These are novels (not plays, short stories, nor anything else) that I particularly like and feel have particularly influenced my own writing. It is not a list of the ‘best’ novels.
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien — I love The Lord of the Rings but this was the book that made the initial impact and has been more of a model for my own writing.
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway — For me, the first and the last of Hemingway were his best: the first novel, The Sun Also Rises, and his late-life novella, The Old Man and the Sea. One could disregard all the novels between, not that some of them were not decent enough.
Vanity Fair, W.M. Thackeray — A relatively late entry for me, and not a book I read when young. But it might well be my favorite novel of all. No one better at giving insight into characters.
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh — Not necessarily his best but it made the most impact on me. I do love his more typical novels too, the humor, the style, but the nuanced ideas of Brideshead speak to me.
The Left Hand of Darkness, U.K. Le Guin — This novel made a big impact on me when it first came out and I was young. This was (and is) the sort of thing serious speculative fiction should do. The Dispossessed may have been even better, and those Earth-Sea books, but this one got got to me first.
A Princess of Mars, E.R. Burroughs — Pretty much where my love for speculative fiction starts, and a surprisingly well-crafted piece of writing with a sense of wonder. Burroughs’s sly humor puts him a cut or two above most writers of adventure.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen — Yes, I seem to have a thing for English novelists with a bit of sarcastic tone. Thackeray, Waugh — but they both owe Miss Austen.
Kim, Rudyard Kipling — In terms of prose style, I can think of no one I like better. And I do like stylists. The short stories of the Jungle Books provided the original impact as far as Kipling goes.
There is probably no sense in adding more to these eight. Yes, I know they are all English language writers. Yes, I could come up with a different list a different day. And I could more easily make a list of well-known authors I do not like that much and have influenced me as examples of what not to do. We learn as much that way as any other — figuring out what turns us off and avoiding it in our own work. But I won’t mention my dislike for Dostoevsky or Conrad or anyone else here.