(Transcribed from a combox, and revised)
My top ten books would have to include:
1. Dylan Thomas's Collected Poems: the primary literary influence on my life.
2. Marianne Moore's Complete Prose: a moral as well as a literary influence, the temperament revealed in these pieces is, for lack of a better word, Christian.
3. Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation: the book that brought me back to holy Church.
4. Fr Benedict Groeschel's Healing the Original Wound: one of the books that helps to keep me in holy Church! Vitally important.
5. John Irving's The World According to Garp: a book that planted in my head the dangerous idea that one could be a writer, and nothing else, as one's life-work.
6. Seamus Heaney's Field Work: the book that made me try to write sonnets for the first time!
7. Donald Hall's prose-books about poetry, esp. Goatfoot Milktongue Twinbird and Poetry and Ambition: revivifying one's interest in the craft.
8. George F Will's columns from the early '80s were a political influence as I moved to the right.
9. How can I forget Cummings? The poems and the "nonlectures."
The big influences, I think, come when one is susceptible to them! In adolescence and early adulthood. I don't know if anything I've read since age 30 would make the list, because I've read so much before then! The capacity to shock, to move, to change one's life significantly is somewhat diminished.