It was Alastair Reynolds and Revelation Space that got me back to seriously reading science fiction. I picked that book up as a present for my mother, who had been complaining to me that she hadn't read any good SF in a long time. Once she'd read -- and enjoyed -- it, I gave it a crack myself, and got hooked. I then tackled all of Reynolds' back catalogue, but after that I stalled. I didn't know anyone who read (modern) SF, and I wasn't sure how to find out what was good.
I hit on the idea of buying some short story anthologies as a way to sample a bunch of authors quickly. One of the first ones I grabbed was The New Space Opera, edited by -- you guessed it -- Jonathan Strahan (and Gardner Dozois). I loved it. Which was a pretty big deal for me; I'd managed to convince myself somewhere along the line that I didn't particularly like short fiction. Boy was I wrong.
Long story short (heh!), I started hunting out other anthologies edited by Strahan. Through these I discovered many of authors that I'd now rank amongst my favourites: Karl Schroeder, Ted Chiang, Jay Lake, Peter Watts, Sean Williams, and probably more besides. I have consistently enjoyed the anthologies that Strahan edits, and I await the next one eagerly.
Of course, I don't only read anthologies edited by Strahan, but I have found that my tastes seem to align most closely with his -- his are the anthologies I enjoy most consistently. He had help, from Gardner Dozois in particular, but I think Strahan deserves most of the credit for getting me interested in reading (and, by extension, writing) short SF.
The question I now realise I have no answer to is this: what is it about Strahan's particular choices that I so enjoy? "What do you look for in a story" is probably a pretty tricky question for him to answer, but perhaps I'll get a chance to ask him one day anyway? In the meantime, I've got a shiny new copy of his Engineering Infinity to read, and I'm going to see if reading it with that question in mind brings me any enlightenment.
While I do it, I'm also going to dream about one day having a story in something he has edited. Because that would be ace.