Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Five Facts About Thomas Hardy

    Thu, 02 Jun 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thomas Hardy’s long life, spanning from 1840 to 1928, positions him between two critical points in literary history. His legacy connects the masterful British writers like Wordsworth and Eliot to the era of Modernism that culminated in the likes of Woolf and that other, more poetic Eliot. Hardy’s most significant work spans some five decades, comprising novels and poetry that today are regarded as classics of the canon. Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Moonraker

    Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If there’s one overarching fear authors experience when creating novel series, it’s repetition—drudging up the same plot twists and themes and motifs novel after novel until each story essentially becomes a parody of itself. In fact, Ian Fleming expressed that very sentiment to friends and confidants during the early stages of writing his third Bond novel, Moonraker. But if Fleming had any anxieties about rehashing material from Casino Royale and Live and Let Die, those trepidations did not present in the final product. Moonraker, which many consider to be Fleming’s best Bond novel—noted author and close friend Noel Coward remarked Read More
  • Ten Patriotic Reads for Memorial Day

    Mon, 30 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many in the U.S., Memorial Day is the calendar date that marks the beginning of sweet summertime. Students become restless at their desks, pontoon boats are pulled out of winter storage, and Dads across the Midwest poke their head outside and casually suggest “throwing something on the grill" for dinner. In the midst of sunny afternoons spent living the American Dream, it is easy to forget that our freedom has never been free. Memorial Day is a time to honor those fallen in service to our country. Unless one has served in the military, it can be difficult to Read More
  • The Loneliness of T.H. White, the Man Who Wrote of Kings

    Sun, 29 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    T.H. White is the man best known for writing the King Arthur books; the ones about the young boy who pulls a sword from a stone and creates Camelot with his wizard mentor Merlin. These stories are beloved, retold, and have been reinvented as animated films and full scale musicals, even defining the time in America before the assassination of President Kennedy. Camelot, it seems, is a perfect place, one where there is no trouble, life is easy, and love is pure. White’s life, however, bore no resemblance to such a place, and his battle with alcohol, emotion, and his Read More
  • Rachel Carson: Mother of the Environmental Movement

    Fri, 27 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    For those of you who believe that climate change is the most significant threat facing the world right now, Rachel Carson should be your patron saint. A noted nature writer and a marine biologist by trade, Carson helped to usher in the modern environmentalist movement with her 1962 book Silent Spring, an indictment of pesticide overuse that is at once scathing and deeply unsettling to read. More than 50 years after her death, the deeply-held concern over the fate of the planet that she so scorchingly exemplified is a more powerful (and arguably much more urgent) force than ever. Read More
  • Alexander Pushkin & the Beginning of Russian Literature

    Thu, 26 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Russia holds a distinguished place in the vast world of modern literature. Insulated from the larger cultural trends of mainland Europe, it exploded onto the scene in the nineteenth century. It has produced some titanic names—Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov—and a string of others that will endure through the ages. What caused this impressive boom is unclear, but its origin is far easier to trace. Russia, that powerhouse of modern literature, begins with the poet Alexander Pushkin. Read More
  • Six Surprising Facts About Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ralph Waldo Emerson is a figure that speaks of New Hampshire, poetry, and a deep understanding of the world and nature. A man of great thought, deep contemplation, and vivid humor, Emerson has lived and existed within the canon of great literature for generations. Though he is an iconic figure, there a few interesting facts that might surprise you about the great poet. Read More
  • The Persistent Voice of Mikhail Sholokhov

    Tue, 24 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Good things take time” is an old adage that has been issued to almost everyone at one point or another in their lifetime. It flows from the mouths of professors as they warn their students not to wait until the night before to start their 15-page research paper, from coaches of disgruntled beginner athletes, and from parents attempting to convince their child to be more diligent in practicing their piano notes. With the boom of technology and the drive for convenience, it seems being patient grows more difficult with each passing day. Waiting for the Wi-Fi connection at a local Read More
  • Arnold Lobel: The Anatomy of a Fable

    Sun, 22 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The genesis of the fable is unclear, but its legacy is far-reaching. The name "Aesop" is synonymous with fables, although the stories themselves and their corresponding lessons had been handed down for generations before he recorded them several hundred years B.C. They made their first appearance in printed English in 1484. It is safe to say, then, that fables are an integral part of our collective literary and cultural history. Their lessons are universal and timeless. Who among us has not been exhorted to heed the lesson of the Hare and the Tortoise and remember that “slow and steady wins Read More
  • Home On the Range: Five Writers from the American Southwest

    Sat, 21 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Deserts. The Mojave. The Sonoran. The Chihuahuan. Vast, barren, dusty landscapes with skies that seem to stretch forever, and towering, jagged rock formations cut from the scorched earth. Cacti. Heat. Sun. In other words, tough country, both in terms of its topography and culture and politics. Conflict between American settlers and Native American Indians looms large in the history of this place, as does the often tortured relationship its inhabitants experience between calling this region home and striving to get out. But as we’ve seen time and time again with this series, great conflict often breeds great beauty, and writers Read More
  • Collecting Books with Woodcuts

