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About Leather Bound Books
Qualities of Classic Books
Mark Twain defined a classic as, “Something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read”. What characterizes a classic work of fiction? Is a book a classic when it has a great number of printings? Or is it the number of languages into which it has been translated? Is it called a classic because some distinguished soul said it is a classic? While these are interesting, even significant, they do not determine that a fiction book is a classic. First a classic is timely. It either expresses or influences the times in which it was written. Uncle Tom’s Cabin opened the eyes of America to the dark side of slavery. Oliver Twist revealed the difficult lives of the homeless children in England. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, though not fiction, revealed the realities of the Holocaust and what it was like to hide from the Nazis during their occupation of Netherlands. A classic is not only timely but also timeless. Classics deal with themes that touch all periods of history, all societies, and all cultures. Some such themes include good versus evil and the consequences of both, love and forgiveness, success against all odds, personal values (for example, Beauty and the Beast proclaims that the exterior is not what really counts), et. al. Many classics show the value of resisting temptation to compromise in order to reach the goal. In most if not all classics the hero overcomes one or more major obstacles at the climax of the story so that his ultimate goal is reached and success achieved. Real classics present truth. Any author can develop a story so that evil appears inevitable, lying pays off, hate and revenge are good. Though this may indeed seem to depict real life, it is really just pseudo-reality. Classic literature presents Judeo-Christian morality as good, and those who follow it, even when it costs them, as true heroes. A classic will still be around years after it first appeared. It may or may not get good reviews at first, but a classic work still be recognized for its literary value long after it is first published. "Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered”. W.H. Auden said this. Shakespeare’s writing is certainly classic in this sense. In this sense, then, a true classic must have been around for a while. A classic is readable in its style. Mark Twain said, "Great books are weighed and measured by their style and manner and not by the trimmings and shadings of their grammar”. However, that does not mean they are poorly written so that they are difficult to read. Variety is possible, from the ornate language of The Yearling to the plane language of The Good Earth. The story in a classic almost tells itself though not without surprises. The characters are believable even in their depth. This is exemplified in Hamlet. The author does not tell you how to feel or what conclusions to draw. Instead, he or she makes you feel or conclude what they want. The story does not preach a moral, but illustrates a moral so that the message is clear, though hidden. A classic connects authors and times. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature. At once a classic both expresses the period and style and struggles of the time, and uniquely stands on its own. In conclusion we ask, what are your favorite fiction books? Do your favorites measure up to being real classics? Do you think other things besides these mark a book as a classic? Are going to add or remove a book from a list of classics based on this article? If you own a true classic book, how are you preserving it so that others in the future can also enjoy it?

Mark Twain defined a classic as, “Something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read”. What characterizes a classic work of fiction? Is a book a classic when it has a great number of printings? Or is it the number of languages into which it has been translated? Is it called a classic because some distinguished soul said it is a classic? While these are interesting, even significant, they do not determine that a fiction book is a classic.

First a classic is timely. It either expresses or influences the times in which it was written. Uncle Tom’s Cabin opened the eyes of America to the dark side of slavery. Oliver Twist revealed the difficult lives of the homeless children in England. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, though not fiction, revealed the realities of the Holocaust and what it was like to hide from the Nazis during their occupation of Netherlands.

A classic is not only timely but also timeless. Classics deal with themes that touch all periods of history, all societies, and all cultures. Some such themes include good versus evil and the consequences of both, love and forgiveness, success against all odds, personal values (for example, Beauty and the Beast proclaims that the exterior is not what really counts), et. al. Many classics show the value of resisting temptation to compromise in order to reach the goal. In most if not all classics the hero overcomes one or more major obstacles at the climax of the story so that his ultimate goal is reached and success achieved.

Real classics present truth. Any author can develop a story so that evil appears inevitable, lying pays off, hate and revenge are good. Though this may indeed seem to depict real life, it is really just pseudo-reality. Classic literature presents Judeo-Christian morality as good, and those who follow it, even when it costs them, as true heroes.

A classic will still be around years after it first appeared. It may or may not get good reviews at first, but a classic work still be recognized for its literary value long after it is first published. "Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered”. W.H. Auden said this. Shakespeare’s writing is certainly classic in this sense. In this sense, then, a true classic must have been around for a while.

A classic is readable in its style. Mark Twain said, "Great books are weighed and measured by their style and manner and not by the trimmings and shadings of their grammar”. However, that does not mean they are poorly written so that they are difficult to read. Variety is possible, from the ornate language of The Yearling to the plane language of The Good Earth. The story in a classic almost tells itself though not without surprises. The characters are believable even in their depth. This is exemplified in Hamlet. The author does not tell you how to feel or what conclusions to draw. Instead, he or she makes you feel or conclude what they want. The story does not preach a moral, but illustrates a moral so that the message is clear, though hidden.

A classic connects authors and times. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature. At once a classic both expresses the period and style and struggles of the time, and uniquely stands on its own.

In conclusion we ask, what are your favorite fiction books? Do your favorites measure up to being real classics? Do you think other things besides these mark a book as a classic? Are going to add or remove a book from a list of classics based on this article? If you own a true classic book, how are you preserving it so that others in the future can also enjoy it?