Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • The Bond Dossier: Dr. No

    Sat, 01 Oct 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There comes a time in any great series of books when the tides turn—when, for some reason or another, the characters, plots, themes, or messages of the books fall out of favor or have their relevancy or worth challenged, both for the writer and the reader. For Ian Fleming and his James Bond novels, that time came with Dr. No. (1958), the sixth book in the Bond series under Fleming’s watch. In hindsight, perhaps the spiral in critical appeal—though the commercial success of Dr. No remained aligned with the Bond novels that came before—was inevitable. After all, Fleming was uncertain about Read More
  • Remembering the Legacy of Elie Wiesel

    Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When Elie Wiesel passed away over the summer, the world entered a state of collective mourning. Rarely was there a public figure so universally respected and missed. Schoolchildren grew up reading his books. World leaders bore witness to his eloquence and message. Wiesel had seen humanity plunge to its worst, and his life was devoted to fight against that ever happening again. Read More
  • Book It: Five of the Most Interesting U.S. Libraries

    Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Let’s face it: Visiting a library while traveling to a new city is not always atop everyone’s must-do list. Even for the most bookish or literary-minded traveler, libraries as destinations often get lost in the fray when whipping up itineraries or sightseeing spots. Museums. Parks. Skyscrapers. Food markets. Sporting events. These activities more times than not reign supreme over buildings of archaic texts and decaying books where most travelers feel ‘You’ve seen one library, you’ve seen them all.’ But there are a number of libraries across the country that not only warrant serious investigation but also reward visitors with insight into Read More
  • Interview with Mónica Montes at the Library of David Alfaro Siqueiros

    Wed, 28 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In May, we had the opportunity to visit the Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, the former studio of the famous Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, located in Mexico City. In addition its continuing function as a gallery space, the Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros also contains the archives and personal library of the painter. We were thrilled to get a chance to visit the muralist’s preserved library and to examine some of the books contained within it. We also had the opportunity to speak with Mónica Montes, one of the primary archivists at the space. She agreed to an interview with Read More
  • Polite Society and the Novel: Finding Heirs to Jane Austen & Edith Wharton

    Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Nancy Armstrong’s Desire and Domestic Fiction (1987), the literary critic discusses the role of writing in reproducing cultural norms and mores. By reading novels, citizens internalize the rules of polite society; they learn how they ought to act. While Armstrong’s argument does implicate novelists themselves in whatever happens to be wrong with a given society, she also establishes the novel as a potential space for resistance. That is, while books reproduce their current cultures, they also shape them. Perhaps this is why some of the most incisive critics of polite society over the centuries have by writers. Case in Read More
  • Read More Poetry: The Rudyard Kipling Edition

    Sat, 24 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    We’ve often argued that the world needs to read more poetry. After all, without poetry we wouldn’t consider how “Good fences make good neighbors” (Robert Frost), or ponder how “Success is counted sweetest/ By those who ne’er succeed./ To comprehend a nectar/ Requires sorest need.” (Emily Dickinson), or to remember to “Talk less/Smile more/ Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” (Lin Manuel Miranda). Truly, the list of great poetic works is a lengthy one, and one that is still being added to. Today, we’d like to spotlight some of the best quotes from Rudyard Kipling’s Read More
  • Learning About the International Prize for Arabic Fiction

    Fri, 23 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    For those who don’t have the ability to read Arabic literature before its translation, information about the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) might not have made its way to you yet. However, in the past several years, we have been incredibly excited about the books that have won this prize and that have been translated into English for western readers. While we wish we could read many of these texts in their original language, for now, we’re thrilled to see that writers from Iraq, Jordan, and other regions of the Middle East are receiving international recognition for their glorious works Read More
  • Seven of the Best Reads for Autumn

    Thu, 22 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Autumn: the glowing Midwest season of colorful leaves, fresh air, and crockpot dinners. Swimsuits are exchanged for sweatshirts, kindling is collected for the fire pit, and baristas across the country race outside to write “Pumpkin spice latte” on their sidewalk café menus in scrolling orange calligraphy. Should you find yourself with some quiet time between the football games and hayrides, consider settling in with one of these great Autumn reads.   Read More
  • Stephen King: Modern Literature's Master Craftsman

    Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    It is no exaggeration to say that Stephen King is likely one of the most well-known writers working and publishing today. Few other contemporary writers (save possibly fellow speculating fiction master J.K. Rowling) have written books and created creatures and worlds that have captivated such a large worldwide audience. Words and phrases from his novels have seeped into the pop culture, inspiring film, television, and even graphic novel adaptations. Since publishing his first novel, Carrie, in 1974 (though he had already been publishing short stories in magazines for many years), King has managed to hook millions of readers with his Read More
  • Why Donald Hall Only Gets Wiser with Age