    Fri, 20 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since the eighth century in Japan, woodcuts have been used for printing textiles and paper, and later for creating illustrations in books. According to an article* from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website, “woodcuts are produced by inking a raised surface against which a piece of paper is pressed, either manually or by running it through a press, to create an image on the paper.” Beginning in the fifteenth century, woodcuts served as illustrations in printed books, and many scholars attribute the first successful black-and-white woodcuts as book illustrations to Albrecht Dürer. By the mid-sixteenth century, woodcuts were replaced largely Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Live and Let Die

    Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The saying goes that an artist has his or her entire life to create their first major work, but only a few years to finish their second. It’s an adage often used to rationalize a drop-off in quality or ambition between an artist’s first two major pieces, which is an all too common occurrence. But Ian Fleming is perhaps the shining exception to this rule. Fleming’s second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die, was published April 5, 1954 and was completed just a few months before the release of the debut Bond novel, Casino Royale—in fact, some Bond scholars Read More
  • John Patrick: Workaholic of the Stage and Screen

    Tue, 17 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    One evening, John Patrick revved his chainsaw on the president of a power company’s lawn. The playwright wanted to run an extra power line to his new farm in New York state. Having received nothing but a string of empty promises, Patrick decided to take matters into his own hands. So he threatened to cut down the executive’s elm tree unless his concerns were properly addressed. The playwright knew a little about getting what he wanted—he had a Pulitzer Prize, after all. Read More
  • Collecting the Legendary L. Frank Baum

    Sun, 15 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    L. Frank Baum created one of the most enduring settings in all of literature—Oz—not to mention some of our most beloved characters. What’s more, his collected works established a brand of American fairy tale that had never before been seen and has since been the inspiration and influence for countless other writers as well as for children of all ages who are looking to find their place and purpose in the world. L. Frank Baum was a master, and it’s not surprising that his works are some of the most sought-after by book collectors. What follows is a brief discussion Read More
  • The Magic of Artemis Fowl and Eoin Colfer

    Sat, 14 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Author Eoin Colfer, best known for his Artemis Fowl series, was born in Wexford, Ireland in 1965. His parents instilled in him a love of reading at a young age. He developed an interest in writing in elementary school. Inspired by a history lesson, he began writing adventure stories featuring vikings. Colfer studied education at the University of Dublin and followed in his parents' footsteps to become a school teacher. He spent several years teaching abroad. His first book, Benny and Omar, was inspired by his time in Tunisia and published in 1998. Read More
  • Happy Limerick Day: A Brief History of the Limerick

    Thu, 12 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On May 12 each year, the international poetry community stops to recognize a quirky, off-kilter poetic form: the limerick. Celebrated on the birthday of English artist, illustrator, and poet Edward Lear (1812-1888), the holiday pays tribute to the five-line, rhyming form and to Lear himself, who helped popularize the form throughout his career. Read More
  • The Triumphant Artistic Vision of Camilo José Cela

    Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There are writers who write for the masses, those who write for fame, and those who write for the sake of art. There are others, like Camilo José Cela, who write with a voice to inform, excite, and evoke true response from others, all while still remaining true to himself. It is this virtue, this quest, that allowed the award-winning author to shape his nation’s literary heritage and earned him a spot in the canon of great writers. Read More
  • When Rivalry Begets Tragedy: The Astor Place Riot

    Tue, 10 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine a theatrical performance sparking a riot. Even the early twentieth century riots surrounding Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913) seem far-fetched to modern sensibilities. And the rowdiest of modern entertainments (like concerts or football matches) are only likely to produce mosh pits or individual exchanges of fisticuffs at worst. Perhaps that’s why the Shakespearean kerfuffle that sparked the Astor Place Riot stands out so noticeably in the historical record. Read More
  • Watership Down: An Improvised Classic and Bestseller

    Mon, 09 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Like many great successes, Watership Down began as a sort of accident. Richard Adams was driving his family to a production of Twelfth Night when his daughter asked him to tell a story. Put on the spot, he began with a humble sentence: “Once upon a time there were two rabbits, called eh, let me see, Hazel and Fiver, and I'm going to tell you about some of their adventures.” Soon enough, the invention of an entire world would follow. Read More
  • Great Books for Mother's Day

    Sun, 08 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On Mother’s Day, we pay a most humble tribute to our moms. For many of us, the love and care we receive from our mothers has no equal. If it were treated as a debt, we know a lifespan, let alone a day, would not provide nearly enough time to settle it. Luckily, it is no bill to be paid off. It is a ceremony of appreciation and tribute. And what better way to enrich this day than with some books? Perhaps you’re looking for a last-minute Mother’s Day gift. Perhaps you are a mother yourself looking for a timely Read More
  • Five Little Known Facts About Robert Browning

