Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • A Quick Look at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

    Sun, 11 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    At Books Tell You Why, we love hearing the stories of book collectors from all walks of life. For years now, one of our favorite celebrations of collectors has been the ABAA’s National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest (NCBCC). The contest chooses three finalists, all college students, who have composed an exemplary paper exhibiting their own collection. The collection can be composed of books of any kind, as long as they can be united under a sharp thematic focus. All three winners are invited to receive their scholarship and award at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in a ceremony Read More
  • The New York Times Book Review By the Numbers

    Sat, 10 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For a historic, revered publication concerned with the social and artistic footprint of arts and letters from across the globe, the mathematics behind The New York Times Book Review are fascinating. Take the number 119, for example, which is how old the review turns this year. Publishing its first issue on Oct. 10, 1896, the literary supplement to The New York Times is the last free-standing, regularly published entity of literary criticism associated with a daily news publication.  Read More
  • A Brief History of the Nobel Peace Prize

    Fri, 09 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Considered alongside its fellow awards, the Nobel Peace Prize can seem a little vague. While the Nobel Prize in Literature, for example, has often been the subject of controversy, it, like the awards for physics and chemistry, is fairly straightforward. As with those aimed at breakthroughs in the sciences, the award for literature is ostensibly awarded to those achieving the most impressive new heights in the field. The Nobel Peace Prize, on the other hand, while not referring to a discreet discipline in and of itself, has long been considered a bit nebulous in its intent. Despite that, the Peace Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Prize in Literature Winners

    Thu, 08 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Awarded each year since 1901 (except in 1914, 1918, 1935, 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1943), the Nobel Prize in Literature is an obvious litmus test for exceptional writers. While there have, of course, been a fair share of “snubs” in the past 100+ years, many of the greatest authors in recent history bear the title "Nobel laureate." As a result, collecting Nobel Prize winners makes good sense: there’s a list to follow; a new author is chosen each year from all around the globe, allowing for an eclectic reach (many congratulations to the 2015 winner from Belarus, Svetlana Alexievich!); and Read More
  • James Whitcomb Riley: The Children's Poet

    Wed, 07 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    James Whitcomb Riley entered the world carrying that rather weighty moniker along with him in 1849 in Greenfield, Indiana. He was a middle child of six born to Reuben and Elizabeth Riley, and was named after the then governor of the state. Despite the eighteen letters that his parents bestowed upon him at birth, James spent his young life trying to make a name for himself. After a failed attempt at law school, Riley worked as a house painter, Bible salesman, and sign painter. He later signed on with a traveling show where he entertained crowds with music and verse Read More
  • Buying Antiquarian Books in Oslo, Norway

    Tue, 06 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you find yourself in Oslo and are thinking about looking for antiquarian books, we can point you in the right directions. Norway isn’t home to the largest remaining selection of antiquarian bookstores in Scandinavia (shops in Denmark and Sweden seem to have fared better than others), but there are still quite a few in which visitors can spend many hours scanning shelves and boxes. Read More
  • Sixty Years of Eloise: A Child for All Ages

    Mon, 05 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    This year, Eloise turns 60, though to her adoring fans, she’s still not a day more than 6. And in today’s fast-paced social media filled world where youth seems as fleeting as a Snapchat, she is perhaps more relevant than ever. Eloise, the titular character in a wildly successful series of children books, first appeared to readers in 1955 in Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-Ups. The book chronicles the antics of an eccentric 6-year-old Manhattanite who lives a lavish life atop the Plaza Hotel. With two pets in tow — a pug named Weenie and a turtle called Skiperdee — Eloise Read More
  • Searching for the Remains of Federico García Lorca

    Sun, 04 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    There’s an ongoing campaign in Spain to locate mass graves of victims who were executed during the early days of the Spanish Civil War and through the decades of the fascist Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the country. With 15,000 euro, archaeologists have identified regions in which bodies may have been buried. One of those bodies is likely the remains of the playwright and poet Federico García Lorca. Read More
  • Strangely Familiar: The Invisible Influence of Thomas Wolfe

    Sat, 03 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thomas Clayton Wolfe’s writing is slightly obscure, and bad luck is at least somewhat to blame. While many writers drift in and out of the canon, only a few find themselves supplanted by more popular authors with the same name. Indeed, the Tom Wolfe who penned Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) may have, by dint of sheer SEO, made the resurgence of North Carolina native and early 20th century modernist maestro Thomas Wolfe a little slow in coming. But is it finally the original Thomas Wolfe's time? Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Tolkien Archive at Marquette University

    Fri, 02 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    J. R. R. Tolkien was raised in South Africa, fought in World War I, lived most of his life in England, and taught for a long time at Oxford University. So it may surprise you to know that a great portion of his original manuscripts and papers can be found at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It seems an unlikely location for such precious documents – how on Earth did they find their way to Wisconsin? Read More
  • Are You Ready for the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair?

