Wednesday, November 14, 2007

18 miles of books

Shopping the Strand, 1938 New York's famous bookstore, The Strand, is celebrating its 80th anniversary with The Strand 80, a list of its customers' 80 favorite books. I've read over 50 of them (yes! go double literature major) and several are among my personal favorites. I discussed it a bit with a friend and she pointed out these are not necessarily meant to be classics -- they are popular picks. Of course, many are undisputed classics (Les Miserables, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Crime and Punishment, Homer's Odyssey). Others might more commonly be called pop-culture phenomena (The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter).

That led us to wonder, though: What makes a classic? Obviously a work that can stand the test of time is often called a classic. If you can read a book written 50, 100, 200 or more years ago and find that it resonates with you today, then that's classic. There have to be more criteria than that, though. What do you think?

By the way, there is exactly one picture book on the list: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.


Lara said...

hahaha... i was a lit major and an english teacher, and i've only read 11 of them. however, there are probably another 10 or so that i've read most or part of at some point, and many more than that that i've studied, written about, and/or been tested on over the years. i just always slid by without doing the reading. ;)

Lady M said...

I remember reading "Germinal" a so-called French classic in a college historic literature class and realizing that this was a really trashy book. Perhaps old, but definitely trashy.

Mrs. Chicken said...

Totally have to check this out, and beef up my library book request list!

Magpie said...

Hmm. 50. Such an odd list, kind of all over the map.

Isn't The Little Prince a picture book, sort of, anyway?

What makes a classic? Good writing, compelling tale, imbedded lessons.

Julie Pippert said...

I had to go check it out of course. I have hit 70 of them. I see my Tolkien avoidance has caught up with me.

Was happily surprised to see personal faves on there such as Mrs. Dalloway and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Handmaid's Tale. Hemingway.

Some were surprises, such as Life of Pi (which, although a book club fave, was gratuitous IMO). And Bleak House? Man, I live in a world of masochists.

And all the Ayn Rand!

Where's RUSSO?

Okay can I geek out more for a sec?

I like that new TV show, Moonlight. It's purely eye candy lust for the actor. Anywho.

He has this FAB bookcase, probably stocked by Books By the Yard but I always ignore whatever is going on and stare at what books are there. Some great ones! I was thrilled to see Russo on his shelf. I tjust added to the, hmm, sexiness of it. GEEK OUT lol.

Using My Words

Becky said...

I think of a classic as something older, so I wouldn't call a book published two years ago a classic, no matter how much I loved it.

Tree said...

The list is interesting, but strange. Many "classics" that would be read in a traditional literature class in high school are accompanied by so-called contemporay classics. Personally, I would not put The Kite Runner or A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius or Da Vinci Code alongside anything by Jane Austen, Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger, or even John Irving. I feel a huge void in there. What about Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth - truly a work that transcends time, politics, geography - just to name one.

Lawyer Mama said...

Well that was interesting. I've actually read most of them. You can definitely tell that it is "popular" books because of books like The DaVinci Code. It was a fun read but in the top 80? No way.

So glad to see Pride & Prejudice as #2. At least I'm not the only one!

mothergoosemouse said...

Sadly, I've only read 18 of them. Can't even count P&P because while I own it, I've never made it through.

I have read all three Rand books though. And the two Salinger books on the list.

Billeh said...

A classic book has unfortunately just become a book that was written at the time of Hemmingway and the like whats interesting was it wasn't a classic when it was released, so maybe, just maybe, in 200 years someone will pick up "The Da Vinci Code" or any of the other books that have no right to be there and go: "Oh, now here's a classic."

Lisa said...

I've bought quite a few books over the years I've been meaning to read. (Now my reading hours seem to be occupied by books for PBN review.) But its good to know quite a few of them are on this list.

Scribbit said...

I still can't get over the lists that put Ulysses as the greatest book of the 20th century. Yuck. I need a book that let's me see things I already knew in a new and unforgettable way. Wallace Stegner's my guy for that.

Kelly said...

Standing, sadly, at 24. And as an English major! I deserve a sound spanking.

Maddy said...

My stack keeps growing. The more recommendations I find, the bigger it grows. I ought to have a huck out soon, but maybe I should just do more reading and less blogging!

SUEB0B said...

Wow. SO mucu Harry Potter! And those Ayn Rand fans are tenacious, too.