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What is it about a particular book or a particular author that makes them a classic?  Who makes that determination?  Why do schools require the same reading decade after decade?

Last question.

Which books written in the last 20 years do you think will make the classics list?

Adding one more question.  What books written in the last 20 years do you think will still be read 100 years from now?


 

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I think when one author sells so many books over a period of time it becomes a classic. It is similar to Walt Disney and their older movies. Some Authors like Shakespeare are considered classics because of the time frame they were written in. I really don't think their is an exact definition of "classic"
 

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Interesting question. Would it be the author that sold more books than anyone else or one that everyone knows about because they made a movie of the book?  ??? I'll have to think on this one some more. :)
 

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Two books come to mind as becoming classics written in the past 20 years.  Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. IMHO a book becomes a classic when we read it several times and when the book is mentioned MOST people (even non readers) know of it.  But thats just me. 
 

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I think there's also the test of time factor. Fads come and go, so it has to last.

10 years ago most people thought the movie, Titanic, was going to be a classic. Has it held up? It's still good, entertaining, but not what you'd think from the mania of the time.

Same with musical groups of the sixties. The Beatles are classic, but you couldn't have guessed it for sure in '64.

Books are the same way -- they need to be around for a while, perhaps grow even better loved or appreciated.
 

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Babar, yes.

Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, too? An undated version. Depending on the generation, we got different versions of the stories, edited for the modern sensibilities of the time. The Secret of The Old Clock I read is not the original one -- 1930 edition -- but rather the 1959 revision.

Those series aren't static, but there will be a market fueled by nostalgic adults. I think the characters are the classics, rather than the books being the classics.
 

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What's a classic for school reading lists isn't always a classic for enjoyment, IMO. For popularity, I would say a book with themes & characters that remain pertinent to future times have the best chance of longevity.  Sci fi and love stories, for example, often travel well through time, although many love stories also become outright classics, themes such as sci fi have often been spurned from reading lists as serious classics, despite enormous popularity.

Those that carry a significance of the times, that tells our future readers of life today, stand the best chance I imagine, although whether some of those would be the same as what *we* think are significant today, who can tell? 
 

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I think that to become a classic, it needs to stand the test of time and be able to appeal to multiple generations of readers. If not, then it's just a best-seller, at best.

I can't really think of much I've read that was published in the last 20 years that jumps out at me as a good bet to be a "classic." I think Good Omens by Pratchett/Gaiman (1990) deserves to be; and I'll be interested to see if Pratchett's "Discworld" series is still being read by new readers in another 20-30 years (if I live that long), as I think they have enough of the "timeless" quality to them that should allow them to be popular across generations.

I could also see John Grogan's Marley and Me becoming a "classic," as dogs and the people who think they own them is certainly a timeless subject.

Now as to whether any of those would be considered "literary" enough to become a regular part of school curricula, that's another question for which I have no idea, other than if I like it, it's probably not something a teacher would make me read. ::)
 

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NogDog said:
I think that to become a classic, it needs to stand the test of time and be able to appeal to multiple generations of readers. If not, then it's just a best-seller, at best.
That's what I was thinking. If a book has persisted or even increased in popularity over a generation or two, it's becoming a classic.

MichelleR said:
Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, too? An undated version. Depending on the generation, we got different versions of the stories, edited for the modern sensibilities of the time. The Secret of The Old Clock I read is not the original one -- 1930 edition -- but rather the 1959 revision.

Those series aren't static, but there will be a market fueled by nostalgic adults. I think the characters are the classics, rather than the books being the classics.
That's a good distinction. ND/HB books quickly date themselves, but the characters and themes still have appeal, and a new generation of readers is making them their own.
 

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Gertie Kindle 'Turn to Page 390' said:
Do you think in 100 years kids will still be reading Babar, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys?
My 14 yr old niece loves the Nancy Drew series. I started buying them for her when she turned 12. I think that it will still be around in the next generation as well. Same with Hardy Boys. I introduced those to my grandsons ages 10, 12 and 17. The 17 yr old has outgrown them, the 12 yr old doesn't read that much but the 10 yr loves them. Same with Babar.
 

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This should become a classic in the next twenty years. Not sure it will, but it has all the markings of the classic coming of age story and is really well written. People are comparing it to "Lord of the Flies" and "Treasure Island"... though I think it's actually better. Worth a read whether you're a young adult or an adult young at heart.
 

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Scheherazade said:


This should become a classic in the next twenty years. Not sure it will, but it has all the markings of the classic coming of age story and is really well written. People are comparing it to "Lord of the Flies" and "Treasure Island"... though I think it's actually better. Worth a read whether you're a young adult or an adult young at heart.
I agree that it was a very good book. Even though targeted at a teen/young adult audience, I quite enjoyed it as a definitely-not-young adult. I wonder though whether it will ever acquire as large a readership as it deserves here in the US, as I'm sure the religious right will hate it if they ever become aware of it (see the quote in my sig). Then again, if they were to raise a stink about it, that might increase sales, so who knows?
 

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To put it simply. What makes a classic is staying power. In this case, any book that transcends the time period in which it was created in to find a constant influx of new readers is considered a classic. Books  like War and Peace and Paradise Lost escape the trappings of the fashions of the society they were written for and find relevance with succeeding generations of people. It's the ability for a book to remain popular over an extended period of time and mostly after its author is long dead.
 

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I have heard it said (I don't know who said it, and I may have it a little off) that a classic is "a book that everybody loves but nobody reads." LOL

In truth, if I remember correctly, C.S. Lewis deals with the idea of good literature versus bad literature (in a way dealing with what could constitute good literature or a classic) in his book An Experiment in Criticism. It's been a while since I read it, however, so I could be wrong. Whether or not it touches on what defines a classic, it is a very good book to read.
 

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Books that delve deeply into primal emotions as a result of the author's compelling, uncompromising vision are the stuff of classics. Like all art, real literature makes us look at life in new ways that change us for the better, whether by the beauty it opens up to us, or the evil it makes us seek to avoid and strive to change. True literature teaches timeless lessons in the guise of entertainment.

There's a great site for great books: http://www.anova.org/

CK
 

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Kevis Hendrickson said:
To put it simply. What makes a classic is staying power. In this case, any book that transcends the time period in which it was created in to find a constant influx of new readers is considered a classic. Books like War and Peace and Paradise Lost escape the trappings of the fashions of the society they were written for and find relevance with succeeding generations of people. It's the ability for a book to remain popular over an extended period of time and mostly long after its author is long dead.
I agree completely. It seems the longer a book has been around the more of a "classic" it is considered. Time is key here. :)
 

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Classic books touch readers delivering deep commentary on the human condition. That's why books like Lord of the Rings, which seemingly have nothing to do with "humans" at all or the world about us, yet manages to draw us into the themes of death, survival and redemption, will be read 100 years hence. Harry Potter does the same thing. Rowling's tale of wizards is really about the progression of life, and ultimately about understand the quality of death. (Her words, not mine). That's why we'll be reading Rowling a 100 years from now (well not me, perse - but other generations).Books that inflame the mind and imagination of new generations become a renewable threshold to greatness. Dickens does that, as does Austen, Cristie, Buck, Twain, Maugham, Steinbeck and King. Not every work from their pen is a "classic." Eventhough Martin Chuzzlewit is a masterpiece, it will never be a "classic." Still, it will be read because it stands beside works that dip us deeply and indelibly into the human conditions — Nickleby, Bleak House, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend.

Well, that's one authors opinion, and I believe that every author keeps their eye on the proposition hoping that their book will be the one to be read long after we "reach the clearing at the end of the path."

Edward C. Patterson
 
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