1. "Go, Dog. Go!" by P. D. Eastman. It sent me down the road to the absurd writing life. Dogs driving around in cars, and having a party in a tree! That's my kind of story.
2. "Tristram Shandy" by Laurence Sterne. My own book "Stinky Cheese Man" owes a ton to this quixotic, convoluted narrative.
3. "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon. It's got everything: history, science jokes and funny storytelling.
4. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or David Copperfield" by Robert Benchley. The title is half the reason I love it.
5. "Grimm's Fairy Tales" by the Brothers Grimm. They're handed-down treasure, honed for decades and generations.
A major book that you haven't read: "In Search of Lost Time" by Marcel Proust. My eyes went over the words. Nothing stuck.
A classic that, upon rereading, disappointed: "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Louis Stevenson. The language is so difficult and dense. It's just too tough for kids—grown-ups, too.