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1) Jane AustenI have read all of Jane Austen's few works and loved every single one of them. Her wit and perspicacity are second to none. So much more than a romance writer.
“I must learn to be content with being happier than I deserve.”(Pride and Prejudice)
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.” (A Tale of Two Cities)
3) Oscar WildeAgain I have read quite a few of his works, though not all, and love his biting wit. My favorites being The Picture of Dorian Gray and An Ideal Husband.
“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”(The Picture of Dorian Gray)
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” (An Ideal Husband)
4) Edith WhartonSuch a beautiful writer who always seems to be telling the story of the barbarism within civilization. My most recent read of hers was House of Mirth and I was blown away at how she could create a character as Lily Barton who manages to be both loathsome and sympathetic.
"...the greatest mistake is to ever think we know why we do things... I suppose the nearest we ever come to it is what old people call 'experience'. But by the time we've got that we're no longer the persons who did the things we no longer understand. The trouble is I suppose that we change every moment and the things we did stay. (Buccaneers)
5) William ShakespeareNo kidding - I love Shakespeare and if I could just watch one of his plays performed once a month in a continuous cycle forever I would be super happy. I don't like all the speculation that he was actually several people or that he wasn't who he was so in my world, he is the funny looking fellow from Stratford Upon Avon who had a magical and prolific way with words.
"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man." (Hamlet)
6) Henry JamesI've read only a few of Henry James' work but have liked them all. I don't think he was better than Edith Wharton however - apparently that's a thing that people think. Silly people.
"Her reputation for reading a great deal hung about her like the cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic."(A Portrait of a Lady)
7) C.S. LewisThe Chronicles of Narnia will always be some of my favorite books ever. I've also devoured almost every thing else he's written which are all pretty great as well.
"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again."(this isn't from any of his books - I think it was part of a dedication and I've always loved it.)
8) Henry David ThoreauI've only read Walden but it had a profound affect on me. I am a wildlife biologist by trade and was taken aback at how prescient much of the book is and the simple truths he makes plain.
"Shall we always study to obtain more of these things and not sometimes be content with less?" (Walden)
"I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born." (Walden)
9) Aldo LeopoldIf you are not in the wildlife field you may not have heard of Aldo Leopold but if you have an interest in nature and in eloquent prose essays, I urge you to check him out. I have only read his most famous work The Sand County Almanac and I highly recommend it. Also shocking that much of what he saw coming for the environment when he was writing in the 1940s has come to pass.
"Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." (Sand County Almanac)
10) Pearl S. BuckI've only read The Good Earth but really really loved it. I'd like to read more of her work.
"Now, five years is nothing in a man's life except when he is very young and very old..." (The Good Earth)
I apparently have a great fondness for Victorian writers as they show up more frequently than others. Who are your favorite classics writers (by any definition you like) and what's your favorite book that they wrote? Also if you know of some lesser known authors that you think are similar and better than any of the above I'd be interested in hearing about it. For example, I've heard that many folks prefer Wilkie Collins to Dickens.