Haruki Murakami is my favorite modern novelist. If you do not agree then tell me your favorite, I'll read them and then get back to you. His novels were recommended to me initially by Ben Gallagher and has been a connecting factor to many people including my brother, roommates, and new friends. It was even a conversation about his work that landed me the first smooch by Michael a year and a half ago. Arigato Haruki-san!
"Murakami has long been obsessed with subterranean realms; his stories often wander into physical and psychic netherworlds. At the becalmed center of even his most extravagantly plotted fiction lies a steadying imperative: to make sense of the senseless. (...) Murakami not only renders the banalities of day-to-day life with a precision that borders on the tactile, he somehow evokes the queasy coexistence of something unnameable and altogether more bizarre." - Dennis Lim, The Village Voice (12.6.2001)
There is a prose like quality to his writing, each sentence well thought out and loaded with meaning. I often read with pen and paper close close by to write down quotes. His novels emphasize the value of music as an anecdote to the limits of human speech, the songs add depth to the characters and listening to them leads to a greater empathy and interpretation.
*also I just found out that Norwegian Wood is being made into a film, I'm a little peeved that I am not the director but I'm excited to see the result.