Thoughtful Thursday: Defining a Classic

Thoughtful Thursday

It is time for Thoughtful Thursday and the bookish questions that pop up while I am reading. Please share your thoughts on the bookish question of the week. I am curious to hear what you have to say! There are no wrong answers. Questions about Thoughtful Thursday or future Thoughtful Thursday posts? Check out my Thoughtful Thursday section. Alright, on to the question!

What is a classic book in your eyes? Does it need to be printed before a certain year? Is the definition of a classic a moving target in today's age?

I am a bit addicted to watching book haul and book meme videos on YouTube. I just love watching the BookTubers rushing around their bookshelves trying to find 10 books in one minute that meet certain requirements. I think I just really like looking at their bookshelves filled with pristine copies of all of the books that I want to read. Seriously, I think these folks have a better fiction selection than my local library. Anyway, I noticed recently that many of the BookTubers have been mentioning books in passing as classics that I had never considered to be classics. I don't mean that they referred to a book as a "classic in the making" or a "modern day classic." I mean they referred to a book as a classic like Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, or Hamlet

I will admit that I felt a bit old watching these videos and discovering that books that came out during my lifetime are considered old and books you only read if you like classics. Granted, most of the BookTubers are at least five years younger than me, but it was still a bit unnerving. Although I'm not positive, I believe the book in question that led me down this garden path was The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (this is a fantastic book about the Vietnam War, btw). It was published in 1990. If the book mentioned in the video was something else, I am still quite sure that the book in question was published in the 1990s. 

After I got over the shock that someone considered a book that was published in the 1990s as "old" (because that is how I saw it), I realized that the person making the video was quite young. The person may not have been born when the book was published (btw, I remember when it was the year 2000, how is it 14 years later???). This got me thinking about what I consider a classic. This is the list that I came up with:
  • Published before I was born
    • "General classics" (whatever that means, and yes I know that I am making up this term) should have been published before 1900
    • "Genre classics" (e.g., SF&F, romance, mystery, thriller, etc) just need to be published before I was born in the 1980s
  • Contain some sort of literary merit (this merit can be defined in any number of ways)
  • Is written in a style that is somehow different from books written today OR is written in a style that is similar to today's writing BUT there is a very different writing style that was very popular that occurred between when the classic was published and today
I will be the first to admit that this is a weird list. I don't think I have ever tried to define what a classic means to me (I usually just check out Wikipedia's opinion on the matter and go with that). When I sat down to write this post; however, these are the items that popped into my head first. Am I super strict with these items? Of course not, they are mere guidelines, but these are probably the guidelines I usually hold to when I am thinking about whether I call a book a classic or not. 

In case you didn't notice, I apparently think classics are "old." LOL. In my defense, I do read a lot of classics and love them. Classics don't need to be boring, use difficult to decipher language, or out-dated morals, they just need to be old and maintain their literary merit.

Now it is your turn! Repeat Question. What is a classic book in your eyes? Does it need to be printed before a certain year? Is the definition of a classic a moving target in today's age?

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