, and also opened my eyes to the potential of the picture book/graphic novel format.
Into The Wild by Jon Krakaur. I wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into Chris McCandless for being arrogant and foolhardy at the same time he was opening his heart to experience life. But the book moved me.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I had a really long subway ride to my apartment in Brooklyn in the mid eighties. Perfect for reading about getting lost in the sewers of 19th century Paris. And I'm a sucker for the musical and the movie.
Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. In tenth grade I ate these up. I did not know at the time that this science fiction classic was all inspired by the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. And, I must say, these may be the only books on my list that didn't hold up to rereading. But in tenth grade...
And, if this list was about artistic inspiration, rather than personal influence, I would have included Nicholas Cricket illustrated by William Joyce, Treasure Island, illustrated by NC Wyeth, and Pinocchio, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti.
Thanks Jeanne, for inspiring the blog!