Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Esther Forbes: First Female Member of the American Antiquarian Society

    Wed, 12 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Historian and writer Esther Forbes had a knack for bringing the life and experiences of the past to present-day readers through the pages of her books. Most well known for her books, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (1942) and Johnny Tremain (1943), Forbes’ writing garnered her attention from the outset. Her first published novel, O Genteel Lady!  was selected as the second book for the Book of the Month Club, ensuring her book was sold to a wide readership. In a review in The Independent, O Genteel Lady! was described as “A distinguished first novel, written with Read More
  • Bird & Bull: A Fine History of a Fine Press

    Tue, 11 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1958, Henry Morris, inspired by piece of medieval paper he'd recently acquired and a new hobby of paper making, founded Bird & Bull Press. Bird & Bull Press published over seventy-five beautiful books, each printed on paper handmade by Morris himself or carefully selected and imported. Bird & Bull publications were printed by letterpress from metal type, creating books that not only serve as a lovely example of the skill and artistry that goes into bookmaking, typography, and paper making, but as a means of preserving a history and tradition that otherwise may have been lost. Read More
  • Multilingual Literature of Singapore

    Sat, 08 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Have you read any literature from Singapore lately? This city-state is located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, and it has long been along various trade routes throughout Southeast Asia. As a result of its geographic location, as well as its status as a British colony through much of the nineteenth century and into the first half of the twentieth century, Singapore has attracted immigrants from across the region. Indeed, there are four national languages in Singapore, including English, Malay, Mandarin (Chinese), and Tamil. Given the wide range of national languages in the region, the literary history of Read More
  • First Books vs. First Editions: The Difference and Significance

    Fri, 07 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Everyone thinks they understand the value of a first edition. The first printing of a book automatically makes it rare, right? Because X or Y novel is a first run, it’s immediately valuable and worthy of collecting, yes? While this is certainly the case with a number of books throughout the literary landscape, first editions are not necessarily sought after by collectors just because they’re the first run. In fact, when you think about it, every book ever published has a first edition printing, but some were not lucky enough to see a second or third. One factor that truly Read More
  • Famous Writers and Their Famous Spouses

    Thu, 06 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Creativity attracts creativity. It's true: creative minds often gravitate to one another. Perhaps this is why it is not uncommon to see couples formed after two people come together in a shared desire to create something meaningful, important, and lasting. Here's a list of famous and creative writers whose relationships with their spouses were forged by a mutual love of everything from aviation to photography. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Miguel Angel Asturias & Pablo Neruda

    Wed, 05 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Recently, we began spotlighting Nobel Prize in Literature winners from Latin America. Today, we’d like to highlight a couple more of our favorites. Read on for general information, ideas, and collecting points on Miguel Angel Asturias and Pablo Neruda, winners of the Prize at a time in history when the world as a whole was waking up to the amazing works and writers emerging from Latin America. For more information on our previous Latin American Nobel laureate spotlights featuring Gabriela Mistral and Mario Vargas Llosa, please see the end of this post.  Read More
  • George MacDonald: Master of Fantasy & Religious Thought

    Tue, 04 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    For a while in the West it’s been somewhat difficult for Christian intellectuals to be taken seriously. Though not exactly extinct (Marilynne Robinson comes to mind), religious writers are hard to find, and they are often dogged by the presumption that to be credible you must be secular. Even Christian writers of generations past, like G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, felt and battled this anxiety. But for these thinkers, the Scottish author and minister George MacDonald presented an enduring model for being both an intellectual and a person of faith. Read More
  • Writers of Ghazals and Persian Poetry

    Sat, 01 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    What is a ghazal, and who writes them? In short, it’s a poem that is typically composed of anywhere between five and fifteen couplets that are, according to the American Academy of Poets, “structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous.” Traditionally, the first couplet of a ghazal will introduce a scheme, which subsequent couplets will pick up. The final couplet of a ghazal usually will refer to the poet and sometimes even includes his or her name. It’s a poetic form that began in what we now call the Middle East in the seventh century, and it was popularized in the thirteenth Read More
  • Rethinking Form: Musician Lou Reed's Short Stories

    Fri, 31 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    It has now been more than three years since Lou Reed’s death, yet fans across the globe continue to listen to his music, and musicians cover his songs in homage. We’re willing to bet that you’re at least somewhat acquainted with the Velvet Underground, the band fronted and formed by Reed in the 1960s that was once managed by Andy Warhol, and you might even be a fan of Reed’s later solo work. But what do you know about the connections between his music and the world of literature? There are more links between famous fiction and Reed’s songwriting process Read More
  • Novelist Ken Kesey's Life and Work

    Thu, 30 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Novelist Ken Kesey was an important member of the 1960s counterculture movement. His home served as a meeting place for some famous, like-minded friends. Indeed, he fostered and befriended a community of artists that included such important Beat and counterculture figures as Allen Ginsburg and Tom Wolfe. Likewise, Kesey's own work remains an important reflection of counterculture ideas, the treatment of the mentally ill, and life in the American Northwest. His novels One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) and Sometimes a Great Notion (1964) are considered modern classics. Let's learn a bit more about Kesey's life and work. Read More
  • Lars Bo's Literary Engravings

