My favourite author, Arthur C. Clarke, passed away on the 19th of March. I've been a fan of his ever since I read The Sentinel back in '93 or '94 and went on to read almost everything written by him by over the next six or seven years.
I'm usually too full of pride to admit to being inspired or uplifted by someone else's visions but I'll happily make an exception in the case of Clarke. He's easily my favourite of the big three of SF (the other two being Heinlein and Asimov); his perceptions of the future seem to be the most realistic and he has the most science in his science fiction. He was also easily the most compassionate and optimistic of the three - if humanity gets even half-way to the society he describes in 3001, I'll be ecstatic (believe me, being dead - maybe - won't stop me).
If you're considering reading some Clarke, try Rendezvous with Rama and then move on from there. Steer clear of books he's co-authored - they tend to be fairly run of the mill (especially the rest of the Rama series which he co-authored with Gentry Lee).