Why this book?
Victor Hugo is a consummate novelist with his finger on the pulse of the social and political history of his time, coupled with an ability to create strong and vibrant characters. You just have to look at the chapter "Petit Gervais" or the one in which Valjean gives himself up rather than see an innocent man suffer to understand this. Les Miserables is his undoubted masterpiece and if you read it, it will stay with you forever. It's hard to put a choice of favourite books in order because, like friends, you value books equally for different qualities, but this is probably the one I'd like to be buried with!