Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • 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
  • The Brontë Society's Bicentennial Brawl

    Sat, 20 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Literary societies have been around for hundreds of years. Cornell's Browning Society dates back to 1877. The society, dedicated to the study and promotion of Robert Browning's poetry, led to more widespread popularity of the poet to the point that he acknowledged the society's critical role in his career. Similar societies sprang up, inspired by the Browning group, and today many groups exist for a variety of writers. Some groups focus mostly as social clubs in which hobbyists gather with other like-minded fans to discuss the objects of their literary affection, while others are more scholarly, focusing on discussion, research, Read More
  • VLOG: The Art of Fine Bookbinding

    Fri, 19 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Few simple things in life are as satisfying as opening the cover and flipping through the pages of a brand new book. This is perhaps exponentially more true for those who work in the art of bookbinding by hand. Indeed, bookbinding is something to behold. Binders must be meticulous with every bit of stacking, folding, glueing, and stitching; and there is also the design aspect of the binding to consider. For those who are unfamiliar with bookbinding, we've compiled a few introductory videos to give you a taste of the beautiful work being done by fine binders. Read More
  • Specialist Announces Earliest Dust Jacket Dates from 1819

    Thu, 18 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Even among bibliophiles, the subject of early dust jackets is an often unexplored area of knowledge. Yet early dust jackets have an important place in book history: they reflect historical attitudes towards bookbinding, publishing, and advertising. The mystery and challenge of the dust jacket is that as they were initially intended to be disposable, few early examples remain today. In fact, no one knows with any certainty when dust jackets were first produced by publishers. Early dust jacket specialist, Mark Godburn, suggests that less than one percent of the total number issued now survive and writes that there is no Read More
  • Eight Fascinating Facts about V.S. Naipaul

    Wed, 17 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Born in Trinidad in 1932, V.S. Naipaul earned a Nobel Prize in Literature “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories." Naipaul struggled in the fledgling years of his writerly life to find a distinct voice, first in Trinidad and later during his tumultuous years at Oxford. He would show off that vaunted scrutiny in his earlier comic novels before taking the same blend of high style and high insight to a career’s worth of more tragic novels and travel writing. For the sheer power with which colonial Read More
  • Why We Can Stop Reading Charles Bukowski

    Tue, 16 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In certain cases, the persona of the writer outsizes the body of writing itself. There are few examples of this clearer than the one set by the poet and novelist Charles Bukowski. He committed to his pages the environment he knew best—that of lowlifes, the forgotten, and the destitute. This sort of life—with all its modest adventures to be found in saloons, motels, booze, and sex—has captivated the adolescent mind for years. And it should not surprise us that these readers are the chief reason Bukowski is kept alive at all. Read More
  • William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury in Color

    Sat, 13 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Each year, The Folio Society publishes a number of limited editions. Each of the books, according to The Folio Society, are “strictly limited, bound to order and numbered by hand”, and they are “outstanding works of literary or historical significance.” Back in 2012, a Folio Society limited edition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929) became available to collectors. What was so unique about this limited edition was that it reproduced the colored print pattern—in all 14 colors imagined by Faulkner—to guide the reader through the novel. Yet in the 1920s, such printing practices were nearly unheard of Read More
  • Walter Dean Myers' Impact on Young Adult Literature

    Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Walter Dean Myers wrote over one hundred books for children and young adult readers. The author dedicated his life to writing books that accurately portrayed life in an urban environment, creating realistic portrayals of African American youths in stories that appeal to children of all races and backgrounds. Read More
  • Science Fiction Book by A.I. Written in Japan

    Thu, 11 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    How unique are individual novelists? Are works of fiction the products of distinct, creative minds, or could an algorithm actually produce some of the texts we’ve all come to know and love? According to an article* in Slate, a novel co-written in Japan by A.I. (or, artificial intelligence) recently competed for a Japanese literary prize. Should we be excited or concerned about the latest development? Or, should we be more critical of attempts to use technology for cultural production? Read More
  • Postwar Germany in the Works of W.G. Sebald

    Wed, 10 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Whose role is it to write postwar German fiction? Since World War II ended, numerous writers of great acclaim have come out of West Germany and the GDR, and later from reunified Germany. For instance, you might be familiar with the works of the West German novelists Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass, or with the GDR literature of Christa Wolf. While many writers of the immediate postwar period returned to the rise of Nazi Germany and its aftermath in their works, W.G. Sebald is a bit of an interesting case. Read More
  • Six Facts About Henry David Thoreau's Walden

