I love British Literature and have since college. In fact, I love it so much that I couldn't even narrow this list down to specific titles, just to authors. Once again, I would love to hear your favorites (or least favorites), so comment below!
This version is dedicated to five of my favorite British authors. Most of the classes I took in college were British Lit classes, if I could help it. The funny thing is that I had never read many of the classics until my last semester and beyond. I take it as a reflection on my poor experience with public education. Since graduating, I have made it my goal to catch up.
I had never read any of Dickens' work until my final semester of college when I took a class studying nothing but Dickens. I fell in love. I think we read 6 or 7 of his novels in the semester. My favorites so far are Bleak House and David Copperfield. I highly recommend Dickens for anyone who has the patience to get into his narratives and an appreciation for dry wit.
“Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit, has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least; but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes, without coming to total disagreement as to all the premises." Bleak House
A few years ago, my aunt gave me five or six Austen novels for Christmas, and I quickly read them all (except Emma, which I can never seem to get through). After we moved and I started riding the train to work, I listened to a couple more Austen novels on my iPod. I particularly enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. So romantic... And it's an added bonus that many chick flicks reference Austen in some way, like in You've Got Mail, "I get lost in the language... words like thither, mischance, felicity."
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant." Persuasion
I love the world Orwell has created in 1984, and the idea of Winston fighting against a world/institution even though he has absolutely no chance of winning. In some ways, it is a lot like Fahrenheit 451—a corrupt, totalitarian government forbids all independent thought while a few people try to escape and may or may not succeed. If you're into that kind of stuff, you could also try reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I don't like it quite as much as the others, but it is similarly disturbing.
“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word." 1984
When I first moved to Logan Utah for college, it was the middle of the summer and I had no friends beyond my newlywed brother and his wife. I was broke and got a job shelving books at the Logan City Library (a job which I held for approximately a week before a higher paying job came along). While alone in the library in the early morning hours, I discovered all the Tolkien books I wasn't familiar with. I had read Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit already. But since I was friendless and trying to avoid an admirer I soon dubbed Creepy Stalker Boy (long story), I would lock myself in my room and read The Simarillian. I don't remember one thing about it. But I read it.
“I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself." The Hobbit
“Well—it's just that you seem to be laboring under the delusion that I am going to—what is the phrase?—come quietly. I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course—but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing." Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix