I ran across an interesting reflection on reading (p. 61 - 67) and great authors called The Five Indispensable Authors by James Russell Lowell. It is a short piece, less than 10 minutes read aloud. However, it packs quite a punch. Here are some quotes:
By putting a library within the power of everyone, it has taught men to depend on shelves instead of on their brains; it has supplanted a strenuous habit of thinking with a loose indolence of reading which relaxes the muscular fiber of the mind. When men had few books they mastered those few; but now the multitude of books lord it over the man.
The problem for the scholar formerly was how acquire get books, for us it is how to get rid of them. Instead of gathering we must sift.
In certain respects the years do our weeding for us [of books]. In our youth we admire the verses which answer our mood; as we grow older we like those better which speak to our experience; at last we come to look only upon that as poetry appeals to that original nature in us which is deeper than all moods and wiser than all experience. Before a man is forty he has broken many idols, and the milestones of his intellectual progress are the gravestones of dead and buried enthusiasms of his dethroned gods.
His description of why he chooses Homer, Dante, Cervantes and Goethe are interesting. He also explains why he considers Shakespeare great, but in a different category. It's a quick read or listen and bolsters the reasoning behind reading the classics to shape a soul and connect with those who have come before.