I was sitting in my literature class last week and I started thinking about this question: What is great literature? I am now in my third year studying journalism and English Literature and during my last two years we have been able to choose what kind of literature classes we want to take. And I have based my decisions on the books that are covered in the modules, books I think sounds interesting, funny or scary. But does that mean that the books are great literature?
For me a good book is a book that speaks to me and that leaves a mark in my memory and my heart. A book with a language that really speaks to me and is not just fancy words on a page. As a literature student I have read many books over the last two and a half years and I am not afraid to say that several of the books did not give me much. It was kind of like eating fast food. You want and perhaps need it at the moment but as you’ve swallowed that last bite you don’t have the same satisfaction as you would have had when eating a proper meal. It’s the same with books, not every book gives you the satisfaction you’re looking for.
At the moment I’m reading a lot of crime fiction novels for my crime fiction module. I have really enjoyed Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, but some of the books we have read have been like a fast food experience to me. You’re simply reading the book to find out who the murderer or the thief is and once you’ve figured it out then that’s it. When I read Dracula last year it was a completely different experience; I was almost in love. Vampires are very popular these days and Stephanie Meyer has managed to capture the world with her Twilight series. But reading Dracula was so different. It was one of the first true vampire stories and as you’re turning the pages you cannot help but wonder what is happening in the novel. But we live in 2011 now and are well aware of what vampires do and how they act and that kind of ruined the book for me. I knew that Dracula was a vampire before I had even finished the first page, but I set my mind into believing I had no idea and truly loved the book. I loved the story. And the story has so much to do when it comes to determine what good literature is.
I believe that great literature is an individual meaning. Some people cannot live without Shakespeare whereas others can’t stand the formal language. Over the years publishers have taken chances into publishing stories that are slightly different than classic literature and it has become a huge success. Harry Potter, the Twilight series and His Dark Materials are only a few popular series where I could not put down the book. They are different from Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen but I’ve enjoyed them all on a different level. So I guess it is somewhat difficult to determine what the definition of great literature is, but you can make up a definition that suits you. I have and on my what-to-read-list I believe there are some great books that will take me on an incredible journey. Because in the end, there is no right or wrong way to read.