Weekly Tea Discussion: Classics

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What is a classic?

Well, here is how Oxford Dictionary defines it:

As an adjective:

Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind:”

And as a noun:

A work of art of recognized and established value:

I think these definitions reflect the same sentiments that are portrayed in society. Bookstores set aside classic books in their very own book display. Barnes & Noble has their very own line of books classified as “Barnes & Noble Classics”, a collection of books that the company publishes in their own editions and formats. The same goes with Random House’s imprint “Modern Library Classics” and “Bantam Classics”. See, from booksellers to publishers all across the world set aside certain books that they deemed to be classics.

But my question for this week’s discussion: what makes a book a classic?

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My Barnes & Noble Editions

Let’s look at the definition again: “judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind”. Of course, the books that are classified as classics meet this criteria. From Austen’s romantic writing with social commentary on the side to Fitzgerald’s accurate depiction of the Roaring 20’s, a classic is a book that stand the test of time.

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Colorful assortment of Bantam Classic Books

But there is a stereotype when it comes to classic books: the author has to be dead. Admit it, all of you were thinking it. Most of the books that were required school reading were written by authors who died over a hundred years ago. So from a young age, we were taught that classics were both written by authors who were no longer with us and stories taken place in different time period. It was like these characteristics were the unofficial criteria on making the “classic list”. I’m saying that is a bad thing. It’s great look back to the past, especially when it comes to books. Reading books that literally took place in the past gives you a whole different outlook in present time. Classic books may appear to be out of touch but it still can be adaptable to everyday life.

But it’s 2015. And some particularly don’t feel that way. They are asking themselves now “what books published in this century would be considered a classic?” Most of you are really giving this some thought and come to one definitive conclusion: nothing. And I think that is where you are wrong. You are thinking back to that high school classroom. It is not just schools but also booksellers and publishers portray this idea of what a classic book is supposed to be with their book displays and their selections for their imprints. “The highest quality and outstanding of its kind”. A perfect description for classic books. However, I think Oxford Dictionary neglected to leave one more definition: a book that has made a cultural difference in the world. Yes, there is an argument that all books do that. But I’m talking about the books that made a cultural impact in society.

So let us see what books may be considered classics in the future. Harry Potter might be considered on the list. The Hunger Games might slip in there as well. I would even go as far as considering Fifty Shades of Grey to be on a classic list. Before you shout out attacks, let me ask you this: are you so against the idea due to the writing quality and the subject matter? I know we all hate to admit this but people will be reading this book years to come and isn’t that what usually do with classic books? It’s continuously read? This book was a cultural phenomenon and I think we need to respect that. So instead of focusing on the writing quality or the subject matter, let us focus on the affect it had on the book world, whether it is good or bad.

So what makes a book a classic? Well, that really is up to you. Just like we have different tastes in books, we will have different opinions of which books are considered classics. So I say a classic book doesn’t have to be old or the author is decease or even critically acclaimed. A “classic list” can be anything you want and that is what makes the list so great. The list doesn’t become confined. It just gets bigger and bigger.

What do you consider a classic book? If you had to compile a classic book list, what books would you put on there? Post your comments below.

2 thoughts on “Weekly Tea Discussion: Classics

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