What Makes A Classic Book Classic?

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Emily Carlin via Flickr
Stories have been told since the beginning of time. Imagine humanity as a collective story-telling machine that’s always churning out different works of fiction. But, out of all these works of literature, only a handful seem to make it as classics.

Why could this be?  Here 4 things that makes a classic, classic:

1. They are timeless.

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Classic literature is like fine wine that only gets better as it ages. They tackle significant human experiences such as ambition, passion, or greed that is not limited to a specific culture or time period. These topics strike at the very heart of each person, hence they are always fun to read and interesting to peruse. 

Remember how Dorian Gray was hated by many because of his own vanity? He was disliked by the characters in the book and the readers of Oscar Wilde in 1980. But, readers in the year 2017 can still relate to the story of the book and would come to hate the character after reading about him, as well. 


2. They are windows into history.

classic books

Classic literature paints a very good picture of a specific time and place it was set in. Each literary piece is a synthesis of the collective experiences of people in a specific time period, at a specific place. This gives readers a taste of the old, plus refreshing insights that can be appreciated even in the modern times. 

For example, Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is set during the World War I. It gives modern readers a peek at the hardships people encountered during that time. No, this does not only include constant fear of dying from bombs and bullets, but the destruction that war also brings to human relationships. 


3. They start new genres.

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Works that are considered classic literature are trendsetters. Their authors have introduced a new style or subject matter that is so interesting, modern authors follow them! Today, it is not unusual to read contemporary romance books and get “Jane Austen feels,” or read fantasy books and see “a hint of Lewis Carrol.”

Take for example Edgar Allan Poe’s stories about the adventures of detective C. Auguste Dupin. His work on crime fiction laid out the ground work the crime solving works of fiction. In fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle refers to the work of Edgar Allan Poe as a major influence on his works. 


4. They have a lasting influence on people and art.

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Heirlooms are objects that you pass down from generation to generation - this also applies to classic literature.

They’re not just cool leather-bound paperweights that you can pretentiously brag to your colleagues at work. Classic works consist of concepts and ideas that carve their way through history and shape the minds and works of future greats. 

As they are passed down from generation to generation, they influence modern works of literature. This gives an essence of universality to works of literature that can be applied to whatever period in time – making them a sort of reference material to the younger generation of writers or artists.



Classics, as much as how they are coveted and appreciated by people from all walks of life, needs open minds and inquisitive readers for them to be fully appreciated. The works of Plato, Huxley, and, even, Hunter S. Thompson are nothing if there aren’t any readers to appreciate them.

So, before starting on that list of classic books to read, get lost in research. Learn about the time period and the inspiration for the work. You might come across surprising learnings that will enrich your reading experience later on! 

17 comments:

  1. I never really took notes of all these points that you have stated here but thanks to you, I will be watching out for all these things in any book I lay my hands on.

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  2. Very cool post and pretty accurate! Had to review some classic books I've read recently to check if your criteria fit! :)

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  3. I've never really considered what makes a good book a classic, I have to agree with every point you've made. I love it if a book can inspire me!

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  4. Thanks for this eye opening post on classic literature. I tend to veer more into contemporary books without knowing their beginnings. And by the way, your gifs are hilarious. It lightens the mood.

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  5. Good to know this information,I agree with these. I don't think how many classic books I have read, because I don't consider if it classic or not. Lol!

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  6. Totally agree with you,Through time it gets better and better and it figure out more genres.

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  7. I had never classified any books as classy
    BUT today yes after reading this post I should start classifying books as classy !

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  8. I had never classified any books as classy
    BUT today yes after reading this post I should start classifying books as classy !

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  9. I agree with you on these points, classic books does have an impact on generations to come and they do have the power to change the mindset and how people perceive some things.

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  10. I guess timeless is the main criteria that makes a classic a classic. It has an impact on many generations and it is a reference. It is often also something we have to read at school

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  11. I just asked my readers this same question on my instagram page. My opinion any book can be a classic has long as it hold true meaning to you. Like goodnight moon is a classic to me not because it's such a well known child book but because I was read it at bedtime by my mother. It's a classic to me but it may not be to other is what I'm trying to say.

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  12. I will be honest, I have moved to audible recently due to short time however I will not lie to you there is something about a physical book in front of you!

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  13. I don't really read books so often these days. That's because I read ebooks or in digital form but I have to agree with every point you've made.

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  14. I agree with every point made here... especially the point that classics are coveted and appreciated by people from all walks of life.

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  15. I've always prefered reading classics especially because they are timeless, most of them has a message hidden underneath, something that still speaks to us and starts our minds and hearts to wonder. I love how they enable us to understand an other era - I have to confess that I sometimes think I've spent so much time reading "old" books that I know more about the world as it was centuries ago than I know about what goes on in our times. Yet, it's fascinating how these writers succeeded in creating pieces of art that live through decades and centuries and touch the lives of so many. I heartily agree with all your points, very well said.

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  16. I've never really thought about this. It's such a fun theme to research. I totally agree with you with everything you said!

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  17. I love to read & thanks for sharing this, learnt some new knowledge here. :) cheers, siennylovesdrawing

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