There are a lot of books that fit this category, so I had a little trouble selecting. Some I chose because they are not very well known and deserve a shout-out.
1 - Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favourite authors, and that love started with this series. A Wizard of Earthsea was being advertised as a Harry Potter kind-of-book (despite being much older, and altogether different), and so I dove in into it. And loved it. And then I went for the next book in the series, The Tombs of Atuan, which I loved even more, and then kept reading, and reading, and discovering there were more books and short-stories.
In total there are 6 books, in which the 5th one, Tales from Earthsea, is a collection of short-stories set in the same world (and one of them a bridge between book 4, Tehanu, and book 6, The Other Wind).
Tombs of Atuan (Book 2) and Tales of Earthsea (Book 5) are my favourites, but all of them are marvellous. I love the characters and especially the world building. Bonus points: Dragons!
2 - The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
I will probably make a proper review of this one because I plan on re-read it soon.
The Hobbit was not my first Tolkien book, I had just finished The Lord of the Rings, and I NEEDED MORE! MORE! So, I read the Hobbit. The Hobbit was the first book that I read in English (besides picture books), but since this is, in essence, a book for children, it wasn't much of a problem.
Reading The Hobbit after reading The Lord of the Rings (plus all the annexes) means I knew part of what was going to happen, at least relating to the One Ring. But there is so much more to this story than just Gollum and Bilbo. I loved every bit of it!
3 - The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
After being finished with the first books of Earthsea I went to look at everything else that Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, and found out most of it was Science Fiction. The problem was I was under the impression I didn't like Science Fiction (in truth what I don't like is Space Opera, but I only learnt the difference much later). I gave The Left Hand of Darkness a try, it had a cool name.
And I loved it. In a way it was a good book to start, there are just some references to advanced technology and other planets, the plot is all set in Winter (the planet, in constant winter, hence its name), and deals with social and political issues. So, the only thing different from a non-science fiction book was that it was not on Earth, and most of the characters were not human.
The thing that sold this book to me was actually the natives of Winter. They were pretty much like any Earthling, except that they are androgynous and asexual for most of their lives, until they get to the reproductive phase when they can either became male or female. The complexity of relationships and how the entire society was based on different physiological features was the high point of this book.
4 - Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
This started with a band, Gogol Bordello. It's lead singer, Eugene Hutz, plays Alex in the movie based on this book, and some of their songs are on the soundtrack. So I watched the movie, and it's a favourite of mine. So I had to read the book.
If the movie is wacky, the book is wackier, crazier, but also more bittersweet. In the book there are 3 stories: Alex's story, the (dubious) history of Jonathan's ancestors, and Alex's letters to Jonathan, mostly commenting on his own story, but also commenting (and complaining) about Jonathan's version of his family history.
I loved this book. A lot.
5 - Voice of Fire by Alan Moore
Alan Moore is known for his graphic novels, but my first contact with his work was this book. It's a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy, and really surreal and weird. Good weird. It's a collection of short-stories, set in the same point in space (that point being Northampton, England) but spanning 6000 years.
The first story/chapter of this book is something I have to talk about. Set in 4000BC, the narrator/main character has a limited vocabulary and very little grammatical coherence. Meaning that it's a hell to try to understand what is going on at all. It's more like a detective work. But that is part of the fun, trying to figure out what is going on. I also have to applaud the Portuguese translator, because translating gibberish and maintaining its little sense while not losing its gibberish quality is a huge feat.
The rest of the stories are really good, some irreverent, some sad. One of these days I will re-read this book.
6 - The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales by J.R.R Tolkien
...or anything related with the Lord of the Rings.
I love the world building of Middle Earth, and the way that The Silmarillion is a History book for the whole thing.
The story of Lord of the Rings is really gripping, and while reading it I felt immense joy and despair. That is actually one of the reasons I have trouble re-reading it, I can't get through Bilbo's birthday party knowing how much bad it gets towards book 3. But there is really not much need for another Lord of the Rings review, so I'll just say: it's good and I love it.
7 - Books by Juliet Marillier that I haven't reviewed (yet)
I love this author, and I have reviewed some of her books, some because I read them not so long ago, others because I re-read them not so long ago. But there are are still a lot of them that I love and have yet to do so. Namely, The Daughter of the Forest, The Child of the Prophecy, The Heir to Sevenwaters, The Light Islands Saga and the Wildwood books.
I will most certainly re-read those in the near future, so I might review them then. Suffice to say, I love them all.
8 - American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Fantasy with mythology, and very dark, this one was right up my alley. It has some interludes, or short stories inside the main story, that were weird and disturbing, but my overall opinion of this book is WOW. There is a grittiness to it that I particularly liked.
The main character, Shadow, took some time to get to know and like, but there is an assortment of secondary characters that are simply amazing.
9 - A Segunda Manhã do Mundo by Manuel de Pedrolo [not available in English, original in Catalan: Mecanoscrit del segon origen]
This was another book I picked up based on the title alone. The second morning of the world, as translated in the Portuguese version. And it's a name that summarizes well this short book. It's a post apocalyptic story, about two kids that survived the apocalypse, and how they manage to survive (and repopulate the world).
I loved post apocalyptic stories, and this one was really good. It portrayed very well the hardships of two teenagers suddenly all alone in the world, and what had to be done in other to survive.
10 - Terra Prometida by José Manuel Fajardo [not available in English, original in Spanish: El Converso]
This one is Historical Fiction, set in 17th century and is the story of two man who keep re-encountering each other in different times, in different places in the world, and in different situations (not always the best), and manage to help each other out each time (while keeping score). But most of all is a story about freedom, something both men seek, although for different reasons.
I loved the writing in this one, and the different cultures portrayed: Caribbean, Arabic and European. The way the stories of the two men connected was marvellous, even if at times it was a surprise they did connect at all.