Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Read More Poetry: The Richard Wilbur Edition

    Thu, 20 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re interested in twentieth-century poetry, Richard Wilbur should be on your reading list. Born in New York City, Wilbur became the second United States Poet Laureate in 1987. His poems draw on a number of life experiences—including his time of service during World War II. When he took his post as Poet Laureate, Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin described him as “a poet for all of us, whose elegant words brim with wit and paradox.” Read More
  • Where Writing and Politics Collide: Authors as Activists

    Wed, 19 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writing has always existed as a means to explore the realities of the world, to illuminate both the good and the bad. As long as people have been writing, they have been writing about the world around them, and in many ways, the relationship between art and politics—writing and politics, to be specific—is inexorable. Aristotle wrote his Politics in the 4th century. Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal, his satire on the Irish potato famine, in 1729. Anna Laetitia Barbauld wrote her critiques of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars not long after. There is a long history of Read More
  • Nelson Mandela's Literary Influence

    Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The enormity of Nelson Mandela’s influence on the world is undeniable. He fought for years against apartheid in South Africa, suffering a long imprisonment and a constant stream of indignities en route to dismantling the South African National Party’s legally codified racism, becoming the first black president of South Africa, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Given the number of lives he touched in carrying out his work, it should come as little surprise that his influence has extended beyond politics and human rights to the world of literature. Read More
  • How MacGyver Can Help Us Understand Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction

    Sat, 15 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Deconstructionism is one of the most significant intellectual movements of the 20th century, having helped to usher the post-structuralist era and having had wide implications for the study of history, literature, and philosophy. As a method for criticism, it has been practiced by Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller, but the term and technique were both originally coined by Jacques Derrida in his seminal work Of Grammatology (1967). For all of its influence on the intellectual landscape of the 20th and 21st centuries, however, it can be a difficult concept to describe or understand. For starters, however, Read More
  • A Brief History of the Thriller Genre

    Fri, 14 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thrillers are characterized by suspense—a feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement over what is to come next, mixed in with apprehension, anticipation, and sometimes even, fear. These feelings develop throughout a narrative from unpredictable events that make the reader or viewer think about the consequences of certain characters’ actions. The suspenseful feelings build towards a climax that is sure to be memorable. With suspense and crime, with conspiracies and revenge, the thriller genre has been keeping audiences on their toes with tension and excitement for centuries. When it comes to thrillers, many think of Alfred Hitchcock and his movies, like Read More
  • Visiting Czesław Miłosz's Home in Kraków

    Thu, 13 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Given that Kraków, Poland is a UNESCO City of Literature, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kraków is where the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czesław Miłosz (pronounced CHESS-wahf MEE-wosh) made his home until his death in 2004. Indeed, in addition to national presses, there are numerous independent book publishers located throughout Kraków, and there are nearly 80 bookstores throughout the city. Moreover, the city hosts international books fairs and literary festivals on an annual basis, including the Miłosz Festival, which honors the late poet and brings literary guests to the city every June. If you’re hoping to visit Miłosz’s home, Read More
  • A Guide to the Eloise Books

    Wed, 12 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1955, writer Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight published Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups. Interestingly, as the original title suggests, the Eloise books were first marketed to adults—perhaps it was an early sign that they would be a hit with children, as well.  In 1969, the title changed simply to Eloise, leaving out the “grown-ups” part, but the spirit of Eloise as a both mature and juvenile girl was already set. Ever since, she has been the rare sort of character that grows with the reader, coming to mean different things in all stages of life. Read More
  • Mixed Reviews of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

    Tue, 11 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Maycomb County is a small, unassuming town, nestled in the state of Alabama. Many of us have been there (I myself have visited several times throughout the years) to check in on the beloved Finch family. When Harper Lee’s fictional southern story, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, the reception was quite positive. Readers and critics alike praised Lee’s eclectic characters and important life lessons. Let's take a look at some of these positive reviews while also addressing the later change in tune regarding this seminal work. Read More
  • Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Poland

    Sat, 08 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Will you be traveling to Poland anytime soon? There’s no better country in Eastern Europe to seek out rare and antiquarian books, and in fact, we’re pretty well convinced that Kraków and Warsaw contain some of our favorite rare bookshops in the world. Read More
  • Politics Aside: Robert Heinlein's Long Transformation

