Oh, I have a few novels that ravished my soul and I couldn't put down:
-Witch Fire (Banned Series) but only the first book because I didn't like the others
-ALL of Narnia novels
-Gone With The Wind
-And Then There Were None
*Hunchback Of Notre Dame* I star this one because it's truly a masterpiece of literature. I stayed up for days reading that tome and to this day, I'm still mad at the priest. Awesome novel and my absolute favorite.
It is Banned and the Banished. The first book was amazing and I finished it in less than two days. The second book was alright...well, okay. And I never made it past chapter 2 in the third book. Sigh. I'm just not good with series in general though.
I know how much most people love G.R.R. Martin's -- A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. I only wish I was one of them.
Gurkhal mentioned Martin's Asoiaf, and I agree with him that Martin is an acceptional writer. His skills are second to none. But I have a problem with George R.R. that stopped me from reading beyond book 2 in the series. I bought the first three books prior to the beginning of the TV series. I really wanted to love these books, but couldn't. And the reason is simple.
By the time I reached the end of book 2, I realized that Martin possesses an almost maniacal joy in killing off his main characters. And this is something I simply can't abide. An author can punish his primary characters, can have them injured, wounded, stabbed, and beaten nearly to death. He can take them to the brink of death again and again. But if he takes pleasure in the random -- wouldn't it be fun to kill off this beloved character -- decision simply to shock his audience, then he's lost my interest in his writing forever.
When I read Tolkien's trilogy the first time, I put down my book and couldn't go back to it for more than two weeks. This was when Gandalf fought the Balrog in the Mines of Moria, and fell to his death in the bottomless chasm. At least that's what I feared at the time. I only continued when my wife and a close friend suggested that things were not what they seemed. It wasn't long before I was rewarded with Gandalf's return. But for those two weeks I was heartsick.
Since then, I've noticed that I become so immersed in the stories I read that the characters become real people to me...so real, that to lose one of them is like losing an actual friend or family member in a real-life death. The pain is unbearable.
But it seems Martin has little if any attachment to his own protagonists. Perhaps it's because he has such an endless gift for creating well-defined, well-rounded characters, that none of them seem that important to him. But as a reader, they are very important to me. If I'm going to invest myself, heart and soul, into a protagonist, I have to know they are going to be around for more than two or three chapters. Otherwise, what's the point? Why put myself through such misery?
There are other great writers out there that can draw me into a story every bit as well as Martin can. And with them, I don't have to let the author punish me over and over again with his cruel decisions. It simply isn't worth the price I must pay.
Perhaps I'm just too much of a soft-hearted fool. I don't know. But if Bilbo or Frodo were killed in the first few chapters, I would've stopped reading the Hobbit and LOTR. That would have happened as well if Rand al Thor was killed a quarter of the way into Jordan's WOT series.
The Kingkiller Chronicle without a doubt. Those two books just suck me right in to the world and I laugh, feel heartbroken and happy for characters in it in a way few other stories can manage. The Doors of Stone cannot be released fast enough.
^Now I've written roughly 40 pages, and I'm still writing today even though I'm feeling icky. The plot thickens! A character who was thought to exist is revealed to be made up by another character! How in the world did I come up with that one?!
War of the Worlds. Tolkien was a grabber, too, but I was terrified all through War. Couldn't put it down. The human race was on the brink of extermination, and no one could prevent it! What would I do under those circumstances?
I was about ten years old when I read this, and it blew me away and got me hooked on Wells.