Dan, I've always thought a suggested reading list should be advanced by English Departments, public libraries, and others such as this forum. To wit: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Yeats, Naked Lunch by Burroughs, Kafka, Faulkner, Andre Gide, Emile Zola.
Nothing can focus sharper in literature than art affecting life, or life effecting art. To me, the greatest example is Easter 1916 by Yeats. Also consider the Tony Award winning play Copenhagen by Michael Frayn, which combines art, history, war, and existence, in a very powerful package. One book I really liked that doesn't get much notice is The City and the Town, by Jack Kerouac.