A visit to Chicago not long after the Chicago Fire of October 8, 1871–151 years ago today–touched the heart of the author, Edward Payson Roe, and inspired him to write this novel, published in 1872.
He seems to have asked himself:
How would people respond in a crisis that affected a community regardless of social rank, and how would the tragedy change them and their community, for better or worse?
How important are some of our typical pursuits—pleasure, popularity, recognition, wealth, and entertainment–compared to a day-by-day inner awareness of our value as a human being, our purpose on this earth, a sense of peace, and a realistic, solid basis of hope and security?
This is quite an extraordinary novel, and I LOVED IT. So much so that I now have this and several other E.P. Roe novels on my Kindle. (And I have given my used hardcover copy to a dear friend who loved the last 19th century novel I gave her!)
It is a detailed book about one of the things in our lives that we don’t necessarily focus on, but which is one of the most important: our spiritual life.
In this story a young man, Dennis, needs to leave his struggling family so he can make money to support them. He leaves his quiet rural area and moves to Chicago, one of the largest cities in the U.S. in 1871, when the story takes place.
Dennis and Christine work together at an art gallery, and have similar interests in art, including creating their own paintings. She and her father (the owner) are from a very wealthy European family, and look down on the newly hired young man with the worn-out clothes. Naturally Dennis is frustrated by that, but his value system isn’t based on popularity and people-pleasing, and he can still be relatively content at work while he earns enough to live on.
He has a heart of gold, and if he finds someone in his neighborhood or place of work that he can help, he pours his heart into it. So even in the unfriendly city he is never without genuine friends that support him.
In time, Christine and the others at work are impressed by Dennis’s kindnesses, and the way Dennis respects himself. They notice he doesn’t compromise his values by mistreating them, regardless of how disrespectfully they treat him.
When Christine pretends to be falling in love with him in order to use him for her own purposes, Dennis calls her on it, scolding her for her rudeness and manipulation. It may be the first time in her life that she hears the truth about herself. She is further frustrated by her artistic limitations, seeming to be unable to paint an authentic expression of love on her canvas. She takes to heart Dennis’s words: “The stream cannot rise higher than its fountain.”
Dennis becomes seriously ill and is away from work for a while. During that time Christine realizes how much she cares for him, but her artistic and social ambitions take precedence over a relationship.
Then… the fire rages through Chicago with complete disregard to social status, providing a crucible for burning up the dross in many lives.
Where to find the book
The fact that it is so prevalent online attests to its past and present popularity.
I can’t say enough about the riches found in Project Gutenberg! I have found, downloaded and happily read loads of their books in Kindle format, online, or in pdf form–ALL for FREE.
Here I want to whet your appetite by pointing you to some lists of books. But before you delve into the lists below, keep in mind that you can subscribe to their monthly newsletter here, and learn some of the historyof their beginnings starting in 1971.
Go ahead and dive into one of these books that you’ve heard of and always meant to read. Challenge yourself to read straight through to at least the end of the first chapter before you decide whether to keep reading or not.
I have done that challenge many, many times with classic books that I was convinced would be dry and dense, and repeatedly been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I became engaged in the story, and what an uplifting experience it was through to the end!
Whether you need a certain classic, or are just looking for your next quality read, here are the top books as of today in their “Best Books Ever” category, sorted by popularity. (Check out my recommendations after the lists!)
I concur with the recommendations of …
Pride and Prejudice (believe me, the book is far better than any of the movie adaptations!),
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (my sons laughed throughout the book as I read it out loud for bedtime),
Great Expectations (had to read it for high school and assumed it would be awful, but it turned out I just couldn’t put it down, loved it),
Treasure Island (not just for boys! this middle-aged woman loved it)
[However, I did not enjoy reading Heart of Darkness. It was miserable and depressing and I didn’t find any redeeming qualities to make the misery worthwhile.]
Looking for a top quality author? Or more to read by a favorite author?
Check out their Top 100 Authors listing below. Here’s the listingfor the past 30 days (showing how many downloads in parentheses).
