What Makes a Book Timeless?

As I work on my second novel, I find myself wondering at the idea of timelessness. Is it really possible to create a book that is timeless? More to the point, is it important to do so? Writing, by nature, is a slave to the time period the piece is set in. If I am writing something set in Victorian England I’d better make sure it is accurate and true to the time. That aspect is a given. But what about using pop culture in a novel? As a reader I waffle on this subject. Sometimes I’ll be reading and a song I like will be referenced, or a popular show or movie might be part of a conversation the characters are having. Usually, when used sparingly, this kind of thing is fun and gives me a feeling of a shared secret with the character. But, having said that, there are times when a book uses songs as a constant substitute for dialog, or perhaps the references are just too different from my own tastes. That turns me off, no matter how good the story or characters, and I immediately start to think, “Wow, this book is going to be so dated in ten years.” So what is it that really makes a book timeless? My initial answer is, story and characters, but do pop culture references get in the way of those things? What do you think?

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