    Tue, 20 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    A few years ago, writer and poet Donald Hall was awarded the National Medal of Arts for his lifetime of work. Aside from the respectful tribute, some in the media gawked at just how old the octogenarian writer looked. He came to the platform with bushy eyebrows, an unkempt beard, and stood in a few unflattering snapshots beside President Obama. He was subject to such ridicule as the nickname “yeti,” as well as a “photo caption contest” in the comments below. All this for a former poet laureate of the United States. Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts About Ken Kesey

    Sat, 17 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’ve heard of Ken Kesey but don’t know a lot about his life, chances are you’ve read his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962). Just a few years ago, the novel celebrated its 50th anniversary, more than 10 years after its author passed away. As an article* in NPR explained of the book, it “would make its author a literary celebrity, inspire a movie that won the Best Picture Oscar, and help change the way we think about mental health institutions.” The novel depicted a group of patients in an Oregon mental health hospital. The narrative arose Read More
  • Why Adults Shouldn't be Embarrassed to Read YA Literature

    Fri, 16 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In a Slate article in 2014*, Ruth Graham argued that adults who read young adult fiction should feel embarrassed. For her, YA meant simplistic story-telling, straightforward characters, and satisfying, unambiguous endings—all things that readers should, for her, outgrown before graduating to the moral, thematic, and structural ambiguity of adult literary fiction. Those who stick with YA ostensibly miss out on these things, as well as all the other benefits that adult literary fiction offers. These claims are not uncommon, and many readers who associate young adult fiction with the likes of Twilight (2005) are inclined toward a certain sort of Read More
  • Collecting Signed Books with Movie Tie-Ins

    Thu, 15 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Books inscribed by their authors are exciting additions to any collection. Yet signed books with movie tie-ins can be particularly interesting when they have connections to award-winning films. If you’re lucky, you might find a signed copy of a novel adapted for the cinema by the original author. And in some cases, you might even find a book that’s signed by one of the actors or actresses who brought characters from works of written fiction to the screen. For example, you might seek out a signed first edition of Charles Portis’s True Grit (1968), which has been adapted into two Read More
  • William H. Armstrong's Newbery Legacy

    Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Along with the Caldecott, the Newbery Medal is the most prestigious children's book award in the United States. Created in 1921 and named after children's writer John Newbery, the award is given every year by the Association for Library Service for Children to a book that exemplifies excellence and is a worthwhile contribution to American children's literature. For some authors, the Newbery Medal is career changing, leading to countless interviews, inclusion in school curriculum and reading lists, and encouraging post-graduate study of the work at author. In 1970, the winner of this prestigious award was William H. Armstrong for his book Sounder. Read More
  • VLOG: Seven Videos On the Art of Making Books By Hand

    Tue, 13 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Some historians consider the printing press the most important invention of the first millennium. Still, the march of technology has since made the innovative device obsolete. Spreading the written word is easier and cheaper than ever before. And it is for this natural and understandable reason we have grown distant from the remarkable labor and beauty involved in printing by hand. Read More
  • J.M. Coetzee on Literature and Psychoanalysis

    Sat, 10 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    What is the relationship between storytelling and clinical psychology? That’s a question the South African Nobel Prize-winning novelist J.M. Coetzee recently attempted to explore through an extended conversation with British clinical psychologist Arabella Kurtz. According to an article in the New Republic*, Kurtz invited Coetzee to engage in this written dialogue despite Coetzee being “notoriously publicly averse.” Yet Coetzee did end up joining in correspondence with Kurtz for around five years, and those letters were published in a book entitled The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy. The correspondence began back in 2008, and it concluded only a Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: From Russia with Love

    Fri, 09 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There comes a point in every artistic endeavor when an artist grows tired of the very creation that once thrilled them, that took them from struggling nobody into the stratosphere of fame and fortune. For James Bond creator and author Ian Fleming, that moment of doubt, frustration, and uncertainty finally reared its ugly head with the fifth novel in the James Bond 007 series, From Russia with Love. Published in April 1957, the novel—widely considered to be one of Fleming most interesting and captivating Bond novel—represents a moment in Fleming's career where he seriously considered giving up the Bond mantle. In Read More
  • Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Seoul

    Thu, 08 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re traveling to Korea and are considering some rare book shopping, we recommend dedicating at least one full day in Seoul to explore the city’s bookstores and rare books market. While most of the antiquarian bookstores specialize in Korean-language texts—in other words, you’ll need to know some Korean, either written or verbal, to have a good chance of locating an author you’ve set out to find—several of the book-buying options in South Korea’s capital city also have books written in other East Asian languages, as well as in English and other Western languages. Earlier this year, we spent a Read More
  • Malcolm Bradbury's Personal and Literary Legacy

