Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Ashurbanipal: The First Bibliomaniac

    Tue, 23 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Whosoever shall carry off this tablet, or shall inscribe his name on it, side by side with mine own, may Ashur and Belit overthrow him in wrath and anger, and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land” - King Ashurbanipal, Assyria, circa 7th Century BC The above is one of the first known instances of a book curse, a practice used widely throughout the centuries to instill the fear of god(s) into would-be book thieves. Some Medieval Spanish manuscripts contained threats of excommunication and damnation the likes of which make the wrath of Assyrian gods Ahur and Belit Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Bodleian Library

    Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Fans of the Harry Potter movies would recognize the Upper Reading Room of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The filmmakers used the picturesque library – filled with old tomes, decorative shelving, and books chained to the stacks – to recreate the Hogwarts school library. The Bodleian is not only one of the most recognizable libraries in the world, but also one of the oldest and most revered. Read More
  • The Birth of "Mark Twain": His First National Article

    Sun, 21 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In retrospect, 1866 was a watershed year for Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He gained a cult following for his Hawaii travelogue (then referred to as the "Sandwich Islands"), published his first piece in a national magazine, and--finding "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass" to be an unsuitable moniker--chose a new pen name: Mark Twain. "Forty-three Days in An Open Boat," published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in December of 1866, was the first of his works published on a national scale. Read More
  • The Ten Most Readable Newbery Medal Winners

    Sat, 20 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Every year, committees of experts and librarians gather to discuss the best books published for children that year.  Out of that process, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals are awarded for excellence in writing and illustration, respectively.  Every committee is different – sometimes there are clear favorites, sometimes not – but the very act of awarding the medals marks the books as favorites and collectibles for years to come. Whether you’re searching for a special gift or hoping to learn more about the award, look no further than this list of the ten most engaging Newbery Medal winners. Read More
  • Ian Fleming's Banned Book and the Unexpected Gravity of James Bond

    Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    A banned book always carries with it a certain social cache. Perhaps it’s simply that people want what they can’t have, or that censored works are coveted precisely for their perceived power to affect change. But the fact remains that once a book joins the banned book list, including such revolutionary political and aesthetic statements as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) and Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961), the work becomes difficult to ignore. Read More
  • Victor Canning: Forgotten Rival of Ian Fleming

    Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Victor Canning was a prolific writer who would surely be as famous as Ian Fleming if he had managed to write a little less. Certainly in the 1950s he was better known than Fleming in Britain and the United States. If only President Kennedy had picked up a copy of Panthers’ Moon rather than From Russia with Love, Canning might enjoy a greater legacy today. Read More
  • Top Ten Collectible Christmas Books

    Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    With the holidays fast approaching, it can be easy to take for granted all of the Christmas cheer that seeps into daily life. From the omnipresence of Christmas lights and miniature Santas to the unabashed spinning of Bing Crosby records, one might be lulled into such a state of wintry bliss that one could forget that the true force of Christmas spirit emanates from one’s bookshelf. Here are ten of the most collectible Christmas books to enliven your holiday spirit.   Read More
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Epic Quest: Writing The Lord of the Rings

    Tue, 16 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Despite plenty of naysayers and literary critics, the English-reading world consistently votes J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as one of the greatest books of the 20th Century.  In 1997, a poll performed by the British bookseller Waterstones voted Tolkien’s epic fantasy as the overall winner – and that was four years before Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations hit the big screen!  Our fascination with Middle Earth, the One Ring, and hobbits seems to have no end.  Today, we salute Tolkien for his epic accomplishment: writing The Lord of the Rings. Read More
  • Defining Science Fiction: Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov

    Mon, 15 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Defining science fiction has always been a tricky proposition. It has been suggested that, like pornography, "you know it when you see it," but that hardly seems a sufficient rule. Still less helpful is the notion that the science fiction moniker applies to any fiction dealing imaginatively with concepts borrowed from science. The fact of the matter remains that select staples of the literary cannon have displayed an interest in science from Shakespeare’s work through the likes of Thomas Pynchon. This does little to change the fact that when we speak of science fiction we hardly ever mean The Tempest (1610), Read More
  • A Collector's Guide to The Night Before Christmas

    Sun, 14 Dec 2014 09:05:00 Permalink
    With my favorite holiday approaching, there is no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than reading and collecting The Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. This essential children’s book has long been one of my favorites. When I first began collecting, I knew I wanted to focus on something that I had cherished as a child; so naturally I chose The Night before Christmas books, among a few others. Still a classic to this day, The Night before Christmas encompasses the magic of Christmas that is treasured by children and so often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of Read More
  • Louise Erdrich: Making Ojibwe Language and Culture Relevant to Readers

    Sat, 13 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Perhaps you’ve seen Louise Erdrich’s novels on bookstore shelves or mentioned in book club circles? While Erdrich just might be one of the most prolific contemporary novelists engaging with American Indian traditions, many readers aren’t especially familiar with her personal background or the role that her fiction plays in preserving the narratives of Ojibwe culture and language. The Ojibwe, or Chippewa, remain one of the largest tribes in the United States today, yet many of us don’t know as much as we should about a culture that remains vibrant in the northern states. More than many other Native American writers Read More
  • Aphra Behn: The First English Novelist?

