Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Win $50 Credit with Books Tell You Why

    Wed, 15 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    At Books Tell You Why, we deeply appreciate all of our readers and customers. As a token of our gratitude, we're giving away $50 store credit to one lucky visitor.  Read More
  • Political Shift: How Kingsley Amis Wrote James Bond

    Tue, 14 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Common folk wisdom suggests that most people move further right on the political spectrum as they age. And while many writers buck that trend, novelist Kingsley Amis was not one of them. Over the course of only a few decades, he adopted staunchly conservative viewpoints ranging from virulent anti-communism to disparagement of public funding for the arts. Interestingly, at the very height of this political shift, Amis was given the reins of one of England’s most beloved characters: James Bond. Read More
  • Nobel Laureate, Günter Grass, Dies at Age 87

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 09:45:55 Permalink
    The great German novelist, Günter Grass, has died at age 87. He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature for his "frolicsome black fables [that] portray the forgotten face of history" and the Nobel Academy named him the "predecessor" of "García Márquez, Rushdie, Gordimer, Lobo Antunes and Kenzaburo Oe." Although his landmark 1959 novel, The Tin Drum, was initially rejected by his countrymen, it became an international success and launched his career. Grass became known as the conscience of Germany--a status that later became questioned when he disclosed his involvement during World War II. Read More
  • Nobel Laureate, Günter Grass, Dies at Age 87

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 09:45:00 Permalink
    The great German novelist, Günter Grass, has died at age 87. He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature for his "frolicsome black fables [that] portray the forgotten face of history" and the Nobel Academy named him the "predecessor" of "García Márquez, Rushdie, Gordimer, Lobo Antunes and Kenzaburo Oe." Although his landmark 1959 novel, The Tin Drum, was initially rejected by his countrymen, it became an international success and launched his career. Grass became known as the conscience of Germany--a status that later became questioned when he disclosed his involvement during World War II. Read More
  • Meetings of the Minds: Henry James on His Contemporaries

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In his lifetime, Henry James mastered the art of of meeting his contemporaries. As a voracious reader, critic, and globe-trotter, James sought out and engaged the finest literary figures of his time in both his American homeland and in Europe. James enjoyed the company and works of some authors more than others, but no matter whom he was interacting with, the judgmental and perceptive writer almost always left a detailed record of his impressions. Read More
  • Southern Publishing During the American Civil War

    Sun, 12 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Stop for a moment and think about how much society runs on the availability of paper: book publishing, printed money, legally binding documents, etc. When the American southern states seceded from the Union in 1860, they found themselves in need of both an organized government and the paper to make it run. Publishing in the Confederacy was going to require creativity. Read More
  • Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney: Poetry and Politics

    Sat, 11 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    No one denies that the Nobel Prize in Literature has a political bent. It is, for instance, widely believed that playwright Harold Pinter’s 2005 victory was meant to commemorate the slow decline of the Thatcher-Major era in Great Britain. While the Nobel committee’s insistence that writers be honored for their ‘idealism’ has yielded snubs for James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and Henry James, it has leveraged that same commitment into recognition for such overtly political poets as William Butler Yeats and Czeslaw Milosz. It would be easy, in light of all this, to color Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney as a Read More
  • Scott Turow: Novelist, Lawyer, and Rockstar

    Fri, 10 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    On his Twitter profile, Scott Turow relays that he's "Considered by many as the Father of the Modern Legal Thriller." Time magazine would concur. It featured him on its June 11, 1990 cover and called Turow the "Bard of the Litigious Age." The issue goes on to ask, "Is he a lawyer who writes novels or a novelist who is a lawyer?" Time answers its own question stating: "In practice, as he demonstrated in his best-selling Presumed Innocent, Turow is both; his fiction bridges the divide between the popular and the serious, and the subject that keeps his readers turning Read More
  • New or Used: A Glossary of Book Condition Terms, Part III

    Thu, 09 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For those at the beginning of their collecting life, it can seem like sales descriptions are filled with confusing jargon. A whole set of terms exist to identify an item’s condition and features. Taken together with our other glossaries, we hope this list of book condition terms will help you kick-start your book collecting efforts. Read More
  • Collecting Postwar Jewish Writers

    Wed, 08 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed waves of immigration from across the globe, including many Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. After World War II ended, first-generation Jewish American novelists like Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and Chaim Potok rose to prominence, with Bellow even winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. In the decades that followed, graphic novelists like Art Spiegelman depicted Holocaust narratives in print, while second-generation authors such as Philip Roth and Jonathan Safran Foer became enormously popular. Are you trying to build your collection of Jewish fiction? We have some ideas for you. Read More
  • Charles Baudelaire and French Poetry: A Tradition of Transgression

