Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Three Writers Who Knew What Was So Great About Gatsby

    Sun, 10 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby gives us one of the most illustrious characters in fiction, Jay Gatsby. Narrated by character Nick Carroway, the novel explores issues of class, decadence, and obsession in the jazz-soaked Roaring Twenties. Since its publication in 1925, The Great Gatsby has sold over twenty-five million copies. It has been adapted into plays, ballets, an opera, a radio show, and seven movies, most notably the 2013 Baz Lurhman film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey MacGuire, and Carey Mulligan. Francis Cugat's iconic blue cover art can be found on t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags. The novel is found Read More
  • 4 Hans Christian Andersen Stories That Are Way Stranger Than You Think

    Sat, 09 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Hans Christian Andersen is a strange and fascinating figure who wrote a great many stories for children. His name is synonymous with love, splendor, and the wonderment of childhood. His own childhood was less than perfect, existing in deep poverty as the child of an illiterate washerwoman. He left his first life at 14 to find a new one with a wealthy family. He spun this fortune into a career in the arts, finding his mark with children’s stories in 1835. From there he remained a servant to the child’s ear, and his work has spawned retellings, both comical and Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts about Barbara Kingsolver

    Fri, 08 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Bean Trees (1988) and Prodigal Summer (2000), has developed a reputation as one of the most compelling, politically-charged authors of the last 50 years. After a life of activism and travel that included a few childhood years living in the Congo, as well as a significant amount of scientific training, Kingsolver ultimately found much success (and a place on Oprah’s Book Club) with her 1998 novel The Poisonwood Bible, which depicts characters whose lives are impacted by the political strife of the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. Here are some interesting facts about her.   Read More
  • Donald Barthelme: Postmodern Master

    Thu, 07 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Donald Barthelme is best known for his surreal and postmodern short fiction and novels which he published from the 196os through the 1980s. His style has been described as concise and humorous and he as a master of irony and form. His father disapproved of the postmodern attitudes Barthelme's works embody to the extent that his novels, The King and The Dead Father, are inspired by their strained relationship. In his lifetime, he published four novels and over one hundred short stories. Read More
  • 3 Rare Editions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When you hear the phrase ‘great American novel,’ a few titles immediately jump to mind. The Grapes of Wrath. The Great Gatsby. Catcher in the Rye. But long before these classic novels helped redefine what is meant by the ‘great American novel,’ Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn defined the term in such a way that the novel is still regarded today as perhaps one of the most seminal works in the American literary landscape. First published in the United States in 1885—the novel was actually released in December 1884 in the U.K.—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn chronicles the title character’s Read More
  • Copper Canyon's Release of "The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda"

    Tue, 05 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda hasn’t been alive—at least in physical form—since September 1973. Yet his work continues to live on, and often in unexpected ways. In June 2014, archivists at the Fundación Pablo Neruda in Santiago, Chile discovered a series of boxes that contained poems written by Neruda and published only in Spanish by Seix Barral. However, in many ways these poems became “lost” to a global audience as they were never translated into English. Thus, the project became known as “The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda.” This month, the book is set to become available to Read More
  • Announcing Our 2016 Rare Book School Scholarship Winner!

    Mon, 04 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    We love rare books. We love librarians. We love Rare Book School. As a result, we’re excited to be able to send one deserving librarian to an RBS course for free. After reading through dozens of noteworthy applications, Books Tell You Why is delighted to announce the winner of our first annual Rare Book School Scholarship: Rosemary K. J. Davis. Read on for more information about Davis’s work, and please join us in congratulating her on her accomplishment. Read More
  • Book Traces Interview with Professor Andrew Stauffer

