My Classics Club List

I have decided to join the Classics Club, a group created online to inspire people to read and blog about classics. The goal is to read at least 50 classics within 5 years and blog about each one after you finish reading it. If I had my way, I would be reading classics all the time. But I need to be abreast of what’s going on in the contemporary literary world too. And that’s why I have stuck to this attainable goal of reading around 10 classics a year.

I compiled a list of books I have been meaning to read for a long time and I am ready to dive into the challenge. Most of the books on my list are books I will be reading for the first time. There are a few books on the list that I had read during school and college days and look forward to re- reading with a more mature perspective. I read Gone With the Wind when I was around 16 or 17 and The Count of Monte Cristo when I was even younger. I am excited to rediscover them. Some favorite authors like Elizabeth von Arnim, Jane Austen or Daphne du Maurier feature more than once on the list. I have also picked books that I find intimidating like Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer in the original Middle English to challenge myself. The selections are mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries but I have also chosen books from the Medieval and Renaissance periods and the 16th through 18th centuries. Most of the books are written in English but I have included some French books which I’ll read in the original and books translated from Russian and Spanish. I have included literature from around the world and two post colonial writers from India and the Indian diaspora to enjoy something from my own heritage.

How old does a book have to be to be considered a classic? I didn’t want to pick an arbitrary cut off date. The definition of what constitutes a classic is subjective. For me it needs to evoke a certain period in history and yet have withstood the test of time. So modern classics are on my list too. But I have not included any books from the 21st century.

 I started the challenge on the 20thof Feb, 2021 and I intend completing it by the 20th of February, 2026. Needless to say, this list is not written in stone. I have played with it many times and it is still evolving. But for now this is what’s on my mind, in no particular order:


  1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  3. The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
  4. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  5. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  7. L’Amant ( The Lover) by Marguerite Duras
  8. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  10. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
  11. Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim
  12. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
  13. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  14. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  15. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  16. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  17. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  18. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  19. Chéri by Colette
  20. Hamlet by Shakespeare
  21. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  22. Essais ( Essays) by Michel de Montaigne
  23. The Metamorphosis by Kafka
  24. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  25. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  26. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  27. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  28. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  29. Le Comte de Monte- Cristo ( The Count of Monte Cristo) by Alexandre Dumas
  30. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  31. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  32. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  33. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  34. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  35. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  36. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
  37. Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim
  38. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  39. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  40. The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier
  41. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  42. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  43. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  44. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  45. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  46. L Étranger ( The Stranger) by Albert Camus
  47. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  48. So Long a Letter ( Une si longue lettre) by Mariama Bâ
  49. The Book of Margery Kempe by Margery Kempe
  50. Vanity Fair by William Makepiece Thackerey

What do you think of my list? Have you read any of the books on it? Could you recommend any other books that might be of interest to me? Do share your thoughts.

Classics Club Spin

I’m playing a fun game hosted by The Classics Club. I have to list twenty books of my choice that I have yet to read on my classics list. On Sunday, the 22nd of November ( yes, I wait till the last minute to do anything!), they will pick a number from my spin list and I have to read whatever book falls under that number by 30th January 2021. The books can include favorites and re-reads but also books you find daunting and have been putting off. The idea is to challenge yourself.

So here’s my list in no particular order:

  1. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  4. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  6. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  7. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
  8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  9. Le Deuxième Sexe ( The Second Sex) by Simone de Beauvoir
  10. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  11. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  12. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  13. Beowulf- Translated by Maria Dahvana Headley
  14. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  15. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  16. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  17. Vanity Fair by William Makepiece Thackeray
  18. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  19. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  20. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Thorn Birds, Lolita, Gone with the Wind and Madame Bovary are among the books I have read already but decades ago when I was in college. It would be interesting to revisit any of them from the perspective of an older and wiser person. 🙂 I have read parts of Simone de Beauvoir’s book but at a much younger age and I think I would appreciate it a lot better now. Song of Solomon and Midnight’s Children are relatively recent publications and I suppose they would fall in the category of modern classics. A Hundred Years of Solitude is a book that I have started once or twice but abandoned. It would be worth trying to pick it up again. The third time could be the charm. I included the new translation of Beowulf as my background is in medieval literature and there has to be at least one book from that period that shows up on my list. This translation seems interesting as it is supposedly rendered from a feminist perspective of the work. All the rest are books that I have been meaning to read for a long time and I would be happy wherever the number lands.

