Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Karel Čapek and the Origin of the Word Robot

    Sat, 09 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Karel Čapek’s Czech play RUR, (Rossum’s Universal Robots) is notable for numerous reasons. Written in 1920, the play's commentary on the politics of its day earned its author a spot on the Nazi most-wanted list. RUR details a robot revolution that would overthrow the dominant class, humans, and lead to their extinction. Above all, the play is most well known for introducing the world to the word, "robot." In fact, before Čapek’s play, what we think of as robots were mainly called "androids" or "automatons," with "automaton" meaning a self-operating machine. In Czech, "robota"translates to "forced labor." It’s associated with the Read More
  • William Morris and the Kelmscott Press

    Fri, 08 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization.” – William Morris In the late 1700s, the industrial revolution took root and quickly propelled society toward a future of consumerism and commoditization. Although this period in history brought about many positive changes in the lives of working class citizens, the era was not without its shortcomings. Beauty was exchanged for practicality, time was equated to money, and the jobs that once needed the skill of human hands could be replicated by machinery. One example of modernization was the Read More
  • Renaissance Women: Five Harlem Writers You Should Know

    Thu, 07 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the time between the First and Second World Wars there came a great outpouring of art, music, writing, and culture from Harlem. Works of art explored themes such as the cruel realities of institutionalized racism, race riots happening all over the country, the impact of slavery on African culture, Christianity, and the burgeoning urban culture brought on by industrialization in the North. Out of the Harlem Renaissance came artists like Langston Hughes, Rudolph Fisher, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald. The following five women are just some of the writers that made up this amazing time in literary history. Read More
  • The Big Business of Winnie-the-Pooh

    Wed, 06 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When writers began fighting for copyright protection around two hundred years ago, they were mostly trying to avoid getting ripped off by renegade printers. Sage as they were, not even the best of them could have predicted just how much money could be on the line. It’s unlikely that even A.A. Milne could have fathomed just how valuable his own intellectual property would become, in the forms of Winnie, Eeyore, Piglet, and the gang. Beginning as a children’s poem in the 1920s, Winnie-the-Pooh is now at the center of a merchandising and media empire that totals upwards of $5 billion a year. Read More
  • Lunatic Science: Umberto Eco's Library

    Tue, 05 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If the 30,000 volume book collection housed in Umberto Eco’s Milan apartment can be said to inspire one response, it might well be awe. Lila Azam Zanganeh, who interviewed Eco for the Paris Review described Eco’s abode as “a labyrinth of corridors lined with bookcases that reach all the way up to extraordinarily high ceilings," and makes mention of the library as “a legend in and of itself.” Most commonly, when a visitor is first shown the veritable universe of books that expands throughout the author’s home, they can think of only one question: “have you read all of these?” Read More
  • Notable Speeches: The State of the Union and Nobel Lectures

    Mon, 04 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    As the first president of the United States, George Washington established the precedents for the office. One of the most enduring traditions he began was the delivery of a State of the Union address. The constitution required the president to update Congress on the nation’s progress, but didn’t specify how or when. It was Washington who decided those particulars. The State of the Union remains one of the major speeches of the year. Other notable annual speaking events are the Nobel lectures. Today, we present a sample of noteworthy public speaking moments from presidents and Nobel laureates. Read More
  • Ten Magnificent Tolkien Collectibles

    Sun, 03 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Books are their own little world, and no writer has taken this to heart quite like J.R.R. Tolkien. Through Middle-Earth, the British author imagined a land of such history and vastness that, although he has many imitators, Tolkien still has no equal. Beyond the billion-dollar films and merchandise, Tolkien has left behind an expansive bibliography which can take even the most serious collectors time to navigate. It’s not quite as hard as learning Elvish, but building the perfect Tolkien library requires a bit of enthusiastic study. Here's a look at ten magnificent items for a Tolkien collection. Read More
  • Six Spot-On Predictions About the Future From Isaac Asimov

    Sat, 02 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The name Isaac Asimov is practically synonymous with science fiction. Throughout the course of his extraordinarily prolific career, the Boston University-based biochemist wrote and edited hundreds of novels and short story collections as well as an innumerable amount of letters. With such a background as his—and his finger on the pulse of so many scientific ideas in his day—it makes sense that Asimov would be a thought-leader. But how close did he come to predicting some of our modern day staples? It's almost unbelievable. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Hermann Hesse and Nelly Sachs

    Fri, 01 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Collecting Nobel Prize in Literature winners makes sense: there’s a list to follow; a new author is chosen each year from all around the globe, allowing for an eclectic reach (again, congratulations to the 2015 winner from Belarus, Svetlana Alexievich!); and your collection will be filled with the best of the best. We’ve recently been spotlighting Nobel laureates from Germany, and today, we’d like to continue by providing some collecting tips for Hermann Hesse and Nelly Sachs. Read More
  • The Best of 2015: Our 10 Most Popular Blog Posts

