First, congratulations to Debbie D, who wins Peter and the Starcatchers, and whose pirate name is Mad Prudence.
Watership Down by Richard Adams (Scribner)
I reread this in 2004, but I've re-read this many times over the years. In some ways, it's a comfort read, and in some ways, it's a puzzle. If you asked me if I liked books about animals or with animals as starring characters (particularly animals that have language), I'd say no, but something about this is different. On top of that, when I first read this book, I was definitely in a stage where I wasn't particularly interested in male protagonists, and the female bunnies in this book aren't portrayed very well. But time and time again, I overlook my annoyances.
Here's what makes this book worth reading. First, the epic journey: bunnies must leave their warren and escape danger, and find a new home. Second, and somewhat illogical: the reader knows more than the bunnies do, and the struggle for security is not quite the same as what would happen if this book starred people, so one is likely to engage with the things that do--and don't--happen along the way. Third, and maybe most important: the characters are really characters. Oh, I don't mean that they are all well-drawn and unique; some of the bunnies disappear into their supporting roles. But the ones that stand out, they really stand out. There's Hazel, accidental leader; Bigwig, loyal warrior; Fiver, tormented visionary; Kehaar, curmudgeon. They're all more than their archetypes, and considering their actions leads me to consider the actions of all sorts of people--their motivations, their fears.
Oddly, I might be most likely to recommend this for fans of The Lord of the Rings and similar, given the rabbit-lore woven throughout this book and the friends-on-a-perilous-journey aspect. And, if I were you, I'd skip the movie versions, but if you're curious, you can find excerpts on YouTube.