Sometime ago I fell in love with Russian authors like Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, and Gorky and read several of their novels. There was a deep quality to them that I had not found in American authors. Perhaps it has something to do with the hardships that they endured daily (read Gorky's three book autobiography: My Childhood, My Apprenticeship, and My Universities) living in the oppression and poverty that is found in Russia, particularly in Dostoyevsky's time in the 1800's. Maybe this is what is needed, to feel the pain of hunger and longing for any quality of life, to get to the core of our hearts and souls and allow that ache to show in our writing. True pain, not from a toothache or a bad cold, but from too many nights going to bed cold and hungry.
I've also loved many of the other classics like Jane Eyre which I believe I read at least three times. I look for books that make me think. Although a Jane Green beach read is welcome on those hot summer days when you have no energy to do much of anything except raise a soft cover book up to your face, since I'm a relatively slow reader I prefer to spend my time with a book that has substance and weight (literal not physical). My goal in life, I've decided, is to learn as much as I can for as long as I'm able.
I've also enjoyed contemporary authors such as Annie Proulx, Margaret Atwood, and just recently Roxane Gay. I'm always impressed by an author's extensive vocabulary. This is the one area where I believe I fall short and I'm constantly adding to my arsenal of words. They are, after all, my tools.
I've read so many books over the years and still have a rather long, short list of books I want to read next with a mix of classic and contemporary thrown together. I have no doubt that my 'favorites' list will continue to grow.