I have taken the liberty of highlighting authors I am familiar with, who–in MY opinion–are well worth checking out! Dickens, Charles (81172) Austen, Jane (80746) Doyle, Arthur Conan (61764) Rizal, José (53999) Twain, Mark (53385) Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft (52126) Wilde, Oscar (52108) Carroll, Lewis (42389) Shakespeare, William (39548) Stevenson, Robert Louis (36602) Dostoyevsky, Fyodor (32567) Tolstoy, Leo, graf (31347) Wells, H. G. (Herbert George) (31254) Garnett, Constance (30801) Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott) (26219) Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (25917) Stoker, Bram (25517) Melville, Herman (25289) Homer (24437) Swift, Jonathan (24071) Joyce, James (23551) Ibsen, Henrik (23352) Dumas, Alexandre (22586) Verne, Jules (21986) Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank) (21911) Derbyshire, Charles E. (20733) Hawthorne, Nathaniel (20472) Poe, Edgar Allan (20391) Plato (20198) Conrad, Joseph (20073) Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud) (20052) Kipling, Rudyard (19601) Jowett, Benjamin (18832) Poblete, Pascual Hicaro (18331) Doré, Gustave (17892) Maude, Aylmer (17481) Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (17243) London, Jack (17154) Dante Alighieri (17126) Kafka, Franz (16810) Maude, Louise (16807) Hugo, Victor (16457) Russell, Bertrand (16273) James, Henry (15588) Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (15522) Brontë, Charlotte (15493) Lang, Andrew (15453) Alcott, Louisa May (15174) Christie, Agatha (15079) Grimm, Jacob (14913) Grimm, Wilhelm (14913) Wyllie, David (Translator) (14731) Pope, Alexander (14606) Widger, David (14370) Shaw, Bernard (14218) Smith, George O. (George Oliver) (13910) Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de (13495) Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich (13465) Townsend, F. H. (Frederick Henry) (13061) Wodehouse, P. G. (Pelham Grenville) (12939) Defoe, Daniel (12384) Kemble, E. W. (Edward Windsor) (12317) Barrie, J. M. (James Matthew) (12303) Thoreau, Henry David (12279) Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (12162) Butler, Samuel (12038) Balzac, Honoré de (12009) Morley, Henry (11852) Machiavelli, Niccolò (11814) Burnett, Frances Hodgson (11444) Leech, John (11381) Thompson, Max C. (11273) Craig, Austin (11177) Hapgood, Isabel Florence (10761) Hardy, Thomas (10757) Emshwiller, Ed (10504) Foote, Mary Hallock (10472) Maupassant, Guy de (10459) Marriott, W. K. (William Kenaz) (10443) Scott, Walter (10377) Burton, Richard Francis, Sir (10361) Ipsen, Ludvig Sandöe (10344) Anthony, A. V. S. (Andrew Varick Stout) (10344) Mariano, Patricio (10191) Bacon, Alice Mabel (10092) Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) (10064) Irving, Washington (10058) Wharton, Edith (9947) Buckley, Theodore Alois (9908) Cary, Henry Francis (9638) Robertson, James Alexander (9558) Ormsby, John (9378) Milne, A. A. (Alan Alexander) (9168) Burgess, Thornton W. (Thornton Waldo) (9006) Eliot, George (8998) Ogden, C. K. (Charles Kay) (8808) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (8770) Blair, Emma Helen (8735) Burroughs, Edgar Rice (8671) Bourne, Edward Gaylord (8592)
As I was enjoying a short story by Louisa May Alcott, I found spirited conversations among the characters about reading and writing. I seriously doubt that it was the author’s intention to pass along writing tips in her story, but I got a kick out of the subtle wisdom and commentaries on the writing life included in the dialogue!
No doubt many fiction writers have received responses similar to the ones below, even from well-meaning non-authors. And maybe there’s some truth in them! You decide…
A little background to the story: Sophie’s aunt had invited her to visit for several weeks in “the wilds of Vermont”, and Sophie in turn invites some of her city friends to join her during the holiday. The friends arrive and meet Saul, who works on the farm. They invite him to share his war experiences with Randal, one of their friends from the city…
* * * *
It took you how long to write your novel?!
