Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Great Authors Who Were Also Great Teachers

    Wed, 20 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote,” said Samuel Johnson, “except for money.” Even this humorous thought ignores the central reality of literary economics: that writing for money is very hard. At least, that is, if you want to live comfortably. This bare reality is in part why authors have for thousands of years supplemented their income and professional life with the profession of teaching. Read More
  • The Raucous, Old-Fashioned Friendship of Ian Fleming and Noël Coward

    Tue, 19 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    For being men of letters, is was not literature that brought together the friendship of Noël Coward and Ian Fleming as much as class and location. Both men were embroiled in the life of leisure and excess characteristic of their upper class when the pair met in Jamaica in the 1940s. There, they could bask in the tropical sun, drink, smoke, swim, dine, pursue lovers, and above all, talk. A taste for fun, debauchery, ego-boosting, and wit mattered most; any overlap of vocation was considered but a welcome accident. Read More
  • The War that Inspired A Separate Peace

    Sat, 16 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Author John Knowles was born in West Virginia in 1926 to a well-off family. His family's comfortable living allowed him to go the private preparatory school, Phillips Exeter Academy. Upon graduation, he served for two years in the United States Army Air Force during World War II. He attended Yale University after his service ended and while there, wrote humor stories for The Yale Record. He also worked on the Yale Daily News. He continued his journalism after school with a job at the Hartford Courant and eventually as assistant editor at Holiday. It wasn't until prompted by friend and Pulitzer Read More
  • Seven Interesting Facts About Agatha Christie

    Fri, 15 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Agatha Christie, going by sheer number of copies in print, ranks behind only Shakespeare and God (or, at any rate, The Bible). That in itself should be enough to suggest the tremendous literary stature of the woman who created Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, but it bears mentioning that she was also a recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, and had her book The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) voted the best crime novel ever by the Crime Writers' Association, all in addition to her success as a playwright (The Mousetrap’s West End theatrical run began Read More
  • The Incendiary Politics of Michel Houellebecq

    Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Like many other readers, we’re not quite sure what to make of Michel Houellebecq. And if we enjoy reading one of his works of fiction, or if we find his work inspiring, do those sentiments reflect somehow upon our own politics? These are complicated questions, of course, and if you’re not familiar with Houellebecq, you might be wondering why we’re even asking them in the first place. To give you a quick primer: a recent headline in The Guardian* read: “Michel Houellebecq: ‘Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes.’” The writer has been described as “the ageing enfant terrible of French literature,” Read More
  • An Introduction to Sherwood Anderson, Creator of Winesburg, Ohio

    Wed, 13 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Midwest writer Sherwood Anderson was born in 1876 and raised in Ohio. Like the characters in his most enduring work, Winesburg, Ohio, he lived most of his life in small towns. Much of his writing was inspired by the places he lived and the people he met during a somewhat transient childhood. Anderson was one of seven children born to his mother and father. His father, Irwin McLain Anderson, was a former Union soldier with considerable debts and a habit for drinking, forcing the family to move frequently. To compensate for his father's difficulties keeping a steady job, Anderson worked Read More
  • When Books Go to Broadway

    Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Broadway has always welcomed the country’s best playwrights. Everyone from Arthur Miller to Tennessee Williams to Lillian Hellman to August Wilson to Eugene O’Neill has been supported and sustained by the theatrical capital of America. Yet what is also interesting is Broadway’s tendency to adapt and stage something that started on the page. There have been failures (like the recent American Psycho musical) and smash successes (Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton). It has also provided many prose writers the chance to work in the dramatic form. Read More
  • Past and Future in Han Kang's Fiction

    Sat, 09 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    You might have heard of Han Kang, and maybe you’ve read the English translation of her novel The Vegetarian (the book was published in the original Korean in 2007 with the English translation by Deborah Smith following eight years later in 2015). We’re guessing you might have at least heard of The Vegetarian since it won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. The novel feels, in some ways, like a work of dystopian fiction in that it follows a woman who becomes a vegetarian after experiencing violent, bloody impulses all through a narration by her husband. Threads of Read More
  • A Brief Introduction to Frédéric Mistral

    Fri, 08 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1830, in the small town of Maillane, France, Frédéric Mistral was born to François Mistral and Adelaide Poulinet. His parents were wealthy, which afforded Frédéric the opportunity to receive a great education (though he was known for playing hooky as a child). After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Mistral went on to study law until 1851. While Mistral was passionate about this field, his true gift was more literary. Greatly inspired by one of his teachers, Joseph Roumanille, Mistral became a masterful poet.  Read More
  • Vain Tenderness: A (Mostly Futile) Sully Prudhomme Reading Guide

    Thu, 07 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Literary-historical karma, as ever, sides with Leo Tolstoy. When the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, the great Russian novelist was considered the frontrunner for the literary prize. When he failed to win, there was public outrage, leading a number of Swedish artists and critics to sign an apologetic letter to Tolstoy, for fear that the Nobel Committee’s decision to snub Tolstoy would reflect badly on the country’s literary tastes and worse, offend one of history’s greatest writers. Regardless of whether Tolstoy himself had any desire to win the award (he didn’t), history has largely sided with the outraged Read More
  • How to Celebrate Read a Book Day