    Thu, 31 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It is hard to believe that 2015 is drawing to a close. What a great year! The staff at Books Tell You Why would like to take a moment to thank all of you: the loyal readers who followed our work throughout the year. Your interest and enthusiasm are a constant reminder of why we do what we do. Before beginning festivities tonight and moving on to 2016 tomorrow, we thought we'd take a moment to revisit our ten most popular blog posts from 2015. Care to join us? Read More
  • Five Rare Rudyard Kipling Editions

    Wed, 30 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    With dozens of major works to his name, Rudyard Kipling was one of the most prolific writers of his time and a stalwart in the British literary landscape. Kipling was a master storyteller whose books transcended genre and audience, and his impact on the modern short story, children’s books, poetry, and long-form narratives like the novel still resonates with writers today. Read More
  • Five Beautiful Books by Nawakum Press

    Tue, 29 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Despite what critics and pundits have been warning for years, people like paper. Ebook sales have become stagnant. Everybody, even the college-aged, prefer to read tangible books. Print culture, for the moment, seems to be doing quite well. This environment has been of a particular benefit to one section of the publishing industry, one which has flourished in recent years. In a world of screens and immediate gratification, people are growing more and more attracted to books made by hand. One of the most impressive successes to emerge from this fine press revolution is the Santa Rosa-based Nawakum Press. Read More
  • Borges, Puig, Cortazar: Where to Start with Argentine Literature

    Mon, 28 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read. - Jorge Luis Borges Argentina is country so literary that its name is said to be derived from a Latin poem, and it has had a vibrant literary culture since the first co-mingling of Spanish culture with native oral traditions more than four hundred years ago. So, where is a person to start on the task of unraveling a complex literary culture? Read More
  • Politics and Children's Literature

    Sun, 27 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    How might we introduce children to important issues of politics in literature? While such a premise might seem unlikely, a number of children's books have depicted geopolitical violence at various moments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, suggesting that illustrated books perhaps contain more power within their pages than many of us would anticipate. From Linda Sue Park’s historical book about 12th-century Korea to Thanhha Lai’s illustrated poems of exile from Vietnam, children’s books have a lot to teach us and the children in each of our lives.  Read More
  • A Brief History of Banned Books in America

    Sat, 26 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Books encourage people to ask questions. They equip people to understand lives different from their own. They encourage people to seek the truth, to reject what is false and convenient. It is no surprise reading is a powerful thing. For this reason, paranoid governments have always been suspicious of what people might be learning from between the covers of a book. Men might become corrupted. Women might become unchaste. So censors have defamed and condemned them, burned them and banned them—but there will always be people who believe books to be worth fighting for. Read More
  • Ten Beautiful Christmas Poems

    Fri, 25 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty. —Edgar Allan Poe Merry Christmas, everyone! Truly, Christmas is a lyrical holiday—one that is experienced through the stories told from day’s past and hopes strung together for the future. Whether it be through bible verses, Christmas carols, or the written word, there's no better way to celebrate the beauty of today than with some classic Christmas poetry. Here, we’ve compiled excerpts from ten Christmas poems. Enjoy the “rhythmical creation of Beauty” on this Christmas Day. Read More
  • Five Little-Known Facts About Queen of Suspense, Mary Higgins Clark

    Thu, 24 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mary Higgins Clark's name is now synonymous with the suspense genre. She's penned 35 suspense novels on her own, and she's worked in collaboration with friends and family on several more. Her books, including favorites like Before I Say Goodbye and He See's You When You're Sleeping, are bestsellers. In fact, her first suspense novel, Where Are The Children? (1975)—which was also made into a feature film—is in its 75th edition. So, we know her by her work, but what are some little-known facts about the reigning Queen of Suspense? Read More
  • Welcome to Beantown: A Literary Tour of Boston

    Wed, 23 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The City on a Hill. The Cradle of Liberty. Beantown. No matter how you refer to it, there’s no doubting Boston’s place in the landscape of American culture and history. A city defined by its revolutionary spirit, ferocious attachment to its sports teams, and stock of hearty, stiff-lipped citizens, Boston has also served as a launching pad and home for some of the world’s finest literary minds. Read More
  • The First Day of Winter: Five Frosty Reads for a Celebration of Snow

    Tue, 22 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Snow. Day.  Are there two words in the English language that, when strung together, elicit more joy in the heart of a child? Back in the day, news of a snow day was carried over a staticky radio. Hopeful kids listened for their school’s name in the cancellation list while tucked in bed or sitting in a warm kitchen that smelled of toast and freshly brewed coffee. When it made its alphabetical appearance, a typically quiet and sleepy morning house would be transformed into a household filled with excitement as children threw off their blankets and threw on their winter Read More
  • Three Victorian Ghost Stories for a Spooky Christmas

    Mon, 21 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Imagine Christmas Eve: Snow sifts down from the night sky, the fireplace glows red and crackles with warmth, and a stately looking family gathers in the living room with food and drink to regale each other with tales of the undead coming to life and psychologically taunting characters until they are driven to madness from fear. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night? Yes indeed. Sweet dreams, little ones. For as odd as this scene might sound, the telling of ghost stories on the night before Christmas was and is a common tradition in England and throughout Read More
  • How Do Famous Authors Get Their Start?

