Classics: Books For Life by Jane Gleeson-White (Sydney, Knopf, 2005) is now on sale at the remainder shops for $14.95 instead of an outrageous $44.95. I picked up a copy yesterday. As Patrick Cullen writes in the linked review:
Italo Calvino’s 1981 essay ‘Why Read the Classics?’ offered 14 definitions for what constitutes ‘a classic’ and these definitions are wonderfully perceptive and varied. “The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: ‘I’m rereading…’, never ‘I’m reading…’.” Some of Calvino’s other definitions extend on earlier definitions: “A Classic is a book which with each rereading offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading,” or when read for the first time “gives the sense of rereading something we have read before.”…
…As she introduces Classics: Books for Life, Jane Gleeson-White acknowledges the subjectivity of the pursuit: “We all have our own favourite classics, book about which we are passionate, that become ‘our’ books and help us to define who we are.” …Sufficient description is provided of each of the  books to enable a reader unfamiliar with the author’s work to feel as though they are at least a little closer to understanding why the book may be a classic. Gleeson-White’s choices are generally corroborated by lists submitted by Australian and internatinal authors including Luke Davies, Charlotte Wood and Tim Winton, American Don DeLillo, South African J.M Coetzee, and Englishwoman J.K Rowling.
It is all quite unpretentious when compared with Bloom’s The Western Canon, say — and to judge from this, Bloom seems to have become quite batty lately; I accept that some books are clearly better than others, but also accept that canon-making is a minefield. “The canon” has shifted radically over the centuries; three centuries back it was still argued that no work in English could compare with The Classics of Greece and Rome. See Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books.
What is in your personal canon? I’ve put my own eccentric list on a separate page (see link in the right hand column) and invite you to add your choices via the comments here. Should be fun.