An American college professor of self-described 'Hitler studies', his wife Babette, and his kids and stepkids try to keep abreast of a society with too much meaning and none at all: academia specialized into impotence, endlessly multiplying product lines, mass tourism mediated by mass transit and media, and the emptiness of professionalized process. Don DeLillo's White Noise is a book about the search for genuine human elements in such paranoiac conditions, and the consequences of failing to do so- or at least of doing so in the wrong places. It's so intensely affecting that I've only read it straight through once but remember it more vividly than I do most books. One of my favorite books ever.
Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstandter is an 800 page monument to Godel, Escher, and Bach traces the parallels in their accomplishments in math, art, and music, respectively- but it's really a celebration of the unlimited potential of the human mind. Hofstadter examines a body of shared philosophical and aesthetic concepts with literally awesome depth, cleverness, and deftness. Describing this work's brilliance in so many words is beyond me. Nevertheless, this book reads so easily and clearly, with such playfulness, that it can be read in small bursts and large swaths both