Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Mommsen, Eucken, & Heyse

    Wed, 10 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Collecting the works of Nobel Prize in Literature winners is a great way to focus one’s collection. Nobel laureates are the best-of-the-best, so a collection full of their works is one way to guarantee exceptional titles. Today, we’d like to focus on information about the work of three German-language Nobel Prize in Literature winners from the early part of the twentieth century: Theodor Mommsen, Rudolf Christoph Eucken, and Paul Johann Ludwig von Heyse. For more about our previous Nobel laureate spotlights, see the end of the post. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: Visiting Libraries in Austria

    Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Libraries provide an extraordinary window into the world. Indeed, for collectors and book enthusiasts, few pleasures equal a visit to a well-curated library. When planning a trip, it only makes sense to include famous (or not so famous) libraries on your itinerary. Recently, a friend of Books Tell You Why and an avid book collector did just that. While traveling to Austria, he visited the libraries of five Austrian monasteries and was kind enough to detail his experiences for us to share. Whether you plan to visit Austria or simply enjoy great libraries, we are confident you will find his Read More
  • Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Unwitting Namesake of a Giant Salamander

    Mon, 08 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    By the time Johann Jakob Scheuchzer published the first volume of his momentous Physica Sacra in 1731, he was already a renowned scientist. Like many scholars of his age, Scheuchzer did not limit himself to only one field. Well versed in astronomy, he depicted one of the earliest known accounts of the Perseid meteor shower in 1709. That same year, Scheuchzer also published Herbarium Diluvianum ("Herbarium of the Deluge"), an exhaustive botanical reference consulted long into the following century. A colleague of Sir Isaac Newton and other luminaries of the early modern era, Scheuchzer is unfortunately often remembered not for his expansive body Read More
  • Four Things You Probably Didn't Know About Charles Dickens

    Sun, 07 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    As one of the world’s first celebrity authors, much is known about Charles Dickens. He was an active public figure, one who liked walking about London, appearing in the press, and traveling and performing his works around the world. Even someone who hasn’t read Dickens will know something about his squalid childhood or his noble politics. But what about those facts and details that slip by the typical biography? Read More
  • Interesting Editions of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

    Sat, 06 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Legendary author John Steinbeck was a literary mastermind. He wrote prolifically throughout the 20th century, and his work and the themes he presents still resonate today. Of Mice and Men, his 1937 novella, does what all brilliant pieces of literature are wont to do. It gives us characters and situations that make us think and feel deeply. As such, the work has been subject to both high praise and a substantial amount of criticism. But it’s safe to say that Of Mice and Men will continue to be widely read, discussed, and appreciated. For a Steinbeck collector, it’s a must-have Read More
  • Are You Ready for the 2016 California Antiquarian Book Fair?

    Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you are near Pasadena next weekend (February 12th-14th), we would like to invite you to the 49th California Antiquarian Book Fair! Sign up here for your complimentary tickets, and then join us to experience some remarkable books. Read More
  • Robert Coover and the Great American Novel You've Never Heard Of

    Thu, 04 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many great artists live rather modest, obscure lives. Of course there are those individuals, the Casanovas, the Byrons, and the Goethes of the world, who write interesting books and are interesting when written about. But this is not so much the case with Robert Coover, who turns 84 today. Prolific, soft-spoken, and wise, the author taught electronic writing at Brown University for years. No, Coover has not earned the publicity of his equals, such as Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and Thomas Pynchon. But to his readers, Coover has left behind a trove of books that are as vital and boisterous Read More
  • Top Ten James A. Michener Books

    Wed, 03 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    James A. Michener is well known for his historical fiction, in-depth research, and lengthy volumes. His books are strong narratives that take an intimate look at the human experience through the lens of historical events and times now past. They will also make long layovers, lazy beach weekends, and stretches of time disappear in a sea of historical fascination. These are ten of his biggest and best books of all time. Read More
  • Playing with Time on Groundhog Day

    Tue, 02 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, the protagonist finds himself doomed to live the same day over and over again. Ever since, people have associated this Pennsylvania-German tradition with a time warp, or “time loop,” as it’s often called. Intended to mark the halfway point of winter, Groundhog Day has come to take on a second identity. So this Groundhog Day, we take time to consider the many great books that have a way of playing with time. Read More
  • Who Is the Real Robinson Crusoe?

