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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird (original 1960; edition 1993)

by Harper Lee, David Johnson (Illustrator), Timothy S. Healy (Afterword)

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49,15893910 (4.4)2 / 1854
Title:To Kill a Mockingbird
Authors:Harper Lee
Other authors:David Johnson (Illustrator), Timothy S. Healy (Afterword)
Info:Reader's Digest Association (1993), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 309 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Read but unowned
Tags:Alabama, racism, American South, Pulitzer Prize, American, illustrated, illustrated by David Johnson

Work details

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

  1. 282
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (loriephillips)
  2. 247
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (paulkid)
    paulkid: There are many similarities between these books. For example, a strong father-daughter relationship, where the father teaches by example by taking the moral high ground in protecting a persecuted minority - also kids that break down the barriers between secluded and socially awkward neighbors through books and sundry shenanigans.… (more)
  3. 2914
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Caramellunacy, rosylibrarian)
    Caramellunacy: Both stories are about a young girl in the South coming to terms with racism. Secret Life of Bees features an teenaged protagonist whereas To Kill a Mockingbird's Scout is quite a bit younger, but I thought there were themes that resonated between the two.… (more)
  4. 217
    The Heart is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (dele2451, rosylibrarian, chrisharpe)
  5. 174
    Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (Caramellunacy, Anonymous user, Anonymous user)
    Caramellunacy: Both stories about a young girl coming of age in the South and racial intolerance. Also both beautiful reads! To Kill a Mockingbird is told by Scout Finch - the daughter of the town lawyer called upon to defend an African-American man accused of rape. Roll of Thunder is told from the point of view of the daughter of a cotton-picking family who only slowly grows to realize the extent of prejudice her family faces.… (more)
  6. 143
    Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel by David Guterson (EerierIdyllMeme)
    EerierIdyllMeme: Very different novels exploring similar themes
  7. 100
    Native Son by Richard Wright (DanLovesAlice)
    DanLovesAlice: An African-American facing an uphill battle against a highly prejudiced jury and public. Wright, like Lee, explores the dangers of the stereotypes created by insular and ignorant societies.
  8. 100
    Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: These books share a precocious narrator, vital family relationships, and themes that are funny and sad and thought provoking all at the same time. Extremely well written and engaging.
  9. 80
    Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote (Othemts)
    Othemts: These books are two sides of the same coin of life in a small Alabama town. Where there's dignity and hope in Mockingbird, Other Voices is decadence and demoralization
  10. 83
    Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns (bnbookgirl)
  11. 51
    Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian (eclt83)
    eclt83: Goodnight, Mr Tom is as touching as To kill a mockingbird. Problems in society causes pain for the weaker.
  12. 51
    Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence (kxlly)
  13. 40
    The Stones Of Mourning Creek by Diane Les Becquets (Sadie-rae_Kieran)
    Sadie-rae_Kieran: Similar setting, 1960's in the south. Deals with some similar issues as well,including racism/discrimination. Though sad at times, a beautiful and touching story.
  14. 74
    A Painted House by John Grisham (infiniteletters)
  15. 41
    Home by Toni Morrison (Louve_de_mer)
    Louve_de_mer: Pour les problèmes de ségrégation raciale aux États-Unis.
  16. 41
    Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (chrisharpe)
  17. 41
    A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines (rarm)
  18. 31
    The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter van Tilburg Clark (mysterymax)
    mysterymax: This book also explores mob/vigilante thinking and is a classic in its own way.
  19. 31
    Scottsboro Boy by Haywood Patterson (lilithcat)
    lilithcat: For the real story of race relations in Alabama in the thirties, read this autobiography of Haywood Patterson, one of several young black men judicially railroaded for the rape of two young white women, and sentenced to death. A national and international campaign ultimately resulted in their exonerations, but their lives had already been destroyed.… (more)
  20. 42
    The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (LKAYC)

(see all 41 recommendations)

