How can someone who reads or writes romance have not read Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice?

Particularly writers. Not because these books are the “first romances ever written” (questionable on so many levels, and Jane Eyre was actually the first Gothic Regency, but never mind that) but because they are part of our cultural heritage. And by our I mean the community and mindset of romance readers and writers. And by of I mean…

And no, the movies do not count. There are specific areas of the brain that deal with language and hence with reading and writing. Movies are something else entirely besides being a collaboration of people other than the author pooling their talents and vision and creating something that is (if they’re lucky) another work of art.

To play devil’s advocate to myself, does anyone actually need to read the books? Popular culture has given us all the clues. We all know what they’re about, so why is reading them so important? You read, you absorb, you stow bits and pieces away in your writer’s toolbox, and it seeps out in a good sort of way in your work. I firmly believe that reading well written books is the only way to become a writer.

And you’ll enjoy them, which is why we read what we read, isn’t it?

So what do you consider essential reading?–outside of romance as well as within the genre.