Discussion Post: What Makes A Book A Classic?

book classic

Well the topic of this discussion is pretty clear for the title.

I actually think about this quite a lot. What does make a classic, a classic? Who decides? Can there be new classics? Will there be any books we see as modern, new releases now that may be in the “classic” genre in years to come?

Like I said, I think about this a lot.

So what makes a book a classic? Let’s discuss!


The definition

So according to Google, “A classic book is a book accepted as being exemplary or noteworthy.”

But to me that just seems rather vague, does it not?

I mean, what I see as noteworthy in a book could be entirely different to another person.

Is it down to opinion?

Do we as readers decide for ourselves what we see as a classic?

I mean, I would see a classic as being a book written years and years ago, that was popular, or controversial. The sort that are studied in classrooms all over the country and essays are written about. The Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre type books.

But I also think that there’s “modern classics” – my main examples being The Lord Of The Rings and Narnia books. And one day I definitely think Harry Potter will be in the classic genre. How can it not, when so many hundreds of thousands of people have read it?

I actually quite like to think about the books that might be considered classics in the far future. If any I’ve read would make that list. I mean, imagine a day when people who have read and loved Harry Potter will seem really well educated in literature, like people think with the usual classics now. That’s something I’d like to see.


So, what do you think makes a book a classic?

Is it the time period it was written? The author? The story itself? It’s popularity?

Or something else?

Are there any books that you think will fall into the classic genre in the future, like I do with Harry Potter?

Are there any books you think should be classed as a classic, but aren’t?

Share your thoughts and join the discussion in the comments!

Until next time…

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17 thoughts on “Discussion Post: What Makes A Book A Classic?

  1. I’ve thinking about this quite often lately because each time I read a book that I really love I wondered if it would be a classic someday ! Especially with Harry Potter. I think that besides the popularity, one thing that makes a classic a classic is when the writing has something more, something special that sets it apart from other books, I don’t know if that makes any king of sense hahaha

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  2. As an English literature student this was a question I was constantly mulling over. The best thing I landed on was that a classic is a story that, for whatever reason, has stood the test of time. Its impact is still felt and appreciated decades and, indeed, centuries after it was first written – this could be because of the insight it provides to a particular time or concept or theme.

    However, it’s not simply a case of popularity as some examples were contentious in their time but have been lauded as classics now because of a certain “something”, vague though that might be. Additions are sometimes made to the idea of “classics” too – for example, making a concerted effort to reassess women’s writing and “add it” to the canon. Likewise underappreciated authors of the time are sometimes “rediscovered”, often through academics and research.

    Whilst some of this assessment takes place in the publishing world (see Penguin’s line of modern classics), a lot of it also takes places in the literary academia world, with universities, exam boards, and school syllabuses setting much of what a generation thinks are “classics”. That’s changed over time too, with more open mindedness when it comes to genre, since I’m sure the academy of the late 1800s would be surprised to learn some people would consider something like Lord of the Rings to be a classic. In that respect it also ties back into the idea now of ensuring more diversity within this “canon” of literature that is considered classic – there was a time when very few female authors would get a look in, let alone a non-white author.

    It’s a difficult thing to actually pin down I think, there’s certainly no easy answers here! πŸ˜›

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    1. What a great response! I definitely like the idea of it being books that have stood the test of time – that seems the most fitting when you look at all the classics you know. It certainly is a difficult question to answer though!

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      1. Haha thanks, it’s something that I still haven’t come up with answer to! Books that stand the test of time is the closest I’ve gotten to a satisfactory definition of my own idea of a classic. πŸ˜› Of course *why* they’ve somehow stood the test of time is yet another debate/discussion, I’m sure!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such an interesting discussion topic! I’ve always just considered classics to be books that are assigned for English classes, so books that are loaded with imageries and motifs. From that in itself, I suppose classics would be defined from the time period it was written in and its “meaningfulness.” However, I would say that Jane Austen books are definitely classics, and I don’t know any English classes that assign that for reading… So, I suppose my definition is definitely too narrow. However although I’m not entirely sure how to define a classic, I’m sure I could (like many other people) identify a classic when I see one.

    I definitely think that Harry Potter is going to be considered a “classic” in the future. Along with other popular series that our generation grew up with, such as A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments Series, etc. Although Harry Potter will be the ultimate classic amongst those, I’m sure in a few decades, I’ll be recommending the other series I mentioned to my kids because they’re “classics.” πŸ™‚

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    1. Just hijacking this to mention that I was assigned Austen at university twice. πŸ™‚ First we read Sense and Sensibility for a Romantic literature class because of its themes regarding sensibility vs rationality e.g. Marianne embodies Romantic sensibilities of heightened emotions etc. We also read Northanger Abbey as part of the same course, since it’s a parody of a lot of the themes of the Gothic genre, a genre we studied using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein etc. I don’t know whether that was just because my university/professors wanted to teach some Austen haha.

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  4. I would define a “classic” as an oldish book that is generally accepted as a book that at least one generation of people have grown up with – as a “childhood” book. I really enjoyed reading this discussion and the comments. Thanks for posting! πŸ˜€

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