From the Golden Age of murder mysteries:
The ABC Murders - Agatha Christie
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
The Innocence of Father Brown - G K Chesterton
Cards on the Table - Agatha Christie
Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy L Sayers
The Judas Window - Carter Dickson
The Chinese Orange Mystery - Ellery Queen
The Hollow Man - John Dickson Carr
Crooked House - Agatha Christie
Edit: My reasoning behind the Agatha Christie choices...
The ABC Murders is highly entertaining - the plot resembles a modern-day thriller, where the detective goes from town to town on the tail of an unknown killer - and so is probably more accessible to a beginner with little knowledge of the genre. The solution is also extremely neat.
Cards on the Table is the opposite - it's a pure puzzle, a psychological one, stripped of any flash, excess plot or complicated murder method. Four suspects at a table, each with ample opportunity to commit the crime. It's an experiment (the foreword by the author spells this out) and perfect for a veteran who wants a pure form of the puzzle.
Crooked House belongs to my favourite category of Christie novels - the one in which she pushes the boundaries, subverting the genre without breaking the rules. For example, Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Curtain, Endless Night, Three Act Tragedy... These are all 'meta' in one way or another. I think Crooked House is one of the more obscure of these, and that's why I recommended it for an expert.
As someone whose second language is English, this is a really great way for me to estimate what books I could realistically read/enjoy, thank you!
**Out to Sea**
* Horatio Hornblower series by CS Forester
* In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
* Endurance: Shackletons Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
* The North Water by Ian McGuire
* The Terror by Dan Simmons
* The Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien
* We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen
* Moby Dick by Herman Melville
* Greenlanders by Jane Smiley
Would love to hear more suggestions in this genre!
World War 1
All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque)
War Horse (Morpurgo)
Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (Various)
Somme Mud (Lynch)
The First World War: An Illustrated History (Taylor)
A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway)
Goodbye to All That (Graves)
Johnny Got His Gun (Trumbo)
I'll do Graphic Novels/Comics here. There's definitely a diversity (and so much so that I find it hard to just include a general list but here is an attempt), but I'll try to keep it to what I consider essentials/books everyone should read. This is definitely going to be subjective though, as I'm basing it less on difficulty than I am on how much you'll get from it at what point.
*Maus* by Art Spiegelman
*Blankets* by Craig Thompson
*Ghost World* by Daniel Clowes
*Watchmen* by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
*Good-Bye* by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
*Go Go Monster* by Taiyo Matsumoto
*The Contract With God Trilogy* by Will Eisner
*The Sandman* by Neil Gaiman
*Driven by Lemons* by Joshua Cotter
I'd be curious to hear everyone else's, because I know I probably glossed over a lot!
Southern gothic lit:
1. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
2. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
2. Big Bad Love by Larry Brown
3. Trash by Dorothy Allison
1. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
2. The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
3. Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
My favourite genre is sci-fi.
1. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
2. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
3. Contact by Carl Sagan
1. Dune by Frank Herbert
2. Hyperion by Dan Simmons
3. Manifold trilogy by Stephen Baxter
1. Neuromancer by William Gibson
2. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
3. Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward
EDIT: Wow! I didn't expect this comment to get so many reactions and responses. Definitely can't disagree with most of what everyone else suggested - it's just that 3 options really narrows down what you can include, there are just so many amazing sci fi stories out there. These are just what I think I would personally suggest to someone, but there are some fantastic recommendations in the replies.
EDIT 2: Looks like there's a lot of debate about whether Neuromancer should be considered expert or beginner. Interestingly, no one really put it in the middle category, which I guess speaks to the somewhat polarizing nature of the book. I thought it was a fairly complex read when I first tackled it which is why I put it in the expert category
Philosophy texts to help to understand literature, the world, and myself. Weird genre.
1 On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
2 The Republic by Plato
3 Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
1 History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
2 The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
3 Discourses by Epictetus
1 Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
2 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanual Kant
3 Ethics by Spinoza
For all those who want to like Westerns as much as I do:
1. Hondo by Louis Lamour
2. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
3. The Big Sky by AB Guthrie
1. McCarthy’s Border Trilogy
2. Butcher’s Crossing - John Williams
3. The Son - Phillip Meyer
1. Blood Meridian - McCarthy
2. Lonesome Dove - McMurtry (more of a veteran/intro to western but 700+ pages so)
3. Warlock - Oakley Hall
Honorable mentions: Outlaw by Warren Kiefer, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt, and Far As the Eye Can See by Robert Bausch
No horror fans yet? Here are mine:
Hell House by Richard Matheson
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Haunted by Chuck Palahnuik
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
IT by Stephen King
In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami
Anything H.P. Lovecraft
Because I'm *that guy* and our kids need something too:
1. The Little Engine That Could
2. Green Eggs And Ham
3. Where The Wild Things Are
1. Charlotte's Web
2. The Boxcar Children
3. The Lorax
1. The Ghost Of Opalina
2. The Mad Scientist's Club
3. The Pig Man
Just wanted to say that I'm bookmarking this post for the next ten years or so.
