What Defines a Classic Novel?

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“If you wish to live long in the memory of men, you should not write for them at all. You should write what their children will enjoy”. This is what American author Clifton Fadiman once said about the formula for a classic book. While the definition of what makes a classic is a much-debated topic here is what we consider to be important.


- Outlasts Time: Your kids will read it, you read it and so did your parents – generations of readers can enjoy a classic. Think of books like Wind in the Willows.

-Historical: Was written in the past and represents the time period in which it was written, but manages to show that human condition never changes. Charles Dickens anyone?

-Required Reading: From Shakespeare to Anne Frank - whether they want to or not students in high school and university language classes learn to love these stories.

-Wide Appeal: Readers of all kinds can relate to a classic because they usually contain universal themes of life. For example, Salinger’s Holden Caulfield coming of age in The Catcher and the Rye.
?Gets Better Over Time: Has to be read carefully and studied to gain full understanding. Appreciation that can evolve and change. Jane Austen’s books are a good example.

-Colloquial: Orwellian, Catch 22, or passing the conch – classic books are used in modern culture through phrases, films or ideals.

-Educational: Teaches a moral or value, is not purely written for entertainment. For example in Madam Bovary, a novel about romance, the reader also learns to be happy with what you have.

-Style: From Hemingway’s simple and direct writing to Fitzgerald’s descriptive, layered and vivid prose – a classic uses beautiful, effective or distinctive language.


What are your favorite classics and why? Leave your answer in the comments below.


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