What do you think of my list? Are there any on it that you have read and enjoyed? I love classics and at some point I hope to finish reading everything on my list but for now I’m excited to see what I get tomorrow.

Night Mail

A Still From The 1936 Documentary Film “Night Mail”.

The postal service has been in the news lately in the US, embroiled in political controversy. The discussion made me reminisce about the good old days when the dull post office building was imbued with enchantment and adventure with the comings and goings of letters from near and far and from near and dear ones. I thought of a delightful poem entitled Night Mail written by W.H. Auden in 1936 for a British documentary film of the same name which follows the LMS ( The London, Midland and Scottish Railway) mail train from London to Scotland. The poem is especially charming to me as it combines my love of trains and of letters, evoking the romance and nostalgia of a bygone era.

This is the night mail crossing the Border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner, the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.

Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.
Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in a bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends,
Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from girl and boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or to visit relations,
And applications for situations,
And timid lovers’ declarations,
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled on the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to the Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, the adoring,
The cold and official and the heart’s outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep,
Dreaming of terrifying monsters
Or of friendly tea beside the band in Cranston’s or Crawford’s
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
But shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman’s knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

This simple rhyming poem describes the journey of The Night Mail train as it leaves London and crosses the border into Scotland. It passes through the countryside of cotton fields, rocky lands and steep slopes almost merging into the landscape, for even the birds and sheep dogs have become used to its presence. From the countryside, it reaches the industrial world of Glasgow ” Towards the steam tugs yelping down a glade of cranes / Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces / Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.”. It stands for punctuality and efficiency reaching its destination on time. It carries all sorts of letters from all over the world for all sorts of people who are still asleep, and whether they are having happy dreams or horrid nightmares, they will wake up with the joyous anticipation of receiving news.

I immediately notice that the train is personified as a woman and referred to as ‘she’, emphasizing its emotional impact. I am also struck by the hypnotic rhythm of the poem. Auden paid special attention to the meter to mimic the movement of a train as it moves down the tracks. The pace is steady, builds up to match the acceleration of the train and eventually slows down as it approaches stations. The repetition of words throughout the poem gives the effect of the monotonous chugging along of the train. As the pace picks up, the rhymes become quick and become internal rhymes ( “Letters of thanks, letters from banks.. Letters of joy from girl and boy” ).

The poet has made inventive use of poetic devices like alliteration, enjambment and anaphora. There are many alliterations and in one instance, the poet has employed a poetic technique called ‘sibilance’ as there is a hissing or sibilant quality to the alliteration ( “Shovelling white steam over her shoulder /Snorting noisily as she passes”). The use of ‘enjambment’ or the continuation of a line to another without a punctuation mark ( “In dark glens, beside pale-green lochs / Men long for news.”) helps to achieve a fast pace to emulate the ascent of the racing locomotive as the reader moves on to the next line without pause. ‘Anaphora’ or the repetition of a word at the beginning of successive lines ( “Letters”, ”And”, “Towards” “The” and “Asleep” ) is an effective rhetorical device to emphasize a repetitive and mechanical action.

As you can see, this is a poem that begs to be read aloud. In fact Auden is believed to have written it with the aid of a stopwatch for the film Night Mail. The poem was set to music by Benjamin Britten and was narrated towards the end of the film by John Grierson in a distinctive and almost modern rapper style rendition. These talented men endowed the prosaic documentary about the functioning of the railways with a unique poetic charm. Listen here:

In today’s world of digital communication, letter writing seems like an old fashioned practice. I don’t think there is any ping that could compare to the tactile sensation of writing on pretty stationery with a delicate fountain pen and sticking the stamp with your saliva to the envelope. There are so many other joys that go along with epistolary delights– penmanship and philately to name two. But the moment that brings the most happiness is the anticipation of receiving a letter whether followed by elation or disappointment at the news- a fat or thin envelope from a college, a letter of congratulations or rejection, a billet- doux from your beloved or a break up letter, the announcement of a new arrival or a condolence letter. At the end of the day, whether it is a text message on a smartphone or a letter that arrives by mail, it is all about tapping into the human need for connection. “For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?”

