I loved the responses to this question on reddit. Below are some of my favorite books of those listed in the reddit post, along with my impressions of each book.
A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition
Started this recently, and it is fantastic; a flood of ideas so well expressed.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Profound overview of why some societies dominate others. Well worth reading.
Nabokov was such a brilliant, vivid, superb writer. Though he’s most famous for this novel, anything you read of his will set your imagination a flight.
How To Win Friends and Influence People
Actually helped me, as a shy teen, get out of my shell a bit. It’s a very positive, encouraging book that does NOT focus on manipulating people at all, though it’s often represented that way by those who haven’t read it. It’s really about nurturing a natural interest in people and expressing that interest in a positive, constructive way, which is to say it might help you get laid –JUST KIDDING!
Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (FSG Classics)
I love this book. It manages to give you the experience of philosophy, as well as its history. I think the author was a teacher and originally wrote the novel to instruct his western philosophy students. I stumbled across the book at a Target store. Whodathunk?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
I used to read this book every few years, and each reading left me with something entirely new. Profound, poignant, unique work. Hard to categorize or describe. Just read it.
Stranger in a Strange Land
The book that coined the phrase “I grok.” My favorite Heinlein book. I read it the first time while traveling through Europe–quite appropriate!
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
I’ve not read this one by Hitchen’s, but I did listen to the audio version–with Hitchens himself doing the reading. Thoroughly enjoyed hearing the words through his voice. A biting commentary on religion that truly forced me to think over my Catholic upbringing.
Many more in the reddit comments that I liked, but this will do for now.