The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren (Oxford, $12.50).

My mother read this to me when my grandfather died, when I was 6, to find a way to talk to me about death. It was during that reading that I discovered I could actually read for myself. So Lindgren taught me how to read and how not to be afraid of dying, all at the same time. I still read The Brothers Lionheart at least once a year, and it's still my all-time favorite novel.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Del Rey, $8).

This was one of the first books that made me understand it was okay for literature to be silly and funny and stupid and hilarious. I assume that this life-altering experience at age 10 or 11 still shows in my writing today.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Mariner, $20).

Over a summer when I was about 9, Tolkien consumed me. The adventure, the storytelling, the magical lands and terrifying creatures inhabiting them were all I thought about. When I was done, I started all over again. This was my first experience of absolute binge reading, and maybe my first love.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Bantam, $4).

I don't remember the first time I heard it read, but I do remember that the first time I read it for myself I was blown away by how clever the language was, and how playful. I still write with the hope that I will always love words as much as I do every time I read Dickens.

Harry Potter: The Complete Series by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, $87).

I've never really longed to relive my childhood. Except for this: I wish I could be 7 years old again, just to be able to read Harry Potter for the very first time. There are certain things in a story like that one that an adult can never fully understand. We get old; we forget how to be that smart.

Shogun by James Clavell (Dell, $10).

It's not life-changing; it's not the greatest piece of literature ever written; it's definitely not flawless. But it's good. Fun. Entertaining. An adventure. Sometimes that's quite enough.

— Swedish novelist Fredrik Backman is the author of A Man Called Ove, the international best-seller that inspired an Oscar-nominated film. In his new novel, Beartown, a fading rural community pins its hopes on a youth hockey team's run at a title.