This is how you recognize a classic book

person holding stack of books in hands

Sometimes, for one reason or another, our busy lives are interrupted with a tranquil period. It is the perfect moment to open that classic book you have been aiming to read for a long time. But how do you know the book really is a classic? Here are a few ways to identify the status of a book.

First, let’s consider how an author defines a classic book. Italo Calvino has written a number of remarkable books. Some of them can be regarded as classics, so perhaps he knows how to determine if a book is a classic. He has identified 14 signs of a classic. For instance: “A classic is a book which even when we read it for the first time gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.”

Professor Jyrki Nummi from University of Helsinki has a concise specification: “A classic is a highly appreciated, widely read work that has been popular for a long time”. Plenty of books fits into this category, but he has a more specific definition that sets the bar pretty high: “A classic book is a widely known and appreciated work that has left its mark on our culture.”

Anglo-American literature has a similar definition: “To be generally agreed upon as a classic, works meet some common high standards for quality, appeal, longevity, and influence.”

Pocketbook Aqua e-reader, woman reading on beach

Let’s be more concrete and find a classic book that you can grab in your hand or download onto your e-reader and read. Here is a list of classic books that is quite universal, although majority of works are Anglo-American:

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
  • Don Quixote by Cervantes
  • Alice&s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Nineteen–Eighty Four by George Orwell
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

Nonfiction classics:

  • Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
  • Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
  • Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell
  • Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  • Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

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