Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Tom Wolfe: Fiction, Journalism, and An Uncertain Legacy

    Sun, 01 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The prospect of writing a blog post on Tom Wolfe is daunting. The man who has been such a presence in the world of American letters these past forty years, having authored The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), looms large, not just over a new generation of writers and journalists, but over the blogosphere in particular. He has, after all, called out blogs for being "a universe of rumors," citing Wikipedia in particular as being an institution that only "a primitive could believe a word of." How a primitive could successfully navigate all Read More
  • Buying Antiquarian Books in India

    Sat, 28 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    How common are antiquarian bookstores in other parts of the world? If you ask the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), you’ll learn that many shops exist across the globe. From South America to Europe, and from Australia to East Asia, booksellers have direct links to ILAB. Yet where does India fall in this map? Read More
  • Winston Churchill: A History Twenty Years in the Making

    Fri, 27 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The evening was getting on and the clock was closing in on ten as the old man bid good night to his guests. Walking slowly through the hallways of his rambling country house, he paused for a moment at the bottom of the back staircase to clear his head from the lingering after-dinner drinks. The narrow stairs that loomed before him had posed no challenge when he’d purchased the house years earlier. Then, he’d been an unimaginably young forty-eight. Now he was a far less sprightly sixty-three. Read More
  • Poetry and Jazz: The Night Sylvia Plath Met Ted Hughes

    Thu, 26 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It was a winter night filled with poetry and jazz - a fateful night in which Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes. They were both attending a University of Cambridge party held at the Women's Union in Falcon Yard. The party was a celebration of the release of the first issue of the student written and published literary journal, St. Botolph's Review. In her journal, Plath described the party as "very bohemian, with boys in turtleneck sweaters and girls being blue-eye-lidded or elegant in black." Jazz played loudly in the background while party goers shouted poetry to one another over the din of Read More
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Master of Poetry and Historical Fiction

    Wed, 25 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Say it with me: “Listen my children and you shall hear/ Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” Chances are you’ve read the poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” You may have even memorized some of it. The poem’s author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is considered one of the greatest American poets, even some 130 years after his death. Beyond just “Paul Revere’s Ride,” though, is Longfellow’s overarching ability to write within a historical context. In doing so with such success, he made his poems timeless. Through them, he shows us just how powerful the written word can be in inspiring a culture Read More
  • John Steinbeck the Environmentalist: Writing and Nature

    Tue, 24 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In an era when industrialization and commerce have separated us from nature, some modern writers feel inclined to render beautifully our native, ecological world. Among the most significant of these pastoral writers is Nobel laureate, John Steinbeck, whose gorgeous prose reminds his readers that humans are inseparable from the flora and fauna.  Read More
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Gothic Literature at its Finest

    Mon, 23 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Victor Hugo is rightly considered one of the great literary minds of the nineteenth century. His works highlight the political and social atmosphere in his French homeland over the course of history. However, even beyond the compelling nature of Hugo’s stories there is an education for literary enthusiasts of the Romantic, and specifically, the Gothic genre. An analysis of the juxtaposition between sublime and grotesque and the importance of place in The Hunchback of Notre Dame provides a fascinating look at just some of the elements of Gothic literature which Hugo expertly employed in the telling of this famous tale. Read More
  • 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
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