From J.K. Rowling's love of Jane Austen to J.M. Coetzee, whose "top 10" includes Cervantes and Samuel Beckett, this irresistible companion for all passionate readers explores why "the canon" is for everyone "What makes a classic? For me, it's a book I can't imagine having lived without; a truthful, wholly imagined world, in astonishing language, by a writer unafraid to probe those things that scare us and scar us and make us human." —Charlotte Wood, author, The Submerged Cathedral Mark Twain defined a literary classic as "something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read." But what was true in the 19th century doesn't hold true today. In our uncertain modern times, not only do books considered classics still fill the shelves of many bookshops, but these books continue to exert a powerful influence on contemporary culture—some in obvious ways, such as the film and television adaptations of the works of Homer, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and Henry James; other in less obvious ways, through their enduring impact on fellow writers, artists, and musicians. Offering many great contemporary authors' lists of their favorite classics, this accessible, impassioned, and inspiring guide to the great books of the past and why they still matter will be eagerly embraced and discussed by passionate and grateful readers.