    Sun, 03 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There’s an exciting new project at the University of Virginia that highlights the significance of the book as a physical object and the individual histories of library books. At a moment in which the physicality of university libraries (and others across the country) are under threat of depletion due to the looming presence of the electronic text, we couldn’t imagine a more compelling project than Book Traces. It’s a crowd-sourced web project sponsored by NINES at the University of Virginia, and it’s led by Andrew Stauffer, a professor of 19th-century literature at UVA. We had a chance to catch up Read More
  • Remembering Imre Kertész (1929-2016)

    Sat, 02 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On March 31, 2016, author, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust concentration camp survivor Imre Kertész passed away. Today, we pay tribute to him and all that he taught us through his life and work. To experience the Holocaust before the word was invented, before it had historical context, before it was what it has become in our cultural narrative, when it was just something that was occurring, when the larger questions of humanity were beyond reason and the truth of what was necessary boiled down to moment-to-moment survival...this is the story of the man who won the Noble Prize in Literature Read More
  • Books Tell You Why Acquires Shakespeare-Signed First Folio

    Fri, 01 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There is probably no English language book more significant than Shakespeare’s Complete Works. It's impossible to imagine our artistic heritage without this remarkable volume, printed in the first half of the seventeenth century. To this day, Shakespeare remains the most written-about author, and the hardest influence for today's writers to avoid. That is why it is with immense excitement that Books Tell You Why announces its own acquisition of an incredible Shakespeare-signed First Folio. Read More
  • From Gogol's Overcoat: Nikolai Gogol's Life and Legacy

    Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nikolai Gogol's name has become synonymous with Russian literature. In fact, Fyodor Dostoyevsky said that all Russian realist writers had "come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat,'” a reference to one of Gogol's most beloved stories, “The Overcoat.” But this influence over Russian works and on the larger literary community almost did not happen. Though Gogol achieved success at a young age, his career was marked with a variety of failures. Despite this, his remarkable literary legacy—which includes works such as Dead Souls, Arabesques, and The Fair at Sorochyntsi—shines on. Read More
  • Buying Antiquarian Books in Spain

    Wed, 30 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re planning a trip to Spain and you like to think of yourself as a book collector, then you’re in luck. The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) lists more than 40 shops selling rare and antiquarian books in various parts of the country, from storefronts in Sevilla in the southern part of Spain to those in Bilbao in the north. Depending on where you travel in the country, the makeup of the cities—from language to culture—varies widely. Anyone who has been to Catalonia will tell you that Catalan, as opposed to Spanish, is the primary language spoken. And Read More
  • Conrad, Madox, and Hemingway: Uncommon Commonalities

    Tue, 29 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The world was a much bigger place in the early part of the 20th Century. Communication was slower, transportation was relegated primarily to ships and trains, and the odds of connecting and interacting with like-minded creatives were much slimmer in an age without text messages and email.  Yet even with massive geographical and cultural obstacles, three literary titans managed to influence each other, cross paths, and even collaborate to create some of the most vibrant and interesting contributions to the literary arts.  Read More
  • The Remarkable Life and Work of Mario Vargas Llosa

    Mon, 28 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mario Vargas Llosa may be one of the finest writers of his generation, but that is not all the man does. His passion for language is coupled with his passion for book collecting and a desire to do great works as well as write them. Among numerous other endeavors, he is finding his place on the stage, and he has recently donated two massive collections to the Arequipa Regional Library. Along with his ongoing commitment to donate further from his personal collection, this donation brings the total number of volumes into the tens of thousands.   Read More
  • The Rewards of Louis Simpson's Poetry

    Sun, 27 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, said poetry is something only two in a thousand people really care about. It may have been the poet’s invented statistic, but it doesn’t sound far off the mark. When was the last time, after all, you saw someone in the cafe invested in a collection of verse? A poetic debut tends not to generate the same buzz as a novel or new biography. What gives? Why has the preferred mode of Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare come to be so...neglected? Read More
  • Nine Interesting Facts About Tennessee Williams

