To be more specific, “Classic” literature, as it’s taught in most classrooms.
That’s not to say I am against ye olde staples of cannonicaly approved “great works,” as a writer that borders on heresy. No. Read them for the story. Read them for entertainment. Read them becuase you’ve finally gotten around to wanting to read the full text instead of the watered-down-for-movies versions that have been produced.
Just don’t read them to learn, not if you want to write anything.
Wait, that’s not 100% right. You can still learn a lot from them – story, some character work, tone and voice if you are expressly trying to write something in that style. You just need a big fat salt-lick if you want to write something more contemporary.
Understand that language changes over time, both mannerisms and contect meanings. One hundred years ago, calling someone “gay” meant something completely different than it does now. This change is also quite evident when reading dialogue. That’s part of the reason I’ve stalled in the reading of the Sherlock Holmes collection, Ive just gotten tired of all of the ejaculations.
I’ve lost track of how many times either Watson or Holmes ejaculate something as a means of delivering dialogue. “That’s amazing,” he ejaculated. Twenty years ago these were the kinds of techniques present in almost every work, those “classics,” we were reading for school. That’s part of the style I picked up and made dialogue in my early stories get all wonky, and at the time I was reading “contemporary stuff” for pleasure, not as an exercise in considering technique, so I was late to the catching the current-trend-style-train.
Don’t let that happen to you. If you want to write, look to contemporary works for current style trends in delivering dialogue.