People around the internet, like Aimee and Beth and Sara have written posts about classics and whether we should read them. So I thought I might join in. Also, many pretty pictures of classic books are in order.
Disclaimer: I haven’t read that many classics. When I was younger, I read some (like The Secret Garden and Little Women), and plenty of abridged ones (like Pollyanna, and Pride and Prejudice). More recently, I’ve read What Katy Did, and Jane Eyre (I didn’t let myself read any library books until I finished it, which took 3 months. *le sigh* ). I’ve read a bit of Shakespeare for school, and a few others (such as LoTR)
I wasn’t sure what a classic was, so (like a normal person) I googled it. Google told me: ‘A classic is a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy, for example through an imprimatur such as being listed in a list of great books, or through a reader’s own personal opinion.’ (Okay, so I can call Harry Potter a classic if it’s based on my opinion. Also, what is an imprimatur?) So why not call YA books classics?
I came up with my own definition of a classic too. A classic (to me):
• Has stood the test of time.
• Relates to people in its time, but also applies, and feels relevant, to people decades into the future. Many old books aren’t read much anymore. And most books popular in the 90s have given way to our favourite YAs. But Shakespeare is still read, even though his stories a very old. He is still relevant today. So classics last.
• Is worthwhile
• It is agreed that it teaches us something, about ourselves or the world or some truth, rather than only being read for entertainment. (YA books may sometimes lack this quality)
• Classics are not just books written by white men since the 1700s. India has classics! (e.g The Baburnama- an unusual autobiography written by the first Mughal emperor. Anyway.) So does China and a lot of other places. Women write classics (If you don’t think To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic, well, we might need to have words.)
• They don’t have to be super old, but still, test of time as above (at least a decade? I think TKAM counts)
So why read classics?
Most book bloggers, like myself, prefer YA books to classics we see as musty tomes. We are forced to read classics in school which makes them harder to appreciate. Here is a list of the pros and cons, to help you make that agonizing classic reading decision I just know you are. (Yes. Helpful, aren’t I?)
What are the pros of classics?
• Like I said in my definition, they’re timeless. If people have wanted to read them for a long time, then they must have something interesting to say. Even if we don’t agree with the opinions, it doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile.
• They build vocabulary. This is an obvious one. A lot of classics are written for people who are *cough* better at vocab than me.
• They help with history! Because they’re, y’know, written a while ago generally.
• You look super smart when you’re reading one in public. Trust me.
• They’re usually well written, even if the style/era is entirely different.
• They don’t usually just have an agenda of ‘let’s sell this and make money’ but often comment on something interesting.
What are the cons of classics?
• They’re hard to read, because of the vocabulary and a historical context or references we don’t get, while their contemporary audience would. Maybe Jane Eyre was secretly hilarious (It totally wasn’t)
• The style is often entirely different, which makes it hard to get in to.
• They’re not written for young adult readers in the 21st century (often, they’re making a statement of some kind), so they won’t have the same goals for readers that I might look for in a YA book, such as a pitch perfect
• Sometimes (let’s be honest here, people), they’re boring because they feel irrelevant and dry and other worse adjectives.
Conclusion: I know I don’t read many classics, but I think they’re worth reading every once in a while.
Do you read classics? How do you feel about them? Do you agree with my definition? (because I totally don’t mind corrections). What are your pros and cons? Do you have classic books you hate, or ones I should really read too?