    Mon, 01 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    With any truly great novel, the questions are usually the same. Where did the story come from? What inspired it? Were the characters or plot based on real-life elements? But these tried-and-true questions might mean a little more when asked about Daniel Defoe’s 1719 debut novel Robinson Crusoe, a book literary scholars the world over regard as one of the first realistic fiction novels and one that helped popularize the form we still crave today. Read More
  • Zane Grey: Father of the Western Genre

    Sun, 31 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Throughout his extremely prolific career, Zane Grey wrote nearly 100 books—including over 50 Westerns—baseball stories, books on hunting, young adult books, autobiographies, books on fishing, and a handful of books set in Australia. Grey is widely acknowledged as one of the fathers of the Western genre. His seminal work, Riders of the Purple Sage, is considered the best example of what the Western genre has to offer: a sweeping plot and detailed descriptions of the character of both the people and landscape of the American frontier. In effect, Zane Grey created the vision of pop culture's American West. Read More
  • Richard Brautigan and a One-Man Counter Culture

    Sat, 30 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Counter culture is an interesting phenomenon. Many may be dissatisfied with the current state of things, but this doesn’t mean they agree in their response. In the 1960s, some executed their discontent by protesting on campuses, while others departed from society at large to join communes. We tend to remember the groups that emerged during this formative era. But, writer Richard Brautigan created a counter cultural presence all his own. Read More
  • Draw! Three Famous Literary Duels

    Fri, 29 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Picture this: two feuding men standing back-to-back, pistols at the ready, taking ten paces and then whipping around in the hopes of being the first to unload a bullet into his opponent. Sound familiar? Something straight out of a Western, right? You’ve read about duels in the novels of Zane Grey and Larry McMurtry. You’ve seen them on the big screen in films starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson. You've watched them help define a man's honor and legacy on television in Gunsmoke and Maverick. But what about authors who've actually participated in duels? They are our focus today. Read More
  • 10 Timeless Quotes from Pride and Prejudice (And Why They Still Matter)

    Thu, 28 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today, we celebrate Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, on the anniversary of its publication. How does one do such a book justice? It is nearly impossible. So, we thought we’d let Ms. Austen’s own words do most of the talking. After all, Pride and Prejudice is timeless, and the following quotes—and the lessons they teach us—will continue to inspire, chastise, encourage, and humor readers for generations to come. Read More
  • Five Important Canadian Writers You Should Know

    Wed, 27 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Canadian writers have made significant contributions to the landscape of North American letters. Without them, we'd have missed out on some of the most beloved characters of the last century, not to mention on important ideas and perspectives. We think rather highly of our literary neighbors to the north, and today, we spotlight five important Canadian writers you should know. Read More
  • A Brief History of Satire

    Tue, 26 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Satire is as old as folly. There have always been abuses of power, mad societies, blundering citizens, and flawed customs. And not far behind them, there has often been a clever observer with a pen. Satirists, as these people are called, use the palliative of humor to address the ills and errors of their time. It’s an impulse that’s as old as time, but just what is it for? Read More
  • Remaining Relevant: Top Ten Victorian Novels

    Mon, 25 Jan 2016 10:24:26 Permalink
    The Victorian Era, which corresponds to the reign of Queen Victoria beginning in 1837, gave birth to some of the best loved novels in literary history.  Like most eras, it produced works that both reflected and rebelled against the social mores of the time. Their characters and themes, however, seem to transcend time and place, and present us with stories worth revisiting years, decades, and even centuries later. Here is our list of the top ten Victorian novels. Read More
  • I'll Have the Haggis: A History of Burns Night

    Mon, 25 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Scots take their celebrations seriously. Food, drink, music, and dance are staples in almost all Scottish shindigs, and these elements of Scottish festivities are on no greater display than in the annual Burns Night gatherings to celebrate the life and work of famed Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Also referred to as Burns Suppers, Burns Night celebrations have been common across Scotland and Northern Ireland since the first Burns Night commemoration in the early 1800s, not long after Burns death in 1796. Burns Nights also became increasingly popular in the U.K. and New Zealand during the 19th Century in large part Read More
  • What Is Physica Sacra and Why Is It Important?

    Sun, 24 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Enlightenment was a period marked with so many innovations in art, science, and philosophy—not to mention all the political power-plays which took place the world over—that it can be difficult to fully unpack all that was accomplished. Book collectors interested in this period are often on the lookout for Daniel Defoe first editions such as the 1719 version of Robinson Crusoe, or the original works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, published in 1791, is another classic of the time. We mustn’t forget, however, that the 18th century gave rise to the field of natural Read More
  • Famous Manuscripts and the History of Handwriting

    Sat, 23 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Though it feels like nearly everything has its own holiday now, it might help to reflect on the subject of January 23, or National Handwriting Day. In the digital age, it is no secret that calligraphy is a dying art. Why work laboriously and imperfectly on something that takes days to cross the country, when the computer will set it in flawless text that can be transmitted instantly? Read More
  • Remaining Relevant: Top Ten Victorian Novels