    Tue, 07 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1857, Charles Baudelaire was prosecuted by the French government. The proofs of his seminal poetry collection, The Flowers of Evil, were seized, and six poems too obscene for publication were removed. Judges argued the poems “necessarily [led] to the excitement of the senses by a crude realism offensive to public decency.” Baudelaire and his publisher were fined, and the poet’s dark and bold work alienated even his friends. All in all, this was a success for Baudelaire, an artist who set out to challenge the poetic preoccupations of artificial refinement and sentiment that came before him. Read More
  • Stars and Books: A List of Celebrity Book Collectors

    Mon, 06 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King Every book lover finds himself enchanted by the stories he reads. Through books, we are all irresistibly drawn into new and different worlds. Truly, the magic of the book doesn't differentiate, and even celebrities - with all of their glamour, wealth, and power - find themselves under the same spell as the rest of us. Here is a look at four celebrity book collectors and the books they love. Read More
  • Barbara Kingsolver and The Role of a Writer

    Sun, 05 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since ancient times, the jury has been out on what the role of writers should be within a society. Percy Shelley suggested that poets are “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” So then, should writers reflect reality back to their constituents, or help them escape from it? Should they prioritize harsh truths? Should beauty be their art’s sole purview? And how should we, as readers, interpret a writer’s efforts? Contemporary American author Barbara Kingsolver fills an interesting position in this discussion. Read More
  • Visiting Legendary Authors' Homes: Concord, Massachusetts

    Sat, 04 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Across the country, legendary authors’ homes have been preserved as museums. From the small-town Asheville, North Carolina home of Thomas Wolfe to the famous Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, it seems as though many cities have their own literary claim to fame. One little New England town, however, appears to be wealthier in literary history than others. Concord, Massachusetts once was home to Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Indeed, many of these authors’ most notable works of fiction are set in this sleepy town just outside of Boston. Read More
  • Inaugural Poetry: The Influence of Maya Angelou

    Fri, 03 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Presidential inaugural addresses have provided us with some memorable presidential quotes, including Lincoln’s “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…” and FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” In a way, the inaugural speech is something of a spoken word exposé. While some presidents have succeeded in waxing their own type of poetry, some, too, have invited actual poets to share the stage. In fact, inauguration ceremonies have included a poet Read More
  • Washington Irving: Champion of American Literature at Home and Abroad

    Thu, 02 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When "The Legend of Sleep Hollow" was published in 1820, the United States of America was a young nation. American-born authors were decades away from producing central classics like Leaves of Grass and Moby-Dick, and the cultural direction of this brave new world was anyone’s guess. The country was in need of a strong and talented writer to steer her on the right course. This author was Washington Irving. Read More
  • Jane Goodall, Children's Books, and the Unburdening of Knowledge

    Wed, 01 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When it comes to knowledge, for better or worse, the trickle-down-effect seems to be the norm. History is littered with examples — from Socrates to Galileo — of those whose ideas weren’t accepted or understood by the masses at the time but later became indispensable to society as a whole. The trend continues. Modern academics and scientists argue and theorize among themselves, and answers to the questions with which they grapple will remain obscure to the general public for years to come. However, with this, as with so many things, Jane Goodall bucks the trend. Read More
  • Emile Zola's Twenty-Novel Experiment

    Tue, 31 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s exciting to read a series of books. Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a great book and diving enthusiastically into its sequel. Beyond entertainment and intellectual nourishment, reading a series is also a point of pride. To finish an entire trilogy, or a five-book or seven-book anthology is a feat of discipline worthy of admiration. Yet as far as book series go, not many can beat Emile Zola’s naturalist collection Les Rougon-Macquart, an ambitious literary cycle made up of twenty separate books. Read More
  • Four of the Earliest (and Most Remarkable) Publisher's Dust Jackets

    Mon, 30 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The subject of early dust jackets has been somewhat neglected in bookish circles. After all, how can plain (and often tattered) paper compete with a beautiful binding beneath? Yet early dust jackets have an important place in book history, one full of uncertainty and mystery. Initially, dust jackets were intended to be disposable and thus, most were discarded and destroyed. Few early examples now remain and no one knows with any certainty when dust jackets were first produced by publishers. Moreover, even in cases where early examples have survived, many later disappeared again and remain lost to this day. Below, Read More
  • Andrew Lang: Rooted in Children's Books, Fairies, and Anthropology

    Sun, 29 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Given that he is hardly a household name these days, it is easy to say that 19th Century Scottish historian, writer, and intellectual Andrew Lang deserves more recognition for his contributions to modern scholarship. Were it simply for the fact that the man’s Curriculum Vitae is stunningly long and varied, it might not seem like such a tragedy that Lang hasn’t even a Facebook fan-page to his name. The fact of the matter, however, is that without Lang’s influence, lasting damage might have been done to the field of anthropology. Read More
  • Ian Fleming and the Thunderball Court Case