    Tue, 09 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On August 9, 1854, Henry David Thoreau published his book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods. It narrates—with an ample serving of artistic intervention—its author’s experiment to live divorced from society, in an effort to uncover better ways of living. “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” he writes in a manifesto-like paragraph of Walden, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” Read More
  • Alfred and Maud: Tennyson's Favorite Tennyson

    Sat, 06 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Alfred, Lord Tennyson remains the Oxford English Dictionary’s ninth most-quoted individual, and to look at his CV is to understand why. Named Poet Laureate of Great Britain upon the death of William Wordsworth in 1850, Tennyson’s poems have left an indelible mark not just on poetry but on the English language as a whole. “Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all,” entered (and remained in) the lexicon by way of Tennyson’s masterpiece In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849), while “Theirs not to reason why, /Theirs but to do and die” comes to us from “The Charge Read More
  • What to Read for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games

    Fri, 05 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Tonight, as soon as the torch is lit at the Rio Summer Olympics, the world will have its eyes fixed on television screens across the globe. Watching the events of the Games has been an international tradition since we've had TVs in our homes. Yet what’s less common is to get into the Olympics spirit not by watching, but by reading. They may not be as immediate as a live stream broadcast of the high-dive, but good Olympics books can do you a lot of good. Read More
  • Collecting Rare Cookbooks

    Thu, 04 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you thinking about creating a new book collection? Do you like to cook? Do you like to eat? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you might do well to learn more about collecting rare and vintage cookbooks. As you might imagine, there are cookbooks of all sorts out there to be had. Today, we’d like to focus on two possible paths for your collection: books written and signed by famous chefs, and rare cookbooks of writers and artists. Read More
  • Let's Get Some Sun: A Literary Tour of Florida

    Wed, 03 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many, Florida is something of a no man’s land—a state whose cultural and geographic regions make for an eclectic, disparate mix of traditions and heritage, incorporating southern culture from the north and Caribbean influences from the south. It’s a state brimming with swampland and beachfront, with incongruities like the Everglades and the Keys, a combination attracting a diverse population and cross-section of people who desire for an even more diverse literature that speaks to their experience as Floridians. Read More
  • Holling C. Holling: Stories and Lessons

    Tue, 02 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Who, as a child, has not at least entertained the idea of tying a note to a balloon and sending it out into the great beyond, or scrolling a message in a bottle and tossing it into the sea? The thought of something we authored soaring over the landscape or riding the tides to eventually connect with someone far away is almost as thrilling as going on an adventure ourselves. It may be this innate desire for exploration and connection beyond our backyards—beyond our borders—that has led to the timeless popularity of the children’s books written by Holling C. Holling. Read More
  • Read More Poetry: The Robert Frost Edition

    Mon, 01 Aug 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    We’ve often argued that the world needs to read more poetry. After all, without poetry we wouldn’t hear “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore’” (Edgar Allan Poe), or be heartened by the fact that “You may kill me with your hatefulness,/But still, like air, I’ll rise.” (Maya Angelou), or learn all about “Alexander Hamilton/My name is Alexander Hamilton/And there’s a million things I haven’t done/But just you wait, just you wait…” (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 excerpts Read More
  • How the Paperback Book Transformed American Culture

    Sat, 30 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The paperback has been around since the Civil War, but it wasn’t until steam-powered printing presses and the growing technology that impacted the ability to produce, transport, and sell cheaper versions of heavier hardbacked bound volumes that the paperback truly began to impact the way Americans read and how they viewed the world. With the opportunity to read more, write more, and experience direct variety in our reading habits, the paperback caused a small revolution. To witness it, you’d only have to look as far as the new revolving book stands at the local drug store. Read More
  • Mixed Reviews of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring

    Fri, 29 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    As a community of readers and writers, we are all too familiar with the sentiments of Bilbo Baggins. “Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you're right. I often think of Bag End. I miss my books. And my armchair. And my garden. See, that's where I belong. That's home…” We are a people torn between reading about adventures, and creating one of our own—rising from the safety of our armchairs to take on the persona of the heroes and heroines we’ve grown to know and love. Of course, leaving our comfort zones always comes Read More
  • Little Known Facts About Beatrix Potter

    Thu, 28 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Beatrix Potter is best known for her charming children's books filled with her own illustrations of the animals that inhabit them. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, has delighted children for years with its story of naughty young rabbit Peter defying his mother's rules and slipping under the gate in Mr. McGregor's garden to eat vegetables rather than going with his sisters to gather blackberries down the lane. Her books featuring such delightful characters as Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin, and Peter's cousin Benjamin Bunny are in print today and can be found in nurseries and libraries across the world. While Potter's Read More
  • The Big Apple: Four New York City Writers You Should Be Reading