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1960s (64)
Romans (41)
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Showing 1-5 of 901 (next | show all)
Another one of my top 10 books of all time! ( )
  Dodgerdoug | Sep 30, 2015 |
A classic book that I'm ashamed to say I had never read. I can certainly see why this was so controversial when it was published. It tells the story of a white lawyer defending a black man who is falsely accused of raping a white woman, all from the perspective of the lawyer's children. I don't really think I can say much that others haven't said far better and in far greater detail, other than to state that I loved it and was appalled at the same time. ( )
  eclecticdodo | Sep 27, 2015 |
This book has become a favorite of mine. The days of Jim and Scout's youth, their summers with Dill, bring back the lazy childhood days summer when children played outside from dawn to dusk instead of sitting inside watching tv and playing video games. ( )
  wearylibrarian | Sep 20, 2015 |
NOTE: This is a joint review of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, since my IRL book club decided to read both and discuss them together. It’s a discussion rather than a subjective review, and will definitely contain spoilers. I will use TKAM and GSAW to identify the books, since I’m lazy.

Where I got the books: my daughter had a copy of TKAM, and I bought GSAW on Amazon, but on the reseller market in the hope of depriving the publisher of a sale, just in case there were underhand dealings with respect to Harper Lee. I doubt we’ll ever know the truth of that.

HarperCollins managed to whip up an extraordinary amount of interest and controversy around the publication of GSAW. Was it a separate novel, as Lee’s agent claimed, or an early draft of TKAM? They could easily have revealed that there are passages in GSAW that are identical to bits of TKAM, thus confirming the early draft story, but I’m not at all sure they did (although I skimmed all the articles at first and then lost interest completely, so what do I know?)

To me, GSAW reads very much as what it is, a first novel by an admittedly brilliant writer. I’ve often noticed that first novels have an autobiographical quality, as if a fictionalized memoir were the thing a writer had to get out of their head before they could write pure fiction. And there’s no doubt (Truman Capote said so) that Jean Louise, aka Scout, is Lee and the world she lives in is pretty much the world Lee knew. There’s even that young-writer theme of returning home, changed into a more sophisticated being but still the genuine self of the old days, because we all want to break away and belong at the same time.

The story is that Lee’s editor, recognizing her brilliance but feeling the novel was too unstructured, led her from one draft to another until TKAM emerged, to critical acclaim. And yet the entire draft of GSAW was found in Lee’s deposit box, so goes the story . . . which puzzles me a bit. Generally, either a writer either doesn’t bother much with a first draft once the completed manuscript has gone to the publisher, or they hoard every draft they’ve been through. So let me expound my own theory: GSAW was the novel Lee really wanted to publish, only being a first-time writer she couldn’t stand up against the pressure from her editor to turn her novel of disillusionment into the far more uplifting, and entirely more marketable, TKAM. Lee hung on to her original manuscript as she hung on to the dream of one day telling the world that this, THIS was she was talking about, dammit. Not a child’s-eye-view story of a good man in the South fighting evil but the revelation that you basically couldn’t stay in the South and be a good man—that even straight-as-a-die Atticus might step up to stop a lynching but wouldn’t do anything to change people’s opinions because they were entitled to them in his States’-rights-filled head. That he might live by the spirit and the letter of the law, but he’s still a Southerner who believes that the federal has no business sticking its nose into the local.

This isn’t me talking, by the way, but what I got from the ending of GSAW. During which Jean Louise’s dear old uncle hits her in the face and then gets her drunk—dontcha just love those ol’ Southern eccentrics? It’s not an easy novel to read with twenty-first-century eyes, given the amount of times the n-word is used and the blatant racism that is much more of an undercurrent in TKAM. No wonder Lee’s editor steered her toward the socially acceptable tale of a precocious, upright child and her childhood family and friends, the black housekeeper she loves, the adored father who stands up for What Is Right. But I wonder whether Lee wasn’t trying, with her original concept, to tell the truth to her New York friends—that desegregation might never be accepted at some fundamental level by a majority, whether it became law or not. That in the world she knew, people were the right sort, or they were trash, or they were black, and to each of these groups the others were Them, and not to be trusted.