    Fri, 07 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Robert Heinlein left behind a body of work with a bewildering diversity of imaginings and ideas. It would be difficult to reconcile the free love, communal interests of the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, with say, the martial authoritarianism of Starship Troopers, or the anarchic libertarianism of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Indeed, doing so would be impossible. And there is little doubt this has much to do with why his readers appreciate his writing so much. Read More
  • Getting to Know Nobel Laureate Verner von Heidenstam

    Thu, 06 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Nobel committee is known for its “prize motivation” citations when it awards its coveted Prizes each year. We hear these short snippets in articles and press releases about each winner, and they serve their purpose well: they are brief snapshots of why the winner won. While Nobel Prize in Literature winners are chosen based on the entire body of their work, in some cases, the committee cites a specific example. For example, in 1954 when Ernest Hemingway won, the committee said it was “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and Read More
  • Five All-American Reads for Independence Day

    Tue, 04 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Happy 4th of July! Today marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the event that triggered the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. In honor of the festivities, here’s a look at five all-American reads to get you in the mood for some fireworks. Read More
  • Happy Birthday, Wisława Szymborska!

    Sun, 02 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If Wisława Szymborska (pronounced vees-WAH-vah shim-BOR-ska) were still alive today, she would celebrate her 94th birthday on July 2. Symborska passed away in February 2012, but she remains a remarkably prominent poet both in her native Poland as well as in various translations throughout the world. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996, and her work has been translated into dozens of languages. To celebrate her birthday this summer, we thought we’d tell you a little bit more about the poet and introduce you to some of our favorite works. Read More
  • The Magnetic Charm of George Sand

    Sat, 01 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    George Sand knew how to make people talk. Ever since she strutted onto the French literary scene, everyone in Paris turned their eyes toward this charming, strangely dressed woman of veritable artistic talent. She had a two-pronged approach: her conduct would gain the immediate attention of her peers, and her talent would sustain it. Her strategy, buoyed by her robust and wise talent, has been successful to this very day. Read More
  • The Woman Behind Gone With the Wind

    Fri, 30 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Though Margaret Mitchell had only one book published in her lifetime, it remains one of the most popular books of all time. Gone With the Wind won the National Book Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1937. The story of Scarlett O'Hara's life in the aftermath of the Civil War, the changing nature of Atlanta, and her tumultuous relationship with Rhett Butler has intrigued generations of readers and movie fans. It's film adaptation, too, has endured as a classic and was a major influence on films for years after its release. Starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Read More
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Author of "The Little Prince"

    Thu, 29 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Little Prince (1943) is one of the most popular children's books (or books of any kind, really) of all time. Combined, its child-centric worldview and its surprisingly subtle psychological and philosophical observations have led to decades of adoration and constant re-rereading from children and adults alike—all of this is quite remarkable given the fact that the book's author, French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was neither a children’s book author nor an illustrator of any standing. In fact, Saint-Exupéry began writing the book only at the suggestion of his publisher’s wife, who believed that the project might calm Read More
  • Collecting Books on Nordic Design

    Wed, 28 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you interested in Scandinavian design, or aesthetic forms that emerged from the Nordic countries, after World War II? Then you might be interested in learning more about collecting related design books. When we talk about Scandinavian design, we’re largely including Finland, too, although it’s not technically part of Scandinavia. Rather, it’s one of the Nordic countries, of which the Scandinavian nations of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are also a part. However, when the popularity of design from the Nordic countries reached the United States in the 1950s, the common description was “Design in Scandinavia.” This depiction comes from a Read More
  • The Brilliance of Lucille Clifton

    Tue, 27 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    When Lucille Clifton died in 2010, it was as if the entire American poetry community went into mourning. Here was a woman whose brief, wise, and unmistakable verse had entranced and inspired countless readers. Her distinct style and voice surprised the world with its uniqueness, and one sensed there would never be another like her again. Read More
  • Lawrence Block, Writer of 150 Mysteries

    Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Crime writers have the strangest muses. For best-selling author Lawrence Block, it’s 1970s New York, with all of its grime, noise—and yes—crime. Today, Block still lives in the West Village, now replete with upscale shops and multimillion-dollar townhouses, but the gritty city of yesteryear is still sharp in his spirit, having already provided a compelling backdrop for many of his 150 mystery novels. Read More
  • A Collector's Guide to Andrew Lang

