I know; everyone else has finished this ages ago. But here's mine.
I was fascinated by the cover of my Aunt's copy of LotR when I was a tiny child. Turned out I'd like the contents, too.
John Le Carre
He wrote the best school story ever. While I think most of what he's written is stodgy and indulgent, the Karla trilogy and A Perfect Spy are even better books than they are TV programmes.
These books were half of a transition into "adult" novels when I was in my early teens.
And these were the other half. Pulled from my mother's shelf.
Every one a winner. I think she may actually be my favourite author.
Not everything has to be fiction, I hope. He's in for the Lectures, not the autobiography. I borrowed them from my school library continuously for about 5 years, then bought a set of my own when I was 17; I've passed them on now, but will get another set soon.
The Great Betrayer and Destroyer of Worlds. Although now that I've discovered that he's basically a heretic, it isn't so bad. Except for The Last Battle. That *is* bad.
I read and re-read his part of the History of England series as a child.
George McDonald Fraser
I only came to Flashman in my 20s, but I'm glad I did. Thanks Una.
Well, Holmes, anyway. My well-beloved Penguin Complete has a bad pencil drawing of a butterfly and my first go at a signature in it.
The Lovejoy novels (from which the TV series was very loosely derived) are also a joy. I dislike first person narrative, which makes these an unusual inclusion. They are proper mysteries that I read again and again whenever I want a bit of literary mashed potato. You can also learn a surprising amount about antiques. They kept me company while I was in America for a long time, the first time.
Bernard Law Montgomery
I know he was a massive git. And I know I'd've had no time for him in real life. But his memoirs are absolutely fascinating (especially reading between the lines, and in conjunction with other memoirs, like Alan Brooke's diaries). I re-read them more often than I care to relate, in a worn 1960 hardback "Companion Book Club" edition that I got for 50p (it says in pencil in the front).
JCT Jennings and friends. I...I...I...You...You...You...Corwumph!
For the Famous Fives, the Five Finder Outers, the XYZ of Adventures, and, above all, Malory Towers.
128 pages then stop. Literary genius.