Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • 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
  • The Legacy of Ludwig Bemelmans

    Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many small children outside of Europe, their first ideas of Paris come from a children's book, and for them, the heart of the city is a vine-covered old house full of little girls in yellow dresses, the smallest and most important being Madeline. The man behind the first seven Madeline books (the series has since been picked up by his grandson) was Ludwig Bemelmans. Though he published over forty-six books in his lifetime and posthumously, it is for Madeline that he is most fondly remembered. Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Casino Royale

    Tue, 26 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When Ian Fleming retreated to his Jamaican home nicknamed Goldeneye to decompress just prior to his wedding, nobody—including Fleming himself—had any idea this brief holiday in the sun would be the beginning of one of the most beloved spy novel and movie franchises the world over. While not quite a lark—Fleming had discussed with friends his desire to someday write a spy novel based in some sense on his own experiences as an intelligence officer during World War II—Fleming’s ascension from unknown, aspiring author to the heights of the spy novel genre seems almost as fanciful and outlandish as the Read More
  • Top Five Poets Who Wrote for Children

    Mon, 25 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writing poetry and writing for children have something very important in common: both endeavors are much more difficult than they look. The brief form, the broad appeal, and the creation of language that is as pleasing to the ear of a child as it is to the ear of a publisher: these are the challenges of the poet who writes for the young and the young at heart. This is a list of those who have made the effort and come forth triumphant and, perhaps, who also inspired future poets and writers. Read More
  • Six Cool Facts About the Library of Congress

    Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    We all know that it’s big, important, and crucial to our culture. After that, the details get vague. The truth is that the Library of Congress has a fascinating history, as well as a pretty cool present, and we’d like you to be as informed about the library as those that use it are about the world we live in. Read on to find out how the Library of Congress became the library of the people, and how it literally rose from the ashes and became an institutional gem in our nation’s history. Read More
  • Could William Shakespeare Have Been Catholic?

    Sat, 23 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The answer to our title question today is, yes. He could have been. Do we know for certain? No, of course not. However, that will not stop us from using the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth to dive into some of the speculation surrounding the Bard’s religion. Numerous researches and scholars have put forth arguments for why they believe Shakespeare was Catholic. Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting evidence (with conclusions of our own as to why any of this matters). Read More
  • Writing the PNW: A Literary Tour of the Pacific Northwest

    Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    You could argue the Pacific Northwest is a region with something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it can be tough country: vast expanses of high desert; rugged, mountainous terrain; rocky coastlines; and unpredictable weather. But then on the other hand, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is home to some of the most concentrated hipster and millennial-driven enclaves in the country. Cities like Portland and Seattle are famous for their artisanal coffee, farmers markets, fine food and beverage, and progressive attitudes toward culture and politics. If great writing is born out of conflict, of competing ideas or worldviews, then Read More
  • Visiting the Homes of Mark Twain

    Thu, 21 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or Mark Twain as he’s more commonly known, has become one of the most quintessential nineteenth-century American authors. Given his longstanding popularity, visits to regions of the country that influenced his work have become popular destinations for readers and fans of such novels as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). While some might argue that the whole of the Mississippi River and the many towns surrounding it play an important historical role in Twain’s collected works, there are a handful of sites where Read More
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Father of Detective Fiction

    Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    American author Edgar Allan Poe is commonly associated with the horror genre. Indeed, poems like “The Raven” and “Annabelle Lee” and stories like The Telltale Heart and The Black Cat lend credence and validity to this association. However, what most don't realize is that Poe is responsible for the modern version of one of the most popular and enduring literary genres: detective fiction. Fans of mysteries and detective stories will recognize the author as the namesake of the prestigious Edgar Award for outstanding mystery novels.  Read More
  • 42: A Literary Celebration of Jackie Robinson Day

    Tue, 19 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson It was just six days prior to the start of the 1947 season when baseball—and the world and culture in which the sport exists—would be forever changed. Jackie Robinson, baseball phenom and the first professional African American to play in the major leagues, was called up from a Brooklyn Dodgers minor league team to start at first base on Opening Day. Read More
  • Thomas Middleton and British Playwrights

