I would say that the long story "The Death of Ivan Illyich" is the most memorable work of fiction for me because it has such an emotional impact and because it deals with the most serious issue of life, which is the fact that everyone must die. It was Matthew Arnold who wrote somewhere that the distinguishing mark of all great fiction is its "high seriousness." No one wrote with higher seriousness than Leo Tolstoy. Many people may not look for high seriousness in their reading. They may prefer humor or suspense or romance. But I think the most memorable works are serious. I have read a lot of escapist-type fiction over the years, but I can't remember most of it.
I still find "Fahrenheit 451" by the late writer Ray Bradbury as the most memorable book I've read. What it postulates is coming true more and more in the 21st century - from our addiction to entertainment, gadgets, and technology - to the demise of reading long forms of quality literature.
In addition, the book conveys the message that people interact less and less on a personal, face-to-face basis. They seem to be moving away from having real productive and creative conversations. The novel shows that despite all humankind's advances... lasting happiness and freedom is not the end result.
Fahrenheit 451 is a lesson in censorship and a cry for us to preserve books and intelligent discourse through reading, writing, and talking about quality books. It makes me turn off the TV and Internet and sit in a comfortable chair with my favorite libation and savor a masterful book of poetry, a play script, a novel, essay, or short story, as my mind percolates with the concepts provided in these works.
I alslo love The Alchemist, but I didn't read it until I was an adult. When I was in 9th grade, I read A Tale of Two Cities and it made a big impression on me. I fell in love with the language and the time period, and the story. I still think it is a terribly romantic, if not practical tale. From there I read a lot of Victorian literature, because I really enjoyed the period. I still do!
I first read Joseph Heller's World War II novel Catch-22 in 1972 during my senior year of high school AP English. I fell in love with the story, characters and anti-war sentiment, and I have never read another novel that affected me as much. It's still my favorite novel. Runners-up would be the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe, particularly "The Tell-Tale Heart," The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Pit and the Pendulum."
The Perks of Being a Wallflower- shocking twist at the end
Purple Hibiscus- story of realisation
To be honest, the book that made the biggest impact on my life was the Bible, but that probably won't be relevant to you.
In English class I studied a poem called 'Dulce Et Decorum Est', a poem written by a soldier on the front during World War II. It's imagery is so real and horrifying, I will never forget it.
Another really good poem is Midterm Break. It is so innocent at first, but then you realise what it's really about, and it really freaked me out. A really sad poem, but very good to read.
THE ZAHIR by Paulo Coelho...Just love the way the writer presents it.
One book that has really had an impact on me is Lord of the Flies. It shows how civilization is actually just skin-deep and what people can become when thrown into life-and-death situations. In other words: deep inside, we're all just caged animals that can cause havoc when let loose!