Gateway – Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl is a grand old master of science fiction; he written hundreds of novels and stories, and edited hundreds more. At age 90-something, he keeps a blog, thewaythefutureblogs.com, filled with his canny views on modern society, pictures from his cruise vacations, and wonderful stories about the old days with all the other great Golden, Silver and New Wave writers he knew and worked with.
Gateway is a perfect example of Pohl's signature style; imaginative, far-flung science fiction with realistic human characters at its core. Despite Robinette Broadhead's vast wealth and success, he's a tragic, sorrowful figure, and Pohl really makes you feel for him. His style is simple and easy to read, but Pohl can turn a phrase when he wants too, and his trademark humor and courage- he shies away from no subject- is brilliantly evident in Gateway.
Note: Gateway is the first novel in Pohl's most famous series, The Heechee Saga. So be warned, if you read it you will most likely find yourself sucked in for the long haul.
The Suicide Club – Robert Louis Stevenson
As much as I love Stevenson's swashbuckling adventures in the lowlands and on the high seas, The Suicide Club (a collection of stories) remains my favorite of his works. Stevenson brings his observant eye and sharp wit to early 20th-century society, tackling a topic that's still relevant today: people run down by the routine, who long for something different but can't make it happen, but who don't have the means or courage to make a change. The Suicide Club brings together men who want to die but are too cowardly to do it themselves, so they draw lots to kill each other, sometimes in original or ineffective ways.
Note: Yes, that's a camera flash on the cover. It's an incredibly shiny cover, despite being a Dover Thrift Edition.