This week, Better Reading released the 2019 Top 100 list as voted by you, our readers. The list showcases a range of different books, some older than others. That’s right, we are talking ‘the classics’ – those books that you maybe studied during school, and now, as an adult, still appreciate and enjoy. These books appear on the Top 100 list year after year, begging the question – what makes a classic? And how do these books manage to stand the test of time?
Reading a classic novel is a different experience entirely – the language varies greatly to what we are used to reading today, and the stories, characters, and societies are also varied. In this way, classics offer us a glimpse into another world, time, and place. They are simultaneously a history lesson and an escape, a window into the life, politics, and relationships of people from a different era – like time travelling from the comfort of your couch!
Classic novels also tend to be focused on issues that will never lose their relevance. Money, class, politics, race, were all heated topics back then, as they still are now. Reading classic novels allows us to see both how far we have come, and reflect on how little has changed. Take George Orwell’s 1984, for example; despite being written nearly seventy years ago, it remains relevant as ever, challenging readers to question the nature of government, politics, and surveillance.
Other classics teach us valuable life lessons – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, explores the ways in which we value and judge others by societal standards. Although originally published in 1813, people are still able to relate to the novel’s moral message – that all people should be judged on their individual merit, and not by their social standing or wealth.
Sometimes, we dip into a classic novel for the pure enjoyment of language, to relish in the beauty of the words on the page. The Bronte Sisters are a perfect example of this. That Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights yet again both made the Top 100 list this year is testament to the beauty and power of words to transport and touch us.
We would all be lying if we didn’t admit that from time to time, we pick up a classic novel to broaden our literary horizons, to feel more cultured, and maybe give our brains a challenge. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee made the Top 100 list again this year, and is an example of a classic that challenges us, both with its language and subject matter. Another classic with lessons to offer that are still relevant today, To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us that books, like people, can enact change.
The verdict is in – classics are classics because they never really lose their appeal, whether it be their writing style, the lessons they teach us, or the ways in which they challenge us as both individuals and a society.