This is my recommended book list. I'll add and remove favourites from time to time. (Last updated, February 9 2005)
Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution - Chystia Freeland
All the David Attenborough BBC books - Trials of Life, Life on Earth, The Private Life of Plants, Birds, The Living Planet - read them, re-read them, love them. If you can possibly afford to, buy them.
The Holocaust - Martin Gilbert. Also, The Righteous, which is such an uplifting book. It's basically a book full of literally hundreds of stories of ordinary people taking extraordinary risks to help total strangers during the Holocaust. It's all true and all pretty humbling. Martin Gilbert in general is an absolutely outstanding history writer.
So is Alan Bullock, who wrote Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives
Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine by Jasper Becker
Frauen - German Women Recall The Third Reich by Alison Owings
Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda
Change for the Better - the Story of Geogina Beyer as told to Cathy Casey
There's A Boy In Here by Judy Barron and Sean Barron. This is a book written by a mother and her autistic son about what it is like to grow up with an autistic child from both points of view. It's not a particularly brilliantly written book, but it is so interesting to read about what it is like to be inside an autistic child's head. It's a quickish read, so I'd encourage you to take a look.
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me by Ruth Rendell. This isn't a detective story, it's actually a very accurate and subtle exploration of various manifestations of OCD and schizophrenia. I really recommend it.
Life of Pi - Yann Martel. This is a book with a bizarre premise but once you dip your toe into the water you'll be hooked. I read it straight through propping my eyes open with my fingers. It's that good.
Most things by Marge Piercy
And most things by Margaret Drabble
The Skeleton Woman - A Romance by Renee. A NZ book set in the Hutt Valley. Very skilled writer. And she's written others, as well, that I have yet to investigate.
Breaking The Tongue by Vyvyane Loh
Agatha Christie. Particularly the Hercule Poirot ones, but really, any AC mystery is the work of a master.
Ruth Rendell, same thing.
Frederick Pohl - in particular, Midas World and The Cool War.
HG Wells - The Time Machine
Jules Verne - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy. This is a great, powerful sf/socia commentary book. It's about a woman in a mental institution (probably in the 50's or 60's) who starts to experience a utopian future in parallel with her own dark present. It's just an amazing book. Read it.
Enid Blyton. I don't care how out of date, Secret Seven, Famous Five (And Timmy!) are classics and will stay that way.
Winnie the Pooh - A. A. Milne
Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prarie)
What Katy Did - Susan Coolidge
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Books by Bill Peet and Dr. Suess.
Hardy Boys books by Franklin W. Dixon (thanks sokky!)
Trixie Belden books, by various authors including Julie Campbell and Kathryn Kenny (also, thanks sokky!)