    Fri, 12 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In her seminal work of literary philosophy, A Room of One’s Own (1929), Virginia Woolf said “all women together, ought to let flowers fall on the grave of Aphra Behn.” Aphra Behn, one of the western cannons most enigmatic cases, was not widely read at the time of Woolf’s writing just as she is not widely read now. Indeed, Behn's work has been neglected since her death in the late seventeenth century. However, it was Woolf’s position that any woman who sought to be taken seriously in literature owed Behn a direct debt of gratitude. Read More
  • Top 10 Children's Books for the Holiday Season

    Thu, 11 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Whether you’re eight years old or eighty, there’s something magical about receiving a children’s book as a holiday gift.  Whether it's a story you knew and loved as a child, or one you're passing on to a new generation, children's books stir old memories and create new. You open up the wrapping paper to find a beautiful story that transports you to a different place and time.  It is also a meaningful experience for the gift giver, wanting to pass along a character or story that they loved as a child.  And for those merely ‘young at heart’, what a Read More
  • Making Science Personal with Jane Goodall

    Wed, 10 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Dr. Jane Goodall, widely known for her contributions to the scientific study of chimpanzees in Tanzania, has also contributed tremendously to the breadth of non-fiction literature surrounding her topic of study. Goodall has published numerous accounts of her time in Gombe Stream National Park interacting with and observing the chimpanzees there, and each work is more riveting than the next. Goodall's writing style is compelling. Her works are true, scientific accounts, and yet they read like finely crafted pieces of fiction. In short, they draw you in and give an intimate look at the human-side of chimpanzee life. Read More
  • An Interview and Tribute to Caldecott Winners, Berta and Elmer Hader

    Tue, 09 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Joy Hoerner Rich is the niece and heir of Caldecott Award winners, Berta and Elmer Hader. Joy founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the Haders' legacy and recently co-authored the award-winning book Berta and Elmer Hader: A Lifetime of Art. In the following interview, Joy shares the charming story of the Haders--from their early careers and marriage, to winning the Caldecott Award for The Big Snow, creating the dust jacket for The Grapes of Wrath, and helping Laura Ingalls Wilder publish The Little House on the Prairie. Joy also describes Berta and Elmer Hader: A Lifetime of Art, from the challenges of publication to its awards and accolades. Read More
  • Charles van Sandwyk: Captivating Books of Exceptional Artistry

    Mon, 08 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    The work of Charles van Sandwyk is a delight for all book lovers, but especially enthusiasts of fine press, children's literature, and exceptional illustrations. Recalling an earlier age, his artwork portrays whimsical animals, fairies, and elves in unique, and sometimes magical settings. As a child, van Sandwyk immersed himself in the works of J. M. Barrie, Beatrix Potter, and J. R. R. Tolkien. These influences are evident in his own creations, as is his admiration for classic illustrator Arthur Rackham. Take a moment to delve into the world of Charles van Sandwyk. Be enchanted. Read More
  • Ten Facts About Caldecott Winner, James Thurber

    Sun, 07 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    James Thurber was a short story writer, cartoonist, and humorist. Much of his work was published in The New Yorker, where he began working as an editor in 1927. His most famous short story is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, recently adapted to film. Combining his talents for writing and illustration, Thurber had a successful career writing children's books, and won the Caldecott Medal for the book Many Moons. Below, read ten facts about Thurber's fascinating life and career.  Read More
  • How to Collect Books in Foreign Languages

    Sat, 06 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    For most of us, reading world literature requires translation. Unless you’re fluent in the languages of the globe, from Arabic to Khmer to Zulu, you’ve probably picked up a novel or book of poems that has already been translated for you. What happens when we discover an author whose original works are not in English, and we’re interested in collecting? Collecting books in foreign languages can seem like a daunting task, particularly when we don’t speak the language. Yet one of the most exciting finds of, say, a Günter Grass novel, happens when we locate a German-language first edition. How Read More
  • Gifts and First Editions for $100 or Less

    Fri, 05 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    When you buy a good book, you become the owner of a cultural and historical artifact. As bibliophiles, we can't help but get close to our favorite works, putting our hands on those copies that first heralded the arrival a major creative effort in the world. It's an elevated experience, and an even better one to share in the form of a gift. And while it may seem that great books carry a significant price, there are deals to reward the most shrewd of book hunters. Below, we've compiled some volumes to please both the novice and seasoned collector alike. Read More
  • John Steinbeck: Marine Biologist?

