UAL - God, The Painted Bird is truly one of the most horrific books ever written. I am usually quite immune to the effects of graphic movies, books, etc., but I had nightmares for weeks after reading it. Especially the brutality inflicted on "Stupid Ludmilla."
Anyway, my choices:
Anything by Charles Bukowski. Truly the greatest American poet, and a master of dialogue. For poetry, "Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame" Selected Poems 1955-1973; for prose, "Post Office"; for short stories, "Hot Water Music." I have all 38 of his books that are currently available in print.
John Fante - "Wait Until Spring, Bandini", and everything else he wrote.
Fyodor Dostoeyevski: "Crime and Punishment," "Notes From Underground"
JLF Celine - "Journey to the End of the Night"
Albert Camus - "The Plague," "A Happy Death"
Kerouac - "Desolation Angels" "Dharma Bums"
Vladimir Nabokov - "Invitation to a Beheading"
Alexandr Solzynitsin - "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich"
Sylvia Plath - "The Bell Jar"
Anthony Burgess - "A Clockwork Orange"
Henry Miller - "Tropic of Cancer" "Tropic of Capricorn"
James Dickey - "Dileverance" "Buckdancer's Choice"
on and on...
"The deeper you go, the higher you fly. The higher you fly, the deeper you go."