The “Classics” Aren’t Classic
If you look at my bookshelf on www.goodreads.com, you will see that I have recently read The Hobbit, Animal Farm and 1984. These are three books likely to have been dubbed “classics” by readers. These are not classics.
For me, Ender’s Game is a classic. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a classic. The Harry Potter books are classic, just to name a few.
Why are these classics? What defines a classic for me?
Three criteria: (1) they are entertaining, (2) they stand the test of time, and (3) they make me want to read more.
The Hobbit and the books by George Orwell may stand the test of time, but they were not overly entertaining for me, nor did they really inspire me to read more by the author. My classics, however, did meet all three criteria. The books were fresh, unique, funny, fast-paced, and timeless. And these books led me to read four more Ender books, the rest of the Hitchhiker’s series and, of course, once I read the first HP, I had to read them all—which made waiting for #6 and #7 practically unbearable.
Are there other classics? Maybe the Hunger Games trilogy. It may not be “classic” now, but in a year or two it might be. Twighlight? No. Okay… I have to add a fourth criterion here: they must be good writing. It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece, but it’s got to be technically good. The Twilight books are not good writing. I’ll throw Fool by Christopher Moore on my list of classics. I loved it. And it inspired me to read more by Moore.
Popularity, number of copies sold, awards received, etc. are not my requirements for a book to be a classic. For me, a classic keeps me reading, reading more, and even re-reading.