A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote. I've linked to my favorite illustrated version.
This is the kind of story where you know from the first paragraph that you will love it. Every word is so carefully chosen.
I want to write stories like this that set such scenes. And with lines that put you so in the very moment with like this last one, " . . . it [a dilapidated old baby carriage] has winter uses too: as a truck for hauling firewood from the yard to the kitchen, as a warm bed for Queenie, our tough little orange and white rate terrier who has survived distemper and two rattlesnake bites. Queenie is trotting beside it now."
Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. This is a story in verse. You'll fly through these little journal sketches by a boy learning about poetry for the first time as he experiments with the form himself. It's wonderful and touching. Hubby & I read it out loud together.
Another of my favorites is a story in free verse: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Here's its wonderful beginning:
As summer wheat came ripe,
so did I,
born at home, on the kitchen
barefoot, bare bottomed
over the swept
This one is just as delightful, but more work to read: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. I give this away much more selectively. It takes concentration. So the good thing is that each chapter stands alone as a thoughtful piece. I read this with a Unitarian church group--a delightful experience.
Anything by Bailey White! My favorite story is "Something Like a Husband" in Mama Makes Up Her Mind. These stories are beautifully tight in miraculously few pages. She's great to listen to as well, and she has several audio cassettes.
Zippy by Haven Kimmel--this was a gift from one of my best friends. It is laugh out loud funny. I don't think I ever finished reading the last 10 pages or so because then it would have been over. Zippy is now one of my favorite characters--right there with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, Ellen in Ellen Foster, and Frankie in Member of the Wedding.