The famous, or perhaps infamous, Appendix N. The list of recommended reading list created by the godfather of gaming, E. Gary Gygax. It's a living list, a group of books and authors that grows and changes with each new generation that discovers it.
When I started playing D&D back in 1981/82 I was already deeply mired in my own fantasy reading list that had started years earlier in elementary school. Reading had always been important to me, and writing as well, and once I had a grasp of the basics in 1st grade I began losing myself deeply in the books that were available.
Books from early grade school had a huge impact on the direction my reading-life would take. Early on the classics were a staple, books like Encyclopedia Brown, Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing, and The Furious Flycycle were some of the titles that had an early impact on my taste in books.
I'm skipping over all of the very early reading, the Little Golden books filled with Sesame Street characters like my all time favorite, The Monster at the End of this Book (which I won't spoil, but the monster at the end was one of the best!), but i'm not discounting that these books may have had an impact as well...it's hard to say.
It was in middle school (6th-8th grades) where I feel my most important development as a reader began, and of course this coincided with my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons. The strange young adult fiction of the 1970'd still permeated the library, where most of my reading material originated. I remember a few particularly unique reads, including a book entitled Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, a book that had a powerful impact on me.
It was during these years that I discovered many of the staples of fantasy including The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Prydain, and a Wrinkle in Time along with others. I remember riding my bike to Encore Books to buy my copies of David Eddings Belgariad, a series of books that had tremendous impact on me as a reader and now as a player. His characters were so rich and real to me that they shaped how I played many of my early characters (especially my thieves, thank you Silk!).
By the time I found myself in high school I was voracious as a reader. My room was littered with books, bookshelves stuffed with row after row of fantasy novels. It was during this time that I both looked back and moved forward, reading Moorcock, Zelazny, Donaldson, the more advanced Tolkien, Gene Wolfe, Steven Brust, Terry Brooks, R.E Howard, Lovecraft...the 1980's were a great time to be a Fantasy book geek. The 1970's had produced psychedelic, twisted tales of fantasy and the 1980's were rich with books that 'grounded' fantasy a bit...giving much of it a feel not unlike what my weekend D&D sessions were beginning to feel like. Sure, it was all make-believe, but sword-swinging and spell-slinging as a character was more like Brust and less like Moorcock. High Fantasy was great to read, but tough to reproduce with the AD&D books we were now using at the table.
It was early in High School when I acquired my DMG (the 1979 1st ed version), and found Appendix N. How odd it seemed...it was missing so much (or so I thought) and I had long since moved beyond most of it. Still, it turned me on to Fritz Leiber and Jack Vance, who I hadn't yet stumbled into. It was wonderful to touch on the books in the list that had such a huge impact on the game material (the Vancian magic that permeates D&D is directly derived from the Dying Earth series, and who can forget all of the great entries in Deities & Demigods including Leibers!).
Kids entering the RPG scene now have 2+ decades of literature on top of my own experience, much of it aimed at a YA audience. I didn't have the advantage of YA lit, it was either for kids, or for adults, and we just crossed over from one place to the other...anything landing squarely in the middle had no real affiliation. Fantasy and Science fiction lit wasn't popular in the mainstream either, but today it lives in all of our media. What's bigger than Harry Potter or Percy Jackson?!
Everyone's Appendix N is different and unique. It would shock me to find a player of D&D or other RPG's, young or old, who didn't also share of love of reading. Lot's of folks love to discuss and grow the appendix, here is a fresh look at the new one which lists many additions since the original. I love that books that take place in the D&D multiverse appear as well! How better to experience play outside the game than to read a well-written novel BASED on that very same place!
It's a living document, my own personal Appendix N. I hope your is too! Happy reading...