How does one define a classic book? There are several different theories that can be put forth on the matter. For some people, a book that remains in the public consciousness after a lengthy period of time would have to be a classic. Books with enduring, influential characters may qualify as well. Books whose themes and values continue to find an audience after several generations might be good examples of classics.
How Does One Define a Classic?
At the end of the day, there is no singular criteria. It is also important to remember that since we are talking about art, we are talking about a subjective concept. One person’s art can be absolute garbage to someone else. Who is right?
To that end, if you want to really dig into some classics, you have to look for a consensus. Your list will need to consist of books that are regarded highly by significant figures, by a large portion of the population, or by a collective that combines both of those groups.
What Are Some of the Best Books Of All Time?
If you want to delve into some books that are roundly regarded as classics, then consider the following:
1. Lord of the Flies: This chilling 1954 novel from William Golding continues to offer a grim commentary on mob rule, the aftermath of a civilization that has crumbled, and much more.
2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Many would argue that Mark Twain wrote this iconic 1884 novel as an attack on slavery. Regardless, critics continue to argue that the book reads as fresh now as it did a century and change ago.
3. The Color Purple: This 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner from Alice Walker paints a powerful image of a young black woman’s struggles to remove herself permanently from the abusive men in her life.
4. Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury set his 1953 science fiction classic in a bleak, hopeless dystopian future. Censorship is the norm, and some would argue that the society depicted by Bradbury has come to life in a number of forms in our world.
5. Anna Karenina: Originally published in installments from 1875 to 1877, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina tells one of the most devastating, powerful epics in the history of literature.
6. The Brothers Karamazov: The final novel from Fyodor Dostoyevsky is an extraordinary epic. This masterpiece tells the story of four brothers to a level of detail that is quite simply stunning. At the same time, the book has been celebrated for being intensely compulsory.
7. Oliver Twist: For many people, Dickens’ 1838 novel about a grim childhood in Victorian England is one of the finest books ever written. To be certain, many people consider this to be the definitive masterpiece of Dickens’ prolific career.
8. To Kill a Mocking Bird: As race continues to be a profound issue in America and elsewhere, Harper Lee’s career-defining 1960 novel about a white lawyer defending an innocent black man in Depression-era south continues to be relevant. Simultaneously, the characters continue to be vibrant favorites.
9. To the Lighthouse: This 1927 novel from the great Virginia Woolf depicts a family coming to the crossroads of their very existence. For many people, it is the definitive work of a feminist icon.
10. On the Road: American road culture had come into vogue in the early post-War years. Jack Kerouac writes one of the definitive works on that subject. At the same time, he speaks to the terminal restlessness that would give way to the chaos of the 60s and beyond.
The Greatest Novel Ever Written
What would you consider to be the greatest novel ever written? The above list can really just give you a rough idea of how many possibilities are truly out there. You could make up a list with room enough for one hundred picks. You still wouldn’t have enough room. You could focus on great 20th century novels, still give yourself 100 picks, and still find yourself making sacrifices.
Keep in mind that all of the above are works of fiction. What about poetry like Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes, or Shakespeare? What about non-fiction like In Cold Blood or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? The list goes on, but keep the above in mind.