Tag Archives: classics

“A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs

"A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs

“A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Title/Author: “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5

WV Reader Review: I picked up this book after seeing the 2012 movie John Carter. I thought the movie had an interesting premise, especially since the novel is an early instance of science fiction – published in 1917. The novel was a fun adventure, with heroic and gentlemanly John Carter as the main character, and the independent, strong, exotic Dejah Thoris – a princess of Mars.

I would recommend this to anybody looking to be swept 35 million miles away on an adventure.

What is a classic book?

As part of our Adult Winter Reading Program theme “Cozy Up with a Classic,” we’ve been asked “What is a classic?”

How do you define classic books? Maybe like this:

“Classics are those great pieces of literature considered worthy to be studied in English classes of high school or college.”

Or perhaps this:

“Classics are books your fathers give you and you keep them to give to your children”

 How many of us had to slog through some “classic” in high school and were then immediately turned off? For me, it seemed like every classic novel we had to read in “American Literature” class was a downer – The Scarlet Letter, The Jungle, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Flies, Ordinary People. I asked my teacher if there was some classic that had a happy ending. She thought about it and said no.

And then I started to think about my own question. Are there “classic” books with happy endings? Surely we can’t see depressing books as the only ones worthy of preservation. What would that say about humanity?

Which was when I remembered that yes, indeed, there were classics with happy endings: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Odyssey, The Thousand and One Nights, Shakespeare’s comedies.

So what defines a “classic”? Some would say timelessness, that you can read the book today and still enjoy it. Others would argue for universality, that the book features ideas or situations that we can appreciate as part of the human condition (family, war, love, etc.).  And then some simplify it to a book that “can be read again and again with ever-deepening pleasure.”

I would argue that a classic is one that can be read over and over and each time provide something different but still enjoyable. Time is not a limiting factor for me – there are books written in the past 50 years (or even last year) that I could point to and say, “Yes, that’s a classic.”

For what others have considered as classics, check out the lists below.

Classics for all time

The “Great Books” list to end all lists

The reading list for St. John’s College – the curriculum is focused entirely on the Great Books

The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of all Time

The Telegraph lists their “Perfect Library” of 110 best books

Project Gutenberg – check out their “Top 100″ of most popular classic e-book downloads

NEH list of summertime favorites – classic novels divided by age group

Modern Classics

Entertainment Weekly’s “The New Classics” – The 100 best reads from 1983-2008

Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels

Classics of Science Fiction – a thoroughly researched list by James Wallace Harris

How do you define a “classic” book? What are your favorite classic books? What classics are you ashamed to admit you haven’t read? Let us know in the comments below.