O ‘Bookmas’ Tree!

My Christmas Tree!

A few years ago I saw a picture online of a ‘tree’ assembled with books. I was intrigued by it and shortly thereafter I came across one in my local library. Soon they were popping everywhere- at libraries, bookstores and schools. I thought it would be cool to try this out myself as my house is literally toppling over with books. In fact I inaugurated this blog with a post on my book tree in 2014. You can check out the post for detailed instructions on assembling the tree:  Now it has become a holiday tradition of sorts and I look forward every year to get creative with ideas and themes to assemble the tree.

Now this is not a project for the faint of heart! It looks deceptively simple to assemble but it took me the better part of the day after I had dismantled it a few times and hurt myself with a few hardbacks! But it’s definitely worth the time and effort and the occasional bruise or two as what can compare to the joy of seeing all your favorite tomes brought together as a whole instead of lying neglected in the dusty and cobweb infested corner of  a bookshelf!

The tree reflects the eclectic reading interests of my family and includes all genres for all age groups. The books on literature, history, art history and culture belong to me. Books on science fiction, quantum physics, politics, photography and astronomy grace the tree thanks to my husband’s hobbies and passions. My elder daughter has trimmed the tree with books on historical fiction and biographies. My younger daughter’s dystopian science fiction and mystery novels have made their way on the tree. Sometimes our interests overlap and we claim ownership to the same books. For the sake of nostalgia, I also added a few books that my girls read during their childhood like the Ramona and The Little House on the Prairie series. I also placed a few of my childhood favorites- Little Women, What Katy Did and Nancy Drew books among others. I can proudly call it a multilingual tree representing the languages spoken by us at home or learned at school.  Most of the books are in English but there are books in French, Spanish, Hindi, German and Sanskrit that adorn the tree.

For decorations I added a string of lights and tucked a few bookmarks and my library card between the books as ‘ornaments’. I also placed a few dolls representing characters from books like Anne from Anne of Green Gables with her schoolbooks and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. For the tree topper, I put decorative bookends and a Jo March Doll for doesn’t that girl love reading and writing! I also wanted to honor Jo in anticipation of the film “Little Women” scheduled to be released on Christmas Day.

I have so many books at home that I forget what I own and often end up buying the same book. While assembling the tree I was quite surprised to find four copies of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Now I don’t think I would have bought them all. The hubby or the children must have bought a copy and it is possible that I received one as a gift. The fourth one still remains a mystery.  I sometimes check out a book from the library not realizing that I own it already. So assembling a tree is a great activity not only for displaying the books beautifully but for giving me a chance to get reacquainted with my favorite books- much like meeting a long lost friend  and going down memory lane together.

There is a sentimental story attached to many of the books- cherished gifts from near and dear ones, a memory of someone who has passed away, books read during different stages and milestones of my life, books that provided solace at difficult times, books that have notes scribbled on them that I now find amusing and entertaining. Each and every book narrates a story but they collectively create and tell my own story.

The best Christmas present is not under the tree but it is the tree itself.

Merry Christmas and Happy Reading for ’tis always the season to read!

A Blind Date With A Book


Have you ever been on a blind date with a book? I recently went on my first one thanks to an event my library had organized for Valentine’s Day. Many libraries and bookstores are playing Cupid with their patrons in the month of February by offering them the opportunity to go on a blind date with a book. Books are wrapped in brown paper to conceal their identity. You have to commit to reading a book without knowing its title or author. A genre or basic category could be marked or there could be a vague description or a few keywords pertaining to the theme to create mystery and suspense and pique your interest. Often we pick a book based on the cover but cover art can be distracting and even misleading by giving us the wrong impression of the content. As the old adage goes, never judge a book by its cover. Besides, who doesn’t like surprises? If you are someone who restricts yourself to certain genres, you could open up a new world by reading something you wouldn’t have read otherwise. You rate the date when you return the book after reading. You never know, you may meet your perfect match. And no hard feelings, if it doesn’t work out. Abandon the book and move on to the next one.

