Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • An Interview with Rollin Milroy of Heavenly Monkey

    Sun, 22 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    An interview with Rollin Milroy, owner and creator of Heavenly Monkey, a remarkable letterpress and binding studio based out of Vancouver. In addition to its many individual followers, the productions of Heavenly Monkey are collected by Yale University, Brigham Young, the University of California, and many other institutions. In the following interview, Rollin shares details about his work, creative process, and plans for Heavenly Monkey.  Read More
  • Anais Nin: The Other Kind of Journalist

    Sat, 21 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    “I never travel without my diary. One must always have something sensational to read on the train.” – Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)  Oscar Wilde’s notorious wit has a tendency to eclipse the subjects of his many and various quips, but in the above case he has nodded toward an eminent truth for many writers. Diarist Anais Nin provides an interesting study on the matter. Read More
  • Birdsong: The Legacy of Zitkala-Ša

    Fri, 20 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Zitkala-Ša means "Red Bird" in the native language of the Dakota Sioux. An accomplished musician, writer, and political activist, Zitkala-Ša lived her life passionately and, in a way, with as much song as her name implies. Read More
  • Jonathan Safran Foer's Lessons from the Past

    Thu, 19 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jonathan Safran Foer has enjoyed a stellar career for such a young author. He has written two novels, both best-sellers and both adapted by the cinema. He has one book that straddles the line between fiction and work of art entitled Tree of Codes. In making it, he pulled lines from Bruno Schulz's Street of Crocodiles and cut out physical holes in the pages so that different readings could be made, depending on the overlap of the pages. His extensive search for a publisher led him to Belgium's die Keure who was able to print it, but only in a Read More
  • How to Identify First Editions by Grosset & Dunlap

    Wed, 18 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Although publishers Grosset & Dunlap focused primarily on reprints, they did produce first editions. For book collectors, first edition identification is a vital skill. More often than not, conventions for distinguishing first editions vary from publishing house to publishing house. Take a moment to learn more about the history of Grosset & Dunlap and find out how to identify their first editions.   Read More
  • Reclaiming Babel with Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison

    Tue, 17 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” -Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture 1993 On the heels of her 1993 Nobel Prize, literary giant Toni Morrison gave the customary Nobel Lecture in Stockholm, Sweden. Her talk took the form of a myth about a wise, blind women and an attempt by two young women to mock her blindness. In her discussion of language, with its awesome capacity for both oppression and sublimity, she eventually reached the subject of the Tower of Babel. Read More
  • A Brief History of African American Literature

    Mon, 16 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Given the long history of African American literature--one fraught with difficulty and violence--how can we even begin to give a brief account? By all accounts, the first published works of African American literature came about in the 18th century, at a time when the United States was just coming into being and when newly recognized citizens, with clearly defined rights and freedoms, owned slaves. Conditions of slavery produced a certain genre of writing, which we’ve come to describe as slave narratives. By the time the late 19th and early 20th centuries came around, Jim Crow policies led to  enormous discrimination and violence Read More
  • Fly-fishing 101: Seriously, Can You Outsmart a Trout?

    Sun, 15 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The sport of fishing in America has long endured, despite what some people intuitively assume by early adulthood: that the term “fishing activity” is an oxymoron. For those folks, it’s a wet, messy, endeavor starting early in the morning and resulting in either nothing to show for one’s efforts or, from time to time, cold, clammy creatures that must be gutted and cleaned. But, for those who can see the art and science in the act of fishing, and who can learn to appreciate the workings of chance present on any given fishing escapade, the sport is actually quite riveting Read More
  • Love in Literature: The Top Ten Classic Romances

    Sat, 14 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a source of strife when you can lose yourself in the classic romances from literature--after all, what could be better than love and passion as written by some of the world's most talented authors? Happy ending or not, you can bet they’re all heartbreakingly beautiful. Take a moment to delve into the best romances of classic and modern literature as we count down our top ten list. Read More
  • Henry Adams, the Five of Hearts, and the Shrouded Woman

    Fri, 13 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Posterity has remembered Henry Adams mostly as an American historian. His most famous published works are History of the United States of America, a nine volume set, and his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919. However, he is also credited with having written two works of fiction, Esther, which he published under the pen name Frances Snow Compton, and Democracy, An American Novel, which was the first novel of its kind to become an international bestseller. In addition to being a historian, Adams was also a part of a highly political family, a member Read More
  • A Glossary of Book Terms Part I: The Anatomy of a Book