    Thu, 01 Oct 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you are near Seattle next weekend (October 10th-11th), we would like to invite you to the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair! Sign up here for your complimentary tickets, and then join us to experience some remarkable books. Read More
  • A Brief History of the Printing Press, Part II: Toward a Modern Press

    Wed, 30 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In part one of our history of the printing press, we reviewed the early days of the printing press, from Gutenberg’s original press to Clymer’s wildly successful Columbian press. Today, we will take a look at the last widely distributed hand press and the move onto the cylindrical press. These presses set the stage, and naturally lead us to the fully automated offset printing presses that power the massive publishing houses of today. Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts About Elizabeth Gaskell

    Tue, 29 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Elizabeth Gaskell was a woman ahead of her time. Her writing won the admiration of people like Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Eliot Norton, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others. Like modern professionals, Gaskell and her husband often lived separate lives in order to accommodate their own vocations. However, both were supportive and involved in the other's career. At the time of her death in 1865, the literary magazine The Athenaeum described her as, "if not the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists." Here are five interesting Read More
  • Behind the Scenes: The Making of Doctor Zhivago

    Mon, 28 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It wasn’t easy for David Lean to bring Boris Pasternak’s twentieth-century epic Doctor Zhivago (1965) to the silver screen. Despite the fact that Lean had already won critical acclaim with previous films like The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Lean’s adaptation of the sweeping Russian novel came with difficulties and triumphs. For starters, the movie cost $11 million and took three years to make — no small amount of money or length of time for a cinematic feature in 1965. In an early issue of Life Magazine from 1966, a reviewer described Lean’s film Read More
  • What Grazia Deledda Can Teach Us About Contemporary Fiction

    Sun, 27 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Before Elena Ferrante, there was Grazia Deledda. Yet the considerable fame Ferrante has accrued in the past few years is likely eclipsed by that which Deledda had in her lifetime. Once infamous on her home island of Sardinia, she became a national treasure almost overnight. Deledda won the Nobel Prize in 1926, making her the second woman (and Italian) to do so. Visitors and reporters flooded her house in the following weeks. Benito Mussolini, who was just beginning to inaugurate fascist Italy, adored her. He even planned to present an autographed portrait of himself to the author, signed: “with profound Read More
  • The Dramatic Wasteland: T.S Eliot's Forgotten Plays

    Sat, 26 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    “What we have to do is to bring poetry into the world in which the audience lives and to which it returns when it leaves the theatre.” — T.S. Eliot Nobel Prize-winning poet T.S. Eliot has an influence that is likely too large and too all-encompassing to be measured. It includes nearly every poet who has come after him and some who came before, from Ezra Pound (whose own later work would come to draw influence from that of his protégé) to Billy Collins. What fewer people realize, however, is that Eliot’s influence extended beyond verse and into drama. Indeed, Read More
  • Yoknapatawpha County and Faulkner's Snopes Trilogy

    Fri, 25 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The author himself once referred to it as “my apocryphal county.” A Frankensteinian creation of two very real regions, Yoknapatawpha County is home to a number of William Faulkner's most famous novels and stories, including the famed Snopes family trilogy, which features the novels The Hamlet (1940), The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959). Faulkner’s fictional county is a landscape fraught with struggle and conflict, a place of drifters and vagrants, the morally apathetic and the socioeconomically disenfranchised. It’s a region of extreme racial tension and inequality, with a storied history of slavery, succession, KKK activity, Jim Crow laws, and discrimination.  Which Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts About F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Thu, 24 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Chief expositor of the "Jazz Age," F. Scott Fitzgerald's name has become synonymous with the 1910s, '20s, and '30s. No other literary figure proffers the pictures of that generation like Fitzgerald does through his four novels and numerous short stories. Born in 1896, the experience of his characters in the first few decades of the twentieth century is largely contemporaneous with his own. Even outside of This Side of Paradise, explicitly described by the author as semi-autobiographical, rarely can we find a story of Fitzgerald's not permeated with similar autobiography: in fact, we often times see very obvious correlations between Fitzgerald's Read More
  • Best Books on Australia

    Wed, 23 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Australia is a vast country with a long Aboriginal past and a more recent history of colonization and violence. Yet when we think of this region of the world, these aren’t always the topics that immediately come to mind. To be sure, many of us think of adventures in the Outback, waves crashing along Bondi Beach, or sounds emanating from the Sydney Opera House. Rather than focus on tourist tropes of the country, however, we’d like to offer you some reading recommendations that can bring to light the intertwining histories of this immense region. Read More
  • Fay Weldon: An Unfiltered and Unapologetic Voice for Women

    Tue, 22 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The goal of an author is to find his or her own unique voice, distinct from all writers before. Some struggle for years to find the right style or tone, and others seem to happen upon their voice by accident. Fay Weldon is decidedly in the latter camp. An extremely prolific British writer now in her 80s, Weldon tells her stories with stark honesty and effortless wit, and she doesn’t care one jot what the critics say. Read More
  • From Curiosity to Canon: Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