So, what book did I end up with? I was attracted to the cover that had the words ‘Storytelling and Fantasy’ on it. As I ripped off the brown paper, I saw a thin book entitled The Search after Hapiness ( I’ll get to the spelling mistake in a minute) and the author none other than the famous Charlotte Brontë. I have read, re-read and enjoyed the timeless classic Jane Eyre countless times. I can confidently say that it was one of the first books that made me a lifelong reader. If you take a random survey and ask people to name their hundred greatest books , I’m sure Jane Eyre would be included in many a list. I have also read The Professor and Villette by Brontë but I had never heard of this book before. For me, it was love at first sight as soon as I saw the name of the author. I was even more delighted to discover that the tale in front of my eyes was written by Charlotte Brontë in 1829 when she was just thirteen years old.

In the introduction to the American edition of the book, T. A. J. Burnett explains how the motherless Brontë children engaged in games of make believe to occupy their time in the remote moorland parsonage where they were raised. In June 1826, their father gave them a box of twelve wooden soldiers as a gift. The lonely and isolated children were very imaginative and they created a fictitious city called Glass Town that was conquered and colonized by their twelve heroes. The children themselves were the four genii who presided over the inhabitants of the city. Their games were inspired by the stories in The Arabian Nights which was part of their father’s library collection. Charlotte’s brother, Branwell Brontë, wrote a detailed account of these made up stories in a work entitled, The History of the Young Men from Their First Settlement to the Present Time. The Search after Hapiness is not part of the Glass Town stories but according to the preface to the tale by Brontë, the action is set in Glass Town and Charlotte’s favorite toy soldier named ‘The Duke of Wellington’ has an important role in the story. Brontë wrote the tale in her own hand and in minuscule letters in imitation of print. Her spelling and punctuation errors have been retained in the American edition of the book. The original manuscript has no illustrations but this edition has exquisite watercolors by artist Carolyn Dinan that add to the charm of the tale. When I started reading the book, I immediately noticed the glaring spelling mistakes and the long, winding sentences. I’m glad the editors decided to retain the errors as I think they help convey the youthfulness of the writing and enable us to understand the budding creativity of the author. I was also struck by Brontë’s impressive vocabulary and vivid imagination. The young girl couldn’t spell but she certainly had a way with words.

The original manuscript of the book, written in miniature print by Charlotte Brontë.

As I started reading the tale, it seemed like I was flying on a magic carpet to the world of The Arabian Nights. I came across magnificent palaces, lush gardens, a subterraneous passage with a stone rolled to the entrance, globes of light and, of course, there was a magic genie thrown in for good measure. The plot itself is incongruous and implausible. Henry O Donell is a young man who leaves behind the city and the people he loves to go on a quest of happiness. During the course of his adventures, he meets Alexander de Lancy, a native of France, who is on a similar pursuit of happiness. They decide to travel together and come across a very old man who narrates his story of enslavement and release to them (the device of a tale framed within another tale is also reminiscent of The Arabian Nights). For some inexplicable reason or by a quirk of fate, Alexander gets separated from Henry. The latter, meanwhile, feels very nostalgic for the home he has left behind and bursts into tears. A mighty genie stands before him, ready to grant his wish and he is instantly transported back to his castle where he coincidentally bumps into Alexander who has become a rich merchant in Paris. And needless to say, they lived happily ever after in their separate cities. The search after happiness brings them back full circle to their own homes.

This book will not appeal to readers who are not familiar with the works of Brontë. In fact, they will probably dismiss the tale as puerile and absurd. It is replete with spelling errors and the rambling descriptions and the problematic syntax make it even more tedious to read. But for those who know Brontë and have enjoyed her oeuvre, it is a fascinating window into the mind of an imaginative and gifted child who would grow up to become one of the most celebrated authors of all time. It is also noteworthy that the story includes Charlotte’s earliest known poem, “In this fairy land of light.” The tale written through the eyes of a thirteen year old helps humanize an author whose reputation has grown to mythic proportions. The book made me wonder about the early writings of other famous authors and how reading juvenilia might help parents and teachers identify and encourage talent at a young age. As far as rating my date goes, I would say it was meant to be. I had no idea such a book existed and as I am a big fan of Charlotte Brontë, it was truly a match made in heaven!

The photos are from the public domain collection of the British Library.

