Here's something interesting for y'all to think about--there's sort of a "twenty favorite books" thing going around at JournalFen, and I'm having a really hard time with mine, mostly because I just boxed about 80% of my books up so I could have some breathing room. I've already had to separate children's/not-adult books out into a list of their own as it is--I either have too many or I can't think of enough by turns. Here's the problem:
Favorite does not equal best. I'm not talking about which books you think are, objectively, the best. I think Faulkner is one of the all-time great writers. That does not mean I ever want to read one of his books ever, ever again. My definition of "twenty favorite books" is "the books you keep picking up, time and time again, possibly flipping to three or four specific sections worn into the spine by the number of times you've read them." I think that says a hell of a lot more about a person than "top twenty books people agree to be fabulous and I can actually stand."
(In a pinch, you can substitute an author for a number of his books, and specify which ones you like best, so as not to take up too many numbers on your list.)
And then I'm having the problem of a lesser category, "Books I Read Once and Loved, But Haven't Read Since (Wow, I Should Really Go Pick That Up Again)." Because you really, really want to put that book you read once and loved on the list, but should it really knock off a book you read every time you're home sick?
(And what about plays? What about poetry?)
So I may end up compiling a master list of recommendations, as many as I can think of, and not hold it down to twenty. But if you think you can do twenty, I'd be interested to see the list--it might jog my memory. Feel free to leave a list in the comments or link to a journal entry of your own.
P.S. Any steampunk recommendations?