Redemption Falls by Joseph O'Connor really captivated me, like his previous novel Star of the Sea. He evokes a period of history I didn't know much about - post-American Civil War - and the desperation of people caught up in it. I've read all of Iain M Banks' science fiction, although none of his other novels. Consider Phlebas has this enormous vision, described in such detail. You really need to pay attention. The 4,000m Peaks of the Alps by Martin Moran is a guide to climbing all 50 of them. I've done eight, but Touching the Void by Joe Simpson encourages me to stay on the sofa.
I could probably have picked from 200 albums. Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens is so experimental and ambitious - at one point he was going to do an album for each US state - but lo-fi at the same time. He obviously didn't have a lot of money and played every instrument himself. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning by Bright Eyes is simple but memorable, like early Dylan. I play the mandolin, and Haven by the Anglo-Irish folk band Flook is what I often turn to when I'm not sure what to put on. Fleet Foxes' second album, Helplessness Blues, is a bit more intimate than their first. I've been into other stuff, but there's a definite acoustic thread to my listening now.
The Big Bang Theory makes academic, nerdy people the heroes for a change, and it's just so well written and brilliantly acted. I caught Dennis Potter's The Singing Detective again recently when it was on BBC4. I'd forgotten TV could be so wonderful and brilliantly artistic. I don't think I was struck by it that much when it came out in 1986. Maybe when you're older, the reminiscing part of it has a bit more resonance.