A Bookworm’s Christmas Tree

The first time I came across a book tree, I couldn’t help letting out shrieks of delight! I was captivated by this fascinating objet d’art. It was a small tabletop tree in a local school, artistically arranged but inconspicuously placed on a side table. I’m glad it caught my eye. I later saw a huge one in my town library and since then I’ve been seeing them everywhere. I knew I had to attempt making one myself to satisfy my inner book nerd. Besides, it would be just the right tree for our family as all four of us are voracious readers. I also knew that arranging all my books together into one piece would be the perfect way to declutter for the holidays. The whole family was involved in this rewarding activity and each person got the opportunity to showcase his or her favorite books.

For this year’s tree we used decorative book ends shaped like books (what else?) to adorn the top of the tree.

Assembling a book tree is an economical and eco-friendly project as you don’t need to buy anything. All you need are a few books and a few eye-catching decorations. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to assemble one yourself:

  1. Go around your house, collect your books and sort them by size. You will need books in a variety of shapes and sizes and a mix of paperbacks and hardcover books. You can choose to arrange your tree according to a theme like sports books, gardening guides and magazines or cookbooks, or you could stick to an eclectic mix. Make sure there are no library books buried in the pile. Imagine the hefty fine you’ll have to pay!
  2. Select an area to display the book tree. An ideal spot would be the corner of a room. If you have a large living space and hundreds of books, go ahead and build a gigantic one in the center of the room. It would make a stunning centerpiece! The corner of a room works well for smaller homes and is safer if you have young children around. With a corner tree you can hide the shabbier looking books behind, away from the main view.
  3. Place heavy and wide books like encyclopedias and dictionaries in a circle to create the base of the tree. I even put my children’s SAT  workbooks at the back of the tree. Place a large cardboard box or two smaller ones stacked one upon the other inside the circle to provide a sturdy base. They are going to be hidden anyway. Build a few layers of the same width and fill in the gaps with thin paperbacks or magazines. As you continue piling the books start narrowing the layers and taper off when you reach the top. When you reach the top you can stack one book on top of another. Let the titles face outwards if you want others to see and admire your collection. The arrangement doesn’t have to be orderly but we don’t want it to topple. In fact it’s more interesting if the books are placed a little haphazardly and there are gaps for you to put trinkets and knick- knacks. A little sloppiness is just fine and looks natural like a lived in home, a little cluttered but welcoming.
  4. Rummage through the house for an interesting tree topper. While a traditional topper like a star or an angel is always attractive, it’s more fun trying to find things that tie in with your theme like kitchen utensils, natural items such as pinecones, a mini poinsettia plant, a little gingerbread house, or you could simply top your tree with your favorite book. I came across an old ‘Anne of Green Gables’ doll belonging to my girls and made it the tree topper for my tree last year.

Anne, the beloved literary character who is studious and fond of books sits atop this tree with her textbooks.


  1. Jazz up the tree by using bookmarks, book ends and little pocket books as decorations. Tuck them in between the books. You can even put in a library card, but don’t forget to remove it when you disassemble the tree. The best part is putting your little personal touches to the tree. It will smell heavenly too. There’s no need for artificial pine scents and air fresheners. You will have the perfect old book smell- dusty and musty with notes of sandalwood and a hint of vanilla.
  1. Wrap a string of lights around the tree, et voilà! Your bibliophile’s tree is ready to be on display. I prefer clear lights to make my books stand out more. LED lights are wonderful as they do not get hot.

If you don’t own many books, don’t despair. You don’t need a huge collection of books. A tabletop tree with just six to eight books would still make a great impact. I made a tiny tree with just ten classics from children’s literature. I used a cake plate as the base of the tree and placed a Jo March doll against the books. I thought the doll inspired by the delightful and literary-minded Jo from ‘Little Women’ made an apt decoration for the tree. An ‘Alice in Wonderland’ teapot depicting a scene from the Mad Hatter’s Tea party added just the right touch of whimsy for the top of the tree.


What I enjoyed the most about assembling the tree was bringing out the books gathering dust on the shelves and giving them a new life, books that I even forgot I owned! I vowed to re-read some of the novels I had read years ago. I had forgotten that I was the proud owner of all the works of Forster and I was surprised to discover that I owned two copies of Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and three copies of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’. I immediately resolved to give them away as gifts to friends. What could be more comforting than getting back in touch (literally and figuratively) with your old books and rescuing them from oblivion?