What Deems a Book as “Classic”?


I haven’t hid the fact that I don’t care much for classics, but I can’t really escape them.  I’ve read a few classics for school, and a few for fun.  But honestly?  I don’t feel like I’m missing anything with classics.  There are a few that I enjoyed, but the majority, I know I either won’t read them or probably won’t like.

The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird, two of the only classics I liked.

The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird, two of the only classics I liked.

There are several classics I’ve come across, and most of which I didn’t enjoy. I think I was around seven when I read my first classic, Black Beauty.  I wasn’t a fan.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was a classic on my summer reading list for 2013.  It has 180 pages.  Took me two weeks to read.

That’s a no…

And there are several others I read like Animal Farm, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest (I barely remember what happened in this play, but it’s something else I read last summer), Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and a few others that I read that I feel I could have lived without reading.  I remember a friend in school reading Around the World in Eighty Days, and I tried to read it because she was, but I wasn’t feeling it.

But what deems these books as “classics”?  Is there an official list?  (Probably not.)  Is it a matter of opinion?  I think so, though it seems like with most of these books, it’s common knowledge that they’re classics.  But I’ve spoken to people who don’t like them.

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Do you like classics?  Or maybe you don’t.  Let me know!

Also I wanted to mention that Yvo @ It’s All About Books nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award!  Thank you so much for the nomination, Yvo. 😀  I love the blogging awards, and it’s so nice that you guys consider me when you’re writing your responses. ^-^ I don’t know if I’ll have time to write a whole response to this post, as school is pretty intense this year, but I wanted to thank her for the nomination. 😀  Hopefully I’ll have some free time one of these days and I’ll put together a post for this award!

-littleonion

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32 thoughts on “What Deems a Book as “Classic”?

  1. I love classics! I’m sorry you’ve not had much fun with them 😦 But I’m so glad that out of the classics you read that you liked The Catcher In The Rye – it’s one of my favourites 🙂

    If you want to find more classics you’d enjoy then I would recommend you trying other books that Salinger wrote and maybe Lord Of The Flies by William Golding or The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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  2. thebookheap says:

    I think what deems books to be classics is that they are very much set in the time and place in which they are written, and as such, they address important societal issues which cannot be recreated by contemporary authors authentically, nowadays. For example, North and South is very much about the societal class difference between north and south England during the time of the worker’s union being set up- it would be tricky to recreate that exact situation after that date.

    However, I’m much like you- I disliked Gatsby, snored through romeo and juliet and yawned through death of a salesman. I haven’t even bothered picking up Catcher in the Rye. I have one or two classics I love, but to be honest, I think at the end of the day nobody should be “punished” for not liking them. (looking at you, Gatsby fans)

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  3. SarahClare says:

    I think much like said above, classics are very much ‘of their time’ but I also think they speak to a modern audience on some level too.

    Some are simply feats in language and literature, others are bucking the trend, and some books were rude when rude wasn’t the done thing! Heh heh.

    I have a personal affection for language and for the evolution of literature so I’m always interested to read a classic. But I can see how they could be a bit of a chore to read if you weren’t into it.

    And I love Gatsby! xD But it’s all about the words and the characters for me. Not necessarily the story itself.

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    • That’s another good way to think about it. It’s interesting! Perhaps I’ll become more fond of classics over the years 😀

      Lol, glad you enjoyed Gatsby! I think I enjoyed it a bit more than I had before after seeing one of the movies, as it helped me to understand everything more. ^-^

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  4. I enjoy some, I dislike some. I don’t seek them out. If I read them its because it was recommended. I did love Gatsby, I loved Grendel, The Scarlet Letter, Man and Superman, but I have never gotten into Austin and I hated Anna Karenina. I read that extremely long book and personally did not feel I got the payoff. I think SarahClare has it right though. The classic is a piece of its time ex. Grapes of Wrath, Crime and Punishment, Tale of Two Cities. I always like the classic more if there is someone(teacher) or supporting documentation that gives me the required context.

