Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • How Thanksgiving Became a Holiday

    Thu, 23 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    We’re all familiar with the old Thanksgiving narrative in the United States. The Mayflower came rolling into Plymouth Harbor in 1620, the Pilgrims tried to build a life for themselves (and weren’t doing a great job), and the Wampanoag tribe came to the pilgrims’ aid and taught them how to plant corn, fish, and hunt. This ultimately led to a beautiful friendship, which was celebrated with a community feast of gratitude—a tradition continued to this day. Right? Wrong. Read More
  • Happy Thanksgiving: The Books We're Most Thankful For

    Wed, 22 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s that time of year when we stop, take a moment, and reflect on the things in our lives for which we are the most thankful. Family. Friends. Health. A good job. A nice home. These are usually the things that top the list. But as we discuss quite often on this blog, the books, poems, and stories that populate our lives can be just as important, meaningful, and influential to how we live our lives and our overall worldview. As Rob Gordon said in the novel High Fidelity, the pieces of art you like and identify with matter, and Read More
  • A Brief Guide to Great Writers from India

    Tue, 21 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    India’s literature is just as vast and complex as the diverse, densely populated nation that produced it. Even if we limit ourselves to Indian literature written in English, we are still presented with a multicultural tapestry stretching back more than a century, from Rabindranath Tagore, who won India’s first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for his “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful” poems and songs (eat your heart out Bob Dylan) to modern writers like Aravind Adiga (author of 2008’s Man Booker-winning debut The White Tiger). While one article can never encapsulate the entirety of an ever-growing canon, it can Read More
  • Ten Quotes From Margaret Atwood, an Oracle of Our Time

    Sat, 18 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Readers have adored Margaret Atwood since her debut novel, The Edible Woman, animated the anxieties and torments of contemporary female life. Ever since, Atwood has continued to write first-rate fiction, exploring themes of feminism, oppression, dystopia, and environmental disaster, earning her a dedicated and enthusiastic readership. The times have only caught up with her, vindicating those concerns and speculative scenarios that seemed excessively alarmist forty, thirty, or even five years ago. It is no wonder that in her long career, Atwood is probably more famous than she has ever been, now with a smash adaptation of her 1985 novel, The Read More
  • Learning About the Baghdad Book Market

    Fri, 17 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re interested in rare book collecting or Arabic literature, we cannot emphasize enough the significance of the Iraqi literary and cultural traditions, and the importance of reimagining Baghdad outside the Western context of war, violence, and dictatorship. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled, “Iraq Book Market Comes Back to Life Seven Years After Bombing.” A number of other western and Arab media sites posted similar pieces, recalling a destructive bombing and signs of recovery in the nation’s capital city. Those stories were referring to Al Mutanabbi, or Mutanabbi Street, in Baghdad. For years, the street, Read More
  • A Reading Guide to Kazuo Ishiguro

    Thu, 16 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” ~ Kazuo Ishiguro It is not uncommon, late at night, to be struck with that taunting “what if” question. We wonder how things might have been different had we chosen a different school, taken a different job, or married a different person? What if we lived in the future, or had existed in the past? These thoughts don’t necessarily come out of discontent, even the happiest person on earth must poses some curiosity toward how their life might have been different. While many of us Read More
  • A Snapshot of Great Eighteenth Century Poets

    Wed, 15 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The written word has a long history of conveying our greatest passions. And poetry, in particular, has often been the chosen vehicle to express such feelings as love, hate, disillusionment, and snark. Poetry has looked different in different times, but no matter its form, it never ceases to convey a striking snapshot of the world surrounding it. Perhaps it is poetry’s economy of letters—that which requires the great poetic masters to pack more punch in, typically, less space—that makes it such an enduring form. It does, after all, hold immense power. Today, we’d like to explore a particular moment in Read More
  • Ten Memorable Quotes From Pippi Longstocking Author Astrid Lindgren

    Tue, 14 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    When Astrid Lindgren wrote Pippi Longstocking in 1945, she created a character that would captivate children the world over. Ever since, young readers of all generations have been charmed by the preternaturally strong, independent, and daring young redhead. The supervision-less, irreverent character scandalized a few readers in Lindgren’s day, who determined the anarchic protagonist a poor role model, but Pippi’s charm won out. Lindgren’s work has since been translated into dozens of languages and sold over 80 million copies. Read More
  • Seven Interesting Facts About Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    Sat, 11 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In spite of extremely stiff competition, Fyodor Dostoyevsky remains one of the most widely read and highly regarded Russian novelists of all time. His acclaimed novels, from The Brothers Karamazov (1880) to Crime and Punishment (1866) to Notes from Underground (1864), carved out a unique niche at the corner of psychological realism and existential philosophy. With the patina of great literature draped over these great works, however, we sometimes forget that these books were often strange, darkly funny, and oddly joyous—befitting, perhaps, the life of the man who penned them. Read More
  • New Translations from the Margellos World Republic of Letters

