EJ Feddes, a comedian and writer for the pop culture website Spunky Bean, lists the top 3 books that everyone should read.
"3 books that everyone should read" by EJ Feddes
This only applies to young people, but John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. If you've made it through high school without reading it, there's not much point. But for a young person interesting in writing, it's perfect because it has this really obvious symbolism and foreshadowing that are just ideal for illustrating what those concepts are. You don't feel dumb for not noticing the metaphors because you can't miss them. You won't take much away from the actual substance of the book, but I think it makes you a better reader.
Philip Roth's American Pastoral
I am a huge Roth fan, and I'd recommend almost anything of his. Granted, if you pick a book at random, there's like a 20% chance that it's about him being upset over getting too old to have sex, but most of those books are fairly engaging at least. But Pastoral is Roth using Nathan Zuckerman, his frequent stand-in, to extrapolate the life of a former classmate. It's this great, wide-ranging look at the major events of the 20th Century all the way through Watergate, with the added idea that the narrator is recreating the life of his boyhood hero. It's Philip Roth at the top of his game and it's amazing.
David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
Simon is the guy who created The Wire, and the TV show that was directly based on this book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. As a crime reporter, he spent a year with the Baltimore Homicide Department, and this book just chronicles what he saw. (If you ever watched Homicide, you'll recognize where those characters came from when you read this.) It's the only true crime book you'll ever need to read, and Simon does such a great job of finding the heroism in flawed people without having to do any airbrushing. (A skill be put to good use in his TV work.) I re-read it every couple of years, and there are passages that still chill me.