How the Bestsellers Killed the Classics
The discovery of what I am about to share with you began when I decided to buy some classic stories adapted for children for my two cute grandchildren, Nic and Lily. When I was six, my father read me an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe with beautiful illustrations, White Fang, Gulliver’s Travels, Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland, and Hans Christian Andersen, as well as Russian children’s classics by Tolstoy, Pushkin, and many others. I grew up in a poor family under a communist government. Reading classical books struck the highest chord in me and kept tuning my spirit to kindness, honesty, courage and a life of creativity. I can easily say that I owe the best in me to the books I read during childhood.
Naturally, I wanted to read these books to my precious grandchildren. That is when I found out that there are very few good children’s books available in this country and they are very hard to find. Most books in stores are cute and fun, but there are almost zero books with depth adapted for young children. Check for yourself- Go to amazon.com and look at the top one hundred bestsellers in children’s books. The majority of these books are aimed to become popular by any means. For example, many of these books are adventures, detective stories, and mystery stories—addicting to read but lack depth. I think it is fine for children to read these books, but only in combination with the other kind of books, namely classical books. Classic books teach human virtues, discuss psychology on a personal level, especially in today’s world where our direct communication with other humans is so limited due to our many hours of watching TV and playing video games.
According to Merriam Webster, a classic is “a work of enduring excellence”. Wikipedia defines classic as “something with a timeless quality.”
You may say that maybe some of today’s adventure books will become classics eventually. I believe that very few of them could possibly last that long considering that the bestselling list changes daily. The authors are competing to become bestsellers, pushing yesterday’s most popular reads down below.
According to Merriam Webster, a bestseller is a book “whose sales are among the highest of its class.”
Do we really consciously choose “higher sales” over “enduring excellence?”
What makes a book a classic is the supreme honesty of the author. I believe that inside we are all very similar, so when we read a book written with honesty we can recognize our own feelings and emotions and thoughts. By reading such books, we learn important things about ourselves. We learn that we are good, kind individuals, as well as that other people are also good and kind, except sometimes confused. We learn that there is not even one person in the world who intends to hurt others consciously. I believe that such books are fundamentally important for children and young adults, to help them develop into strong, kind beings.
When I went to school in Russia, we were required to read world classics, including great American classics by Theodore Dreiser, Rockwell Kent, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mayne Reid, James Fenimore Cooper, William Faulkner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jack London, O. Henry, Mark Twain and others. I would love to see my grandchildren become friends with these books’ characters and cry when the book is over. I observe that in the case of books we are manipulated to accept what is advertised to us, instead of the best. Our culture of brainwash marketing keeps dictating for us to eat fast food instead of whole foods, to drink soda instead of pure water, to wear synthetic clothes instead of natural fibers, to listen to the hits instead of good music, to watch violence on TV instead of walking in nature, and so on.
One of my favorite books when I was a little girl was Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. In that book the author describes the “Fool Land” where nobody has to work or make any effort, but they could eat, drink, ride carousels and have unlimited fun. When people hear about the Fool Land, nobody can resist, and everyone goes there. However, after they spend a certain time in this land they grow donkey ears and later turn into donkeys. Then they are converted into slaves and do nothing but hard work. In a way, that Fool Land represents the society where everything is portrayed for us by advertising. It’s so easy to believe that whatever is promised is real, however, later we might find ourselves trapped in credit card debt, sickness and despair.
How can we find the way out of Fool Land? I believe it will be a battle for everyone in their personal life. However, we can equip our children with wisdom, kindness and courage by exposing them to the best people in human history, who wrote the classical books that moved the hearts of generations.
I wish to find out the actual state of this issue, and have decided to offer my readers a simple test. Have you read any of the five books written by American classical authors listed below? Please guess without “Googling.” The first five people who can name all five authors and book titles correctly, will receive a complete set of Raw Family educational DVDs.
1. The story of two criminals, who kidnapped a boy, the only son of a wealthy man, in order to demand a ransom. However the boy appeared to be so ill behaved that the criminals had to pay the boy’s father to return him.
2. An engaging story of nature, humanity, and love between a native Eskimo woman and American author, artist, and adventurer.
3. A novel about the impoverished offspring of a family of street preachers, who secured a job at a big hotel downtown. The money this young man earned and his new friends quickly lead to his indoctrination into the fast lane. Eventually he impregnated a young woman and drowned her in a lake.
4. A magnificent tale of an aged fisherman, who spent a whole day catching a gigantic fish, which was later eaten by the sharks leaving a fisherman with little more than a fish skeleton.
5. A touching story of a family written from the perspective of a dog.
To participate in this survey, please send your answers before the end of this year to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org Put “Classical Books Survey” into the subject line.
I will announce the winners along with the correct answers in a week.
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