    Fri, 10 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Have you been hoping that an exciting book written in a language other than English will find an English-language translator? Or were you recently thinking that a work of “classic” literature could use a new and updated English-language translation? The Cecile and Theodore Margellos World Republic of Letters series, published by Yale University Press, might be exactly what you’ve been seeking. The series describes itself as one that “identifies works of cultural and artistic significance previously overlooked by translators and publishers, canonical works of literature and philosophy needing new translations, as well as important contemporary authors whose work has not Read More
  • History of Horror: Five Early Horror Writers

    Thu, 09 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Grown organically from the Gothic genre, horror fiction has terrified and captivated readers since its beginnings in the late nineteenth century. It has its roots in novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho, which was itself famously referenced in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Often dismissed as “penny dreadful”, the horror genre has grown to encompass books, television, and film in the modern age and is one of the most popular genres in each of those mediums. Authors like Anne Rice and Stephen King would not be so popular today without early horror writers paving the way before them. Here are five Read More
  • Books Tell You Why News: Introducing Your Rare Books Page

    Wed, 08 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As book collectors and rare book enthusiasts, we understand your need for clear content and simplified resources. In an effort to continue to provide you, our fabulous readership, with the best possible book buying, collecting, and reading experience, we thought we’d take some time to update you on the latest happenings here at Books Tell You Why. Read More
  • Five Facts About Albert Camus, the Coolest of Philosophers

    Tue, 07 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Few thinkers have managed to make philosophy look cool. But within this rare breed, the photogenic, soccer-loving, provocative, and concise Albert Camus may be most eminent. With short and mystifying novels like The Stranger, and profound explorations like The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus’s philosophy was like a rallying cry for a generation of writers confused and traumatized by the Second World War. It was an elevated position that would win Camus the Nobel Prize in 1957, just two and a half years before his untimely death in a car accident at the age of 46. Read More
  • Happy Anniversary to Freud's Interpretation of Dreams!

    Sat, 04 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1917) which would prove to be one of his most popular works in translation, Sigmund Freud says, “I can promise you this: that by listening to [these lectures] you will not have learned how to set about a psycho-analytic investigation or how to carry a treatment through.” 500 pages later, it turns out that he has kept his promise, but not before warning his listeners that they should not attend a second lecture of his and that they should avoid studying psychoanalysis, lest they risk meeting with “distrust and hostility” from members of the Read More
  • Collecting Vladimir Mayakovsky in Translation

    Fri, 03 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930) has long been a poet of interest not only in Russia, but in many different regions of the world. Mayakovsky was born in what is now Georgia and moved to Moscow during his childhood. He quickly joined the Bolsheviks and the Russian Social Democratic Party, which ultimately resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. Upon his release, he began studying art and writing poetry at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and he published his first poems in 1912. He soon became tied to the Futurists and, ultimately, to the Russian Revolution. Mayakovsky’s poetry and Read More
  • Ten of the Most Scandalous Books in Literature

    Thu, 02 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Throughout the history of literature there have been books that were challenged and even banned due to their depiction of incendiary topics. From race to religion to sexuality to violence, all manner of morally suspect topics have forced books to the forefront of philosophical debate. Whether challenged by protective parents or forbidden by an outraged government, the following books scandalized enough people that the debate surrounding them grew to epic proportions. In fact, many of these so-called scandalous books are still challenged today. Read More
  • Six Interesting Facts About Stephen Crane

    Wed, 01 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Stephen Crane accomplished much in his short life. Dead from tuberculosis at 28, the author left behind a body of work that captivated readers and significantly influenced writers like Ernest Hemingway. His first novel, Maggie, narrated the titular character’s fall from grace with a frank moral ambiguity that is now ubiquitous in contemporary fiction, film, and TV, but at the time was essentially unseen. Yet not only did Crane help pioneer modern narrative style, of course his most famous book, The Red Badge of Courage, remains well-read and enjoyed to this very day. Read More
  • Six Famous Authors in Costume

    Tue, 31 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If dressing up in costume seems immature or silly to you, well, you may be right. But to cast off foolish fun as unwise would be to ignore that many great minds, from Mark Twain to Virginia Woolf to F. Scott Fitzgerald, have adorned themselves in costume. In doing so, they placed themselves in part of a long tradition, from primitive masquerades to Greek theater to the Globe, in which storytelling is inextricable from costumes and play. Read More
  • A Brief Reading Guide to Evelyn Waugh

    Sat, 28 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    English writer Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, better known as Evelyn Waugh was an expert satirist as well as an accomplished novelist, short story writer, biographer, and travel writer. He was born in London in 1903 though he preferred the country lifestyle and was a schoolteacher before he moved on to writing full time. He often worked as a special corespondent reporting on conflicts, and he served in World War II. Known for his ability to transform the tragedies of life and his brutal war experiences, his work is often satirical, humorous, and deeply moving. After his conversion to Catholicism, Read More
  • Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and the Politics of Postcolonial Language

    Fri, 27 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine, and he is a world-renowned playwright, novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Similar to many authors from the African continent, Ngũgĩ began writing in English, or the language of colonization in Kenya and throughout many regions of the continent. Yet throughout his career, Ngũgĩ has rejected the notion that African novelists must write in the language of the colonizer and has begun writing in his native Gĩkũyũ, a language spoken in Kenya and in parts of Tanzania and Uganda. Ngũgĩ translates his own work into English, and Read More
  • A Brief Guide to Collecting Pat Conroy