    Sat, 07 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Renowned English poet Robert Browning was born in 1812 in the London suburb of Camberwell. Finding school irritating and uninteresting, Browning left formal institutional learning behind and was educated at home by a tutor. He also utilized his father's six thousand volume personal library. By the time he was twelve, he had written his first volume of poetry, though the manuscript does not survive. The course of Browning's writing career is an interesting one. Initially, his poems and dramatic monologues were well received; Charles Dickens even offered him praise for his monologue, Paracelsus. But, as he continued writing and honing Read More
  • The Enduring Relevance of The Grapes of Wrath

    Fri, 06 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since its publication in 1939, John Steinbeck’s magnum opus The Grapes of Wrath has been one of the most read, most studied, and most talked about works of American literature. The novel earned Steinbeck a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize in addition to being cited by the committee that awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Indeed, Steinbeck’s depiction of the Joad family’s journey across Dust Bowl era America has been adapted for both stage and screen, in addition to being marked indelibly into the American imagination, finding new relevance with each passing generation. Read More
  • Five Mexican Authors You Should Read on Cinco de Mayo

    Thu, 05 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Contrary to common American belief, Cinco de Mayo is not, in fact, Mexican Independence Day, which is actually September 16. Rather, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating the Mexican Army's victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla. The battle was fought in 1862 in response to Napoleon III invading Mexico in an effort to claim debts owed and establish an empire in Latin America. While this victory itself did not win the war, it boosted the army's morale and proved to Mexican citizens that their country stood a chance against the greatest army in the world. Today Read More
  • Quo Vadis & Beyond: Henryk Sienkiewicz's Notable Works

    Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Polish-born author Henryk Sienkiewicz made a name for himself in his homeland as a journalist and novelist. His influence was great, and his writing was highly esteemed, and in 1905, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Sienkiewicz was the major literary figure in turn-of-the-century Poland. Still, having peaked in popularity and winning the Prize over a century ago, one may assume that much of Sienkiewicz’s work has faded into history, but the contrary remains true. Thanks to numerous quality translations, movie adaptations, and Sienkiewicz’s own ability to write compelling pieces, a number of his works are still quite Read More
  • Collecting the Complicated Classics of Caribbean Literature

    Tue, 03 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Maybe you visited the Bahamas on a recent vacation. Or perhaps you’ve enrolled in a postcolonial literature course. Whatever the reason, we’re excited anytime readers want to begin collecting the complicated classics of Caribbean literature. Why are the classics complicated, you ask? In short, the Caribbean is a fluid region that has been shaped by many different cultural practices from various regions of the globe. Given that the islands in this part of the world have been subject to colonization by numerous European nations while also playing a key geographic role in the transatlantic slave trade, the layers of Caribbean Read More
  • Władysław Reymont's Unlikely Journey to the Nobel Prize

    Mon, 02 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Before he won the Nobel Prize in 1924, Władysław Reymont lived like a vagabond. Trained to be a tailor, Reymont never worked a day in his trade. Instead, he preferred the company of traveling performers and dreamed of making it in show business. Life on stage took its toll, however, and Reymont returned home penniless and took up jobs he little enjoyed. He kept at his doomed theatrical dreams for a bit longer, that is, before he left them behind to become one of the greatest writers Poland has ever known. Read More
  • Four Examples of May Day in Literature

    Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many bibliophiles, the month of May means the beginning of summer—longer days, warmer weather, and the unofficial start of “beach read” season. But May 1 packs a much more significant historical and cultural punch, the essence of which many authors have tried to capture in their stories and novels during the last 100 years. Read More
  • Where Eternity Clips Time: The Transcendentalism of Annie Dillard

    Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When one reads Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854)—which finds Thoreau hosting frequent visitors in a cabin beside a tourist-infested lake—it’s easy to imagine that the author might not be well-suited to real, honest-to-goodness solitude. When one reads Annie Dillard, by contrast, it’s hard to imagine her enjoying anything but solitude. While Dillard—who gained significant acclaim as a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction pursuant to the publication of such works as The Writing Life (1989) and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)—essentially reprises Thoreau’s mission of transcendent solitude in nature with the latter book of nonfiction, her unique and fiery prose Read More
  • 5 Contemporary Poets You Should Be Reading Right Now

    Fri, 29 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry...Is there any other way?” That’s Emily Dickinson in the late 1870s talking about how she defines that inexplicable moment when a poem moves you—when a piece of poetry elicits an emotional, non-rational, sometimes transcendent response as you subconsciously identify with an image, a moment, a phrase, a scene. It’s an experience that’s often difficult to intellectualize and describe, and sadly, one that many casual readers can’t easily access as poetry is pushed more and more to the fringes of contemporary publishing, Read More
  • Revisiting the Good (and Bad) Aspects of Go Set a Watchman's Release

    Thu, 28 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In February, the New York Post discovered Harper Lee had been keeping a Manhattan apartment for ten years. She renewed the lease on the enviable, $900-per-month Upper East Side dwelling just a few months prior to her death. Her neighbors remembered her fondly, noting her love of Sunday crosswords. The local butcher too recalled her kind requests for select cuts of meat. Lee had not visited the apartment since her stroke in 2007, but it is remarkable how this secret had been preserved until the very end. Especially when one considers the public appetite for all things Harper Lee. Read More
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