Reading science fiction - predominantly "hard sci-fi" (with all the detail) and "space opera" (with all the drama) - when I was younger inspired me to study Physics at university in London. I enjoyed the imaginations of the authors, their scientific descriptions of the universe and ideas about what the future might hold. My own band of hard/cerebral space opera is the result!
My current batch of favourites includes Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Charles Stross, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Neal Stephenson, Neal Asher, David Brin, John Scalzi, Dan Simmons, Frank Herbert, Isaak Asimov... the list goes on.
I was also heavily inspired by other types of fiction from authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and works including Paradise Lost, by John Milton.
My favourite author of all-time is Iain M. Banks, and my favourite book (which happens to be the first Banks book I read) is The Algebraist. If you haven't read it, I thoroughly encourage you to check it out!