2. "The Big Sleep," by Raymond Chandler
The classic detective novel, made into the equally classic Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall film, is the first appearance of Los Angeles noir detective Phillip Marlow. Marlow is hired to expose the blackmailer of a tycoon's daughter, but along the way he exposes a lot more about the seedy underbelly of 1930's LA society. Chandler's eloquent prose and quirky characters are enchanting.