    Fri, 23 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    To collect Andrew Lang is to be something of a masochist. What else can be said about a man who left his name on over 175 books? Reflecting his encompassing tastes, Lang’s final output ranges from scholarship to poetry, fiction, collaborations, compilations, translations, and beyond. One does not need to be a completist to collect Andrew Lang (if such a goal is even possible), but it does help to have an idea of the author’s rich and vast oeuvre before diving in. Read More
  • Writers With Day Jobs: Anne Morrow Lindbergh

    Thu, 22 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s not uncommon for writers to have day jobs entirely unrelated to writing. Wallace Stevens famously retained a job as an insurance executive throughout his illustrious career as a poet, reportedly dictating poems to his assistant during his lunch hour. William Carlos Williams, whose contributions to modernist verse can hardly be overstated, was a practicing doctor. Neither of these two, however, can touch the writer with perhaps the most impressive non-writing occupation: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, aviator. Read More
  • Collecting Advance Reading Copies

    Wed, 21 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Book collectors go crazy for first editions. But by the time a book is ready for the public market, it has been printed hundreds, perhaps thousands of times in the form of what is often called an “advance review copy.” These are primarily given to people in the media industry so they have time to review, reference, promote, or provide blurbs for the book ahead of its public release. These copies are the intermediary version between the author’s manuscript and the final, finished book, which is then printed and sold to the public. Read More
  • Vorticism: The Movement That Tried (and Failed) to Lead the Modern World

    Tue, 20 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The beginning of any artistic movement is typically unclear and shaky. Few have ever announced themselves with the audacity and verve of Vorticism. Discontented with tradition and inspired by the avant-garde spirit spreading across Europe, a group of young English artists assembled to create their own movement. It was dedicated to dynamism, machinery, abstract art, movement, and everything exciting about the future. Read More
  • Five Facts About Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

    Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”―Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Colonel Sun

    Fri, 16 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There comes a time in many artistic endeavors when the torch is passed. Film franchises change directors. Television shows bring in new producers and writers. And wildly popular novel serializations employ different writers to help ferry the characters into new territory. This is perhaps evidenced most clearly in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series when the mantle was passed to a host of new writers following Fleming’s death in 1964. Read More
  • Visiting the Homes of Victor Hugo

    Thu, 15 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Planning a trip to France or the U.K. anytime soon? While many famous writers have called these places home, perhaps no author’s experiences living in both regions better reflect a life lived, in many ways, on the margins, as those of Victor Hugo. As you might know, Victor Hugo was a central figure in the Romantic movement, and he remains one of the most well-known French novelists and dramatists today. He published his first works in the 1820s, but it wasn’t until the publication of the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame [Notre Dame de Paris] in 1831 that Hugo Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: Notable Private Libraries

    Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ever since Alexandria, the library has been an institution engineered for the public good. Most major libraries belong to communities and to universities, places where one large group or another may borrow books and read them. But there are, of course, some spectacular libraries in private hands. Places where knowledge, and the sharing of it, are highly valued by the person who filled the shelves. Read More
  • Dorothy Sayers, Detective Fiction, and Dante's Divine Comedy

    Tue, 13 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Dorothy Sayers is often regarded as one of the top mystery writers of all time. Her detective stories continue to be read today, and her books' hero Lord Peter Wimsey is often mentioned among such fictional greats as Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot. A prolific writer, Sayers published widely and not just the novels for which she is best known. Sayers also had considerable success as a playwright, short story writer, poet, and Dante scholar. If what you know of Sayers' work only includes Lord Wimsey, the breadth and scope of the rest of her work—and of her rather Read More
  • A Brief Guide to Collecting Maurice Sendak

    Sat, 10 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Why do collectors collect?  I imagine the answers to this question are as varied as the things they treasure. For some, it’s the classic affinity for coins and stamps connecting them to the past. For others it’s the acquisition of expensive art, building a portfolio along with a gallery, while for still others, it’s the nostalgia of scouring markets for marbles and action figures that remind them of their youth. Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince famously collected the famous. He lamented that he had taught the entire Black family save Sirius saying, “I got Regulus when Read More
  • VLOG: The Entrancing Art of Japanese Papermaking

    Fri, 09 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Centuries before Europe, and as early as the 800s, Japan hosted the best papermaking craftsmanship in the world. To this day, a few hundred businesses—often family-run and owned—continue the tradition of making superior-quality paper by hand. The process is labor intensive, slow, and requires years of expertise, but why expect anything less when it comes to manufacturing some of the best paper on earth? Read More
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