    Wed, 27 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the pantheon of American arts and letters, few cities loom larger than New York City. The center of American publishing since the earliest days of the enterprise, New York City has, at one time or another, played host to a number of the country’s most daring, innovative, and influential authors. Entire literary scenes and schools have emerged, developed, and faded in the city’s numerous boroughs. Some of the most infamous relationships between writers have been forged in the city’s storied cafes and bars. It’s the one place in America where the literati congregate: where the aspiring bring their stories Read More
  • George Bernard Shaw: The Art of Quotation

    Tue, 26 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Good booze, beautiful scenery, and wit are the very things Ireland is perhaps known best for. The country’s long history of strife and oppression has given its people a talent for insight and humor. An analysis of the sharpest wits in the English language reveal a lopsided representation of Ireland, with a stacked roster represented by the likes of Swift, Sterne, Wilde, and Behan. And strong as they may be, such a list would be incomplete without the inclusion of playwright and Nobel Prize-winner George Bernard Shaw. Read More
  • The History of the Pulps

    Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    One of the less-remembered truths about the world of books is that, for much of their history, books were expensive. Even in the eighteenth century, owning more than a few books was a marker of middle class status. This fact, of course, did nothing to negate the desire that exists within almost everyone to be taken in by stories. As such, the nineteenth century saw a rise in deliberate attempts to produce inexpensive reading material, the most memorable of which efforts took the forms of the penny dreadful and the dime novel. Cheaply produced on low quality paper, these alternatives Read More
  • The Legend of the Pied Piper

    Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Deep within the children’s section of the local library, is an old dusty copy of classic fairytales. Behind the faded cover lives stories of heroism, nobility, and true love; stories that eagerly fill the minds of young dreamers everywhere. However, dwelling amongst the “once upon a times” and “happily ever afters” is a far more sinister tale of rat infestation, broken promises, and the disappearance of an entire city’s children. Read More
  • The Top Five Children's Libraries From Around the World

    Thu, 21 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Libraries are not just for adults, and they are a wonderfully international experience. Go anywhere in the world and you’ll find a place to gain access, have fun, and get an education. These are five of our favorite children's libraries from around the world. Read More
  • In Praise of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian

    Wed, 20 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In recent years, a string of successful film adaptations has brought the work of Cormac McCarthy into a wide, national spotlight. But to many of his dedicated readers, the crowning achievement of the author’s fifty-year career is his 1985 novel, Blood Meridian. The story concerns a band of Indian scalpers, circa 1850, and their campaign along the Mexican-American border. The novel’s vision, severely violent and infernal, has put many readers off, but galvanized all the more. Read More
  • Collecting Indigenous Sámi Literature

    Tue, 19 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’ve read anything about Sámi culture or literature recently, it may have been through Vendela Vida’s novel Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name: A Novel (2007). While many works of indigenous literature have received international acclaim over the last century, Sámi fiction and poetry has remained relatively obscured from global readership. In case you’re not familiar with Sámi history or culture, we can give you a brief background. The Sámi are an indigenous group with geographic ties to the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. According to a presentation before UNESCO and the Nordic World Heritage Read More
  • How Theodor Geisel Became Dr. Seuss

    Sat, 16 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Theodor Geisel, known today as Dr. Seuss, was a student of English literature in his youth. While attending Oxford to get a Ph.D. in the 1920s, his future-wife persuaded him to pursue his dreams as a writer and illustrator. He returned home to the United States, with little experience other than a stint as editor of Dartmouth’s humor magazine, the Jack-O-Lantern. He submitted pieces to publishers and periodicals. It was a long slog, but he eventually made his debut with a cartoon in the July 16, 1927 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. His pay was $25—enough encouragement for the Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts About Clive Cussler

    Fri, 15 Jul 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    While not necessarily as well known as Tom Clancy or Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler has for many years been one of the acknowledged masters of techno-fiction, a genre that blends science fiction, spy novels, and adventure stories. While someone like Crichton has become renowned for the realism and meticulous attention to detail that characterizes his works, Clive Cussler has made a name for himself over the course of more than 70 books by emphasizing the sort of swashbuckling, credulity-defying adventure that can be traced back to Robert Louis Stevenson and others. Here are five interesting facts about him. Read More
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