What are your five favorite books, and why?
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell just blew me away when I first read it. I couldn't get my head around how one guy had been able to create so many distinct voices and bring them all together into one cohesive whole. With every Mitchell character it only takes about a line and a half before you can see them standing right before your eyes. The guy's a magician.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I love all of Murakami's work and, while I don't think he has one stand-out work, this is probably my favourite.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. People always think of classic literature as being boring and for the classroom only, but Dostoevsky's a mad man! He has a tendency to sprawl (which is enjoyable if you're a fan), but this is probably his tightest book. A lot of people think it's depressing, but I find it has a lot of comic scenes and, although I'm not religious, I think the ending is very uplifting.
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder got me through my philosophy course in uni more than any textbook. Underpinned by the idea that the big questions in philosophy are the big questions for everyone this book is a great introduction to the biggest figures in the discipline all structured around a very readable mystery.
Factory Girls by Leslie Chang. Chang got really close to a few of the girls she describes in this book about life in the factories of China. It's non-fiction, but the voices are so strong it comes across almost like a novel. Tragic and uplifting at the same time.
Read more of this interview.
What do you read for pleasure?
Almost anything! Novels (especially by Japanese authors), history, philosophy, pop-science, pop-psychology...