In TKAM, the racism is filtered through the eyes of a child who doesn’t fully understand what’s going on, and is therefore rendered safe and almost quaint. It pictures a world some twenty-five years before the novel was published, again a safe remove for the reader who can tut-tut over the bad old days in nostalgic security. The problem with GSAW was that it was contemporary to its time, and grappled with the problem of racism as it actually was as the civil rights movement was getting well under way. It can be published safely enough now, I guess, because we can look back and think “yeah, things have changed” (although I suspect I’d have to change skin color to sound the depths of that statement). But if it had been published as it was, which would have been in around 1958-59, it would have been dynamite in a fireworks factory.

Lee’s editor’s reason for getting her new author to change her novel was reportedly that it resembled a series of anecdotes rather than a novel. But to my mind, both novels have a similar structure. They begin with a number of episodes that slowly set the scene for the core of the novel, deal with the core in a fairly understated way, and then bump along a little as they approach the end like a boat bobbing as it approaches the pier, with a burst of thematically relevant excitement to finish off. In some ways I prefer the somewhat messy ending of GSAW, since it pins the mood of disillusionment mixed with fondness that pervades the novel, to that of TKAM, which makes the (more trite) point that most people are nice when you get to know them. I find it a bit odd that critics are describing GSAW as a hot mess, structurally speaking, compared to TKAM. I think it’d be easy to make the case that GSAW is more avant-garde in its structure than its more famous cousin (progeny?)—not all novels are tied up with neat endings and beginnings, nor should they be.

Another theory that’s been growing in my mind as I think about these two novels is that of gender. Was Lee being forced into a “female author” box? In the late 50s, GSAW would probably have been considered an almost unbearably brutal work for a female writer. This was, after all, an era where women were still expected to stay at home, have kids, do housework, and look pretty for their man when he came home. Somewhere in all of our family detritus there’s a book from that era that tells women to do just that. Have a cocktail and his pipe and slippers ready, and make sure dinner’s on the table as soon as Mr. Wonderful finishes that martini. Jean Louise, with her hesitations about marriage and her inability to fit in with the women of Maycomb (the Coffee scene is absolutely superb), broke all kinds of molds as a woman who thought like a man at a time when that was an almost impossible act to pull off. At the end of GSAW, Jean Louise’s uncle (the one who slugged her and made her drink whiskey) tries to get her to come home, not just to look after an aging, frail Atticus, but because they need people like her to tell it like it is in an attempt to make a difference.

But she (Lee, aka Jean Louise) WAS trying to tell it like it was, dear Reader, and that’s why she wrote GSAW in the first place. And somehow got persuaded to transform the book of her heart (first books tend to be the book of the heart) into another kind of book altogether, one which shrinks Jean Louise back into her childhood self. A book about children, even if it contains a harsh message, is so much more suitable for a woman writer. No wonder Harper Lee never wrote another book—they weren’t going to let her be the writer she wanted to be, were they?

So, was the publication of GSAW the exploitation of a feeble old lady or the vindication of Harper Lee’s original vision? I don’t think HarperCollins thought of that angle as I’m pretty sure I would have seen it all over their advertising. In any case, I give both books five stars for pretty darn good writing and a sincere attempt to say something important, since in my subjective view she succeeds on both counts even if she’s never going to be my favorite structuralist. And yes, having read GSAW I would support the decision to publish it, although not necessarily for the same reasons.

In terms of actual book vs. book as opposed to fodder for my vague and unsupported theories, I doubt that readers will ever love GSAW the way they do TKAM, though, especially those who grew up with the book and the movie (which I think I watched once, but didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to), because it’s a more difficult book. For my part, I’m glad GSAW was published (whatever the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the manuscript and its publication) and that I procrastinated reading TKAM for so long so that I ended up reading them together. The experience has reminded me that there’s often a lot more behind books beloved in childhood than most of us would like to know. ( )
  JaneSteen | Sep 16, 2015 |
It's difficult not to be swayed by the extreme popularity of this work of literature, with some lists declaring it the best book of the 20th century. With so much hype, it's a challenge to view the work dispassionately. But I did try hard, and I was disappointed by what I read.