    Sun, 20 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    There’s no clear-cut way to become a writer. A writer’s start, however, is almost always a small one. It takes a considerable amount of time to cultivate the talent that will amass attention, better pay, praise and prestige. That is, if those are the kind of things you’re into. But the road to artistic glory is necessarily a humble one. Few blossoming writers are in a position to turn down opportunities that pay and reach readers. And many times, a writer will settle for just the latter. In the end, these less glamorous ventures and gigs can prove essential to both the professional Read More
  • Announcing a New Scholarship for Rare Book School

    Sat, 19 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Here at Books Tell You Why, we're excited to announce a new scholarship for Rare Book School! Beginning in 2016, we will send one winner per year to a RBS course of his or her choosing.  Read More
  • Hector Hugh Munro: The Strange Ideology of Saki

    Fri, 18 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Saki was the pseudonym of short story writer Hector Hugh Munro. He adopted the name in 1900, and it's believed to have been taken from a character from the works of the Persian poet, Omar Khayyam. Most famous for his short stories, Saki also wrote novels and many articles of journalism. He remains an important figure in the tradition of modern English writers, although his politics and ideas may seem somewhat distant to us today. Read More
  • More Than Just A Beer in the Glass: An Interview with Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver

    Thu, 17 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For Garrett Oliver, beer is not simply a fizzy, alcoholic beverage we pull from the back of the fridge after a hard day at the office, or something we guzzle on Sunday afternoons while watching our team battle it out against a rival opponent. Sure, beer can be both release and celebration, but in Oliver’s book – well, make that books – beer is a window into our history as human beings and a glimpse at the things in life we value and hold dear. Read More
  • Beatrix Potter: A Pioneer in Self-Publishing

    Wed, 16 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When one thinks of Beatrix Potter and her literary legacy —her delicate illustrations and charming stories that have delighted children and parents alike for over one hundred years —one does not necessarily think also of writers like E.L. James, John Grisham, or Edgar Allen Poe. But these writers, though they differ greatly in genre and in time, all have something in common with the celebrated naturalist and storyteller. Each of these writers, like Potter herself, began their literary careers by self-publishing. From her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit , to Wag-by-Wall , the last of her stories published Read More
  • Edna O'Brien and Her Country Girls

    Tue, 15 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today she’s known as the “doyenne” of Irish literature and a respected elder stateswoman of arts and letters throughout the English speaking world. Her awards are numerous and accolades esteemed, but when Edna O'Brien broke onto the international literary stage in 1960 with the publication of her novel The Country Girls, she was a struggling devotee of James Joyce working as a reader for a London-based publishing house. Read More
  • Black Sparrow Reissues Charles Reznikoff Works

    Mon, 14 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you familiar with the works of Charles Reznikoff? If you haven’t already encountered Reznikoff’s books of poetry, including Testimony (1965) and Holocaust (1975), we’d recommend visiting a bookstore and seeking out these texts as soon as possible. And because Black Sparrow Press recently reissued a number of Reznikoff’s poetry books, it’s easier than ever to obtain one of these books for your personal collection.  Read More
  • A History of Literary Fraud

    Sun, 13 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s a writer’s job to play with the truth. We entrust the nonfiction writer with a little license: to render the real with a little flourish that the average eye doesn’t see. And, we trust the fiction writer to show us truth and beauty through a grand fabrication. Despite this understanding, we still hold our writers to delicate standards of integrity. We want engagement and artistry from memoirs and histories, but will not tolerate lies. Nor will we tolerate unoriginality or plagiarism from a writer of fiction. And, as a general rule, we like our books to be written by Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Thomas Mann & Herta Müller

    Sat, 12 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Collecting Nobel Prize in Literature winners makes sense: there’s a list to follow; a new author is chosen each year from all around the globe, allowing for an eclectic reach; and your collection will be filled with the best of the best. Today, we continue our efforts to spotlight Nobel laureates, and picking up where we left off last time, we’d like to feature two more German winners. Read on for tips and tricks for collecting the works of Thomas Mann and Herta Müller. Read More
  • The Fantastic Imagination of William Joyce

    Fri, 11 Dec 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    William Joyce is the multi-talented writer, illustrator, and genius behind some of the most beloved and well known children's stories, films, and characters of the past half century. Joyce's imagination has served him well, and his trademark style must be the fantastical ideas he portrays all while pushing boundaries and asking “what if?”. Read More
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