Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Musings - Defining a classic

There seems to be some controversy as to what defines a book as 'classic'. Does it need to be able to transcend time? Does it need to have a message that will perhaps change lives? Does it need to be popular or a best seller? Does it need to evoke thought? There seems to be no set in stone definition, and it seems to be a mysterious distinction that has a sort of "I'll know it when I see it" mentality. What exactly makes a book a classic? Well, when I searched for a definition I found the following on wikipedia, "A classic book is a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy, either through an imprimatur such as being listed in any of the Western canons or through a reader's own personal opinion." So after scratching my head and going a bit crossed eyed at that definition I decided to search for a better more 'layman friendly' definition.

I found the following definition by punkrock_matthew on Yahoo Answers. It was my favorite of all those I found-- "A classic is a book that transcends a fad or what's in. If years (a lot) later people still talk about it, it can very well be a classic. But you really can't answer the question, there aren't a set of rules you can follow. Usually, a classic will hold a depth, that no one can hope to understand. It creates a profound statement, at society or politics, that still holds truth even long after. It's not something that holds true for a couple of years and withers away. It transcends the basic notions of a good book. To use the cliche phrase, it's timeless." (

Now this subject seems to go hand in hand with another question that I've posed to others--Do you think you could spot a classic in the making? While having a conversations with a lady who was working at one of the library branches I frequent (she volunteers) we started discussing classic books. She was surprised to learn that Gulliver's Travels was a classic. Apparently it wasn't a classic when she was younger. I decided it would be rude to ask her age, so I didn't, but it got me thinking, could I or anyone I know spot a classic in the making? Are there any books you think in the next 20 years or more might be considered a classic? I'm thinking maybe 'The Book Thief' and perhaps 'The Kite Runner'. What do you think? Are there any books you predict will become classics in the years to come?

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