Stephen Jay Gould was one of the most influential and widely-read writers of popular science of his generation, but you'd never know it from the short reply he gave when asked which books influenced him the most. He left the why part out.
As found in The Harvard Guide to Influential Books: 113 Distinguished Harvard Professors Discuss the Books That Have Helped to Shape Their Thinking:
As a kid growing up in New York City, I played stickball and poker instead of doing a lot of reading. I wasn't a nonreader — I read at an average age and an average rate. The passion for reading came later in college.
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
The Meaning of Evolution by George G. Simpson
Lucky to be a Yankee by Joe Di Maggio
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
The Bible. King James version
Follow your curiosity, for more in this series check out the books that influenced E. O. Wilson, B. F. Skinner, Thomas C. Shelling, Michael J. Sandel, and Jerome Kagan
(image source: nyt)