In the traditional sense, a classic book is one written in ancient Greece or ancient Rome (see classics). The word "classic" may, however, also be applied to literature and other art that is widely considered a model of its form.
Some authors who have written classics are Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Joseph Conrad, Lewis Carroll, Jonathan Swift, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Miguel Cervantes, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Niccolò Machiavelli, Henrik Ibsen, August Strindberg, Bolesław Prus, Ignacy Krasicki, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Cao Xueqin, Lao Zi (Lao Tzu), Confucius and Murasaki.
In this sense, classics comprise what some call a "canon" of world literature. A matter of much dispute is what belongs in the canon of Western literature and art.
Most "classics" are many years old, but the word is sometimes pressed into use to describe newer works. Many classic books are, because of their age, now out of copyright and in the public domain, and of these a large number are freely available on-line from sources such as Project Gutenberg, many university websites or commerical sites such as Literature Junction and The Literature Network.
Classics may be interpreted often usually as a widely-read book, however, it usually is (in some sense) a book marking a turning point in history. Others may reflect the traditional views of earlier societies or report social conflicts during that time. Certain classics may contain revolutionary ideas or fact. Classics usually dominate in literature that suggests a social or philosophical change.
Some people enjoy classics because of the clever development of the plot and/or characterization. Classics can be enjoyed by people of all ages, usually ranging from young teens to older adults.
The phrase 'classic book' or 'classic literature' has taken on new meaning - many view any pre-1900 book still in print as a classic, and many books are classed as modern classics because of their contemporary significance or percieved future significance.
Mark Twain famously wrote that a "classic" was a "book which people praise and don't read."
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