Almost one and a half million books have been published worldwide so far this year, according to the UNESCO statistics I looked up on the internet. That’s a lot of books. Of course they’re not all novels and some of them will be old titles that have been republished. Some will be picture books or textbooks or instruction manuals or all manner of other titles that don’t matter to you at all.
But lots and lots of them will be brand new novels that you’ve never read. Novels by authors you love and authors you have never come across yet but will discover that you love. What a joy! All those lovely new books released into the world for you to discover.
The trouble with new books, though, is that they’re untried. I know, I hear you, that’s what reviewers are for: to test the new books and let you know what’s great and what’s not.
But there’s another way, and another source.
Out of the million and a half books newly available this year, how many do you think will be around in twenty years time? Fifty years? A hundred? Some will go out of date (all those textbooks for a start – every time a government fiddles with a curriculum).
And if a million and a half books have been published in the last seven months, how many books are already out there in the world, waiting for you to discover them?
Only a few stand the test of time.
They may be truly great, absolutely original or sufficiently quirky to develop a cult following. They’re still there in the bookshops and on the library shelves because people don’t stop reading them after a year or two. They don’t date. No, they do date, but being of their time is part of what makes them what they are. They’re different from the shiny new books that lie on the tables in the front of the bookshop. You might have to think a little harder, read a little more carefully, forgive some comment that is of its time but not of ours.
People call these books ‘classics’, though that term’s so variously used as to make it quite tricky. Some people won’t accept something as ‘classic’ unless it’s a good hundred years old. Personally, I think you can often tell when something’s going to be a classic right from the moment it’s published. I like to think of them as ‘keepers’. They’re the books that you know will always have a place on your shelves, long after the other books you bought the same year have gone off to the charity shop.
We Paisley Piranhas have declared August this year to be Classic YA Month. We’ll be sharing lots of our favourites – our keepers – with you. You’ll find romance and sci-fi, history and dystopia amongst our choices, some two hundred years old, some less than forty.
We hope you enjoy it – do please share some of your favourite classic YA titles with us!