    Thu, 12 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you're just getting into antiquarian or rare book collecting, you may be overwhelmed by the terms and phrases bandied about in item descriptions. What's a frontispiece? What is foxing in books?What's the difference between a galley and an advance reader copy? We hope to shed some light on the jargon of the book trade in a series of glossary posts, starting with the anatomy of a book. Read More
  • Authors in Exile Part II: Voltaire's Return to Paris

    Wed, 11 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nostos, the Greek word for ‘homecoming,’ or a hero’s return, has been of particular interest to authors since time immemorial. The motif appears as the driving force of Homer’s Odyssey and stretches forth through the millennia toward James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), making pivotal pit stops in the likes of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611). Nobel Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter even has a 1964 play about it, fittingly entitled The Homecoming. For all of its prominence in the canon, however, the concept of a hero’s return rarely rises above the level of mythology. James Joyce, Read More
  • Catalog of Rare & Early Dust Jackets Available & Highlights from the Collection

    Tue, 10 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Throughout the nineteenth century--and even beyond--dust jackets were intended to be disposable. As such, they were often discarded after purchase. Given their frail construction and the likelihood of them being thrown away, it can be quite rare to find nineteenth books that retain their original dust jackets. Books Tell You Why is pleased to offer a remarkable selection of such titles. Many of the books represent the earliest known examples of classic works in dust jackets. You may view our catalog for the collection here or browse a sampling of ten notable titles below: Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Library of Congress

    Mon, 09 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The United States Library of Congress claims a long list of “world’s largest” accolades amongst libraries: world’s largest law library, world’s largest collection of comic books, world’s largest collection of cartographic materials, as well as the world’s largest library, period. With more than 158 million items on about 838 miles of shelving, it’s hard to argue with that one. In addition to its utterly massive collection, the Library of Congress is a bastion in the fight to archive American culture. Read More
  • J. M. Coetzee and the Politics of Otherness

    Sun, 08 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In early 2007, Nobel Prize winning South African author J.M. Coetzee wrote a speech. It was delivered on February 7th of that year in Sydney, Australia, vocalizing strong support for Voiceless, an Australian animal-rights non-profit, and eviscerating the practices of the modern animal husbandry industry. It was, no doubt, a speech worthy of Coetzee’s weighty reputation. At the podium, however, the words came not from Coetzee but from award winning actor, Hugo Weaving. Read More
  • A Beginner's Guide To Collecting Comic Books

    Sat, 07 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In recent years, the longstanding divide between comic books, graphic novels, and "serious" literature has begun to erode. The efforts of Art Spiegelman (Maus (1980)), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis (2000)), and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient, Alison Bechdel (Fun Home (2006), Are You My Mother? (2012)), have drawn interest from previously standoffish literary types. The stigma that has historically been tied to graphica is fading fast and more readers are immersing themselves in the genre. Even works like Frank Miller’s Sin City (1993), with its recent film adaptation, are expanding the traditional scope of the comic book audience. What this will ultimately mean for Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts About Sinclair Lewis

    Fri, 06 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    American author and Nobel laureate, Sinclair Lewis, was born in 1885 in the small Minnesota town of Sauk Centre. He was the youngest son of the town doctor. Unlike his two older brothers, he was awkward, gangly, sensitive and bad at sports. He also had very bad acne and was teased mercilessly for his looks. His was a lonely childhood. However, he showed an early aptitude for writing and found an escape in journaling and books. He left Sauk Centre at the age of seventeen to attend Oberlin Academy (Oberlin College) for a year. After his year at Oberlin, he Read More
  • Charles Dickens: First Modern Celebrity & Pioneer of the Farewell Tour

    Thu, 05 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mötley Crüe may be among the least Dickensian entities on the planet. Certainly, if we deploy the word the way it’s often used, to refer to over-the-top poverty and industrial hardship, we are left scratching our heads at whether ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ could, under any circumstances, be taken as an allegory for the British working class. Even if the word is just meant to evoke the esteemed author of such beloved works as Oliver Twist (1838) and A Christmas Carol (1843), the gap between Charles Dickens and Nikki Sixx still seems hard to bridge. With the band’s ongoing farewell tour, however, Read More
  • William S. Burroughs: A Writer on the Margins

    Wed, 04 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    William S. Burroughs is the kind of author whose life often upstages his writing. His style is challenging, his subject matter unusual, and to many, he is easier to read about than to read. Those who do read his books are often of differing opinions. To some he is a genius, while to others he is a literary madman, possessed by drugs and misguided avante-garde ambitions. Yet beyond the larger-than-life character, the contentions and the clamorous criticism, there’s an oeuvre worth a serious reader’s attention. Read More
  • Five Outstanding African American Authors

    Tue, 03 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    As we celebrate Black History month, we shine a particular spotlight on some of the most renowned African American writers of the past century. Whether you’re a lifelong devotee or looking to diversify your reading, these extraordinary authors--winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and Nobel Prize--are sure to blow you away. Read More
  • Congratulations to the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott Winners!

