books

Discussion:Classics

 

By Shar
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)

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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?)

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All the classic books in my house that I could find

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.

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All the classic books in my house that I’ve read

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.

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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?

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15 thoughts on “Discussion:Classics

  1. *gasps* YOU DIDNAE LIKE JANE EYRE? BUT JANE WAS SO RELATABLE AND COOL AND STUFF. *goes and sits alone in her corner with sadness*

    I do not mind classics that much although I usually read them for school and not for fun. They are a good way to think about the world, but you have to be trained in reading them (unlike HP or THG) on account of they are meant to be read by people who can understand them, I think. So, there’s that. I think a lot of high schoolers might not like classics just because they do not put in the effort to really read them. Maybe. I dunno. ANYWAY CLASSICS AND ME GO WAY BACK THE END.

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    1. I liked Jane eyre! But the ending really annoyed me. I just didn’t really ship her with Mr. Rochester, y’know? You’re so right about classics requiring more effort than inhalable YAs designed for our contexts that are easy to get. I’m glad you enjoy classics! (Also, yeah, I didn’t see this until now #international travel problems)

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  2. There are certain classics I love while there are others I hate with a passion, just like with every genre, I guess. For example, I think The Hobbit was amazing while LoTR was super long and boring.

    Classics can be super hard to get into, too, because of the time era issue, like you said. I think that while classics are hard to get into, they have great ideas and characters and can be re-done for modern audiences. For example, Jane Austen’s Emma took me FOREVER to finish but the BBC’s TV version looks hilarious and really makes the novel accessible (well, I say hilarious. It’s as funny as a classic can get). Anyways, that’s just my two cents worth.

    Out of interest, which is your favourite classic?

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    1. Favourite classic… hmmm. I haven’t read a lot, but the best written one was probably Jane Eyre (it’s dense, but when I got used the the language it was AMAZING) . Have you watched the YouTube Lizzie Bennet Diaries or Emma approved? They’re fun 3-5 minute videos retelling them in modern day. I like the The Hobbit (it was quite a while ago) but LoTR didn’t go so well for me… I only read it in my holidays and it took 1.5 years, and then I was just a confused bean (Merry… wait who is he again?). Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Really comprehensive post! “Maybe Jane Eyre was secretly hilarious (It totally wasn’t)” <– the absolute BEST because I didn't like Jane Eyre at all or other books in that vein. Your definition, I think, is one based on your personal opinion, which means it fits Wikipedia, which means it's right 😛 No, really, I think you covered most of the bases I would talk about myself … and who knows? Maybe someday, a YA book will be called a classic. I mean, look at the Giver, that one is basically an MG, but it's still regarded a classic by many.

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  4. Agh, I die a little at classics. I mean, I get that they’re important historically and I think they can be timeless and we shouldn’t snob them because they’re not the snappy interesting modern writing of today. BUUUUUT. I would just rather read a YA book. 😄 Although in 40 years, I guess classics are going to be The Hunger Games and Harry Potter right?! Which is weird and cool to think about…

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    1. Yes. I mean, part of the Google definition of classics is that you define them as good… so Harry Potter is technically a classic for me. Maybe we should wait a few years before deciding what YA books will be classics (a lot.. I hope. Or the next generation will read new terrible (in our eyes) things on whatever gadgets have been invented) 😀 (now that is a weird thought…)

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  5. I completely stink at reading classics, but the classics I have read I’ve ended up absolutely loving. (Go figure). I think just the fact that they’re labeled as classics makes them so much more “intimidating” to read than if they were modern-day literature. But I think there’s a reason that classics are known as classics – they always have such wonderful writing and timeless lessons that need to be taken to heart. Thanks for sharing this post! ❤

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    1. I agree. It’s easy to be like ‘it’s classic, is way too deep, makes no sense, let’s avoid it’ but I think it’s good to ‘branch out’ as a reader and get better at reading things, and they can be pretty awesome! Thank you 🙂

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  6. Agreed! I do think classics are worth the trouble (Les Mis, anyone) — a lot of them are richer in terms of craftsmanship and plots than newer books.

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  7. Nice post! I think you basically covered the idea of a classic: it’s something that has stood the test of time and that most people agree teaches us something about life and about ourselves. 🙂
    I haven’t read a ton of classics, but I’ve read enough to feel pretty good about my life, lol. Though I do still need to read something by Tolkein… Which ones would you recommend?

    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. I think the easiest Tolkien book to get into is The Hobbit, because it’s shorter, familiar if you know the movies, and has a good story line. I did read LoTR, but it took me so long that I kind of forgot a lot of what I shouldn’t have. The Narnia series is also awesome fantasy… Have you read them? (seems likely but you never know)

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      1. Okay, cool. I’ve seen all the LotR and Hobbit movies, so maybe I’ll try out the books sometime.
        And yes! I’ve read Narnia several times actually, lol. One of my first fantasies, I think.

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