    Thu, 26 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Pat Conroy, who died in 2016 at the age of 70, was one of the most acclaimed Southern writers of the 20th century. He mined material from his own varied life experience to write compelling fiction and memoirs on the military brat subculture, life at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and his experiences as an English teacher. His nuanced portrayals of subjects sometimes overlooked by mainstream literature have made him a beloved figure among many and a sought after author among collectors. Read More
  • A Reading Guide to Anne Tyler

    Wed, 25 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    During one of the many family studies courses I took in college, I was introduced to the concept of Dialectic Thinking. Dialectic Thinking describes one’s desire for two conflicting values, such as being connected to others while also having personal space, or seeking familiarity while also craving change. As a young college student, hungry for every good thing the world had to offer, this little piece of vocabulary always stuck with me. It seems so much of life requires choosing one thing over another, because some things simply cannot exist in unison. Sharing my passion for conflict, Minneapolis-born author Anne Read More
  • Eight Great Book Adaptations

    Tue, 24 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “The book was better than the movie,” has always struck me as a strange phrase. It's not that I don't believe them. It's that it seems like one is comparing entirely different things when pitting a book against a movie; like saying that the trip to the museum was better than the crème brûlée. Books and movies—or book adaptations—may tell the same story, but they are so different in their nature, and they provide their own distinct joys. Read More
  • Hamlet and Opium: The Subtle Influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Sat, 21 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge is, quite simply, one of the most important English Poets. Full stop. He was praised in his time as a master of metrical techniques and wild imagery, helping to spearhead the Romantic movement (whose members would include Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Byron, and others), the impact of which can still be felt in contemporary poetry. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798) remains one of the best known lyric poems in English (fun fact: the active member of Coast Guard with the most shipboard time and exemplary character is officially known as the Ancient Mariner), and its Read More
  • Visiting the Leslie Marmon Silko Papers at the Beinecke

    Fri, 20 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you interested in learning more about the life and works of Leslie Marmon Silko? Yale University Library owns her papers, which are available to researchers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Given the Beinecke’s extensive collection, many of the archives contained here are housed off-site. As such, researchers need to request them at least a few business days in advance of a visit. This is true of the Silko Papers, but it’s worth the wait. We visited the papers and were thrilled to see not only numerous pieces of correspondence, as well as drafts with Silko’s handwritten Read More
  • Beyond Bond: The Spy Fiction of John le Carré

    Thu, 19 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    During the 1960s and '70s, David Cornwell worked as a member of British intelligence while secretly publishing spy novels under the pen name John le Carré. By his third novel, le Carré had become an international success. He quit his job in order to focus on writing full time. He is a force in the world of spy fiction and many of his novels are considered to be some of the best of the genre. His recurring character George Smiley features in many of his Cold War era novels and is considered to be one of literature's greatest spies. Le Read More
  • Collecting Melville's Masterpiece: Moby Dick

    Wed, 18 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Herman Melville's first novel Typee, was a critical and popular success. Indeed, it launched him headfirst into a massive literary career. However, his subsequent books did not receive as many positive reviews, and in his lifetime, he slipped into relative obscurity as something of a one hit wonder despite continuing to publish both novels and short stories. He died in 1891. It wasn't until what would have been his hundredth birthday that the “Melville Revival” began. His books were reprinted, scholars began studying and writing about him, and his unfinished works were released. Since this revival, Melville has taken his Read More
  • Little-Known Facts About Arthur Miller

    Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The standard details about Arthur Miller’s life are well known. He was married to Marilyn Monroe. He testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (and was convicted of contempt of Congress). He wrote Death of a Salesman, considered by some t0 be the great American drama. But there is much more to the life and work of this most American of American dramatists. Read More
  • A Guide to Reading Tim O'Brien

    Sat, 14 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    World War II proved to be a reliable source of material for American novelists. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961), Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (1948) and many other esteemed entries into the 20th century canon have delved by turns into the gritty reality and the existential absurdity of that pivotal moment in American (and World) History. With Vietnam the case is slightly different. While there are acclaimed American novels on the subject (like Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn (2009) and, more recently, David Means’ Hystopia (2016)), it never produced a tremendously high number of literary blockbusters. Luckily, Read More
  • Arna Bontemps: African-American Novelist, Children's Author, Librarian, and More

    Fri, 13 Oct 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Arna Bontemps may not be as well known as his fellow Harlem Renaissance luminaries like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, or Jean Toomer, but that does not diminish his contributions. His novel, God Sends Sunday, about a jockey who wins and prodigally spends his money, repulsed W.E.B. DuBois, who called it “sordid,” but it remains a quintessential novel of the movement. Bontemps’s further work spans not only poetry and novels, but children’s books, history, anthologies, biography, and, until his retirement, success as an archivist and librarian at Fisk University. His life was a mission engaged all at once in the Read More
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