The Guards by Ken Bruen (Minotaur, $15).
I am a big noir fan, and this is as noir as it gets. For down-at-the-heels private investigator Jack Taylor, it’s always bleak just before it gets bleaker. A slice of modern, vicious Ireland without a leprechaun in sight. One of the few PI series that gets better as it goes along.
Any Human Heart by William Boyd (Vintage, $15). The story of a man’s life from beginning to end, with all the heartache and laughter that go along with such a journey. This book takes us to the final moment in all our lives, and it’s heartbreaking.
Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle (Del Rey, $8). The 1963 sci-fi novel that spawned a movie empire. A disturbing classic that makes the preposterous believable. Beautifully written and totally captivating. A short, sharp shock to the system. The father of all talking-monkey fiction—which is a bigger subgenre than you might think.
Call Me the Breeze by Patrick McCabe (Harper, $14). Creepy psychodrama as only McCabe can do it, in which a human falls apart with terrible consequences. After reading this you get a little wary of people, especially ones from small Irish border towns who live in trailers and think that the wind is knocking on their doors.
The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (DC Comics, $15). Bruce Wayne dons the cowl once more, after 10 years of retirement, because the Joker has escaped, the world in general has turned to crap, and only Batman can set things right. The graphic novel that in 1986 was the game-changing equivalent of an iPhone (the 3GS, not the 3G).
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Dover, $2). This is always on any list I compile. Scary, funny, and loaded with the kind of unforgettable characters that make all writers want to try harder. This novel has featured on best-of compilations for more than 100 years.
—Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series has sold more than 20 million books worldwide. Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex, the seventh adventure of Colfer’s criminal boy genius, has just been published by Hyperion