1. The Echo Maker by Richard Powers - Part medical mystery, part thriller, part (very) contemporary literature, and 100% metaphor for how much 9/11 changed the world means there is a lot going on in this book. A man is in a freak car accident that should have left him dead, instead it leaves him with Capgras Syndrom - the thinks that the people closest to him are imposters and his real loved ones are being kept from him. This includes his only sister, who gives up her attempts to break away from the small town they grew up in to take care of him, and almost loses herself in the process. She convinces a world famous neuroligist to look at her brother's case, and the doctor begins to doubt his own work and the methods he's used to reach his level of fame.
2. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron - Sure, most of the essays are funny. And those that aren't funny nail the meloncholy note. And I know they're not written to change the world - just give one woman's view of it. What prevented me from evey liking this book (beyond acknowledging that Ms. Ephron is a talented writer) is the shallowness and the snobbery that she embraces as a fact of life. The only piece I would recommend is the one about the role books play in an avid readers life.
3. All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, Audiobook read by Brad Pitt - An incredible sense of place and characters that are so well written you feel every bit of their happiness and their pain, I would recommend this story to anyone. Brad Pitt does an amazing job of putting just the right amount of emotion into the characters, without turning it into a one man play. I am about as far from being a fan of stories about horses and cowboys as a reader can get, but this is a truly excellent book.
4. Suite Francaise by Irene Nermirovsky - I have had so many people recommend this book to me, I was sure I'd be disappointed. I wasn't. A first draft of 2/5 of a fictionalized account of living in occupied France during WWII, written as the author was experiencing through the actual events may mean it is unpolished and unfinished, but it's still a deeply moving and interesting book.
5. The Quiet American by Graham Greene- Written in 1955, this is a story of two men, a British journalist and an American government employee crossing paths in the early days of the Vietnam War. What starts out as a simple story about a love triangle with a civil war as background turns out to a much deeper look about at happens when colonialism and capitalism go wrong. Recent world events make this book as relevant as ever.