Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Learning More About the Coretta Scott King Book Award

    Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Each year, African American authors and illustrators are honored by the Coretta Scott King Book Award. These awards are “given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.” The awards are designed to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as the work of his wife, Coretta Scott King, for whom the awards are named. If you collect children’s books or illustrated books, or if you’ve been looking for some important new texts to buy for the Read More
  • Christmas as Portrayed in the Harry Potter Series, Part I

    Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In each of the seven Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling treats us to a glimpse of Harry’s Christmas holiday. And, let’s face it, as Hogwarts is one of the best literary locations ever, then Hogwarts at Christmastime is really something special. Of course that’s not to say that Harry’s Christmases are always idyllic. However, they are always significant to the story. And what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than by diving into the holidays with Harry? Let’s explore Christmas as it is portrayed in each book of the Harry Potter series. Then, perhaps, you can pick which Read More
  • Sweet Melodies: What Famous Writers Have to Say About Music

    Wed, 13 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Kazuo Ishiguro, this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, pinned his hopes to music before he committed himself to the novel. He abandoned this ambition as a young man, but nonetheless managed to carve space for himself to write lyrics for musicians like Stacey Kent. “One of the key things I learnt writing lyrics—and this had an enormous influence on my fiction,” Ishiguro told The Guardian in 2015, “was that with an intimate, confiding, first-person song, the meaning must not be self-sufficient on the page. It has to be oblique, sometimes you have to read between the lines.” Read More
  • Beyond Madame Bovary: The Life of Gustave Flaubert

    Tue, 12 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    French novelist Gustave Flaubert is remembered for his influence on literary realism and for his debut novel Madame Bovary. Flaubert was born in France in 1821. He began writing at an early age and published his first novella in 1842, though he went on to school to study law. In 1846, however, Flaubert quit school and devoted himself to writing. While not nearly as prolific as his contemporaries, he published over ten novels in his life, and his letters to writer George Sand, among others, have been collected and published numerous times. Here are some things you might not know Read More
  • The Devil's Party: A Readers' Guide to John Milton

    Sat, 09 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    John Milton, a blind civil servant who narrowly escaped execution after the re-ascension of the English monarchy following the death of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, was one of 17th century England’s most daring public advocates for freedom of the press and non-monarchical government. He also, occasionally, wrote poetry. Read More
  • Norway's National Poet: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

    Fri, 08 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson is considered one of the "Four Greats" of Norwegian writers. Besides writing the lyrics to the Norwegian national anthem, his peasant stories are renowned and well loved for their devotion to presenting the peasant class in a new light. Chief among his numerous honors is the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he was awarded in 1903. Interestingly, Bjørnson was one of the original Nobel Prize Committee members and was serving on the committee at the time he was given the award. Read More
  • Best Books on Tunisia

    Wed, 06 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Like many other North African countries, Tunisia has a long history of colonialism but also a rich literary and cultural history. Just after the turn of the twentieth century, the painter Paul Klee traveled to Sidi Bou Said, a Tunisian town on the coast just outside the capital city of Tunis. In the same place, decades later in the late 1960s, the enormously influential philosopher Michel Foucault lived while teaching at the University of Tunis. Tunisia has been a place of inspiration for writers from outside the country while also producing incredible novelists, poets, and playwrights from within. We have Read More
  • Give the Gift of Children's Books This Holiday Season

    Tue, 05 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Children’s books go with the Christmas holiday just like cookies and milk, flannel sheets, and a dusting of fresh snow. There’s something magical about a child getting lost in the pages of a brand new (or well-loved) story. Whether you’re hoping to start them off on the journey of building their own book collection or hoping to inspire a love for reading, a perfectly selected children's book makes a great gift for the kids on your list. Here’s our 2017 gift guide for children. Read More
  • Visiting the Richard Wright Papers at the Beinecke

    Sat, 02 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Richard Wright Papers at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is an enormous collection. It’s one of the collections that’s actually stored on-site, so you don’t need to request access days in advance as you may find with certain other papers owned by the library. The papers contain 143 boxes, along with additional materials. Researchers have access to Wright’s manuscripts, correspondence, journals, travel documents, photographs, and even the novelist’s screen test for the film version of Native Son, his 1940 novel. We’ll tell you a little bit more about the collection. Read More
  • A New Detective: The Early Response to Sherlock Holmes

    Fri, 01 Dec 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Sherlock Holmes is without a doubt literature's most famous and well-loved detective. His deductive reasoning skills and unique personality have garnered a following that has kept the novels and short stories in continuous print since their publication. The original four novels and fifty-six short stories have spawned numerous adaptations including television shows, movies, radio programs, video games, and cartoons. In fact, Guinness World Records lists Sherlock Holmes as the most portrayed character in history. Since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective entered into the public domain, even more derivative works featuring Holmes and other characters from his world have seen publication Read More
  • The Politics of Mark Twain

    Thu, 30 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mark Twain’s politics can be slippery to pin down, in large part because the modern popular conception of Twain is of a man who loathes and disrespects politics. By all accounts Twain himself did everything in his power to foster that conception. He may not have given the quote about politicians and diapers which is often erroneously attributed to him (that they “should be changed often, and for the same reason”), but he did assert that “often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's,” and that “In religion and politics Read More
  • The Schomburg Center Purchases James Baldwin Archive

    Wed, 29 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you familiar with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture? If not, you should be. It’s a division of the New York Public Library (NYPL) system, located on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem. The Schomburg Center has a Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division that is open to researchers, in addition to divisions devoted to art and artifacts, moving images, recorded sound, and photographs, among others. There are a lot of good reasons to visit the Schomburg, but today we want to tell you about a recent addition: James Baldwin’s archive. Read More
  • Twelve of Leo Tolstoy's Most Brilliant Quotes

    Tue, 28 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Few authors are as widely revered as Leo Tolstoy. Many regard him as the quintessential novelist, if not the best writer to ever work with the form. His reputation remains bolstered by an abundance of superlatives, often from most accomplished peers: James Joyce called “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” “the greatest story that the literature of the world knows,” while Virginia Woolf declared him “the greatest of all novelists.” It is settled, then—Tolstoy writes incredible stories. But how does his work stand up to quotation? Read More
  • Give the Gift of Books: Your 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

    Sat, 25 Nov 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And why not give the most wonderful gift of books this holiday season? Perfect for the avid reader on your list and for collectors of all kinds, books make for timeless, treasured, and meaningful gifts. Whether you’re in the market for collectible editions or a good reading copy, follow the links below to learn more about each title. We’ve broken down our selection into categories for ease of browsing, so grab a mug of coffee (or hot cocoa, or peppermint tea), sit back, and take a look at our holiday gift guide Read More
  • 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
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