The book is set in the depression era of the 1930's, in the deep south of the USA, in a small town that feels like it belongs in a previous century, with crumbling buildings, dwindling families and old fashioned attitudes. It is told from the perspective of Scout, a 6 year old girl, who experiences the prejudices, cultural colour and extreme poverty around her. She, her brother and a regularly visiting boy nicknamed Dill have various adventures, slightly reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn, around the town, mostly focusing on a nearby house where a mad young man is said to be chained up. They have dares as to who can get closest to this house, or even peak inside to witness this terrifying specimen. In the meantime, this man, Boo Radley, secretly leaves them treats in a tree hole, oblivious to their attitudes to him, and trying, in his simple way, to reach out. All this is absorbing and does a great job of capturing a time and place for the reader.

This is the first story, and there is a second, tacked on a little awkwardly, where Scout's father, Atticus Finch, as a lawyer, defends a negro against an obviously false charge of rape. Atticus and his family are picked on for being a "nigger lover", but Atticus is proud to play this role, as he knows he is fighting for justice, and the equality of all people inside his courtroom. The two strands are connected by the title, which refers to the sin of killing something that only sings out, making your life better. It is attached to both Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, in a neat circle. It fits with Tom Robinson, who is a gentle and kind character, but not to Boo Radley, who did indeed stab his father in the leg, and probably also stabbed to death the Ewell man (who admittedly was trying to kill children in a drunken rage). So the sewing together of the two strands feels forced here.

The book is written so deftly that it is incredibly easy to read. The plot is engaging, warm-hearted and carries strong social messages about how people aren't what you think they are, how racism is wrong and so on. The parts around the court case are electrifying and inspiring, with some amazing speeches by Atticus.

And yet, to me, this is very light literature, and I was left struggling to explain how it ends up on so many influential lists. I can see why it's so popular, definitely - an ideal US school literature text, with strong moral messages. But despite being an enjoyable and at times clever and subtle read, it is far from faultless. The Catcher in The Rye is its rival in terms of popularity. But, technically, The Catcher in the Rye is so strong, with unbelievably good voicing of a teenager's mind. The voicing here is confused. If it's a six year old's voice, then her vocabulary and tone is too adult. If it's an adult's voice reminiscing, then why is she writing in such an ignorant way of the mind's of adults? It's neither one thing nor the other.

I'm also not super keen on a book that has such a clear moral message. Race relations was definitely a very active issue in the 1960's, and I feel that the timing of this book's publication owes quite a bit to its success. But from a UK 21st century perspective, these messages of ignorant widespread racism feel alien. I can't really relate them to my own culture, and the message is so utterly obvious that I feel a little patronised by the book's intent.

The characterisations are also problematic. Atticus is a super-saint, basically sickeningly perfect, which also makes him a little two dimensional. And for a book that teaches the non-black and white, multi-faceted nature of human character, many non-central characters are actually rather flatly drawn, especially the negro ones, such as Tom Robinson.

Aside from The Catcher In The Rye, I couldn't help connect this book to Huckleberry Finn, but again that other text makes this one feel flawed. The voicing in that is just so good, so vivid, and the action full of life that this feels a pale comparison. Finally, to capture the deep prejudices of an ailing small American town, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, published almost exactly the same time, is just so much more innovative and interesting than this book.

