Monday, February 3, 2014

Julie's Journal : What is a Classic?

A few weeks ago, I put up a post with the New Year's Resolutions of all the library staff.  Chance has already posted about the completion of one of his goals, so I thought I'd give an update on my resolution to read more classics. 

After he saw the post, Tom Wilkinson asked me to answer three questions : What is a classic?  What classics had I already read? and What types of classics was I interested in reading? 

I found that answering the questions was a great exercise for me.  In listing what I had read, I realized that most of the classics I had read were children's classics.  I've read and loved all of the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Swiss Family Robinson and many others.  The few "adult" classics I have read were read mainly as a reading assignment in school many years ago, and, for the most part, I did not enjoy them. 

Answering the first question though, was a little more difficult.  I told Mr. Wilkinson that my personal definition of a classic is "is a book or story that has been enjoyed by several generations.  It is a story that stays relevant throughout the ages, regardless of changes in society."  It was only after I had sent him my response that I came across pages and pages of articles discussing the definition of a classic.  This article and the further reading it recommended were interesting and the Goodreads discussion referenced shows that there are as many definitions of classics as there are readers of classics.  After reading all of the above, I decided that I would leave my definition alone.  It seems that what makes a classic a classic is very much up to the individual reader!

Mr. Wilkinson worked up a list of recommended classics for me to read and I decided to start with Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. 

After a couple of chapters, I decided that I needed to go back and read the prequel The Warden in order to get the characters straight in my head.  I finished The Warden over the weekend and now plan to start again on Barchester Towers

What are some of your favorite classics?  What is your definition of a classic?  What classics do you want to read?


  1. I'm thinking about re-reading Moby Dick. When I read it years ago, I did not enjoy it and learned more about the whaling industry than I ever wanted to know. However, Tom told me he has the "Wilkinson" edition that I should try. Since it is such a revered classic, I think I should try again to see what everyone else seems to 'get'.

    1. I've never read Moby Dick, but Mr. Wilkinson did recommend Benito Cereno by Melville, so I'll probably be tackling that this year. Let me know what you think of Moby Dick. - Julie