    Sat, 28 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ian Fleming began writing the ninth James Bond novel, Thunderball, in January of 1961 from his Jamaican home, Goldeneye Estate. His health was failing due to heart disease, and he was feeling burned out on Bond. So, for inspiration, he turned to a James Bond screenplay he'd worked on in 1958 in collaboration with Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ivar Bryce. When Thunderball was published in March of 1961, Fleming failed to credit his collaborators for the part they'd played in the creation of the novel and found himself at the center of a SMERSH-sized lawsuit for plagiarism. Read More
  • Literature and Dictatorship in the Dominican Republic

    Fri, 27 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    What can fiction teach us about political resistance during times of tyranny? While the twentieth century alone has borne witness to acts of terror and dictatorship across the globe, numerous writers have addressed the violence that took place at mid-century in the Dominican Republic. From 1930 to 1961, the country struggled under the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, often referred to simply as “El Jefe.” Read More
  • Ten Things You Didn't Know About Sherman Alexie

    Thu, 26 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Sherman Alexie has been a prolific writer of fiction and poetry for more than twenty years. His works have won numerous awards and have been translated for non-English speaking readers across the world. You may know him as a famous Native American author, but what else should you know about Sherman Alexie? In addition to the fact that he has recently published works of both fiction and poetry (don’t miss Blasphemy or What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned), here are some more facts you may not have known about Sherman Alexie. Read More
  • Small Publishers - Champions of Classic, Strange, and Fine Press Books

    Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Think of your favorite bookstore. Most likely there’s a section in the store labeled “New Releases.” Here you can find titles from authors that any casual reader will recognize: James Patterson, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich. These books are produced and promoted by their publishing companies which are, especially in the case of those three, very recognizable. However, there is a sea of smaller publishers whose books are worthy of the same limelight. These lesser-known companies produce beautifully bound books, forgotten gems and off-the-beaten-path novels. Here is a selection of small publishers that care passionately about books and often express that Read More
  • Tennessee Williams and the Catastrophe of Success

    Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Glass Menagerie narrowly avoided complete disaster when it premiered in Chicago in 1944 with the inebriated Laurette Taylor in the crucial role of overbearing matriarch, Amanda Wingfield. Taylor was found drunk in the alley behind the theater an hour and a half before the opening curtain. Somehow, despite needing to vomit in a bucket backstage between scenes, she managed to pull off a performance still considered legendary. It was this performance on which hung the destiny of one of America's greatest playwrights: Tennessee Williams. Read More
  • Flannery O'Connor and the Civil Rights South

    Mon, 23 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    By all accounts, Flannery O’Connor didn’t have much of an activist voice in the American Civil Rights Movement despite her role as a prominent Southern novelist and short-story writer. How, then, might we read her works in a 21st-century context? Should we believe the gossip—that she didn’t have much good to say about broadening the country’s conception of equality—even though she appeared to be in favor of integration in her fiction? Many scholars have debated O’Connor’s position with regard to the racial justice, but how should we ultimately remember the author who died just a month after the Civil Rights Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: An Interview with Cristina Favretto

    Sun, 22 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Cristina Favretto has served as a special collections librarian at a number of institutions throughout her career. She is currently the Head of Special Collections at the University of Miami; her previous positions include: Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture at Duke University, Curator of Rare Books at UCLA, and Head of Special Collections at San Diego State University. Cristina's goal as a librarian is to build excellent, meaningful collections that are open and significant to the public. She has generously shared her collecting experiences with us in the following interview: Read More
  • LGBT Activism in the San Francisco Poetry Scene

    Sat, 21 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    San Francisco has a long history of activism, and in many ways the city has served as a literal and metaphorical center of postwar LGBT rights struggles. Yet the Bay Area also has an important reputation as the heart of modern and contemporary poetry. Kenneth Rexroth is credited with starting the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1940s, and he famously organized one of the first modern poetry festivals at the Lucien Labaudt Gallery in San Francisco around the same time. Shortly thereafter, Lawrence Ferlinghetti moved to the city and opened City Lights Bookstore in 1953. The now-famous shop went on Read More
  • From Homer to Borges: A List of Blind Writers

    Fri, 20 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If there’s one thing an author might fear losing, it’s her eyesight. How can a writer continue to work having lost the faculty to see the sliding of the pen or the movement of letters across the screen? Reading, too, becomes a struggle, forcing the author to depend on books being read aloud or to learn a tactile writing system like Braille. For some legendary authors like James Joyce, loss of sight is a terrible obstacle, while for others it’s a changing force, one that ultimately becomes integral to the work and creativity of the author. Read More
  • A Recent History of Children's Literature in America

    Thu, 19 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The genre of children’s literature really must be considered a recent invention, for it's only in the past 300 years that childhood has been set apart as an influential time in human development. For most of human history, children were treated as small adults. Like a snowball rolling downhill, children's literature started slowly and built itself into the multi-million dollar market we know today. Read More
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