Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • 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
  • John Dryden: (Literal) Poet Laureate of Political Upheaval

    Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The great English poets of the 17th century did not always fare especially well. John Milton, following the Restoration in May 1660, had to go into hiding until a royal pardon was issued exonerating him for the civic and poetic work he did during Oliver Cromwell’s reign (some of his poems in that era were seen as condoning Cromwell’s regicide of King Charles I). Even after the pardon was issued, Milton found himself imprisoned until Andrew Marvell convinced the monarchy not to execute him. Marvell himself, another poetic luminary of the era, had only narrowly avoided prison himself on the Read More
  • A Brief Introduction to the Works of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

    Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    A few days ago as my family was unloading groceries in the kitchen, some movement along the edge of the tree line caught our eyes. To our delight, we spotted the first fawn of the season, wobbling close to her mother in the dappled sunlight of our backyard. After a few minutes of awed observation, we saw the doe take off, and the fawn curl up behind a tree just off the side of our house. It is not uncommon for mothers to leave their newborn fawns unattended for hours at a time, as fawns do not yet carry a Read More
  • Why We Need Wendell Berry More Than Ever

    Sat, 05 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    For a healthy discourse, voices from all across the country are needed. These distinctions occur not just along the lines of race and gender, but class and region as well. Much of literature and cultural taste, like the forces of political change and economics, are dictated by those in the cities, leaving behind those in rural and farming counties. One of the most important literary voices of rural America today, telling the stories and bringing to light the issues of a forgotten region, is Wendell Berry, an author of poetry, fiction, essays, and more. Read More
  • Four Writers Inspired by Beatrix Potter

    Fri, 04 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Beatrix Potter's charming stories and enchanting illustrations have captivated children for generations. Indeed, ever since her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published in 1902, children have learned valuable lessons from Peter and his cohorts, all while being delightedly entertained. All of Potter's books are still in print today, and in 2016 a previously unreleased book was published—The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots. Beyond her endurance as a much-loved children's writer, Beatrix Potter has served as an inspiration to many writers and illustrators. She was a woman who not only forged a path for herself in literature when the field of Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: Notable College Libraries

    Thu, 03 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The international library system would be sorely lacking without universities. Where government and private interests (and resources) fail, academic ones pick up the slack, snapping up the archives of major authors and collecting volumes on specialized and specific topics. They prove vital assets to researchers and professors. They provide working space for students and writers (I happened upon Zadie Smith, headphones in her ears, in New York University’s Bobst Library one afternoon). They are essential to the health of literature and education. And they are often very beautiful. Read More
  • Ten of the Best Books for Summer

    Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There's a book for every season, it's true. We've written about the best winter reads, great books for Halloween, and patriotic titles that are sure to delight. But today, we want to focus on sweet summertime reads. Because nothing says summer like a good book. Whether you're by the pool, on the porch, or sitting in your favorite chair, here are ten of the best books for summer. Read More
  • Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

    Mon, 31 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Chapter Four of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known to many American readers as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), the gentle giant, Hagrid—keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts—presents Harry with a “large, sticky chocolate cake” for his eleventh birthday. Twenty years have passed since that first book in the Harry Potter series was published. We’ve all celebrated lots of birthdays since then. We’ve all grown—some of us “up” and some of us “old.” And in that time, the beloved character, Harry, has grown as well.  Read More
  • Man Booker Prize Winners from India

    Sat, 29 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Man Booker Prize, designed “to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom,” has been awarded annually since 1969. The prize isn’t awarded to an author, but rather to a specific work of fiction. Each year, a group of judges is selected from a wide range of professions and disciplines, and previous judges have included “poets, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, and actors,” according to the Man Booker Prize website. Since its inception, the prize has been awarded to numerous writers from India or of Indian descent. Read More
  • The Art and Scandal of the Shelleys' Romance

    Fri, 28 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1814, a relationship that would one day produce immortal art was only producing a scandal. The journey to some of the 19th century’s best Romantic poetry and the gothic genius of Frankenstein was going to be, in hindsight, a bumpy one. It was a relationship so taboo that it began in secret, and had to be nurtured in exile. Read More
  • Light Verse and Strong Opinions: A Hilaire Belloc Reading Guide

    Thu, 27 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.” –Hilaire Belloc Hilaire Belloc stands as one of the most controversial men in Anglophone letters. While the French-born poet, essayist, historian, and one-time Minister of Parliament boasted more fame and influence than almost any other Edwardian writers, he was, as George Bernard Shaw described him, a champion of lost causes (for what it’s worth, Shaw also referred to Belloc and his frequent collaborator G.K. Chesterton, collectively as “the Chesterbelloc”). As such, his critical and historical writings take the form of bellicose Read More
  • Picture This: Illustrations in Rare Book Collecting

    Wed, 26 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s a tired cliche, but when it comes to collecting rare or vintage books, there is perhaps no truer sentiment. Illustrations in rare book collecting, while not necessarily the first element that jumps to mind for a would-be collector, can be a significant driver in terms of the value and rarity of a given volume. Because illustrations have long been a part of literature in a variety of forms—everything from supplementing a narrative to depicting important scenes to enhancing the overall texture or theme of a story—illustrations are a critical element in helping Read More
  • Authors Who Went to Jail

    Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As a whole, writers are no different from the rest of humanity. This applies as much to a propensity for crime. Traditionally, writers have been imprisoned for two vices popular to their caste—espousing radical politics and not paying creditors. That’s not to say there haven’t been authors who went to jail for more prosaic crimes, like embezzling (O. Henry) and armed robbery (Chester Himes), for example. A few of them have also written their finest books in jail. Read More
  • Best Books from Iran

    Sat, 22 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    During various periods of repression throughout the twentieth century, Iranian writers haven’t been read as widely as they should have been. Certainly, Iranian novelists and poets are not the first to be subjected to the heavy hand of censorship from a tyrannical government. However, since the Iranian Revolution, prejudices and other forms of sociocultural censorship have excluded, in various ways, significant works of Iranian literature. While we can’t list all of the best books from Iran, we have a handful for you to explore. Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: License Renewed

    Fri, 21 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    More than a decade. That’s how much time elapsed between adventures of the world’s most famous superspy, James Bond. Following the publication of the first post-Ian Fleming 007 novel, Colonel Sun in 1968, the Bond series went into hiatus for roughly 13 years before Glidrose Publications (now named Ian Fleming Publications) approached noted British spy and literary thriller writer John Gardner to revive the series in the late 1970s. After several years of negotiations, Gardner agreed to take up the 007 mantle and relaunched the 007 series with the 1981 publication of License Renewed, an aggressive reboot and branding of Read More
  • 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
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