If I had to name one book that has had the most lasting influence on my work I would pick The Big Sea by Langston Hughes. An autobiography, the writing is beautiful, personal and very funny, and the adventures are nonstop. Even more importantly, the entire work provides evidence of Hughes' ability to ground himself firmly – lovingly – in his specific African-American-ness and from that base, embrace the whole world.
I was also greatly moved by the amazing love story that is at the heart of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and by the magic that is woven throughout the same author's One Hundred Years of Solitude.
I am also consistently challenged and inspired by the work of Alice Walker, especially The Temple of My Familiar, which expands the boundaries of time and space and love in the most unexpected ways.