Saul responds politely to their request. “When I’ve foddered the cattle and done my chores I’d be pleased to. What regiment were you in?” asked Saul.
Randal replied, “In none. I was abroad at the time.”
“No, busy with a novel.”
“Took four years to write it?”
“I was obliged to travel and study before I could finish it. These things take more time to work up than outsiders would believe.”
“Seems to me our war was a finer story than any you could find in Europe, and the best way to study it would be to fight it out. If you want heroes and heroines you’d have found plenty of ’em there.”
A pleasant surprise, and appreciation for novels
“Tell us about your book, we have been reading it as it comes out in the magazine, and are much exercised about how it’s going to end,” began Saul.
“Do you really read my poor serial up here, and do me the honor to like it?” asked the novelist, both flattered and amused, for his work was of the aesthetic sort, microscopic studies of character, and careful pictures of modern life.
“Sakes alive, why shouldn’t we?” cried Aunt Plumy. [For Aunt Plumy I translate from the colloquial] “We have some education…a town library…magazines…Our winter is long and evenings would be kind of lonesome if we didn’t have novels and newspapers to cheer ’em up.”
Randal replies, “I am very glad I can help to beguile them for you. Now tell me what you honestly think of my work? Criticism is always valuable, and I should really like yours, Mrs. Basset,” said Randal, wondering what the good woman would make of the delicate analysis and worldly wisdom on which he prided himself.
“Criticism is always valuable to an author”… unless…
Aunt Plumy…rather enjoyed freeing her mind at all times, and decidedly resented the insinuation that country folk could not appreciate light literature as well as city people. “I’m not a great judge…but it really does seem as if some of your men and women are dreadfully uncomfortable creatures.
It seems to me it isn’t wise to be always picking ourselves to pieces and prying into things that ought to come gradually by way of experience and the visitations of Providence. Flowers won’t bloom…if you pull them open. It’s better to wait and see what they can do alone.”
Aunt Plumy continued. “I do feel as if books would be more sustaining if they were full of every-day people and things, like good bread and butter. The books that go to the heart and aren’t soon forgotten are the kind I like. Miss Terry’s books*, now, and Miss Stowe’s, and Dickens’s Christmas pieces, they are real sweet and cheering, to my mind.”
Randal… was quite composed and laughed good-naturedly, though secretly feeling as if a pail of cold water had been poured over him.
[* Just a short note, Miss [Harriet Beecher] Stowe and Dickens we’ve heard of, but I was curious about who “Miss Terry” could be. I believe she could have been the author Rose Terry Cook (1827-1892) who lived in Connecticut, the next-door state to where Alcott lived. And Cook was related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who Alcott’s parents knew.]
Differing opinions about making a living
Randal responds, “Many thanks, madam; you have discovered my weak point with surprising accuracy. But you see I cannot help ‘picking folks to pieces,’ as you have expressed it; that is my gift, and it has its attractions, as the sale of my books will testify. People like the ‘spice-bread,’ and as that is the only sort my oven will bake, I must keep on in order to make my living.”
Aunt Plumy adds, “So rum-sellers say, but it ain’t a good trade to follow, and I’d chop wood before I’d earn my living harming my fellow man.
I’d let my oven cool a spell, and hunt up some homely, happy folks to write about; folks that don’t borrow trouble and go looking for holes in their neighbors’ coats, but take their lives brave and cheerful; and remembering we are all human, have pity on the weak, and try to be as full of mercy, patience and loving kindness as Him who made us.
That sort of a book would do a heap of good; be real warming and strengthening and make them that read it love the man that wrote it, and remember him when he was dead and gone.”
A frustrated author, realizes he’s not writing what he wants to write
“I wish I could!” and Randal meant what he said, for he was as tired of his own style as a watch-maker might be of the magnifying glass through which he strains his eyes all day. He knew that the heart was left out of his work, and that both mind and soul were growing morbid with dwelling on the faulty, absurd and metaphysical phases of life and character.