    Mon, 21 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When Walt Whitman published the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855, it contained just twelve poems. He fronted the money for the publication himself and almost no copies were sold. The now-iconic photo of young, jaunty-hatted Whitman that served in place of the author’s name cast an odd shadow over what were already terribly peculiar poems. At best, the volume of billowing, exuberant free-verse was considered a curiosity. Ralph Waldo Emerson, for instance, appreciated its attempt to revive the spirit of transcendentalism, but found the verse itself a bit loose. At worst, the collection was thought of as Read More
  • The Sublime Silliness of Stevie Smith

    Sun, 20 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Stevie Smith was a strange poet. She did not abide by any recognizable standard of seriousness in her writing. In fact, her work could be considered rather silly. Her verses veered into nonsense, and her language aptly imitated infantile speech. She drew cartoons for her poems, and fought her publishers hard to be able to keep them in her books. At readings, Smith doubled down on her whimsy. Some of her poems, she believed, were just meant to be sung. And sing them she did, performing them wildly to the tune of hymns and folk songs. Because of Smith’s artistic Read More
  • A Brief Guide to Collecting Newbery First Editions

    Sat, 19 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    C. S. Lewis once wrote, “A children’s story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story,” and he is not alone in lauding the virtues of the genre. The Newbery Medal, awarded once a year for excellence in writing for children, is considered the highest honor for children’s authors. Established in 1922, the Newbery also provides book collectors with a well-established place to begin. Read More
  • Where Samuel Johnson and David Foster Wallace Meet

    Fri, 18 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In his infamous 1791 biography of British writer, essayist, and thinker Samuel Johnson, James Boswell wrote: “If nothing but the bright side of characters should be shown, we should sit down in despondency, and think it utterly impossible to imitate them in any thing.” As it would happen, those words would prove prophetic in the response to Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, a book often credited with charting the course for what we consider the modern day biography. Read More
  • Top Five Collectible James Bond Novels

    Thu, 17 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For the James Bond collector, acquiring a rare or unique copy of any number of the fourteen Ian Fleming classics is an accomplishment. And, each individual Bond aficionado seems to have his or her favorite collection piece. Here, we’ve compiled a (subjective) list of the top five collectible James Bond novels. Did we include your top pick? If not, share what we missed in the comments below. Read More
  • Collecting Writers of the Spanish Civil War

    Wed, 16 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Between the World Wars, a “little world war,” as Time Magazine described it, took place from 1936-1939. The Spanish Civil War pitted the Republicans, backed by international leftist allies, against the Nationalists and soon-to-be-tyrant General Francisco Franco. You might know a little bit about the history of the Spanish Civil War and its significance in Europe. Both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany supported the dictator, turning the relatively localized war into a prescient event for the megalomania and political atrocities that have come to define World War II. As the Associated Press described it, the “conflict became a battlefield of Read More
  • And Then There Were 100 Million: Agatha Christie's Legacy

    Tue, 15 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It's sold more than 100 million copies since its publication in 1939. It’s been translated into more than 45 languages, dubbed time and again as the most successful novel in the genre, and widely regarded as the author’s masterwork. For almost any other author, these accolades would be something too grand to even hope for. But for famed mystery writer Agatha Christie (1890-1976), author of 66 mystery novels, the acclaim surrounding her landmark novel And Then There Were None is the perfect distillation of how Christie established critical tenets of the modern mystery novel and subsequently defied them.  Read More
  • Quiz: Which Famous Book Collector Are You?

    Mon, 14 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    You love books—perhaps they're even taking over your home. Well, here's some good news: you're in excellent company. Many historical figures and celebrities are also book collectors. From Thomas Jefferson to Keith Richards, book collectors come in a vast range of styles. So what defines your collecting approach? Take our quiz to see which of the world's most famous bibliophiles you most resemble.  Read More
  • The Complex Man Behind Roald Dahl Day

    Sun, 13 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Some authors have birthdays — others have holidays. Roald Dahl belongs to the latter category. The beloved children’s author’s September 13th birthday has become something of a celebration, a way for parents and children alike to appreciate the stories and creative gifts of a remarkable children’s author. His work, manifested in the likes of Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach, has captivated countless children for over half a century. Dahl’s stories are undoubtedly lovable and cherished. The man himself, however, was far more complex. Read More
  • H. L. Mencken: Chief Polemicist and Literary Critic

    Sat, 12 Sep 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "Mencken is himself 'a lyncher' since he once proposed to take William Jennings Bryan 'to the top of the Washington Monument...disembowel him and hurl his remains into the Potomac.'"-The New York Sunday Times From the start of H. L. Mencken's popular career, beginning with his summary of Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophy, Mencken's ideological roots were obvious to any discerning reader. His ideals required only a basic knowledge of the company he kept and the authors he idolized. While his style is permeated with raw wit and uninhibited ridicule of those he felt were beneath him, Mencken was a force, in more ways Read More
< prev next >

Looks like you are ready to submit this application

If you are satisfied that your application is complete, go ahead and click "submit this application."
Otherwise, click "review this application" to review your answers or make additional changes.