Aggro and I share many similar reads. In no particular order:
1. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.'
2. The Tales of H.P. Lovecraft - The finest horror writer in literary history. His stories ooze with existential horror and nameless, unspeakable dread and his language transports you to isolated backwater towns with shadowy denizens that flit behind curtains. Lovecraft is the reason why I avoid visiting the country, especially all those creepy towns with names that end with 'up' in the South West of the State. 'The Dunwich Horror', 'The Call of Cthulhu' and 'The Colour out of Space' are his best.
'[O]n the masonry of that charnel shore that was not of earth the titan Thing from the stars slavered and gibbered like Polypheme cursing the fleeing ship of Odysseus. Then, bolder than the storied Cyclops, great Cthulhu slid greasily into the water and began to pursue with vast wave-raising strokes of cosmic potency. Briden looked back and went mad, laughing shrilly as he kept on laughing at intervals till death found him one night in the cabin ...'
3. Dune by Frank Herbert - His universe building is epic, monumental, filled with shifting alliances and factions all with their own agenda - the Bene Gesserit witches, the bloated Navigators, the Human Mentat computers, the Emperor and his Sardaukar terror troops, the Fremen Mujahideen. Especially clever is his use of Islamic imagery before it became unfashionable to do so.
As an aside, David Lynch's film conveys the darkness of the book in its unforgettable visuals. Everyone should have a heart plug ...
4. 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell. He captured the chilling reality of life experienced by millions of people, and which millions still experience today.
'He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache ... But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.'
5. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle - 'Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!' Enough said.
6. The Tales of Edgar Allen Poe. It leaves you with a sense of gnawing horror and despair that can only be salved by a saccharine overdose of repeats of 'Friends' or buying Hello Kitty merchandise. The Masque of the Red Death is my favourite. Others include the Tell Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Black Cat, The Facts In the Case of M. Valdemar, and The Cask of Amontillado.
'And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his life. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.'
7. Dracula by Bram Stoker - Two thirds of the story is meaningless fluff, like Mina Harker pining for her boy like a Victorian Bella Swan. But then the horror builds and builds until that final shattering climax on the mountain pass as they race to slay the Count against the rapidly setting sun.
8. The War of the Worlds and The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells. With the former best enjoyed to the stirring tones of Richard Burton and the thrilling 'DUN dun-dun-duuuuuunh' of the Jeff Wayne musical.
'No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that his world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as man busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.'
9. The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian. And The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides - Sparta and Athens engage in a shattering war that spans 27 years. Alliances are formed and broken, and atrocities committed such as the Athenian destruction of the peaceful, neutral city of Melos ('The strong do as they can, the weak suffer what they must.'
10. Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en. The Adventures of the Monkey King! The classic novel in 100 chapters first published in the Ming Dynasty in 1592.
And brought to a Western audience through the never-ending TV show featuring characters who talked funny and whose lips moved differently to the sounds, and a strangely attractive androgynous Boy Priest.
Go on, you remember ABC TV dinner time ... Monkey Magic, Peter Russell-Clarke ('Come and get, with Peter - Gday - Russell - Gday - Claaaarke!), The Goodies ...
'Before Chaos was divided, Heaven and Earth were one;
All was a shapeless blur, and no men had appeared.
Once Pan Gu destroyed the Enormous Vagueness
The separation of clear and impure began.
Living things have always tended towards humanity;
From their creation all beings improve.
If you want to know about Creation and Time,
Other honourable mentions:
* The Master and Margarita by Mikhael Bulgakov - a hilarious fantasy adventure satire of Soviet bureaucracy that was banned in Stalinist Russia)
* The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
* Richard III by Shakespeare - the classic, hunchbacked scheming villain with irresistible charisma. He woos than discards the pretty widow of the King he murdered.
* The Civil War by Shelby Foote - THE classic history of the American Civil War by an author who won the Pulitzer Prize. The chapters on the Battle of Gettysburg is moving stuff.
I agree with many of the comments about The Game of Thrones series by George R. Martin. The first and second book were compelling, utterly engrossing stuff. But then the whole work starts to collapse under his monumental pretences. Book 3 was a struggle to read and I couldn't finish Book 4. Pages and pages and pages of dull, plodding travelogue as characters slowly plod their way north, or south, or east ...