“The World Religions” by Huston Smith, my favourite introduction in one volume and exploration of, some of the deep insights of most of the world’s most prominent religious traditions. I recommend this even to those who already have a thorough grounding in the world’s religions. Those who are devoted to a particular faith will find new insight into their own tradition here.
“Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse, about a boy who seeks enlightenment, meets the Buddha, but leaves him to follow his own way to the truth.
“Kierkegaard’ by Michael Watts, the most profound and engaging introduction to Kierkegaard I have ever encountered.
“Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett (in fact, I would recommend watching the amazing mini-series adaptation), a sweeping story about the events surrounding the construction of a Medieval cathedral.
“The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco: Sherlock Holmes meets the Middle Ages in the form of a well-plotted, historically accurate story about a monk who pursues a killer whose murders follow the seven deadly sins.
“The Conscious Lovers” by Richard Steele, one of the first ‘sentimental comedies,’ which also had a moral message.
“Six Characters in Search of an Author” by Luigi Pirandello, a play about precisely what its title suggests.
“Mother Courage and Her Children” by Bertolt Brecht, an anti-war, anti-fascism with a great heart written by a German in Nazi Germany.
“Ghost Sonata” by August Strindberg, a strange play that both typifies and exemplifies Strindberg’s style.
“Happy Days” and “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett, plays in the theatre of the absurd style that comment deeply on the human condition through apparently ridiculous and meaningless situations.
“Phaedo” and “Republic” by Plato, plays which give great insight into the teachings and views of Plato and Socrates. Those in traditions that believe in a soul will the Phaedo particularly interesting.
“1984” by George Orwell, a terrifying vision of totalitarian society and the crushing of the individual.
“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, a play about the failure of the American dream and its destructive effects on the life of a ‘little-man’ (Loman).
“Odyssey” and “Iliad” by Homer and “Aeneid’ by Virgil, preferably in translations by Fagles or Latimore–foundational works of Western culture and epic, profound stories of war, journey, family feeling, responsibility, divine will and human choice, social disintegration and society building, the destructive effects of excess passion. and other fascinating issues.
“Morte Darthur” by Sir Thomas Malory and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” foundational works in the tradition of King Arthur and his Knights. Malory’s texts in particular collects a broad variety of traditions and Arthurian legends from numerous texts into one cohesive volume.
“Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Titus Andonicus,” “Othello,” and “Richard III” for classic, engaging Shakespearean tragedies, “Measure for Measure,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and others for early modern comedies and “the Winter’s Tale” for a peculiar tragicomedy.
“Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder for a succinct and engaging novel that is also a lucid history of Western philosophy.
“Archetypes of Wisdom” by Douglas J. Soccio for a clear and interesting introduction to various Western and Eastern philosophers (an excellent companion text to Sophie’s World).
“It” by Stephen King, the most vividly written book I ever read with lovable and intriguing characters and a strange, horrifying storyline that takes on mythic dimensions (much like King’s “The Stand” and the television show “Lost”). This book was written with such intensely visual imagery that I felt like I was in the midst of a vision when reading it, or watching a television show: every colour and scene could be seen before your mind’s eye.