    Thu, 04 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1940, John Steinbeck undertook a fishing boat journey around the Gulf of California to collect marine specimens. That, in itself, is not so unusual. Afterall, Vladimir Nabokov worked as a lepidopterist and has several species of butterfly named after him. Indeed, many authors have dabbled in science. Somewhat more unusual, however, is that the journey led to a published collaboration between Steinbeck and famed marine biologist, Ed Ricketts. Read More
  • Charles Dickens and Christmas: The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

    Wed, 03 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Charles Dickens published his final Christmas novella, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, A Fancy for Christmas-Time, in 1848. While it has been upstaged by the most famous of his yuletide stories, A Christmas Carol, both share a distinct similarity: a ghostly plot. While Dickens is often credited with inventing the modern idea of Christmas, that of trees and garlands and presents, he also cast a spooky, haunting mood over the holiday. To Dickens, Christmas was not only a time for festive warmth, but one for dark examination, too. Read More
  • Nine Caldecott Winners for the Winter Season

    Tue, 02 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    The first snowfall of the year, the anticipation of Christmas, the wealth of holiday traditions: the end of the year is filled with opportunities for joy and fascination for the young (and young at heart). It’s no surprise, then, that the list of Caldecott award winners is filled with winter tales. It’s the perfect time of year to snuggle up with loved ones and read a book, so here are some classics to enjoy, from The Polar Express to The Big Snow. Read More
  • An Interview with Sheree Nielsen: Author of "Folly Beach Dances"

    Mon, 01 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Sheree Nielsen is an award-winning writer and author of Folly Beach Dances: a collection of photography, poems, and prose. The book is more than just gorgeous photography and lyrical poems, it's an escape to the beach, and how every living being or thing dances with the rhythm of the sea and the changing tides. In the following interview, Sheree shares with us her inspirations for Folly Beach Dances, including her own fight with lymphoma. Read More
  • Eloise: Spunk & Spirit for the Holidays and Beyond

    Sun, 30 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Have you met Eloise? If not, allow me to introduce you. Eloise is a precocious little lady. She lives with her nanny and her pets - a dog and a turtle - at The Plaza Hotel in New York. Eloise is spunky and mischievous, and she spends her days adventuring in and around the hotel when she’s not traveling. Eloise is the epitome of a know-it-all, because, at six years old, she of course, knows it all. Her escapades are detailed in her own words over the course of four classic children's books.  Read More
  • Four Life Lessons from Winston Churchill

    Sat, 29 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    This week we honor the life and genius of Winston Churchill. We do so knowing our honorifics pale beside those of former President Gerald R. Ford, given in London during 1983 to the English-Speaking Union. That address, captured for posterity in a first edition signed by President Ford, represents a historical intersection of two pivotal political figures: Churchill – who preserved the British nation; Ford – who stabilized and reinvigorated the Presidency after the Nixon resignation. After striding as a Colossus through the British political landscape, Churchill is somewhat reduced in stature for many millennials. In 2010, a Royal Mint Read More
  • Ten Things You Might Not Know About Mark Twain

    Fri, 28 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Beloved for his humor and storytelling prowess, Mark Twain is one of America’s most famous literary figures. Ernest Hemingway summed it up best when he declared, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."  Listed below are ten facts about Mark Twain, including some of the lesser known facets of his fascinating life and legacy. Read More
  • The Pilgrim Press: From Illegal Printing to Thanksgiving

    Thu, 27 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    When I say “pilgrims,” what comes to mind? With Thanksgiving upon us, maybe you’d mention the holiday itself, or turkey and stuffing. Perhaps you would conjure up images of the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. Maybe some of you would associate the term with a religious sect. While our understanding of the Pilgrims has been greatly shaped by the legend of Thanksgiving Day and our present customs surrounding the holiday, little attention is given to the real lives of the Pilgrims. They were a people displaced from their homeland for religious views, and as a result of their counter-cultural lifestyle, they Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: Treasures at Your Local Library

    Tue, 25 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Recently, the Cleveland Public Library unearthed a first edition copy of Charles Dickens’ holiday novella, A Christmas Carol that they didn’t even know they had.  The librarian was putting together a display of Christmas books, and when she pulled A Christmas Carol off the shelf, she realized it was, in fact, the original printing.  Read More
  • Collecting Modern First Editions: An Interview with Siep Kuijpers

    Mon, 24 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since childhood, Siep Kuijpers has been passionate about book collecting. He lives in the Netherlands and has been a teacher and book collector for over forty years. Acquiring limited edition books by his favorite authors is one of his most cherished pursuits. The horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres are his first literary loves, but he is also interested in unique graphic novels. Siep has graciously shared his collecting experiences with us in the following interview. Read More
  • How Elizabeth Gaskell Saved Charlotte Brontë's Reputation

    Sat, 22 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    "I desired more... Who blames me? Many call me discontented. I couldn't help it, the restlessness is in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes.” - Charlotte Brontë,  Jane Eyre Bearing more than a few parallels to her heroine, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë was born poor, obscure, and plain. Despite leading a life filled with hardship and tragedy, Brontë became a successful novelist in her thirties. Yet while she received popular acclaim, Brontë also faced scathing reviews and harsh personal criticism.  Brontë's 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, earned the ire of critics for its frank depiction of passion in a woman - a Read More
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