Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Philip Pullman: Teacher, Writer, and a Book Collector's Dream

    Thu, 29 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    “As a passionate believer in the democracy of reading, I don't think it's the task of the author of a book to tell the reader what it means…Anyway, I'm not in the message business; I'm in the "Once upon a time" business.” ~Philip Pullman The democracy of reading. The fact that every single person who picks up a Philip Pullman book (and the selection to choose from is a good one!) can and should form for him or herself the meaning and message between and within the lines. What a lovely thought! We like this idea. After all, it’s the Read More
  • Collecting Latin American Authors

    Wed, 28 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Latin American literature incorporates a variety of languages from Spanish and Portuguese to indigenous languages of Central and South America. Known for, but not exclusively devoted to, magical realism, Latin American literature came to worldwide notice in the 1960s an 1970s during a movement which is now known as the Latin American Boom. The boom, partially due to an exceptionally prosperous economic state throughout the continent, helped to a create an outpouring of literature that focused on the culture, language, people, and politics of a region that had not previously held a large place on the global stage. Since then, Read More
  • Muriel Wright: The Inspiration for Ian Fleming's James Bond Girls

    Fri, 23 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    The stories of James Bond have left readers and audiences mesmerized for decades, but the titular character can't take all the credit for their entertainment. Alongside the adventures of this daring and dangerous spy, there have always been supporting characters called the Bond Girls. They may be friend or foe, but no James Bond story would be complete without them. When author Ian Fleming first dreamed up the tales of Bond and his girls, was it all pure fantasy? Most speculate that a woman named Muriel Wright provided the inspiration for these legendary women. Read More
  • Five of the Best Western Novels

    Thu, 22 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    In place of Romulus and Remus, of Ra and Isis, Americans created two popular mythic heroes: the superhero and the cowboy. While the superhero has only grown in its capacity as one of the United States’ most recognizable cultural exports (and as cinema’s most lucrative subject), the Western genre has diminished in status, falling from the wide popularity on television it enjoyed as recently as 40 years ago. The shift has come with justifiable reason, as an increasingly skeptical audience finds it hard to identify heroism within a violent environment built on the deliberate extermination of the American Indian, and Read More
  • Five Works of Poetry You'll Never Get to Read 

    Wed, 21 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Jorge Luis Borges’ 1941 story "The Library of Babel", he describes an infinite library containing volumes that feature every possible combination of symbols. At one point, some of the inhabitants of this library go on a rampage, wantonly destroying many of the unique, unread books. While many of their fellow denizens are outraged that works with no copies have been expunged forever, they eventually reason that if the books really are infinite, then any particular destroyed volume will have an accompanying volume that is almost completely identical, and that, really, no harm can be done. I’m not sure whether Read More
  • The History of Children's Literature: 19th Century to Today

    Tue, 20 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    In part 1 of this series, we discussed how the history of children's literature can be traced back to the late 16th century. As time passed and more and more writers began to see the merit in writing books specifically for children, children's literature came into its own. The 19th century brought a whole new generation of writers to the field, and soon the golden age of children's literature was in full swing. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Prize Winners: Seamus Heaney and George Bernard Shaw

    Sat, 17 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Despite being a country of fewer than 5 million people, Ireland boasts four Nobel Prize in Literature winners: W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Becket, and Seamus Heaney. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s the highest Literature Nobel Laureates per capita outside of St. Lucia, which counted the late poet Derek Walcott among its 150,000 or so residents, even without James Joyce (who was famously snubbed) to round out the list. (Sweden appears to be a close third, with 8 prizes and a population just under 10 million). In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll be turning Read More
  • Hawthorne Heights: How John Updike Rewrote "The Scarlet Letter"

    Fri, 16 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Remember the film Easy A (2010), in which Emma Stone stars as a high-school student ostracized for her (invented) promiscuity? In the film, Stone’s character eventually takes to wearing a read letter “A” on her person in reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s seminal novel of adultery and Puritanism, The Scarlet Letter (1850), on which the film’s screenplay is partially based. In one sense, it’s amazing that Hawthorne’s novel, which was one of America’s first important literary works, continues to assert its cultural relevance in the 21st century. In another sense, though, we really oughtn’t be surprised. After all, there have been numerous Read More
  • John Steinbeck and the Nixon Novel that Never Was

    Thu, 15 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    John Steinbeck, born on February 27, 1902 in Salinas, California, would become one of American's most notable authors. Steinbeck established himself as an author in an era when accomplished authors held considerable clout. As a result, he one day found himself in a unique position: he held the upcoming United States presidential election in his hands. Read More
  • Why Travel Can Be an Important Part of Book Collecting

    Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    With so much book shopping and book collecting taking place on the internet these days, it might be difficult to imagine why travel can be an important part of building a rare or antiquarian book collection. We’ve become so reliant upon the internet for almost everything these days, and book buying is one of them. However, let me emphasize just how valuable it can be to travel to different parts of the United States and, indeed, different regions of the world, as you build your collection. When physical bookstores are available, not only can you engage with the book as Read More
  • 'March' and the National Book Award for Young People's Literature