    Mon, 18 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Let me feel how thy pulses beat.” ―Thomas Middleon, The Changeling Entertainment is a word that can carry many different meanings. Before the days of Hollywood movies, Broadway musicals, and Netflix accounts, the world was enamored with the stage. Theatres in 16th century England brought tragedy, comedy, and romance to life—cultivated in the minds of brilliant writers, and brought into fruition by passionate actors. Read More
  • Chaucer's Day Job in the Court of the King

    Sun, 17 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Even when they’re successful, some writers prefer to keep their day jobs. For example, Wallace Stevens was an executive at a Connecticut insurance company, and he believed that work kept the poetic spirit properly anchored. Goethe worked as an enthusiastic civil servant and administrator long after the smashing success of Young Werther. To this camp also belongs Geoffrey Chaucer, who stayed gainfully employed despite being a prolific poet. Chaucer’s day job, however, was far from the typical cubical-and-office grind. He worked in the court of the King. Read More
  • The Significance of The Golden Notebook

    Sat, 16 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Rarely can a work be called “unique” and truly earn that qualifier. The Golden Notebook is that unicorn in literature that is recognized as one of a kind, or as the Oxford Companion to English Literature terms it, "inner space fiction." It's a novel in four parts, (or is it one?) that reflect the narrator’s feelings about communism, and include a novel within a novel, a personal diary, and then the final depiction wherein the previous three become one, glorious, Golden Notebook. Each part is revisited, overlapping with one another, and the whole thing is a reading experience like no Read More
  • Happy Birthday to Nobel Prize Winner Tomas Tranströmer

    Fri, 15 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On April 15, 1931, Tomas Gösta Tranströmer was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Although he passed away in March of last year, this Nobel Prize-wining poet’s legacy lives on in the books and broadsides that reflect a style described in his New York Times obituary of “deceptively spare language, crystalline descriptions of natural beauty, and explorations of the mysteries of identity and creativity.” We’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate Tranströmer’s birthday by looking into some of his most famous (and most collectible) works. Read More
  • The History and Significance of Dictionaries

    Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Language is fluid. In fact, the most recent edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary boasts seventeen hundred new entries including "photobomb," "meme," "emoji," and "jegging." Looking back at the history of language, it's interesting to note that Noah Webster, the “Father of the American Dictionary,” came of age during the American Revolution. At that time, words had the power to define our national identity. Later, they had the power to reflect that new identity as it evolved. Webster believed that “Great Britain, whose children we are, and whose language we speak, should no longer be our standard...” and so he set Read More
  • Three Seamus Heaney Poems You Should Know

    Wed, 13 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the last 30 or 40 years, it’s become increasingly rare for a poet to achieve the same massive readerships as poets in the early part of the 20th Century. Yet the work of one 20th Century poet at the height of his popularity accounted for nearly 2/3 of all the book sales of living poets, according to the BBC.   That poet was Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Irish national treasure and 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature winner whose work has influenced countless poets, writers, critics, and intellectuals worldwide. Born in Northern Ireland, writer Robert Lowell called Heaney “the most important Irish poet Read More
  • Literature of the Civil War

    Tue, 12 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Civil War. It began on April 12, 1861 after months of political tension and declarations of secession. It came to a head when the North and South were first brought to conflict at Fort Sumter, a Union base by Charleston, South Carolina. From these fires raged years of bloodshed and war—forming the most harrowing period in the nation’s history. But you probably knew this already. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Luigi Pirandello and Salvatore Quasimodo

    Mon, 11 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today, we’d like to continue our efforts to compile collector’s resources for those interested in acquiring the works of Nobel laureates. As we’ve argued before, collecting Nobel Prize in Literature winners makes sense: there is a list to follow; a different person is picked each year from around the world, allowing for an eclectic reach; and the books in your collection will be written by the best-of-the-best. In this case, we keep our focus on past Italian winners. For those who may be interested in collecting the works of Italian Nobel Prize in Literature winners—there have been six Italian authors Read More
  • 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
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