1. " Howards End " by E. M. Forster. The repeated phrase "only connect" gave me a goal, and a hint that its realization might not be easy.
2. " Mrs. Dalloway " by Virginia Woolf. Taught me, at 19, the irrefutable fact and great mystery of other people's internal lives.
3. " The Raj Quartet " by Paul Scott. Scott's breadth of vision of 1940s India bowled me over.
4. " Disturbances in the Field " by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. A gorgeously harrowing novel about grief and redemption.
5. " Matters of Life and Death, " edited by Tobias Wolff. An anthology by luminaries of the short-story world.
A book you always return to: Alice Munro's "Friend of My Youth." Hard to pick any one Munro title. Her stories let me see people and begin to understand them.
A book you hope parents read to their children: Dr. Seuss's "The Sneeches and Other Stories." Star-bellied or plain-bellied, doesn't matter.