    Fri, 09 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Whether you are searching for a new graphic novel to buy the kids or teenagers in your life, or if you are adding to an ever-expanding graphic novel collection of your own, we want to make sure you know about the March Trilogy. This three-book set from John Lewis, one of the key figures of the American Civil Rights Movement and current Georgia congressman, is a memoir about his “coming-of-age in the movement,” according to an article in The New York Times about the graphic memoir collection. The books are significant for anyone hoping to learn more about the history Read More
  • Twelve Women to Read on International Women's Day

    Thu, 08 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    International Women's Day is celebrated every year on March 8. It was inspired by a National Women's Day held in New York in 1909 as a response to a 1908 march for equal rights undertaken by 15,000 women. However, by the second year, the International Conference of Working Women decided that the holiday should expand worldwide. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1975 and declared an international holiday in all participating states. International Women's Day is dedicated to fighting for gender equality and to celebrating the social, political, and cultural achievements of women. While a common opinion today Read More
  • How To Begin Collecting History Books

    Wed, 07 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re a history buff, you know that on March 7, 1530, King Henry VIII, who had his annulment denied by Pope Clement VII, separated himself from the Catholic Church and declared himself the new head of the Church of England, spurring on the English reformation. What better day to talk about how to begin collecting history books? Have you considered beginning a history book collection? What should you know before you do? Here are a few questions to get you started, and to help guide your collecting efforts. Read More
  • The Books That Made Oscar-Winning Movies

    Sat, 03 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Every solitary professional novelist, whether she is aware of the fact or not, is a kind of trial balloon for the movie industry. Before studios spend millions of dollars—sometimes hundreds of millions—on actors, directors, crew, locations, distribution, and more, they prefer to have proof that a particular story resonates with an audience. Successful plays are often adapted, with movies like Driving Miss Daisy and Hamlet being notable Best Picture winners of this sort. But prose, in the form of memoirs, nonfiction books, novels, and short stories, appears to be the most fertile ground for Hollywood when it comes to seizing Read More
  • Ten Essential Dr. Seuss Quotes

    Fri, 02 Mar 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known by his pen name Dr. Seuss, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. He attended Dartmouth College where he wrote and drew for the Dartmouth Jack-o-Lantern. After he and his friends were caught with gin in the dormitories during prohibition, part of his punishment was being banned from all extracurricular activities. However, he continued to work for the magazine, using for the first time the pen name Seuss. Read More
  • Teju Cole and the Art of the Twitter Novel

    Wed, 28 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    What defines a novel or a short story? In the age of e-books, novels and short stories clearly don’t need to be physical objects with pages that you hold in your hands. But must these works take certain forms? Certainly, many writers from the early twentieth century and onward have pushed the boundaries of the literary form, from Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923), which was initially published as short-story pieces and poems in various journals, to a work like Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler (1979) or Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000). Of course, if we’re Read More
  • Four Interesting Facts About John Steinbeck

    Tue, 27 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    There were only two authors whose work I encountered in each year of high school: Shakespeare and John Steinbeck. His novellas like The Pearl and Of Mice and Men, his novels The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, even his inspiring Nobel address, informed my burgeoning understanding of what an American writer sought to accomplish and examine. Steinbeck turned his attention and sympathy toward that majority of people—those who toil, who care for their family, who seek joy and exaltation in however rare supply those delights may be. His style, mixing the merits of both American plainspokenness and figurative Read More
  • Five Great Writers Who Burned Their Own Writing

    Sat, 24 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but it seems from a literary perspective that a writer’s request that her work be burned upon her death is ill-advised at best and disingenuous at worst. The prospect of a literary canon that fails to include Franz Kafka, for instance, is almost too sad to contemplate, but he instructed his literary executor to destroy his unpublished writings upon his death. Luckily, as we know, Max Brod flagrantly violated Kafka’s wishes, thereby earning the gratitude of a century of readers and writers. Vladimir Nabokov, too, wanted his unfinished works burned, but his wife and son found Read More
  • Anaïs Nin's Struggle for Success

    Wed, 21 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Anaïs Nin, born Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell in 1903, was the daughter of Cuban expats living in France. Though her early life was spent in Spain and France, her family moved to the United States when she was young. All of Nin's work was written and published in English. As a diarist, novelist, short story writer, and critic, Nin was embraced by the feminist movement in the 1960s, bringing a renewed interest to the craft she had honed her entire life. But before this recognition, Nin struggled to achieve any kind of success, self-publishing four Read More
  • James Joyce's Dublin

    Tue, 20 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re traveling to Dublin anytime soon and are a James Joyce fan, you might want to set aside at least a couple of days for visiting the dozens of locations connected to some of Joyce’s most famous works. Most notably, visitors to Dublin can trace the path through the city that Leopold Bloom takes on June 16, 1904. In addition, visitors can walk by the house—which was listed for sale the last time we were in Dublin, if you’re in the market—that served as the setting for “The Dead,” Joyce’s last story in his famous collection Dubliners (1914). Are Read More
  • In Their Own Words: Books to Be Inspired by on President's Day

    Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    The British have had ripe occasion recently to appreciate a leader whose oratory and philosophy were integral to his ability to improve the world. With movies like Dunkirk and Darkest Hour and TV shows like The Crown, memories of Winston Churchill, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, sting all the more sharply as they are juxtaposed against what many view as the failures of some of our current leaders to live up to truly noble aspirations. It's always good to remember our presidents and statesmen who led with a certain moral obligation, integrity of character, humanistic concern, and displayed a talent for Read More
  • How Ian Fleming Began Writing His First James Bond Novel

    Fri, 16 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Perhaps Ian Fleming is being self-deprecating when he calls Casino Royale (1953), the first of more than a dozen Bond novels and stories he would write in his lifetime, his “dreadful oafish opus.” Or, perhaps his alliterative turn of phrase is a sincere appraisal of a work that sprung from surprisingly humble origins. After all, at the time of the book’s writing, Fleming was a newspaperman but hardly a writer in the more elevated sense. Rather than serving as a reflection of any sincere desire to become a beloved author, it seems that Fleming’s inaugural Bond installment was written primarily as Read More
  • Collecting Yoko Ono's Artist Books

    Thu, 15 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Collecting artist monographs and exhibition catalogues can be an especially exciting endeavor. In addition, many artists’ books are, themselves, pieces of art to be collected. For example, many artists created hand bound, limited editions that can be added to any discerning collector’s shelves (and, in most cases, can and should be displayed). Yoko Ono has an interesting personal history, as well as a fascinating role in the contemporary and conceptual art worlds. Prior to meeting John Lennon, Ono was involved in performance and conceptual art movements in New York City. Most notably, she participated in “happenings” involving many performers and Read More
  • Valentine's Day for Cynics: The 10 Worst Couples in Literature

    Wed, 14 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many people, Valentine's Day is a holiday filled with roses, romance, and affection. Giant teddy bears show up on people’s doorsteps, flower delivery services are swamped, and getting a reservation for two at a nice restaurant is nearly impossible. However, for us singletons and cynics, Valentine’s Day often causes more of a dull nausea in our stomachs than the sensation of little butterflies fluttering about. So if you, like me, take a Grinch-like approach to this fluffy pink holiday, I hope you find some solace reading about 10 of the worst couples in literature. Read More
  • The 2018 Caldecott and Newbery Award Winners Are...

    Mon, 12 Feb 2018 11:45:00 Permalink
    Every year, we anxiously await the selection of the Caldecott and Newbery Award-winning books. These titles are the best of the best, and every year, we can't wait to see if they're in our collection already or if we need to run out and grab a copy. The American Library Association announced the 2018 winners this morning. And the awards go to Read More
  • Graphic Novels About Irish Independence

    Thu, 08 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re interested in learning more about Irish independence and also love graphic novels, we have some exciting book recommendations for you. Gerry Hunt, an Irish artist, writer, and cartoonist who founded Dublin Comics, created a series of graphic novels depicting the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent fight for independence from Britain. Have we piqued your interest? Let us tell you more. Read More
  • Ten of the Best Quotes from Charles Dickens

    Wed, 07 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Charles Dickens is widely considered to be the most important writer of the Victorian age. Dickens' success came, despite the odds being stacked against him. He had to work in a factory from a young age to support his family; his father was in debtors' prison. Dickens was eventually able to spend two years in school after which he worked at a law office. An interest in theater eventually led to a job as a freelance reporter. He published the majority of his novels as weekly or monthly serials, beginning with The Pickwick Papers in 1836. He was an immediate Read More
  • Don't Know Poet Rubén Darío? Here's Why You Should

    Tue, 06 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jorge Luis Borges said that all writers create their own predecessors. Bold, new writing doesn’t simply reveal its own concerns, it reveals an entire literary history leading up to its creation, and sometimes that history involves works that might not otherwise be widely read. In American literature, Ernest Hemingway held up Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) as a kind of ur-novel to which all other American fiction can be traced. In Spanish-American poetry, that same considerable distinction is held by Rubén Darío. Read More
  • Nine Fascinating Facts About John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

    Fri, 02 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    John Steinbeck’s timeless novella Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 to considerable acclaim, and the reading public’s appreciation of the text has hardly diminished since. What began as a perplexing work eyed warily by Steinbeck’s agents has gone from being a Book of the Month Club selection on its initial publication to one of the most widely read and assigned books on high school curricula throughout the country. Here are a few interesting facts about it. Read More
  • A Reader's Guide to Langston Hughes

    Thu, 01 Feb 2018 08:00:00 Permalink
    In his seminal 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” then-burgeoning poet, essayist, novelist, playwright, and all-around giant of American letters Langston Hughes argued passionately that Black writers across the world should be proud of their racial and cultural heritage. He says, towards the essay’s conclusion, “The younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too.” Even then, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, it’s hard Read More
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