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  5. I agree with what others have said about classics. I would add that a book can be considered classic if its language, plot, or characters have become part of our culture. Many people who have never read Shakespeare use words he invented. Most people know the basic story of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde even if they’ve never read Stevenson’s novel. MANY characters from classic literature are familiar to everyone.
    I’d suggest picking a time period that interest you, and reading works written during that time. Or, if history isn’t your thing, pick a genre that you like and read classics in that genre.
    Actually, the genre thing has always bugged me. Classic isn’t really a genre but people treat it like one. I’m a fan of fantasy, both classic and modern. I’m not, generally, a fan of horror, no matter when it was written.
    Also, I wasn’t impressed with The Great Gatsby either. I enjoy quotes from it because the prose is beautiful, but the plot and characters were depressing.

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    • Perhaps I’ll find one of those Goodreads book lists that feature some. I’ll have to find something!

      Thinking about it now, I realize that people do tend to view classic as a genre. I think I do this sometimes as well, categorizing all classics into a “classic” genre. Better fix my thinking, haha!

      I’m glad I put my thoughts on Gatsby out there. The majority of the people I’ve talked to about it really liked it, but I was pretty ‘meh’ about it. I’m happy to know that there are others who felt the same (but I’m sorry you weren’t impressed!).

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      • If you tell me what time period / genre you’re interested in, I might be able to make some suggestions. 🙂

        A good way to change your thinking is to consider that the modern books you read may one day be considered classics. When you’re older, and Harry Potter gets lumped in with classics, will you stop liking it? 😉

        Gatsby is an example of me reading a book just because it’s a classic, without considering it’s true genre! It’s a Modernist novel which isn’t something I enjoy. I guess I should’ve known better, but I am glad I gave it a chance, and I am planning to read at least one more Fitzgerald.

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      • Ooh, that’s a good thought! :O I don’t think I could ever stop enjoying Harry Potter, teehee.

        I’m glad I gave the book a chance as well. At least now I know how I feel about it and perhaps sometime I’ll read another book by Fitzgerald.

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  6. I haven’t read as many classics as I feel like I should. As if to be a true reader of books I would have to read classic lit, but there are ways around this. Look for short stories or other non novel length works from the well know authors. Its a cheat but then you can still talk books with the lit majors of the world 😉

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      • Your Scarlet Letter comment made me think of it. Nathaniel Hawthorne has short stories which might prepare you for his writing style instead of just jumping into his novel. Which is a classic that I have read. I love/hated it because I know it was based on actual events but I could so clearly see the holes in the logic they were using.

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  7. There are certain classics I love such as Farenheit 451, Brave New World, Catcher in the Rye, etc., but there are also many I had a hard time reading, like Les Miserables and Gone With the Wind.

    I love classics that are concise but descriptive and make you think. There are too many other books out there with ridiculously pretentious diction and long sentences full of fluff that basically ruin the reputation of the classics genre.

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    • I have yet to read Fahrenheit 451, but it’s definitely on my TBR. It sounds really interesting! And the Catcher in the Rye was great 😀

      To Kill A Mockingbird was one of those books that made me think. But you’re right about the long sentences–I can’t stand them!

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  8. Renae M. says:

    I HAAAATED the term “classic”. Really dislike. Whether it refers to books or film (or sometimes music), it annoys me. It’s like this arbitrary title some “qualified” academics invented that singled out books that were “better” than others.

    Like, I do LOVE so-called “classics”, maybe more than any other books, but “classic” just sounds so snooty to me. Like, Jane Austen was literally a fluffy romance author in her own time, and Tolstoy’s books were for the common person, not the elite. They’re not REALLY snooty books, only educators and academia has elevated them and put them on a pedestal.

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    • I used to despise the word “classic,” too! I hated classic books and music, though I’ve always been a little more partial to old movies. 😀 But, yes, it does sound kind of snooty. And I’d hate to think that someone feels like they’re not a “real reader” because they haven’t read a stack of classics. Meh.

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    • That’s great! I was actually just thinking about how I hadn’t responded to my last nomination. I’ll definitely make a combination post—thank you!

      Thanks for letting me know your take on classics. I’m glad I wrote this post, because I’ve gotten many opinions on the subject.

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