In the interest of over-thinking, I'm going to introduce a concept called "Favorite Points." Using a completely arbitrary system, a band or a book will get points based on things like: if it was ever an artistic influence on me; if I can still read it or listen to it after all this time; if I'm proud to say that I'm a fan of it; etc.
So here we go, with a few of my favorite books/bands:
Band: Iron Maiden
Favorite Points: 100
Detail: This band was responsible for getting me into metal music, which led to my learning how to play the guitar. I'd say that deserves a fair amount of FP. I was initially drawn to them by their album artwork, which, to me, demonstrates the importance of cover illustrations (news flash: I'm currently having a new cover design made for Secret of the Songshell.) I basically stopped buying their albums after No Prayer for the Dying, but when the Flight 666 rockumentary was on TV recently, I was glued to the set. Every so often, I'll still put on one of the old records and it sounds awesome. My friend sings in a Maiden tribute band and they're always a blast to watch.
Book: East of Eden
Favorite Points: 82
Detail: I've always maintained that my favorite books were the ones that caused me to postpone real life while I read just one more chapter. This was actually not one of those books. This one was a bit of a slog, honestly. But what a glorious slog it was. I was reading it during the time I was writing Songshell, and it definitely had a direct influence, especially on my more descriptive paragraphs.
Band: The Dambuilders
Favorite Points: 94
Detail: See this blog post.
Book: The Hunger Games
Favorite Points: 79
Detail: I first heard about this book from my son, who was reading it for school. He completely loved it. So I figured I'd give it a try. (Tip for authors: get your book into schools, and then let word of mouth take over from there.) At first, I was very skeptical. The premise sounded unoriginal, and the first few pages yielded characters that weren't very likeable. But then I had to keep reading it. And reading it some more. I ended up finishing it in a couple of days, which is remarkable given my crazy schedule. Unlike the Potter series, it didn't influence my own writing all that much, but still, any book that has that can't-put-it-down effect gets big points in my, um, book.