What Makes a Book a Classic?

5 Jan

classic-literature-006Just Google “classic literature” and you’ll come up with dozens upon dozens of lists that are each a little unique about what they consider a “classic.” Although an older story, “In Literature, What Makes a Classic?” on NPR is a great discussion/interview with  Alfred A. Knopf editor Sonny Mehta and writers Joan Didion and Z.Z. Packer of what makes a book a classic and what books may be popular, but not a classic.

So, why am I thinking about classics right now? As I’ve mentioned before, my library is currently working on a massive weeding project to update our collection and remove old volumes that are MUSTIE. And somehow, I volunteered myself to take on the 800s, that’s right, Literature.  I’ve got everything from how to write a book to every piece of literature under the sun including classics, short stories and poetry.

So now I’m spending time trying to create a core collection of titles that we want to ensure we have in our collection and allowing other material (i.e. short story collections and a lot of poetry) go. But, what do I keep? What do I get rid of? How much time is required to make a title a classic? And what about classic titles that are not European-based? And then you have to think about demand? What title are our high school students required to read? And where do we put these classics – in nonfiction or in our paperback Classics collection?

As you can see, I still have a ton of questions. And a lot of work to do. So let me know what you consider a classic and what I should include in my core collection.


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