2024 Reading Challenge

2024 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 1 book toward her goal of 285 books.

2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

The New Classics, Jill-Elizabeth Style

So a lot of fuss is made about “classic” literature. Must-reads, top-whatever lists, library-must-haves – everyone has their own opinion, and everyone touts their opinion as definitive. I’m not going to list the traditional classics here – I’m going to talk about contemporary fiction. And I’m going to talk about them in the context of what makes a story “classic” to my mind – and why I think that there are a handful of “new” stories that I think have the potential to stand the test of time.

You may not have heard of many/most of them – but I do think they’re examples of solid writing, sound story-telling, and non-preachy lesson-presenting, all hallmarks, to me, of a “classic” novel.

So what makes a classic? To me, as I’ve said, it’s all about the ability to stand the test of time. To me, first and foremost, that means the writing has to be good. No, not good. Great. Grammar, word choice, structure all have to be spot-on. Second, there has to be a timeless nature to the story. It has to be written in language and with references that aren’t going to appear dated and redundant in five years time – or if they are time- or era-sensitive, they have to be written on a theme that will still be relatable (one of my favorite Jillisms) and feel relevant (through message or context) even long after those time-/era-sensitivities have become things of the past. Finally, to me a classic has to be enjoyable. I don’t mean it has to be a laugh-riot or fun-fun-fun every page. I mean that it has to be a story that you want to read again – for whatever reason. I know not everyone re-reads books (although I can’t imagine why not – re-reading my favorites is one of my, well, favorite things about reading!), but to me a classic is the type of story that you would want to re-read or re-experience, even if you don’t actually end up doing so. It has to do with the timeless story-telling thing again, I think – the ability of the author to capture a perspective, a moment in time, or a sense/feeling that resonates with multiple readers with multiple experiences across multiple eras and multiple locations.

Incidentally, I’m sure I’m going to take grief for this. I know there are people out there just chomping at the bit to call me an idiot (it’s been done before) or ask how on earth I could consider X or Y book on par with works by classic authors from the literary canon that have been taught to students since the beginning of time. I’m sure there are also a great many people who will disagree with my theory on what makes something a classic. I say bring it. Disagree away – just tell me (and any readers) why you disagree, not just that you disagree. I’m not claiming to be an expert here, just making observations as to what I think are the themes and elements of classic stories and how those themes/elements have been addressed in contemporary contexts, and if you have divergent opinions, I’d love to hear them.

But before you criticize, take a gander at the books I’ve recommended. Please. I enjoy a healthy argument – as long as you have some actual perspective or facts to back it up. πŸ™‚

Incidentally, as I prepared this post and provided the Amazon.com links below, I noticed something disturbing (well, disturbing to me). A startling number of the books that I love are “bargain priced” by Amazon. I’ve noticed this in Barnes and Noble stores before too. There are a LOT of extraordinary things in the remainder bin or priced at the $5 or $7 and under price points. Just goes to show two things I think – first, that everyone has an opinion and that one man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure; and second, that They (the people in charge) don’t know everything. πŸ˜‰

Top 10 Contemporary Novels with Classic Potential

  1. The Little Book – Selden Edwards
  2. The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  3. The Coma – Alex Garland
  4. Prospero Lost – L. Jagi Lamplighter
  5. A Dirty Job – Christopher Moore
  6. The Double Bind – Chris Bohjalian
  7. I Am the Messenger – Markus Zusak
  8. Here, There Be Dragons – James A. Owen
  9. The Hangman’s Daughter – Oliver Potzsch
  10. Set This House in Order – Matt Ruff



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