He often threw down his pen and vowed he would write no more; but he loved ease and the books brought money readily; he was accustomed to the stimulant of praise and missed it as the toper [drinker] misses his wine, so that which had once been a pleasure to himself and others was fast becoming a burden and a disappointment.
The joy of unexpected support
The brief pause which followed his involuntary betrayal of discontent was broken by Ruth, who exclaimed, with a girlish enthusiasm that overpowered girlish bashfulness, “I think all the novels are splendid! I hope you will write hundreds more, and I shall live to read ’em.”
“Bravo, my gentle champion! I promise that I will write one more at least, and have a heroine in it whom your mother will both admire and love,” answered Randal, surprised to find how grateful he was for the girl’s approval, and how rapidly his trained fancy began to paint the background on which he hoped to copy this fresh, human daisy.
Saul brought the conversation back to its starting point by saying in a tone of the most sincere interest, “Speaking of the serial, I am very anxious to know how your hero comes out. He is a fine fellow, and I can’t decide whether he is going to spoil his life marrying that silly woman, or do something grand and generous, and not be made a fool of.”
How does an author know how to end the story?
“Upon my soul,” Randal said, “I don’t know myself. It is very hard to find new finales. Can’t you suggest something, Major? Then I shall not be obliged to leave my story without an end, as people complain I am rather fond of doing.”
“Well, no, I don’t think I’ve anything to offer. Seems to me it isn’t the sensational exploits that show the hero best, but some great sacrifice quietly made by a common sort of man who is noble without knowing it. I saw a good many such during the war, and often wish I could write them down, for it is surprising how much courage, goodness and real piety is stowed away in common folks ready to show when the right time comes.”
“Tell us one of them, and I’ll bless you for a hint. No one knows the anguish of an author’s spirit when he can’t ring down the curtain on an effective tableau,” said Randal.
* * * *
Thank you, Miss Alcott, for sharing your wisdom in such an entertaining way!
Was that helpful or inspiring? I hope if nothing else, you got a chuckle!
My favorite lines:
Now tell me honestly what you think of my work.
…Flowers won’t bloom if you pull them open.
…That sort of a book would do a heap of good; be real warming and strengthening.
People like the ‘spice-bread,’ and …that is the only sort my oven will bake…
He often threw down his pen and vowed he would write no more.
Louisa May Alcott’s characters
If you care to read the whole short story, you can find the pdf online by going here to find Alcott’s short stories, then search for “A Country Christmas”.
I was also interested to find a letter that Louisa May Alcott wrote to a fan who asked for her advice on achieving success.
And here, a blogger gleans writing lessons from Louisa May Alcott’s journal, along with secrets to her success.
It’s February, the month we celebrate love, and here is a most fitting book to celebrate.
Celia Bassingdale was about to take a long journey—the longest on earth—from the unreal to the real.
Celia’s romantic interest in a young man (whom her grandfather was convinced was only after the fortune she would inherit when he died) prompted a bitter argument between her mother and grandfather. Attempting to right his wrongs, and help build some strong, admirable character in his granddaughter–even at the risk of losing the affection of this beloved girl forever–Grandfather decides to tear Celia away from her sweetheart. He sends her to live with his poor relatives, the Wallerby’s, who are hardworking, respectable people. Furious, she vows never to speak to her Grandfather again.
Celia struggles to meet the challenge of being forced to leave her comfy life to live with strangers. Yet she comes to admire the devotion this family and community have for each other, and their joy in spite of the hard sacrifices they must make. The women of the town’s wealthy society spread ugly, hurtful rumors about her, and twist her good intentions into appearing to be something shameful. Celia’s heart is captured by good-hearted Robert Wayne who works with Mr.Wallerby, and the feelings are mutual. But, although he loves her, he is not wealthy enough to marry anyone, especially a woman who comes from a wealthy family. In the midst of this time, Celia grieves severing her relationship with the one dearest to her, Grandfather.