I love historical fiction. Here are some I truly enjoy, and have attempted to put into categories.
All the Light We Cannot See: Anthony Doerr
Lilac Girls : Martha Hall Kelly
The Nightingale: Kristin Hannah
Those Who Save Us : Jenna Blum
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet: Jamie Ford
City of Thieves: David Benioff
Mischling : Affinity Konar
A Gentleman in Moscow: Amor Towles
The Kitchen House: Kathleen Grissom
1. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
2. The Magicians Nephew by CS Lewis
3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
2. The Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
1. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakmi
2. The Satanic Versus by Salman Rushdie
3. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
(i love murakami i guess)
Beginner: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan
Veteran: Watchmen by Alan Moore, Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Vic and Blood Stories by Harlan Ellison
Experts: The Road by Cormac McCarthy, AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo, The Children of Men by PD James
Didn't see anyone else address the (arguably nebulous) genre of existential narrative (both fiction and non-), of which I've read quite a lot.
1) Notes from Underground - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
2) The Moviegoer - Walker Percy
3) Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
1) The Sunset Limited - Cormac McCarthy
2) Wise Blood - Flannery O'Connor
3) The Stranger - Albert Camus
1) Love in the Ruins - Walker Percy
2) Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
3) The Gospel of John
There are lots more that I could have put on this list. Also, I categorized them according to complexity of thought, recognizing that some could swap places depending on one's depth of reading.
**Stream of Consciousness**
The Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
Notes from Underground - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Remembrance of Things Past - Marcel Proust
Ulysses - James Joyce
Philosophy, especially existentialist philosophy
Beginner (I got into existentialism by reading Camus' short stories):
1. Exile and the Kingdom, Albert Camus
2. The Stranger, Albert Camus
3. The Plague, Albert Camus
1. Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard
2. The Concept of Anxiety, Soren Kierkegaard
3. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche
1. Nausea, Jean Paul Sartre
2. The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus (have a dictionary and an open wikipedia page nearby)
3. Being and Nothingness, Jean Paul Sartre
The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Looking for Alaska
The Catcher in the Rye
All the Light We Cannot See
Beginner: *1984*, *Girl with All the Gifts*, *Battle Royale*
Veteran: *Handmaid’s Tale*, *Snow Crash*, *Wind Up Girl*
Expert: *Maddadam Series* beginning with *Oryx & Crake*, *The Road*, *Never Let Me Go*
Love this whole thread. Gives me lots of new genres to get into.
Classic American Novel
1. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
3. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
1. East Of Eden - John Steinbeck
2. As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
3. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
1. Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
2. Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
3. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
It's funny I love this genre so much considering I'm not even American.
*Romance:* (because no one seems to think it's worth reading. I dare you.)
All three of these are witty and smart.
* Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase
* Bet Me - Jennifer Cruisie
* Venetia - Georgette Heyer
These challenge the typical notion of romance novels.
* Reason to Believe - Kathleen Eagle
* Madensky Square - Eva Ibbotson; This is out of print and expensive used, but probably at libraries. She has some lighthearted romances like Magic Flutes or A Company of Swans, but those would be beginner category. As a substitute, try The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson.
* Silver Love - Layle Giusto; This is out of print but very cheap used.
* For My Lady's Heart - Laura Kinsale; This is expertly researched and written in the actual language of the time, with incredibly beautiful prose. It's a very challenging read. *EDIT*: apparently when reissued they made her change a lot of the dialogue to a modern language and strip the whole book down because they thought it was difficult. That's really disappointing. But the Kindle version has the original and the new version. Make sure you look for the original. What were they thinking??
* To Have and To Hold - Patricia Gaffney - This is challenging because Gaffney gives you nothing obvious. You have to read deeply and well to understand what's going on. Also, warning, there's some abuse of the heroine in there that may upset some readers. If that would bother you, read the prequel To Love and To Cherish, which is as light and beautiful as this book is dark.
* Bliss/Dance - Judy Cuevas - These are just perfect, beautifully written, telling the stories of two opposite brothers in fin de siècle Paris, a fiery addict and a painfully straightlaced head of family, and their very different dances with the ones they come to love.
Edit: I didn't realize that Bliss and Dance are completely out of print, and the used prices are high. In place of those I'll recommend her books (written as Judith Ivory) Black Silk and Beast, though they're not quite as good. They are challenging books though because there's so much going on with her characters. But if you can find Bliss and Dance read those.