Yay! Author and book recommendation! I can finally give back to Dan, if he still reads this thread. Anywho, I read voraciously, and mainly for fun, though some for self improvement and just to make me think. Here's the list:
David & Leigh Eddings: If you like fun characters, a good story, fun dialogue, and don't mind a few cliches, pick up anything by them.
Mercedes Lackey: She writes fairly intelligent fantasy, without letting her messages get in the way of the story. It might just be brain candy compared to some other books, but when I read a novel, I want a story, not just a plot littered with someone's agenda and philosophy. (As I've said elsewhere, there's a big difference between good writing and good storytelling. Others may have better writing, but for storytelling, she's one of the best.)
L. E. Modesitt, Jr.: I love all his stuff. He has a good bit of philosophical stuff in his books, but it doesn't get in the way of the story, and it's the kind that makes you question, not just vomits up the authors opinions.
Orson Scott Card: Loved Ender's Game and Treason. Most of his other stuff I just couldn't get that interested in. *Puts on Flame-absorbing armor*
Robert Heinlein: He had some good stuff, but I haven't read SiaSL. Friday I liked, and The Number of the Beast was interesting. So was The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Cat That Walks Through Walls. He does throw sex in a bit in some of his books, however, just a heads up.
Dennis McKiernon: Awesome storyteller. Take the characters of the Eddings and Lackey, the world building of Tolkien, and the philosophical depth of Modesitt (actually, more like double that, but anywho), add great storytelling, stir, and present in a unique style all his own, and you get McKiernon. IMO, he doesn't get nearly the attention he deserves. I especially recommend his Caverns of Socrates book.
R.A. Salvatore: A good fun read for when you just want to read a good story. My version of brain candy.
Fred Saberhagen: His characters aren't that memorable, but he's a good storyteller. His Berserker short stories are very good.
Tad Williams: Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. 'Nuff said.
Steven Erikson: Only three books out that I know of. An epic story teller, on the level of Jordan, but more casual reader friendly. He also doesn't do the "overdescribe to fill space" thing that I find annoying about Jordan. The books are, in reverse order: Memories of Ice, Deadhouse Gates, and Gardens of the Moon.
Anne McCaffrey: Not her Pern books. They were okay, but started getting weak towards the 5th IMO. I recommend the Brainship Series, and the T&T series. Also, the Generation Warriors series is fun.
Terry Brooks: Good storyteller, memorable characters. The Sword of Shannara series and Magic Kingdom of Landover series are my favorites, though I enjoy the Knight of The Word trilogy.
Curt Benjamin: The only books I know about are his Seven Brothers trilogy and one other set in the same world. He's a very good storyteller, and writes good characters.
Brian Jacques: Fun, fairly lighthearted, fantasy about a world with only talking animals. Good always wins, though some of the good guys may die. You can pick up any one of them, since, although they do reference back (or forward), they are not written in any kind of sequence. A good enjoyable read.
Michelle West: Memorable characters and good storytelling. The Sunsword Series is the only one I've read so far, but since it is done in six books, you're not too likely to get bogged down in it.
Jordan & Goodkind are good writers, but they really need to learn how to end it. Stretch any series beyond 6 books, and you're asking people to lose interest. Really, trilogies are ideal.
Okay, that's pretty much it for SF & F, so on to other styles!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The master of the the detective novel. Dupin, and any other detective you can think of was nothing compared to Sherlock Holmes. And boy, could he write a story!
Louis L'Amour: He writes westerns, probably the best storyteller I've ever read. Very memorable and enjoyable characters. He literally walked the ground his characters walk. I especially recommend his Sackett Family series. One of the cleanest modern writers I've ever read. Also, the heroes are always very principled, though they may sometimes be only loosely acquainted with the finer points of property ownership.
J.T.Edson: Fun reads. Full of cliches and misinformation about the west, but still fun to read. Memorable characters. If you are a powergamer, you'd probably like his books. (If you don't understand what I mean, read some, you'll get it.)
James Patterson: Very good storyteller, writes good thriller and detective novels. An enjoyable writer.
Jack Higgins: Memorable characters, well paced, excellent storytelling. What more could you ask? Especially recommend anything with Sean Dillon. I just like his style.
Robert Ludlum: If you saw the Bourne movies, please read the books. The movies were good, but the books are so much better. All of his other books are good too.
Tom Clancy: He writes well, and his characters are memorable. He just as a bit of trouble writing books that aren't 500+ pages long.
Morris West: Especially recommend his books The Devil's Advocate and The Shoes of the Fisherman. He's a very good storyteller.
I'll add more if I think of them. Now for non-fiction:
C.S. Lewis: Whether or not you're a Christian, he's the foremost Christian appologist for a reason, he is an incredible writer. Also, his novel The Great Divorce is wonderful.
Lee Strobel: He presents a fairly balanced view of Christianity, his first book, The Case For Christ, details his journey from atheism to Christianity. He was a highly regarded reporter, and he goes after the facts first, the interpretations second.
Bruce Lee's Striking Thoughts
Okay, I have more, I'll just have to dig for them. For now, that's it.