Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • The Short Life of Feminist Margaret Fuller

    Tue, 23 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    American writer Margaret Fuller is well known for her roles as a journalist, novelist, critic, and feminist. Her untimely death in 1850 resulted in the loss of the manuscript that by all accounts would have been her masterpiece, but the legacies she left behind in women's history, feminism, and transcendentalism are more than enough to cement her place as one of the most important writers of the early 19th century.   Read More
  • Revisiting Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon

    Sat, 20 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1940, Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon appeared in English. While Koestler, a Hungarian-born author and journalist who later immigrated to Britain, wrote in German early on, he later began writing and publishing in English. The novel has an interesting backstory to it. Koestler wrote the novel in German (indeed, the last novel that he wrote in German), yet for decades, readers, scholars, and other interested parties had only known the novel in its English translation. While attempting to escape to the U.K. during the early years of World War II, Koestler convinced his lover, Daphne Hardy, to translate Read More
  • Books that Medaled: Lesser Known Caldecott Winners

    Fri, 19 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    When my girls had library day at school or took home a book order form in their oversized backpacks, they were always excited to make their book choice. When you consider it, children actually have a fairly small number of things in their life on which they get to make the final decision. In their quest, I’m certain they carefully circled the library shelves at school as well as the pictures and descriptors in the fliers—usually with brightly colored hi-lighters if memory serves. I’m not sure when or how this happened, but nothing tipped the scales more or caused greater Read More
  • Top Five Memorable Ian Fleming Characters (Who Are Not James Bond)

    Thu, 18 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There's nothing like a good spy thriller to get your imagination running wild. And perhaps no one was better able to give his readers such a trip as the legendary Ian Fleming. Indeed, the titular hero of his James Bond series of books started out as an intentionally flat character, someone onto whom readers could project a more complex identity. And project they did. 26 film adaptions (and original reimaginings of the character) later, James Bond is one of the most well-known and well-loved characters in Western film and literature, his exploits having evolved over the years into a full-fledged Read More
  • Visiting Jack London's Ranch

    Wed, 17 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you interested in learning more about the natural spaces that inspired Jack London? Were you under the impression that you’d need to travel to the Yukon Territory in Canada to connect with the author? If you happen to find yourself in Northern California and can make your way to Glen Ellen, you can visit the Jack London State Historic Park, also known as the Jack London Home and Ranch. There’s not exactly a house to tour, but you can visit the remnants of London’s dream house, which was destroyed during a fire and never rebuilt. And this is also Read More
  • Ten of the Best Quotes About Mothers in Literature

    Sun, 14 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Though there are many prestigious job titles in the world, none should be as highly regarded as “mother.” Mothers are the ones who love unconditionally, who support us enthusiastically, and who never let us go rollerblading without wearing our wrist-guards. To the women we cannot possibly repay, here are ten of the best quotes about mothers in literature: Read More
  • Best Books on Indonesia

    Sat, 13 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Like many other countries in South and Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s modern history is one marked by colonization and the harms of imperialism. While some of the most frequently read books on Indonesia focus on the colonial period or postcolonialism in the country, we think it is important to make sure that you don’t think the region’s history begins with its colonization by the Dutch. Indonesia has a widely diverse cultural, social, and religious makeup, with parts of the country still governed by pre-colonial monarchy and others the democratic state. It is often described as one of the most heavily populated Read More
  • The History of Children's Literature: Part 1

    Fri, 12 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Children's literature today is as celebrated and lauded as literature for adult audiences. Entire sections of libraries are dedicated to it. Scholarly publications are dedicated to giving it advanced critical thought. Distinguished panels are put together annually to award the year's best and most important examples of literature for children. In recent years, it has become so popular that entirely separate best seller lists have been established in order to accommodate all of the worthy books being published for children. In short, it is hard to imagine a world in which children's books are not a large part of childhood Read More
  • Collecting the Poetry of Leonard Cohen

    Thu, 11 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    A Rolling Stone article* about Leonard Cohen which appeared just after his death in November 2016 described Cohen as a “song poet.” As many of you might know, Cohen’s music made him famous, with songs such as “Suzanne,” “So Long, Marianne,” and “Hallelujah.” The article cited Nick Cave, who depicted Cohen as “the greatest songwriter of them all,” defining him by his undefinable status of “utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried.” Indeed, Leonard Cohen was a “song poet,” as the Rolling Stone article declares, but he was also a published poet whose early books, Read More
  • VLOG: Paper Marbling

    Wed, 10 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Paper marbling is an art form that may well date back more than a thousand years. The technique involves creating paint patterns on top of a container of water and transferring those patterns to paper, usually paper of high quality. The result is stunning, unique designs that can be used for covering leather-bound books or simply as decorative art in its own right. At the very latest, it first appeared in 12th century Japan before spreading across Asia. In the 15th century, it had either made its way from East Asia or been re-invented independently in Turkey, where a new, Read More
  • A Snapshot of J.M. Barrie