    Fri, 22 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Victorian Era, which corresponds to the reign of Queen Victoria beginning in 1837, gave birth to some of the best loved novels in literary history.  Like most eras, it produced works that both reflected and rebelled against the social mores of the time. Their characters and themes, however, seem to transcend time and place, and present us with stories worth revisiting years, decades, and even centuries later. Here is our list of the top ten Victorian novels. Read More
  • The Mystery of Mummy Paper

    Thu, 21 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Paper. We grab a scrap to jot down a phone number, we see movie posters, exchange greeting cards, hold paper books in our hands. We come in contact with so much paper, it’s hard to keep track, and this is during a so-called “digital age” when we should be immersed in a nearly paperless world. And yet, it continues to be necessary, wanted, and part of the fabric of our routines and desires. Imagine now, a world in which we need paper even more, for nearly everything. From communication to profit, paper is necessary. It’s basically the internet of the Read More
  • Eight Short Story Writers You Should Be Reading Right Now

    Wed, 20 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nobody cares about literature anymore. That’s the death-cry heard time and time again about the state of 21st Century reading. Sure, studies and surveys continually show the ways in which today’s average reader experiences literature are changing, from e-readers, smart phones, and tablets, to podcasts and other subscription-based audio book websites and services.  These advancements are designed to help readers immerse themselves into fictional characters and worlds with more ease and expediency as the pace and rigors of everyday life in today’s society make it more and more difficult to pull-back from reality and allow our imaginations to explore and Read More
  • Edwidge Danticat's "Other Haiti"

    Tue, 19 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Free of heavy snow and sharp winter winds, Haiti is a tropical nation that rests in the Caribbean Sea. Despite it’s picturesque location, life in Haiti in the 1900s was far from a vacation for its inhabitants. Political unrest, poverty, and loss were ever-present themes of daily life, laying a heavy burden on families across the country. Despite the harsh oppressions that taint Haiti’s past, the voice of one woman emerges through the despair and weaves poetry out of a broken history. Read More
  • Quiz: Which Winnie-the-Pooh Character Are You?

    Mon, 18 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Who doesn't love Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood? Whether you're an A. A. Milne purist or a fan of later Disney iterations, the charm of Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet, et al. is undeniable. Why not take a moment to enter into their world of honey, heffalumps, and hums? Answer six brief questions to determine which Winnie-the-Pooh character you would be.  Read More
  • The Story Behind Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography

    Sun, 17 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Benjamin Franklin is undoubtedly one of the largest looming figures in American history. His shadow rests on everything from politics to spirituality. And his biography is just as important to American literature as he was to American politics. However, the road to publication was not easy. Fittingly of such an unconventional figure, the story behind Franklin’s autobiography is filled with many twists and turns. Read More
  • I Love L.A.: Five Writers Who Call Los Angeles Home

    Sat, 16 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s a town well-known for the Silver Screen—a place where dreamers flock in search of stardom, celebrity, fame, and fortune. But beyond the glitz and glam of Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, and movie studio backlots, the City of Angels possesses a rich, complex literary history that transcends genres, styles, and aesthetics. While perhaps not quite the powerhouse of arts and letters as some of the city’s East Coast rivals, L.A. has been home to some of the most creative, interesting, and influential writers of the last century. Read More
  • Creative Expression, Controversy, and Classic French Literature

    Fri, 15 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “It is a stupidity second to none, to busy oneself with the correction of the world.”  Le Misanthrope, I:1, 1666 Many of the minds and pens of those who have shaped society, discourse, and art hail from France, the birthplace of diplomacy. However, as Molière, born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, and many of his kind discovered, those who take readers outside the status quo with their expression may find themselves paying pipers of all kinds. We celebrate Molière this week, the week of his birth, and observe his contribution and the company he kept in the spirit and tradition of French creativity. Read More
  • Author Yukio Mishima's Life and Legacy

    Thu, 14 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Yukio Mishima holds a prominent place in Japan’s rich literary history. Nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Mishima's works explore ideas of sexuality, death, suicide, politics, Buddhism, Shintoism, atheism, innocence, corruption and aging to name a few. His Confessions of a Mask follows a young boy who realizes he is homosexual, and Mishima uses the boy’s internal monologue to explore what it’s like growing up gay in the conservative military society that was Japan before and during World War II. Read More
  • Five Things To Know About the Horatio Alger Myth

    Wed, 13 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re confused after reading the title of this article, odds are you’re not alone. Even the most savvy, in-tune reader might not be able to explain the Horatio Alger Myth or its significance in late 19th Century American literature. And that’s strange given how prevalent the Horatio Alger Myth is and how it managed to permeate modern American storytelling in ways that today ring as cliché, tired, and uninspired. Read More
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