From my good friend Nate, I got a recommendation to read All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy. I've had intentions to read The Road by McCarthy, but I was only passingly aware of his prior work. Since The Road was 1) post-apocalyptic and 2) already on my list, I decided to give Nate's suggestion a try.
I am so glad I did. This has got to be one of the strongest books I've ever read in the construction of the language. It's set in the 1940's west, from Texas down into Mexico, and McCarthy paints such effective pictures of the stark, beautiful terrain. His wording is often short and simple, not flowery, but he strings them together into these long, loping sentences that carry you on and on. The economy of the language fits perfectly both with the physical surroundings and with the main characters--tough young men looking for ranching work.
The story is tightly built as well, with nothing wasted in it. It's an interesting read for me as a writer because much of the plot isn't at all surprising. In the hands of a less remarkable writer, it would even be cliched, telegraphed from miles off. But even though you know where elements are headed--a character from the first half will cause trouble later, things will sour in the seemingly good place they land--that knowledge doesn't get in the way of the story.
McCarthy is now firmly on my "read-everything-by-him" list, although I will hold off until the non-genre summer is passed to make room for other discoveries. If you have a book you're dying to have someone read, the one thing you'd recommend to anyone, lay it on me!