So I've ended up feeling that it's difficult to recommend this book. It's definitely an enjoyable read, and worth reading to see what all the fuss is about if nothing more. You do definitely feel you are living inside a part of American history at times, which is intriguing. But I would probably recommend this book after all the others I've mentioned here, as they are all superior. ( )
  RachDan | Sep 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 901 (next | show all)
Author Lee, 34, an Alabaman, has written her first novel with all of the tactile brilliance and none of the preciosity generally supposed to be standard swamp-warfare issue for Southern writers. The novel is an account of an awakening to good and evil, and a faint catechistic flavor may have been inevitable. But it is faint indeed; Novelist Lee's prose has an edge that cuts through cant, and she teaches the reader an astonishing number of useful truths about little girls and about Southern life.
added by LT_Ammar | editTime
The dialogue of Miss Lee's refreshingly varied characters is a constant delight in its authenticity and swift revelation of personality. The events connecting the Finches with the Ewell-Robinson lawsuit develop quietly and logically, unifying the plot and dramatizing the author's level-headed plea for interracial understanding... Moviegoing readers will be able to cast most of the roles very quickly, but it is no disparagement of Miss Lee's winning book to say that it could be the basis of an excellent film.
added by LT_Ammar | editThe New York Times Book Review, Frank H. Lyell
Its sentiments and moral grandeur are as unimpeachable as the character of its hero, Atticus. ... It's time to stop pretending that "To Kill a Mockingbird" is some kind of timeless classic that ranks with the great works of American literature. Its bloodless liberal humanism is sadly dated, as pristinely preserved in its pages as the dinosaur DNA in "Jurassic Park."
added by LT_Ammar | editThe Wall Street Journal, Allen Barra
A book that we thought instructed us about the world tells us, instead, about the limitations of Jim Crow liberalism in Maycomb, Alabama.
added by LT_Ammar | editThe New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell
There are some improbable and sentimental moments in the story, but there are also great moments of laughter that belong to memory and a novelist's hand... Miss Lee's original characters are people to cherish in this winning first novel by a fresh writer with something significant to say, South and North.
added by LT_Ammar | editThe New York Times, Herbert Mitgang

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee, Harperprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brouwer, AafkeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
D'Agostino Schanzer, AmaliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edinga, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elster, MagliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
French, AlbertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaskin, NinaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gry SønstengTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hausser, IsabellePostfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, DavidIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malignon, ClaireTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Noli, SuzanneCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porta, BaldomeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prichard, RosesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sergel, ChristopherAdaptersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spacek, SissyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stoïanov, IsabelleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westerlund, MaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westrup, Jadwiga P.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Lawyers, I suppose, were children once.
~ Charles Lamb
For Mr. Lee and Alice
in consideration of Love & Affection
First words
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
Please spare Mockingbird an Introduction. (From the Foreword by Harper Lee)
Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.
People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.
They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions, but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
Not from, but about To Kill a Mockingbird, with apologies:

Monroeville, Alabama
January, 1966

Editor, The News Leader:

Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board’s activities, and what I’ve heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that “To Kill a Mockingbird” spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is “immoral” has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice.

Harper Lee
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.' To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming of age story set in the deep south during the time of the Great Depression. Atticus Finch, father of Scout and Jem decides to represent a black man, accused of raping a white woman, in court. Although this stirs up the town during a much heated and racist time during America's history, it sheds a light on the hostility of the south during the 1930's. Filled with insight and suspense, To Kill A Mockingbird is a timeless story that any one can learn something from.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446310786, Mass Market Paperback)

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.... When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out."

Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up.

Like the slow-moving occupants of her fictional town, Lee takes her time getting to the heart of her tale; we first meet the Finches the summer before Scout's first year at school. She, her brother, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt in Maycomb, while away the hours reenacting scenes from Dracula and plotting ways to get a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. At first the circumstances surrounding the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, barely penetrate the children's consciousness. Then Atticus is called on to defend the accused, Tom Robinson, and soon Scout and Jem find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding. During the trial, the town exhibits its ugly side, but Lee offers plenty of counterbalance as well--in the struggle of an elderly woman to overcome her morphine habit before she dies; in the heroism of Atticus Finch, standing up for what he knows is right; and finally in Scout's hard-won understanding that most people are essentially kind "when you really see them." By turns funny, wise, and heartbreaking, To Kill a Mockingbird is one classic that continues to speak to new generations, and deserves to be reread often. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:38 -0400)

(see all 11 descriptions)

The explosion of racial hate in an Alabama town is viewed by a little girl whose father defends a black man accused of rape.

(summary from another edition)

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