    Wed, 06 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Read a Book Day comes to us every September 6. It may seem strange to celebrate an activity that plenty of us enjoy many, if not most, days of the year. But it never hurts to indulge in something extra to make a cherished activity more enjoyable. You can read outside, enjoy a snack, reflect on what a favorite book means to you, and more. Here are five ideas to celebrate Read a Book Day. Read More
  • Sixty Years On the Road: Kerouac's Masterpiece Then and Now

    Tue, 05 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    One of the most important players in the Beat movement—a group of writers whose work focused on the human condition in a post-World War II America with an emphasis on exploration of the country, a rejection of materialism and commercialism, and the recreational and spiritual use of drugs—was writer Jack Kerouac. Born to French Canadian parents in Lowell, Massachusetts, Kerouac did not learn to speak English until he was six years old. Kerouac briefly attended Columbia University to play football. When he broke his leg, his football career ended, and he dropped out. It was around this time that Kerouac Read More
  • Collecting Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea

    Sat, 02 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Cited in the Prize motivation for Hemingway’s 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature and earning him his only Pulitzer, The Old Man and the Sea is one of the legendary author’s most beloved tales. A short story, merely 140 pages in length, The Old Man and the Sea details the excursion of Santiago, a Cuban fisherman. Today, we take a closer look at the publication history of this classic Ernest Hemingway story. Here’s what you should know if you’d like to add an edition of The Old Man and the Sea to your collection. Read More
  • What Edgar Rice Burroughs Means to Modern Readers

    Fri, 01 Sep 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    What are we to do with Edgar Rice Burroughs? A giant of science fiction and pulp writing in his time, modern readers find that not all of his work has aged well. Tarzan, adapted fifty times in Hollywood history, and most recently last year, seems more like a conspicuous colonial fantasy than an entertaining heroic tale. Can we dismiss it? The work Burroughs is most famous for, after all, was never meant for the college syllabus anyway, not in the way something comparable, like Heart of Darkness, was. Is it best to let this century-old book live in obscurity? Read More
  • Best Books on Ireland

    Thu, 31 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you visiting Dublin or the Irish countryside anytime soon? Do you want to learn more about the history of modern Irish literature? Are you traveling to Belfast in the near future? If you answered with an emphatic 'yes!' to any of our questions, or if you’re interested in literary travel from the comfort of your sofa through a well-written novel, then we have some reading recommendations for you. Read More
  • Why Ernest Shackleton's Thrilling Story Still Captivates Us

    Wed, 30 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As Ernest Shackleton left to explore a new land, a new world was being formed. A few days before the Endurance left England, on August 8, 1914, Europe had entered the Great War. Shackleton volunteered his ship and his men for service, but he was told to proceed on his voyage to the Antarctic. His crew reached Buenos Aires, then the south Atlantic island of South Georgia. By New Year’s Eve, Shackleton and his crew of 28 reached the continent. They were met by conditions that would have probably killed anyone else. Read More
  • Five 20th-Century Writers Who Went to Law School

    Tue, 29 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The study of the law often is viewed in opposition to careers requiring creativity. Yet many notable novelists and poets actually have attended law school, and even more have actually graduated and practiced law in some capacity. While it might sound strange to think of fiction or poetry writing and the study of law being interwoven, we believe there’s a close relationship between the thinking and reading practices that occur in both fields. To give you a sense of some of the distinct and varied writers who went to law school, we’d like to provide some information about a handful Read More
  • Guillaume Apollinaire: Master of le Mot Juste

    Sat, 26 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Like Walt Whitman, Guillaume Apollinaire contains multitudes. While he is largely known to English speaking readers as a important modernist poet, he was also a noted art critic and a writer of novels and plays. And while his poetic imagination was best displayed in his actual poems, one can’t help but wonder if it was also at work when it came to his success in that most fickle of businesses: the naming of artistic movements. Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Zero Minus Ten

    Fri, 25 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    A respect for the past, a glimpse toward the future. One could argue any relevant piece of art (be it a piece of music, a poem, a painting, or even an adventure/spy novel) must straddle this delicate line in order to pay homage to the traditions that came before while at the same time pushing the boundaries of what is possible within any given medium. After 14 years of Bond novels at the hand of British author John Gardner, the 007 baton was finally passed to American author Raymond Benson whose debut, Zero Minus Ten (1997), walked a tightrope between Read More
  • Four Contemporary Cuban American Writers You Should Be Reading

    Thu, 24 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    One of the most well-known Cuban American writers today is Oscar Hijuelos. Interestingly, as a result of a year long hospital stay in his childhood, Hijuelos lost his fluency in Spanish, the language his family spoke at home, but he gained fluency in English. This imbued him with a sense of separation from his culture, a feeling that he imparts in all of his novels. Are you interested in Latin American literature? If so, Hijuelos should definitely be on your list. But what other contemporary Cuban American writers should you be reading? Read More
  • Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Central Italy