    Wed, 29 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Have you seen the literary engravings of Lars Bo? While you may not be familiar with Lars Bo’s name, we’re willing to bet that you’ve seen his work in some of your favorite books. Bo was a Danish artist who was born on May 29, 1924 and lived until October 21, 1999. He studied design in Denmark until 1943, and later traveled through Europe before moving to Paris, where he would remain until his death. During his early years in Paris, Bo wrote a novel entitled The Wonderful House in Paris [Det vidunderlige hus i Paris]. Yet most literary enthusiasts aren’t Read More
  • Collecting Limited Editions Club Publications

    Tue, 28 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As book collectors, we know the importance of the book as a physical object. From marginalia to dust jackets, numerous factors come in to play when determining what to collect and how much any given collectible is worth. Indeed, the condition of the physical book goes a long way in determining its value to collectors, and in many case the look of a book—from its illustrations to its binding and everything in between—charts the course for collectors. Many ‘groupings’ of collectible books exist, and they often direct the collecting ways of interested bibliophiles. For example, some collectors focus on collecting Read More
  • Visiting Ralph Ellison's Papers at the Library of Congress

    Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you interested in learning more about the life and literary work of Ralph Ellison? If you find yourself in Washington, D.C., there are many reasons to plan a visit to the Library of Congress. One of those reasons, though, should certainly be to explore the Ralph Ellison papers, which include materials from 1890-2005. There are a total of 74,800 items in the collection, such as correspondence, drafts for essays, short stories, novels, lectures given by and about Ellison, a wide variety of resources documenting his literary career, and Ellison’s final unfinished novel, Juneteenth. Read More
  • Five Famous Hawaiian Authors

    Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Sand. Surf. Sun. All of it in seemingly endless supply. It’s the pinnacle of a dreamy, island vacation: Hawaii. The last of the 50 U.S. states to enter the Union, Hawaii has long been a melting pot of its own when it comes to the cultures, traditions, and people who make these chains of islands such a destination for vacationers and dreamers alike. Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Europeans. All these influences and more are part of a great cultural fabric that makes Hawaii such a vibrant place. What about famous authors from the islands? Read More
  • Yasunari Kawabata, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

    Thu, 23 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There are many authors who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature whose works enjoy continued success throughout the United States and in many parts of the world. Some Nobel laureates, however, have not remained as well-known as others. In the event that you have not been introduced to the lyrical, lonely writings of Yasunari Kawabata, we’d like to present you with some background information about this writer, who was also the first Japanese winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. In brief, he was born in Osaka, Japan in 1899 and committed suicide in 1972. Much of his most Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: You Only Live Twice

    Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s perhaps tragically ironic Ian Fleming’s eleventh James Bond novel is titled You Only Live Twice. That irony stems from the fact it was the last Bond novel Fleming completed before his death in August 1964. While a handful of other Fleming-conceived novels were published after his death, You Only Live Twice was the final 007 story Fleming saw from start to finish. He passed away just five months after the novel’s publication. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Geisel Library at UC San Diego

    Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Everyone loves a beautiful, old library with oak desks, cozy chairs, and tall windows. Libraries built during the economic boom of the mid-20th century, however, were often used as a playground for architectural experimentation, particularly on college and university campuses. Sometimes the result was instantly regrettable; at other times, it was intriguing and other-worldly. The Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego falls in the latter category. Read More
  • Five of the Best Books on India

    Sat, 18 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Indian subcontinent is extremely large, including the nations of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Yet those nations have not always been separate. To be sure, the subcontinent was divided during the India-Pakistan Partition of 1947, and years later in 1971, Bangladesh (which was, at the time, East Pakistan), gained its independence. Given the complicated modern political history, it’s especially difficult to select only a handful of texts to represent the best books on India. As such, we’re beginning with an early twentieth-century work and then jumping immediately to the period following Bangladeshi independence, and we’re also offering the following books Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Saul Bellow

    Fri, 17 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976, only a few other American writers (the inimitable Toni Morrison, who earned the sought-after medal in 1993 and most recently, Bob Dylan, come to mind) have accomplished the same feat. This fact speaks to a number of phenomena, but it chiefly indicates the way that Bellow’s fiction represented a sort of capstone in American fiction. Born in Quebec to Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants, Bellow soon moved to Chicago, a city he would come to immortalize in his works. Perhaps more than any other writer, Bellow brought the modernist and intellectual traditions Read More
  • Celebrating the Life of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott

