I do think that Question 4 deserves a response. Would it be a crime to narrow down its scope to the realm of science fiction?
4: Five books that mean a lot to me:
Chaga, by ianmacdonald. When I first found this book, I was pleased to discover that it was--in part--a continuation of the highly enjoyable 1990 novella Towards Kilimanjaro. When I finished this book, I was happy to find that it was so much more than that. I like Gaby McAslan.
Eon, by Greg Bear. Bear did a superlative job of infusing a Greek sense of tragedy in this novel set in the near future (now, thankfully, alternate-historical). What's more remarkable is that he was successfully able to take this plot beyond the tragedy.
Komarr, by Lois McMaster Bujold. I like Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan books very much, but I prefer those titles and stories and plot threads which emphasize the interplay of personalities over those which explore Vorkisigan's military adventures. While seeing Miles in action on the Barrayaran-conquered world of Komarr is a treat, it's the character of Ekaterin Vorsoisson that clinches it for me. I can empathize.
A Million Open Doors, by John Barnes. Barnes' Thousand Cultures series is, besides being one of the most significant recent science fiction series in terms of what it has to say about humanity, wonderful to read.
The Child Garden, by Geoff Ryman. I explained at length exactly one year ago why this book is so important to me. His vast sympathetic scope is what does it for me, I think.