spin13 wrote:What makes Latin worth learning for you?
Direct access to the literature. Enhanced apprehension of subsequent Romance languages (particularly Provencal and Italian). The love of difficult things. Deep companionship with the works of Classical and Medieval authors. Direct access to the pagan mind.
In particular, what works do you recommend reading...
The usual suspects: Virgil, Ovid, Catullus, Propertius, Horace, Cicero, Livy, the Vulgate Bible, etc. And some unusual suspects: Liudprand, the correspondence of Abelard and Heloise, Dante's Latin works, the Walther saga, the Carmina Burana, etc.
... what yet unread works motivate your study?
More of the above. Horace's Art Of Poetry, the satires of Juvenal and Persius, various Medieval chronicles and stories, neo-Latin verse, Latin translations from Oriental languages, etc.
Given that Western thought and language has already inherited so much from Latin, what do you feel you gain by reading it in the original?
The direct experience of the rhythm of another person's heart and mind. To resonate, physically and emotionally, with the thoughts and feelings of great (and some not-so-great) men and women gone before us. Reciting poetry by Catullus or Ovid has the same effect on me as playing music by Bach or John Dowland.
At the risk of sparking discord, let me add that I have no interest in reading Abramahic religious material. Such material surely makes up a great deal of Latin literature and is of no insignificance, but it is not for me. If understanding of this material is central to your reasons, I would appreciate hearing such - especially on why you choose to read it in Latin...
I'm not a Christian, but I find myself reading more of the Vulgate Bible. It is central to understanding post-Classical Western thought and behavior, there's no way around it. If your interests tend towards the European Middle Ages you'll need fluency and acquaintance with the Vulgate.
Similis sum folio de quo ludunt venti.