The author has a deep understanding of human motivation, weakness and strength. Her story inspires readers to focus on what matters the most in life. This beautifully written book is full of warmth, humor, suspense, determination, struggles, honor, family bonds and the most genuine kind of love.
The previous owner wrote their own response in pencil: “Nice quiet book.” That, plus the title of the novel, made me decide to buy it. And it was nice, and quiet, and did not disappoint! Thank you, fellow book lover, for the tip!
I raved about Love in a Little Town to a close friend, and she–shockingly–wanted to read it for her Christmas holiday book. Even though it is a plain-looking hardcover book written in 1911, and she doesn’t usually read novels like this, she couldn’t put it down. She read it in half the time I did, and loved it, and is ready for more vintage fiction!
I get the feeling this is not a very well-known book. Mine is the only review for it on Goodreads , and if you’re interested, you can find a few of my other reviews there. You can get the eBook for free at Google Books , and on Amazon ($41 and up).
If you haven’t delved into the increasingly popular vintage fiction, this would be a great one to start with! Happy reading, friends!
As a fellow blogger said, “I rarely pay full price for books. Loving classics has its advantages, they are widely available and utterly cheap.”
I couldn’t agree more!
Ever since I figured out how to put them on my Kindle, I’ve had a blast finding vintage treasures on Gutenberg.org, Internet Archive, Google eBooks and many other websites, including searching for free classic Kindle books on Amazon. I’ve also discovered many books in PDF format that I put on my ancient tablet to read, and many of these have beautiful illustrations.
Here is a sampling of some of my favorites, followed by some links to whet your appetite even more!
After reading biographical information on the poet Francis Ridley Havergal, I learned that, among many other books, she contributed to a holiday book called Christmas Sunshine. Havergal’s rich poetry appears alongside Thackeray, Milton, Shakespeare and Dickens in a beautifully illustrated book, here.
Always interested in nature and children’s books, I have found a treasure trove of nature books written for children in the late 1800’s. My favorite is The Child’s Book of Nature by Worthington Hooker, MD, “intended to aid mothers and teachers in the training of children in the observation of nature.” I love that it was a high priority then–let’s reinstate it now!
One of my favorite fiction authors is Georgette Heyer, and thankfully she was a prolific author. I can find a lot of her books in paperback in bookstores, but for those that I haven’t run across, I can usually find them online. Among her always humorous regencies,Frederica(which I am currently reading) and The Black Moth are two of several Heyer novels loaded onto my Kindle and tablet.
The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook , although admittedly not vintage or classic, is nevertheless another gem of a book I couldn’t resist including. I loaded it and several other natural healing books onto my Kindle, which I found on Amazon for free!
And here are some interesting websites to get you started as you explore the literary riches of the internet:
In 1894, a publisher held a writing competition to obtain the best manuscript that would inspire a child’s Christian faith. Florence Kingsley submitted her manuscript for Titus: A Comrade of the Cross and won the $1,000 award. In six weeks, 200,000 copies had been printed to meet demand.
The story is about a young boy named Titus, the son of a downtrodden mother and a poor, violent fisherman. His brother Stephen is remarkably kind, considering the fact that he was crippled from a beating by their father. Titus is cynical of what he hears about Jesus, and warns Stephen against any hope of healing.
This historical novel takes place at the time of the first Easter.
“Titus was listening with all his ears, but he said nothing, for he hoped that the man would speak further…. He could have slipped away in the dark easily enough, and was half-minded to do so.
Then he reflected that he might learn something more of his mysterious birth and parentage, if he stayed; besides, he had a strong curiosity to see the much-talked-of Barabbas; and underneath all, was an unconfessed desire to share in the exciting events which were soon to follow.”
Over thirty years ago, I was given a copy of this hardcover novel,. The cover was ragged, and as I skimmed the text I could tell that the language was ancient and confusing. It sat on my shelf for a long time because I had no interest in reading it, but I kept it out of affection for the person who gave it to me.
