As I was thinking about the latest question in the 30 Days of Books list…
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
…I had a bit of a problem. Namely, what defines a book as a classic? Does a classic book have to be written before the 20th century? Can a modern book become a classic, or is that only for the judgment of hindsight?
Maybe I’m having a hard time because I don’t consider myself particularly well-read in the classic classics. Dickens? Not so much. Austen? Nope. You name it, I probably haven’t read it. Maybe I’m feeling a little self-conscious.
Anyway, I’ll give you two – once widely considered a classic of American literature and one that you probably wouldn’t consider a classic, but I do.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Yes, even someone as unschooled in the classics as me has read this. Twain’s post-civil war book about the pre-civil-war South squarely takes on the hypocrisy of that era and the ongoing nature of racial hatred. The naïve Huck represents all of us in that he must make his own choices between right and wrong in the face of terrible things that society tells us are “acceptable”. Still lessons in there today.
The other is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Yes, I’m serious.
I know that in today’s world of fiction, movies and television you can’t swing a Wii remote around without running into something about vampires. However, Stoker’s 1897 novel is not just a classic because it laid the groundwork for all that was to follow (good and bad) – it’s a classic because it’s really scary. And believe me, Stoker’s vampire count will never be confused with a teen who’s just trying to get along while different, or a lonely outsider trying to find their place in the world. Tense and creepy, if you’ve never read it – I suggest going back and realizing why vampires are (or at least were) cool in the first place.