There's a few SF books I admire more, but this is the hard Science Fiction series I love best. AND there's so much that's admirable about it too. The series centers on a merchant captain named Pyanfar Chanur that trades with several alien races. By accident she winds up caught in interstellar politics and war. I admire the character so much that when I had to change my name again I chose Pyanfar as one of my middle names.
CJ Cherryh seems to have written The Pride of Chanur as a standalone novel. She returns to the same characters in a compact but extremely intense trilogy starting with Chanur's Venture. Finally she gave fans an entire novel as an epilogue, in Chanur's Legacy.
No other books have impacted on my physiologically like the Chanur's Venture trilogy. Crime and Punishment, which I read at one sitting, as is recommended, is the only other book that came close to doing that to me. I have't reread them for a long time, and was reminded of how much they mean to me when I stumbled on this blog-review http://www.tor.com/blogs/2009/10/treachery-to-species-cj-cherryhs-chanur-trilogy