    Wed, 07 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When Sir Malcolm Bradbury died in 2000, it seemed the entirety of London literary culture mourned. Here was a man who had written a trove of delightful novels, taught countless students, and advocated tirelessly for the advancement of the written word. His death sparked something different from the usual public grieving process. Where many authors are lamented because there will be no more books, this man was mourned because there would be no more Bradbury. Read More
  • A Brief History of Woodcut Illustrations

    Tue, 06 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Though illustrations are today mostly synonymous with children’s literature, techniques for printing illustrations were developed and employed at almost the very moment the printing press entered use. And while contemporary publishers have a variety of methods at their disposal for mixing images and text, in the 15th century it was all about the woodcuts. Read More
  • Tortilla Flat: A Little Book and a Big Controversy

    Sat, 03 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On May 28, 1935, the world saw the release of Tortilla Flat. It would become John Steinbeck’s first truly successful book, heralding the arrival of a truly distinguished American voice. Steinbeck later went on to write more ambitious novels like East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, ultimately leading the author to a Nobel Prize in Literature. But before all that pomp and regard, there was a slim, comic novel about jolly laborers passing time in California. Read More
  • Best Books from Postcolonial Sudan

    Fri, 02 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    With the relatively recent creation of South Sudan and the redrawing of national borders in Eastern Africa, many of us might not immediately think of literary fiction when we hear a reference to this part of the world. Yet Sudanese literature has played—and continues to play—an important role in reshaping the ways we thinking about postcolonial fiction and its impact on world politics. According to an article* in The Guardian, Sudan is one of the many places on the globe that has become a victim of the “single story,” so to speak: “the one-note depiction of Sudan merely as a Read More
  • Six Interesting Facts About Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Author of Tarzan

    Thu, 01 Sep 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Recently, popular culture saw Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan resurrected once again for the silver screen. But The Legend of Tarzan, a blockbuster treatment of the much-cinematized hero, was received overall to mild acclaim. The problem seemed for both critics and audiences that the story itself was old. And in this moment, it pays to remember the time, place, and person the story came from. Read More
  • The Stories of American Immigrants

    Wed, 31 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" ~ The New Colossus These words have greeted thousands upon thousands of immigrants throughout the course of history, immigrants who often brought no more than the clothes on their backs, a few suitcases, and a story waiting to be told. Read More
  • The Top Five Children's Books By Virginia Lee Burton

    Tue, 30 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Virginia Lee Burton won critical acclaim and the heartfelt approval of generations of readers, young and old. How did she accomplish this? She did it by first securing the endorsement of her own two children. Her young sons, Ari and Michael, like all children in Burton’s estimation, were “very frank critics.” By gauging their responses, she would adjust her stories and her illustrations to make sure that she not only captured but also maintained their attention.  Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: Fantastic French Libraries

    Sat, 27 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    France has always been an important site in terms of history, culture, religion, and philosophy. As a result, it is home to some of the oldest and most beautiful libraries in the world. These libraries house collections impressive both due to their size and their age. Let's take a look at some of France's most important libraries. Read More
  • Everything You Need to Know About Two Ponds Press

    Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Two Ponds Press has a vision: to celebrate and reinvent the fine art press. The Press succeeds in doing just that by working with artists from all over the world to create new and exciting pieces of fine printing. The works are something to behold, and the Press is currently in the process of crafting books that include poetry, children’s lit, culinary art, photography, and much more. Read on for a brief introduction to the works of Two Ponds Press and more about the process and people behind them. Read More
  • Kingsley and Martin Amis' Family Rivalry

    Thu, 25 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There’s hardly a more memorable father-son duo in modern literature than Kingsley and Martin Amis. “Duo,” though, may not be the most accurate term. The pair never worked together, nor did they much agree as far as their art was concerned. In fact, each man was distinct in temperament and personality, and wrote novels unique to their own aims and tastes. Differ as they may, both have offered a powerful portrait of their time and place, with rich narrative voices to bring their visions to life. Read More
  • Reading Borges into Dickens

    Wed, 24 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Walter Benjamin, in his 1940 ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ discusses the way in which historical narratives constantly reshuffle themselves. Because we can’t see into the future, he says, history always leads to the precise moment of the present, and must change with each new historical moment in order to seem coherent. As it is with history, so too is it with the literary canon. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851) was transmuted from a rare flop by a popular author to one of the most important works in English only when it became clear that novels of the 20th century Read More
  • Seven Perfect Summer Reads by Nelson DeMille

    Tue, 23 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    As summer slowly comes to an end, lazy afternoons feel stickier than usual. The air is still, the trees are quiet, and humidity hangs over the front porch like a blanket. On days like these, I find a box fan and a suspenseful novel help pick up the pace. For a quick and captivating read, consider one (or many!) of these seven Nelson DeMille novels. Read More
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