The recent passing (21st Nov,2011) of Anne McCaffrey will affect all SFF readers everywhere. While she isn't my "all time fav" author, her books have been part of my reading repetoire, and I'm sure, part of many other scifi-fantasy lovers' reading lists.
Her DragonRiders of Pern stories defined dragons in books, and set the bar for other authors to beat. While reading her books now might feel a little trite, it is only because she was the first to write in that style, and has been inspiration for many other popular writers.
A good place to start would be the Harper Hall books.
Not just Pern: If you haven't read any non-Pern McCaffrey books, may I suggest the Acorna series, or the Planet Raiders series, or the Crystal universe. Yes, she was a prolific writer with a long career!
Here are some of the best covers, in a Tor post written by the cover illustrator himself, Michael Whelan:
The Inspiration of Anne McCaffrey (Tor.com)
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