    Sat, 26 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Tennessee Williams—along with Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill—was one of the most well-respected American playwrights of the 20th century. His seminal works, like The Glass Menagerie (1944) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), helped to redefine the standards not just of drama but of film and television. After all, A Streetcar Named Desire famously helped to launch Marlon Brando’s illustrious career. Though many are aware of the generally tragic trajectory that took the great artist through depression and alcoholism, his personal life hasn’t always drawn the same sort of interest as that of other writers. Here are nine interesting facts about him Read More
  • Hello, Mr. Bond: 10 James Bond Villains You Should Know

    Fri, 25 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s often said you can’t have a hero without a villain. Throughout so many of our most beloved stories, novels, and series, what shines just as brightly as the hero is the counterpoint he or she must reckon with and ultimately defeat. These conflicts between the good guy and the bad guy are the meat and potatoes of much of action-adventure literature, and it’s no understatement to say that the James Bond series contains some of the meatiest, most diabolical villains in the spy novel genre. Read More
  • How to Make a Living as a Writer, According to Jack London

    Thu, 24 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    America has a long history of great writers, but a rather shorter history of paying them. Herman Melville, not unlike Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, died with practically no money from his work. One of the first people to make a writer’s living in this country was Jack London. Most famous for his novel, The Call of the Wild, London was a diverse writer, and he was decidedly prudent in aligning himself with America’s booming periodical industry. Read More
  • Morocco in the Literary Imagination

    Wed, 23 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Morocco is a place that has long captivated the Western imagination, both for good and for bad. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine classical Hollywood cinema without thinking of Casablanca, Michael Curtiz’s 1942 wartime screen gem starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. While none of the film was actually shot on location in the country (in fact, the entire city of Casablanca depicted in the film was created at the Warner Brothers studio), it continues to introduce audiences to the city of the same name on the Moroccan coast. And just over a decade later, Alfred Hitchcock actually shot The Man Read More
  • Randolph Caldecott: The Man Behind the Medal

    Tue, 22 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    We all know the name, but few know the person. Behind the Caldecott Medal is the legacy of a man named Randolph Caldecott, born in England in 1846. By the end of his life he was a world-famous illustrator whose work sold in the hundreds of thousands. Children loved his drawings, especially adoring the color and energy of his work. Today, the Caldecott Medal honors illustrators who bring joy to children with stories, just as Randolph did 150 years ago. Yet the Caldecott Medal also commemorates what we have been deprived of—Randolph Caldecott had a too-brief career, passing away at Read More
  • World Poetry Day: Ten Poets You Should Read

    Mon, 21 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Before sitting down to write this article, I tried to imagine a world without poets. I envisioned Romeo explaining his love to Juliet with a pie chart, and Maya Angelou’s gaze passing over a caged songbird with resigned indifference. Indeed, a world without poets would be a world painfully absent of artists who are fully awake to the human experience, allowing raw emotion to course through their veins and manifest itself through the ink of their pen. To honor their literary contributions on World Poetry Day, here are ten poets you should read. Read More
  • The Rhythm of a Writer: The Unlikely Journey of Bill Martin Junior

    Sun, 20 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Most of us who have children, or have been children, can find ourselves murmuring, “A told B and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree” the way others absentmindedly hum a song from the radio. The knowledge that he once wanted his work to be compared to jazz music is no great surprise, as Bill Martin Jr. penned many books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom—a story about an alphabet made up of naughty lowercase letters who climb up a coconut tree and are sent crashing down only to be rescued by their uppercase parents—all Read More
  • Collecting Winnie-the-Pooh

    Sat, 19 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    To know Winnie-the-Pooh is to love Winnie-the-Pooh. And thanks in large part to Disney and the commercialization of the beloved classic children’s literature character, almost everyone knows Winnie-the-Pooh. Walk into any store and you’ll see Pooh pajamas, Pooh placemats, Pooh picture frames, and countless other Pooh-inspired paraphernalia. It’s safe to say the image of Pooh is a familiar one. But what about the original A.A. Milne books that contain the stories and poetry that inspire the still-going-strong Pooh parade? They are what dedicated Winnie-the-Pooh collectors are seeking, and they are our focus today. Looking to add to or begin your Read More
  • Why You Should Read the Works of Bohumil Hrabal

