I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Refined Reader (22) What is a Classic Book?

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

A classic book, according to the definition of the word 'classic' is a book that is "judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of it's kind."  No small feat then for a book to be called a classic.  But the exact merits of a classic book is pretty hard to define.  It can be a very personal opinion when it comes to certain books, but there are quite a few that are widely accepted as classics.  There are a few points or ideas that seem to commonly define a classic:
  • Stands the test of time 
  • Can bring new pleasure or knowledge with each reread
  • Open to reinterpretation
A literary critic, Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, wrote an essay in 1850 on this topic and stated that a classic is "easily contemporary with all time."  I thought that was a tremendous way to describe a classic.  It embodies the idea that it is easy to identify with the classic book, no matter what the time or person.  And for the most part, the classics that I have read really have fulfilled that timelessness that is so important to the longevity of a book.

This is going to turn into more of a discussion post now!  It is easy now to say a classic is an old book, or a well-received or applauded book, but I think it is interesting to think of a classic as a book that is deeply meaningful to humanity.  Books that really probe or test the way we think, or the way we live.  It doesn't need to be deep in itself, but it will continue to resonate with people far into the future.  And for people who are picking up a new classic book to read - it's great to go into it with the goal of discovering that meaning or the reason why it's meant so much to so many people.

P.S. After I typed up this post, I started seeing classics talk everywhere and noticed that Alyssa from Sunrise Avenue wrote on this very topic just recently.  So I wanted to link to her post so you can check out her very well-written thoughts on the subject.


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  1. :)) You rock! Again, your researching skills are simply the best.

  2. I always am curious about what nowadays will stand these test of time and be considered a classic!

  3. Yes, it is interesting to think what book now will become a classic - actually maybe I should write down what I think should be classics and see if it holds up 20 or so years later!