Thursday, January 3, 2013

What is a classic book to me?

This week, I am participating in a blog hop with some of my favorite ladies... Terri G. Long, Christine Nolfi, Molly Greene, and the snarkiest one of them all :), Rachel Thompson.

The theme for this hop is New Classic Reads and the question was:

What makes a new classic read?
As I have been pondering this...and I have been pondering it, I noticed that Terri, in a blog post, referred to an educator and philosopher by the name of Mortimer Adler. Adler identified that classic reads must meet 3 criteria:
  1. Contemporary Significance
  2. Inexhaustibility-can it be read multiple times?
  3. Relevance
Although, I have loved some of the traditional "classic" reads, I have to be honest and say that there are some that I have scratched my head questioning why they were classics. After getting really tired of being in the middle or on the receiving end of countless debates on literature quality, I found that this applied to contemporary literature, as well. I ended up coining a term "Like beauty, a book is in the eye of the beholder."  It was then that I personally chose to throw the whole concept of classic reads, as a whole, out the window and make it more...
What is a classic read TO ME?
I read a lot of books. Anyone who knows me, knows that about me. Most of the books I read, I must be honest and say are finished and out of my mind. I can give a short synopsis, some not even this, of the book, but that is the extent. There are a small amount of books that pierce my memory and stick like superglue. There are some characteristics that I have found regarding what makes a classic read to me:
  1. Character development: How do I connect with the characters? Do I love them or despise them?
  2. Setting: Do I get lost in the location? Does the author paint the setting like I am looking at a picture? Do I feel like I am looking through a looking glass at what is occurring within the book...almost to the point of voyeurism.
  3. Emotions: How does the book make me feel? Do I have a visceral reaction either good or bad? Do I get scared? Does the book make me cry or make me overjoyed? Do I have a plethora of emotions whipping around my head and heart while reading a book?
  4. Do I remember it for more than 6 months? A year? 10 years? 30 years? Believe it or not, there are lines of My Antonia by Willa Cather and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte that I remember line for line. When I think of the book Ghost House by Clair McNally, which I read when I was 13, I still get creeped out.
I have enjoyed this exercise in what makes a classic read for me. What makes a classic read for you?


  1. OMG I can remember reading Ghost House in Jr High or High school It was fantastic!

    1. Wasn't it! Plus, she had two more after it. Ghost House Revenge and Ghost Light (I think)...not as powerfully good but still good!

  2. That's how I felt about my classic read, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I remeber scenes more than lines, but it's the same thing. I think a classic will stick to you years after you've finished it. New follower by email. Java With Jambor

  3. Naomi, thanks so much for the wonderful post! I agree 100% about a book's memorability, characters, emotion, and setting. These are all equally important, and JRRT's Hobbit series fulfilled this for me as a kid – as did several Nancy Drews!

    1. Trixie Belden for me! Loved her. Funny even then, I knew that was what made a book important...was for me to be part of the storyline.

  4. Great post Naomi.

    I agree that the true classics must have some key components to not only reach us but stay with us beyond our next few books. I have read a lot of books over the years and, as you say, many do fade from your memory but others remain fresh, as if you've just read them yesterday.

    1. Thanks, David...I think that is why a book being considered a classic is a really personal thing. I think that there will always be the "academic" or literary world lists, but to me a book is much more personal than that. Otherwise, I think I would be like my son who has the attitude of "unless you can learn from it, why read it?"

  5. I'm really glad you asked that question, Naomi! So much of this hop was about seeing what 'classic read' meant to each individual. I've been thrilled with the answers, the diversity, and the open-minded approach to the 'new classics.' Thank you so much for taking part and sharing such great titles!

    My best,

  6. Naomi I like your post -your four succinct qualifications are spot on. It seems most bloggers in this hop agree with you about making their own classic list based on how they relate to the story. A story can stay with a reader forever. My all-time favorite is The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway. I read it the first time in 1976 and I still remember the haunted characters, flaws and all. Happy new year.