    Fri, 17 Mar 2017 02:22:27 Permalink
    "for what else is there but books, books and the sea, verandahs and the pages of the sea, to write of the wind and the memory of wind-whipped hair in the sun, the colour of fire!" -- Derek Walcott,  Collected Poems 1948-1984   Caribbean writer and Nobel Prize in Literature winner Derek Walcott passed away early this morning. He was 87 years old. We thought we'd take a moment today to celebrate Walcott's life and influence. Read More
  • The History Behind William Styron's Fictional Nat Turner

    Thu, 16 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    William Styron's account of The Confessions of Nat Turner differs significantly from the original Confessions of Nat Turner garnered by Turner's lawyer while he awaited his trial and impending execution. Because of this, the fact of whether it is historical-fiction or historical-fiction, is not an irrelevant minutia. Cries of controversy—that Styron is a racist or that he minimizes the genuineness of the Nat Turner Rebellion—depend wholly on how the reader approaches the text through the lens of it's emphasis.  Read More
  • Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Finland

    Wed, 15 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you planning a trip to the Nordic countries anytime soon? If you’ll find yourself in Finland, there are dozens of rare and antiquarian bookstores to keep you busy as you explore Helsinki on foot, and there are more shops scattered north of the capital city. There are nineteen members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) in the country, and fifteen are located in Helsinki. Many have storefronts with regular hours if you’re planning to wander around the city, while some others require an appointment to visit the shop. And if you decide to take a quick ferry Read More
  • Win the Man Booker Prize, Sell More Books!

    Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Man Booker Prize was created in 1969 with the aim of promoting the finest in fiction by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland written during the preceding year. Prize winners are chosen by judges who make the selections for the best novel based on personal opinion alone. The cash value of this Prize is relatively low, with winners receiving only £50,000. However, the Man Booker Prize draws attention to works of fiction which might otherwise have gone unnoticed. As Ion Trewin, the late Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation stated, the Read More
  • Family Endurance: The Vicar of Wakefield

    Sat, 11 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Published in 1766, The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith became one of the most widely read novels of the Victorian era. It is widely referenced in British literature—from Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities to Jane Austen's Emma and George Eliot's Middlemarch. A book about family endurance, the drama surrounds the characters of the Primrose family: Dr. Primrose as the Vicar of Wakefield, his wife, and their many children. The Primrose's idyllic country life is turned upside down when they lose their financial footing and a daughter is abducted. Read More
  • What Exactly Is Young Adult Literature? A Brief History

    Fri, 10 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you ask a book lover what they read during their young, formative years, the conversation will inevitably turn to how “we didn’t have books like The Hunger Games when I was growing up.” And it’s true: young adult literature as a genre only began to take root in the 1970s and ‘80s, but boy, has it ever gone through a growth spurt since then. Books for teens are dominating book sales and box offices these days. Where did this phenomenon begin? Read More
  • Five Fun Facts About Winston Churchill

    Thu, 09 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Winston Churchill is a universally recognized name. Even if you don't know his entire back story, it is most likely you've studied him and his role in British politics in a history class somewhere along the line. Today, we thought it would be interesting to dig up a couple facts about the great leader that may be lesser known. Here are five things we found that don't necessarily come to mind when you picture Winston Churchill. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Gabriela Mistral and Mario Vargas Llosa

    Wed, 08 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since its inception in the early part of the 20th century, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to a Latin American author on six different occasions. While all Nobel laureates are worthy of our study, praise, and, in many cases, collecting efforts, there is a special place in our hearts for these six from Latin America. Over the course of the next few months, we’d like to detail for you book collecting information and ideas for these Nobel Prize winners. Today, we spotlight the first Latin American winner, Gabriela Mistral, and the most recent winner from Latin America, Read More
  • Writers Who Have Published Both Comic Books & Novels

    Tue, 07 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Most novelists find satisfaction is housing their ideas exclusively in books. Novels often seem to be the perfect medium to flesh out a story based solely on words. For others, however, that’s not enough, and another layer of art is required to tell their stories. Here are three writers who have used both novels and comics to let their imaginations run wild. Read More
  • Researching in the J.M. Coetzee Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

    Sat, 04 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1969, the Nobel Prize-winning South African novelist J.M. Coetzee received his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin after writing a dissertation on the early work of the Irish writer Samuel Beckett. That same year, Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. More than forty years after earning his Ph.D.—and after having written nearly a dozen novels and numerous works of criticism—in 2011 the University of Texas at Austin acquired the author's papers to be held in the Harry Ransom Center. The archive contains nearly 160 boxes of material, including drafts of his novels and of his autobiography, personal Read More
  • Arthur Miller: Writing During the Red Scare

    Fri, 03 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Cold War was an era clouded by persistent paranoia, not only between the United States and the Soviet Union. When it came to its own citizens, the U.S. government was, in some cases, just as fearful as it was about foreign threats—especially when it came to the Hollywood crowd. Indeed, in October 1947, members of a congressional committee, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), began investigating members of the movie industry who they suspected were communist sympathizers. They banned the work of 325 screenwriters, actors, and directors*. Among those blacklisted were composer Aaron Copland, writers Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, Read More
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