Armchair BEA 2014 – Literature

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes
Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

This is the first of the discussion points for the Armchair BEA, and is about Literature and my thoughts around it.

OED: Literature: Written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit: a great work of literature

OED: Literature 1.1: Books and writings published on a particular subject: the literature on environmental epidemiology

I read the books I want to read – usually fiction books, and only rarely non-fiction.  I don’t restrict myself to any one genre, so I don’t think “I will only read x types of books” – if I like the sound or look of the book, then I will put it on the TBR pile.

The only books I would formally put the term “literature” on is the classics, such as Dickens, Jane Austen, the Brontes etc, as per the OED definition above. In thinking for this post, it did make me wonder about – are the books written and published today any less valid as “literature” because they’ve been published in the last 30 years? Or published on ebook only, without the traditional publishing houses?

I have read/listened to some fabulous books in the last few years that have been written in the last 100 years, and even some written in the last five, and in many cases cant think of a reason why they couldn’t be classed as “literature” (I have mentioned quite a few on this blog since starting, so wont mention again). They have made me happy or sad, have stayed with me much longer than the other books I’ve read, and I would recommend to anyone who might be interested, whether they asked or not!

There are other books that I’ve read, who havent stayed with me as long as the others, but when I remember them (say, I find a review of the book when going through my archives) I wonder whether they could be classed as “literature”.  “Good Literature” I suppose (it could stay with someone else longer than me), just not “Great Literature” by my definition.
In reading Follies Past this last week, I was reminded of Jane Austen and her satires on women reading novels (Northanger Abbey being a complete wind up book on the subject), and references to books such as The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe – which is still in print, and I have a copy sitting somewhere within my TBR. So attitudes have certainly changed regarding suitable reading material, for both men and women so who knows where we will be in another 100 years?

Is Non-fiction literature? Well according to the definitions above, then yes I suppose it is. Is it any less worthy of the definition because I dont read it? Probably not – I’m not that important an arbiter of taste!


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