    Wed, 23 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you traveling to Italy and planning to add to your book collection? The number of cities in Italy with rare and antiquarian bookstores is overwhelming. Indeed, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) lists 110 booksellers in the country. As such, we’ve limited this particular article to rare and antiquarian shops in Central Italy, focusing primarily on stores in Rome and Florence. Read More
  • Four Interesting Facts About Annie Proulx

    Tue, 22 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s no easy feat to top yourself at age 80. But this is exactly what Annie Proulx did last year with the release of her latest book, Barkskins. The novel tells a multigenerational tale, beginning with two pioneers in New France and the natural environment that supports them, which grows diminished and defaced with time. Even more staggering was the novel’s reception: reviewers called it “the masterpiece Proulx was meant to write,” and “perhaps the greatest environmental novel of all time.” With each passing book, Proulx proves herself to be an indispensable voice in American letters. Read More
  • Master of Light Verse: Ogden Nash

    Sat, 19 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Poet Ogden Nash was born in 1902 in New York. However, due to his father's business work, the family moved often, and Nash never considered himself a New Yorker. He once wrote the verse “I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more.” He completed one year of his Harvard education before quitting to move to New York City where he first worked selling bonds, then as a writer at various jobs, including a stint on the editorial staff of The New Yorker. Nash moved to Baltimore in 1931 where he lived and wrote until his death in Read More
  • Immigrant Fiction in England

    Fri, 18 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Britain has a very long literary history, indeed. Yet when we think about British literature, the recent and rich supply of British immigrant fiction doesn’t immediately jump to mind for most readers. We’d like to change that. What does British literature in the twenty-first century look like? In large part, it reflects the harms of British imperialism and the effects of decolonization in the twentieth century. At the same time, works of immigrant literature from England also reflect the advantages of a globalizing world and the possibilities of movement to, from, and around the metropole of London. Read More
  • When Dr. Seuss Went to War

    Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Before he wrote the bulk of the books that would make him a giant of children’s literature, Theodor Seuss Geisel took a stand. Fascism had spread across Europe, and the Third Reich was bringing war and slaughter to its neighbors and citizens. Congress and the press debated what role America should play in the growing conflict, but Geisel was sure of what had to be done. Nazism, he knew, had to be fought. Read More
  • Major Modern Literature First Published in Periodicals

    Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Charles Dickens’ day, periodicals were the center of literary life. Many of Dickens’ novels, beginning with The Pickwick Papers (1837), were serialized in popular periodicals. The same is true of authors like William Makepeace Thackeray, George Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who first developed Sherlock Holmes as a character in serial format). At the height of the serial novel’s popularity, the anticipation over Little Nell’s fate in the final installment of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) caused American readers to riot while waiting for the new volumes to be shipped. With the rise of television Read More
  • Why Don't We Read Sir Walter Scott Anymore?

    Tue, 15 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    When I think of a book by Sir Walter Scott, it is handsome and old. This is not an accident. In truth, it reflects my physical relationship with his classic novels, which are admittedly less popular than they were even 50 years ago. In my memory (and on my bookshelf), Walter Scott’s novels, like Waverley and Ivanhoe, are in brown hardcovers, purchased secondhand or inherited from grandparents. I can’t recall the last time I saw a Scott novel on a bookstore table, or in a hip new redesign like those an Edith Wharton or Charles Dickens title might receive. In Read More
  • Eileen Chang and Chinese Modernist Fiction

    Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Why hasn’t Eileen Chang become a household name in modern literary studies? We’re not entirely sure, and we want to remedy that. She was born in 1920 in Shanghai, China, and passed away in her Los Angeles apartment in 1995. Chinese readers know the novelist and short-story writer as Chang Ai-Ling. In The New York Times obituary*, the newspaper described Chang as “a giant of modern Chinese literature.” She enrolled at the University of Hong Kong in 1939, but was unable to continue her studies as a result of the Japanese invasion during World War II. In 1941, following the Read More
  • The History and Importance of Women's Literature

    Fri, 11 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Women's literature has often been defined by publishers as a category of writing done by women. Though obviously this is true, many scholars find such a definition reductive. What makes the history of women's writing so interesting is that in many ways it is a new area of study. The tradition of women writing has been much ignored due to the inferior position women have held in male-dominated societies. It is still not unheard of to see literature classes or anthologies in which women are greatly outnumbered by male writers or even entirely absent. The onus of women's literature, then, Read More
  • VLOG: The Evolution of the Printing Press

    Thu, 10 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As early as the year 1040, the Chinese had made movable type out of clay and earthenware. The innovation, for a variety of reasons, did not catch on in the East, but four centuries later it became the center of a revolution in Europe. In 1439, the craftsman Johannes Gutenberg used movable type in his shop in Mainz. His screwpress method was so effective that for three and a half centuries little was done to improve its design. But evolve it did, becoming ever more complex and efficient, bringing the written word to ever greater swaths of the population. Read More
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