The Stand, Stephen King. I read plenty of King in my teens, but if picked up his books during my twenties it was to mock what I considered his sub-par prose, his folksiness, his unbridled enthusiasm for emphatic italics. Well, more fool twenty-something-me, because King is a tremendously powerful writer, and The Stand is the kind of book that you don't so much read as live. Sure, King's writing is wobbly at times, but taken as a whole The Stand is an immersive, weirdly leisurely adventure, stuffed with brilliant scenes, memorable characters, darkness, humour, horror.
The Hunters, James Salter. Set in the rarified world of jet fighter pilots in the Korean War, Salter's debut is a lyrical, drily witty examination of honour and thwarted ambition, and a gentle yet firm riposte to the Hemingway school of literary masculinity. The combat scenes are glorious - Salter's descriptive language is brilliant, and the man knows his way around a simile. The internal and interpersonal conflict is depicted with equal skill.
A Sport and a Pastime, James Salter. I adored this novel: it is intoxicating and beautiful, full of explicit sex, and an equally explicit depiction of loss and regret. It seems extraordinary that words on paper can make a person feel as this novel made me feel. Glorious.