Finally, years later, I picked it up and started reading it, and couldn’t put it down. The language wasn’t a problem once I got used to it, and even though halfway through the book I found that a whole chunk of pages was missing, the suspenseful plot and true-to-life characters still mesmerized me.
I can honestly say that my faith grew tremendously from reading–and having “lived”–this story.
I was still reading it when my first son was born, and we gave him a middle name that was not the name of a relative, but of a character that touched me deeply in Titus: A Comrade of the Cross.
Because Titus: Comrade of the Cross is so well-known and well-loved, this book is readily available to read online or by download, at such sites at archive.org and google books. Free audio of the book is offered at LibriVox. Hardcover copies are also easily available at various online bookstores, including Chapters-Indigo. Lamplighter.net features a great video blurb about it, and Bookworm Blessings has an excellent review and summary.
Although it was originally written for children and youth, I recommend this book for any age. Its longevity attests to its quality! The author wrote a total of 3 books in this “Comrades of the Cross” series, including Stephen: A Soldier of the Cross and The Cross Triumphant, as well as many other books.
Are you familiar with Florence M. Kingsley? Have you read any of her other books? Let me know if you have any favorites you’d like to recommend. You can leave me a comment below. I always love hearing from you!
When I posted my thoughts about the classic novel, Don Quixote, I never dreamed that within one week I would see 17th and 18th century artistic renderings of the story on the walls of a palace!
On our summer trip to Germany, my friend and I decided to go to the Charlottenberg Palace in Berlin. This palace was built by Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife Sophie Charlotte.
In one of the first rooms we walked through, I noticed the scene in a tapestry–the tell-tale helmet on one tall slim character and the round character on a donkey–could this be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza? Yes!
Made in Paris, the tapestries were presented to Prince Henry, the brother of Friedrich the Great, as a gift from Louise the XVI of France. Imagine! This book, written by Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605, was so popular that 18th-century artists created huge paintings and tapestries to depict the scenes, and kings gave them to other kings as presents.
And a glorious painting filled the ceiling, showing the windmills Don Quixote imagined to be giants…
To the best of my ability (typing in the correct letters into Google Translate), the French text curving under the ceiling mural translates in English to “Don Quixote led by madness to be a wandering knight.”
What a strange and thrilling experience to see that the author (1605), the artists (tapestries 1763-1784) and all of us today were all reading the same book!
One note about the palace, and something that made me proud to be German. The palace — like so many cities and churches and palaces all over Germany — was severely damaged in World War II, and rebuilt starting in the 1950’s. Thank you, Germany, for that determination and devotion to restoring the breathtaking beauty in art, music, architecture and gardens throughout your land!
I regularly recommend this novel as one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the pleasure of this story!
Actually, the full title of the novel is El Ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Low-Born Noble Don Quixote of La Mancha). And, apparently, this was William Faulkner’s favorite book; he read it once a year, and Don Quixote was his favorite character.
I didn’t know all this, however, when I sat down unenthusiastically to read it. Because the description made it seem so dry, irrelevant and archaic, I had to “make” myself read Don Quixote, because I wanted to read more of the classics of English literature, and this one makes it to the top of many lists.
Don Quixote did not start out with a bang, as many novels do today. In fact, I felt that throughout the book there was no clear main plot or building suspense. Rather, there were little vignettes of humorous adventures as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza travel, believing they are knights, trying each others’ patience, and trying the patience of those they meet, giving and receiving blows in some cases!
Once I got used to the pace of the story, I sat back and enjoyed every minute of it. What is so endearing is how their ridiculous antics are taken very seriously, and our pair are given respect and honor, even by the royal family who ultimately has the power to bring them success or leave them a failure. I found myself rooting for them, hoping beyond hope for their success, although their quest seemed destined for defeat. By the end, I was sad to leave these two “companions” of mine, Don Quixote, knight errant, and Sancho Pansa, most loyal friend, for whom I’d grown so much affection!
Don Quixote is one of the books you can find in most any library or bookseller, and I hope you give it a try!
If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.
Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).
All of them were fascinating. Who knew?
Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).
It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.
Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.
That was the beginning.
These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.
I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!