    Mon, 02 Feb 2015 02:41:02 Permalink
    Every year in the dead of winter, people who love children’s books have a reason to celebrate. The Newbery and Caldecott Awards (along with lots of others, click here for the full list) are announced to a packed room of librarians at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference. The 2015 Newbery Medal went to The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, and the 2015 Caldecott Medal was awarded to The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat. Read More
  • A Brief History of the Dust Jacket

    Sun, 01 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    As most collectors are aware, a dust jacket in fine condition can greatly enhance the value of a book. Indeed, for modern first editions, a book without the dust jacket will sell for only a fraction of the price. Once intended to be temporary and disposable protection for beautifully bound books, dust jackets have become--in some ways--more valuable than the books they protect. How and when did this change occur?  Read More
  • Are You Ready for the 48th California Antiquarian Book Fair?

    Sat, 31 Jan 2015 11:00:00 Permalink
    If you are near Oakland next weekend (February 6th-8th), we would like to invite you to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Allow us to provide you with complimentary tickets and come spend a few hours browsing remarkable books. Read More
  • Tolkien Spotlight: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

    Sat, 31 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For fans of the great J. R. R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil provides yet another avenue to experience the unmatched storytelling and myth-spinning for which Tolkien is so famously known. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is a compilation of sixteen poems and a true potpourri of material. It is presented as if it is a literal translation from the manuscript known as the Red Book of Westmarch. Read More
  • An Interview with NCBCC Winner Audrey Golden

    Fri, 30 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Audrey Golden's paper "Pablo Neruda and the Global Politics of Poetry" won the third prize at the 2014 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. She recently earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, and won first prize at her school's Student Book Collecting Contest. Her scholarship not only highlights Neruda as an author to be collected, but as a poet whose destroyed library must be remembered. We were fortunate to be able to interview her about her work and her discoveries about the legendary poet.  Read More
  • The Six Wives of Norman Mailer

    Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "Notorious philanderer," "egomaniac," "pugnacious" and "pompous" are a few of the milder epitaphs that have been used to describe controversial and larger-than-life Norman Mailer. His New York Times obituary was even titled, "Norman Mailer, Towering Writer With Matching Ego, Dies at 84." Known in the literary world as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, Mailer won two Pulitzer Prizes in literature and one National Book Award. He is credited with having pioneered creative nonfiction as a genre, also called New Journalism. During his life he became as famous for his relationships with women as he did for Read More
  • Isaiah Thomas, the American Antiquarian Society, & Other Resources

    Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Isaiah Thomas was a patriot and a printer. His work as a publisher antagonized the British presence in the colonies, and he was the first to proclaim the Declaration of Independence in the state of Massachusetts. Furthermore, Thomas’ research of the printing process and his subsequent library of titles formed the basis for what is now the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), one of the major organizations dedicated to book collectors and history enthusiasts alike. Arguably, Thomas’ legacy can be seen in both the AAS and in the other organizations which have taken up the torch of championing book collectors and their Read More
  • Collecting Signatures & Modern Firsts: An Interview with Vance Morgan

    Tue, 27 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Vance Morgan was born in New Jersey and raised in Florida. He obtained a Doctorate in School Psychology and Counseling from the College of William and Mary, and worked as a school psychologist for 38 years. After becoming interested in collecting as a boy, Vance ultimately acquired a collection of over 2,500 signed books. In the following interview, Vance shares with us his collecting story as well as his insights into corresponding with authors and acquiring their signatures.  Read More
  • Juliana Berners and the Creation of Fishing Literature

    Mon, 26 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    By reliable accounts, The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle (1496) is the earliest surviving volume on the subject of fishing. It was published by St. Albans Press, the third printing press established in England. Treatyse is a well-written volume: both an intriguing artifact of the history of the sport and an insightful guide for today's modern fishermen. Interestingly enough, given the time period in which it was written, Treatyse was penned by a woman: a prioress named Juliana Berners. Read More
  • Through the Looking Glass of Lewis Carroll: Master Photographer

    Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that made Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, a household name. However, during his own time Charles Dodgson was known for several other vocations besides that of authoring children's books. In addition to being an author, Dodgson was a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, an ordained deacon in the Anglican church, and a very accomplished photographer. Read More
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