    Tue, 09 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Once upon a time, there was no Neverland. The Lost Boys weren’t fighting with Captain Hook, Wendy wasn’t flying past Big Ben with Peter, and nobody took a second look at a firefly to check if it was Tinkerbelle. The world was a little less magical and a little less exciting—until J.M. Barrie changed everything. Read More
  • The Lasting Legacy of Athol Fugard's Dramatic Works

    Sat, 06 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    For most American readers, references to South African literature conjure the names of the country’s two Nobel Prize winners: Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. While the essays and works of fiction by these Nobel laureates are enormously important for understanding the politics of and modes of resistance to apartheid in South Africa, we want to highlight the significance of another genre for you today. Born in 1932 in a remote region of South Africa to an Afrikaner father and English-speaking mother, Athol Fugard has become one of the more prominent names in South African theatre. He often co-wrote plays with Read More
  • Authors As Both Novelists & Screenwriters

    Fri, 05 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Every year, thousands of readers look forward to film adaptations of their favorite novels. Often the screenplays for these films are adapted by independent screenwriters, but there are also many cases when the screenplays are actually written by the author of the source material. For lovers of the original books, it's comforting to know their favorite stories are being treated respectfully and with consideration to the author's original intentions. Many authors also work as screenwriters and not just on adaptations of their own works, but on movies based on novels by other authors or on the scripts for entirely original Read More
  • The Witty Textbook Parody Jane Austen Wrote at 15

    Thu, 04 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Lovers of Jane Austen are lucky. Few other authors have left behind a greater wealth of juvenalia. From the ages of 11 to 18, Austen filled three notebooks with stories, parodies, mini-plays, and more, all displaying the shrewd wit and intelligence that would later blossom into genius. Among the shining examples of her earliest work is a short, satirical piece titled The History of England, written when the author was only 15 years old. Read More
  • Four Phenomenal Editions from Arion Press

    Wed, 03 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Twentieth century San Francisco was a hotbed for creative thinking and artistic pursuits, including those of fine press printers. Robert Grabhorn and his brother Edwin had the most heralded press in the city for nearly half a century. Indeed, Grabhorn Press set the standard for typographic ingenuity and artistic mastery. When the press closed in 1965, younger brother Robert joined forces with a printer by the name of Andrew Hoyem who had worked for Grabhorn in the 1960s. Together, the two continued their fine press efforts, publishing impressive limited edition books including an edition of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl". When Grabhorn Read More
  • Famous Lost and Destroyed Manuscripts

    Tue, 02 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Some of the most thrilling stories I’ve ever heard are those of treasure hunts. Explorers, pirates, and detectives alike all strike out on a mission to obtain the objects of their desires—whether the value be monetary or sentimental. Within the literary world, we have our own lost treasures: famous manuscripts misplaced by time or destroyed at the hands of frustrated writers or natural disasters. Here are five of the most famous missing or destroyed manuscripts. Read More
  • Worker's Influence: The Literature of May Day

    Mon, 01 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Traditionally speaking, when you think of May Day one of the first things that comes to mind is dancing around a maypole wearing flower crowns. While this spring festival version of the holiday certainly has its place in literature (part of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream takes place on May Day), May Day is more commonly celebrated worldwide today as International Workers Day, or in some places, Labor Day. What is the history of May Day? And how has May Day influenced literature? Read More
  • The Travel Writing of Henry James

    Sat, 29 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    On a recent trip to Italy, I had two tools at my disposal: a GPS and a guide book. Given the complexity of the network of roads and the simplicity of the road construction—often nothing more than ruts worn into gravel clinging precariously to hillsides—the GPS often failed me utterly. The guidebook, on the other hand, helped me navigate hill towns, wine cellars and even menus with amazing precision. It led me to all the destinations and experiences I had imagined before I left for Tuscany. Navigating, however, is different from transporting. It is travel writing that allows us to Read More
  • Sharing the Nobel Prize in Literature

    Fri, 28 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    While Nobel Prizes in the sciences often are shared, the Nobel Prize in Literature has only been shared on four occasions over the last century. And we’re willing to bet that the eight writers who have shared the Nobel Prize are not authors with whom you’re particularly familiar. Why, then, did these novelists end up sharing the award? There are a few different ideas floating around as to why the Nobel Prize in Literature is rarely divided between two writers. Let’s take a look at the four instances in which the Nobel Prize in Literature has been shared. Read More
  • Ten Pounds for Paradise Lost?

    Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Art and commerce have always intersected in uncomfortable ways. The difficulty of correctly appraising the quality of a work of art in the moment combined with the near-impossibility of putting a dollar value on the types of things that art provides have led to a strange patchwork of financial realities for artists and writers throughout history, from the patronage system of the Renaissance to the writerly financial refuge of the modern university creative writing department. In all this time there have been some particularly notable failures at correctly giving a work its monetary value. Just ask John Milton. Read More
  • A Reading Guide to Daniel Defoe

    Wed, 26 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Daniel Defoe was born Daniel Foe around the year 1660, and to say his childhood was harrowing is an understatment. Before he was ten years old, Defoe survived the Great Plague of London; his home survived the Great Fire of London; and he survived an attack from the Dutch. As an adult, Defoe was at one time a secret agent and was the collector for taxes on glass bottles at another point. He spent time in debtor's prison, the pillory, and was eventually jailed again for his political writings. Throughout his prolific career, he wrote upwards of five hundred political Read More
  • Important Elements of Provenance in Rare Book Collecting

    Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Condition. Binding. Completeness. These are all relatively easy to understand concepts in the rare book world when judging the value of a piece. But what about provenance? What is provenance? Why is it so important? Why does it impact the value of a book in such a significant way? These are the questions rare book enthusiasts need to ask as they come across rare or unique volumes where the term provenance is bandied about as a crucial indicator as to why a book is valued in such a way. And confusing though it can be, once understood, provenance adds an Read More
  • How to Prevent and Reverse Foxing in Rare Books

    Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There is never a wrong time to think about the effects of moisture and humidity on rare books. Just as too much sun can damage your rare books, so can too much moisture. And we'’re not just talking about direct moisture, such as liquid spills. The relative humidity of the air is also a concern. Excess humidity (usually relative humidity above 75%) can encourage the growth of fungi and mildew, which can lead to foxing. If foxing occurs, what are the best ways to reverse it? Better yet, how can you prevent foxing in your rare books? Read More
  • Ernest Hemingway's Feelings Toward F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’ve ever seen the movie Midnight in Paris then you are familiar with the rose colored glasses romanticists often wear when thinking of the past. In the film, writer Gill Pender (played by Owen Wilson), somehow manages to travel back in time to 1920s Paris and meet many of the greatest minds in literature, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this particular movie, the two historical writers seem to be cordial, Fitzgerald is handsome and sociable while Hemingway is philosophical and intense. Though Midnight in Paris is immensely enjoyable, it may not be wholly accurate in it’s Read More
  • VLOG: How Is Vellum Made?

    Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Vellum, a fine parchment traditionally made from calf skins, was for many years the default material for use in printing important manuscripts or documents. Many of Gutenberg’s first Bibles, for instance, were printed on Vellum, as were many illuminated manuscripts from the Medieval Era. And, in fact, despite the decrease in the material’s prevalence over the centuries, all British Acts of Parliament are still printed and archived on vellum. Differentiated from other forms of parchment by the quality of the animal skin used (debate continues as to whether vellum must refer to parchment made from calf skins or if it Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: The Man With the Golden Gun

    Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    All good things must come to an end. It’s a cliche, of course, but no truer sentiment can be applied to the string of critical and commercial successes Ian Fleming produced via his internationally loved British spy, James Bond. Fleming's run culminated with the publication of his 12th Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun. Released just eight months after Fleming’s death, The Man with the Golden Gun is something of a melancholic note for the series to end on, as Fleming’s health was failing throughout the composition of the novel. While both critics and fans alike believe The Read More
  • Best Books on New Zealand

    Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    New Zealand writers largely emerged on the global scene in the mid-twentieth century (although writers from the country existed long before). Some critics cite the government’s decision in 1946 to establish a literary fund as one of the primary catalysts for publishing literature within the country, while others cite events such as the creation of a publishing house at the University of New Zealand.* That this country is a prominent space for literary production shouldn’t come as a surprise to most twenty-first century readers, many of whom are well-acquainted with the internationally renowned Auckland Writers Festival, which brings acclaimed writers Read More
  • Ezra Pound and Mentally Ill Writers

    Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Of the great writers of the 20th century there were a tremendous number battling serious mental illness. Virginia Woolf struggled with bipolarity throughout her life, eventually killing herself in 1941; Hemingway was beset by a crippling depression that led to alcoholism and eventually suicide; Robert Lowell spent time in a mental hospital, as did Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace, both of whom famously committed suicide after producing works of monumental importance dealing with, among other things, the horrors of depression. As we go back further, we encounter the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Thomas Hardy. Everyone on this list Read More
  • Salman Rushdie's Novels on Film

    Sat, 15 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Readers of Salman Rushdie’s novels know that he has been a prolific writer over the last few decades. Not only have his books received heaps of international critical acclaim, but they have also been loved by readers across the globe. So here’s where we have to tell you that the title of this article is a bit of a misnomer: only one of Rushdie’s novels has ever been adapted for the silver screen. In all these years, Rushdie’s works simply have not been remade as feature films. And it took more than 30 years for his novel, Midnight’s Children (1981), Read More
  • Collecting Striking Editions of the Rubaiyat

    Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    I bought my edition of the Rubaiyat from a secondhand bookstore. I can’t tell exactly how old it is; it doesn’t include a date. It was printed by Concord Books, Inc., a publisher whose fate I’ve yet been able to discern. But the volume itself is attractive: a faithful representation of the same Persian poem that captivated Victorian readers some 150 years ago. That is, it’s exquisitely translated, and comes with joyous, beautiful illustrations to boot. Read More
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