    Fri, 18 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Bohumil Hrabal was a Czech novelist and essayist whose work perhaps best depicts the tragicomedies of politics and everyday life. He was born in Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic (after Prague), on March 28, 1914. At the time of Hrabal’s birth, however, Brno was one of many Eastern European cities within the Austro-Hungarian empire. And during Hrabal’s lifetime, he’d see those national borders that defined his urban life continue to shift as both Brno and Prague became part of Czechoslovakia (1918-1993) and later the Czech Republic. His fiction has been adapted for the screen on more than Read More
  • Something Like Poetry: Harold Budd's (Beautifully Bound) Verse

    Thu, 17 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the literary world, talented people are always poised to surprise you. Winston Churchill, for instance, on top of being a tremendous statesman, also won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his historical and biographical writings. Legendary basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is in the midst of developing a literary name for himself. And while there are plenty of musicians, like Bob Dylan and John Lennon, whose literary forays didn’t stand the test of time, it’s not uncommon for the reverse to be true. John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats, for example, was recently long-listed for the National Book Award for Read More
  • Practically Magic: The Works of Alice Hoffman

    Wed, 16 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The genre of magical realism is a favorite for many because it taps into the reality of what it means to be human while also immersing readers in magical elements that capture the imagination. One contemporary master of this well-loved genre is Alice Hoffman. Hoffman earned a Master of Arts in creative writing at Stanford University. During her time there, she published her first short story, At the Drive-In, in Fiction magazine. The story caught the eye of editor Ted Solotaroff and ultimately led to the publication of her first novel, Property Of, in 1977. Hoffman has been writing prolifically Read More
  • Five Influential Books by Nadine Gordimer

    Tue, 15 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    One of the most prominent literary voices for political freedom and racial equality in South Africa, Nadine Gordimer wrote fifteen novels, more than two hundred short stories, and numerous other essays and works of criticism. Gordimer resided in Johannesburg, South Africa, a city that features prominently in her fiction. After her death in 2014, literary magazines across the world published tributes to the writer and her role in the anti-apartheid movement. Gordimer’s literature remains essential to any consideration of the relationship between fiction and politics. With so many works to choose from, where should a reader begin? Tracking a career Read More
  • Welcome to Middle Earth: Collecting Unusual Tolkien Publications

    Mon, 14 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When you hear the name of certain authors, you immediately draw associations with a style or idea. Hemingway = ex-patriotism. Fitzgerald = The Jazz Age. Kerouac = The Beats and their nomadic existence. And J.R.R. Tolkien = bringing the fantasy and science-fiction genres into the mainstream consciousness. Read More
  • The Fitting Friendship of Kazuo Ishiguro and Caryl Phillips

    Sun, 13 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    A reader is commonly excited by a friendship between great authors. If only one could have eavesdropped on the conversations of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Or to have been a fly on the wall in Geneva, as Lord Byron and Shelley chatted the night away (Percy Shelley, that is—Mary Shelley maintained a polite dislike for the Don Juan poet). These friendships, naturally, have perished with their authors. But that does not mean our age is without its own. One of today’s most remarkable literary alliances is to be found in the friendship between novelists Kazuo Ishiguro and Caryl Phillips. Read More
  • Six Things You Didn't Know About Virginia Hamilton

    Sat, 12 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Children’s book author Virginia Hamilton was a writer of firsts. She was the first to win several major awards and distinctions as a children’s book author, woman, and African American. She was the first person in her family to receive a proper post-secondary education. She was the first writer to chronicle the adolescent African American experience. And she is the first in the minds of many when it comes to black, female writers who have ascended to the top of American literary landscape. Read More
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