It doesn't really matter what the topic is. Sometimes it's nerdy things like Star Trek or Doctor Who, or sometimes it's linguistic change like the new definition of "literally."
But today, we had a really good and interesting discussion on the value of books.
Specifically, my coworker mentioned that he wanted to do a study of classics around the world, not just in English, to see the depth and influence of these works.
So, we started talking about what defined "influence."
There's all sorts of factors to consider. What about how far the book spread physically? If people from other countries were reading a copy of the book, doesn't that count as influential, at least on a world scale, and especially given the time periods we were looking at?
What about controversy? Given the time frame, Galileo was considered controversial, but now we celebrate his achievements. Can we measure a book based on the backlash against it? Or, interestingly, can we say a book was a real success if the author was killed for it, such as the authors of English versions of the Bible?
(I certainly hope not. I don't want to die to make an impact with my stories!)
Oh, I hope not.
Fifty Shades of Gray.
What about whether or not we're forced to read it in class? Well, this one is actually a good argument. There must be some kind of measuring stick by which the forces that be choose which books to inflict upon us in those precious teenage years. Unfortunately, I don't know what the measuring stick is, so I can't debunk this argument (or bunk it or whatever the opposite of debunk is), so we'll just have to keep assuming, like we did in high school, that teachers pick them arbitrarily based on what they think will put us to sleep the fastest.
Yeah. Let's go with that.
Anyway, it was an interesting discussion, and it got me thinking about how intangible books are. There's not really something that you can set down and declare to be "classic" or "good reading" because it's all so subjective. Books are thoughts and ideas put to words, and maybe that's why it's hard to say why some are enjoyed by millions and others read in a few solitary rooms. The readers get the same joy out of it, based on their own desires and views, so how do you take six billion people's worth of ideas and intangibles to determine what a classic is?
Basically, I think this is really cool, and I'm discovering again what a nerd I am when it comes to words and books and writing and stuff.