Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Top Five Poets Who Wrote for Children

    Mon, 25 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writing poetry and writing for children have something very important in common: both endeavors are much more difficult than they look. The brief form, the broad appeal, and the creation of language that is as pleasing to the ear of a child as it is to the ear of a publisher: these are the challenges of the poet who writes for the young and the young at heart. This is a list of those who have made the effort and come forth triumphant and, perhaps, who also inspired future poets and writers. Read More
  • Six Cool Facts About the Library of Congress

    Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    We all know that it’s big, important, and crucial to our culture. After that, the details get vague. The truth is that the Library of Congress has a fascinating history, as well as a pretty cool present, and we’d like you to be as informed about the library as those that use it are about the world we live in. Read on to find out how the Library of Congress became the library of the people, and how it literally rose from the ashes and became an institutional gem in our nation’s history. Read More
  • Could William Shakespeare Have Been Catholic?

    Sat, 23 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The answer to our title question today is, yes. He could have been. Do we know for certain? No, of course not. However, that will not stop us from using the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth to dive into some of the speculation surrounding the Bard’s religion. Numerous researches and scholars have put forth arguments for why they believe Shakespeare was Catholic. Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting evidence (with conclusions of our own as to why any of this matters). Read More
  • Writing the PNW: A Literary Tour of the Pacific Northwest

    Fri, 22 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    You could argue the Pacific Northwest is a region with something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it can be tough country: vast expanses of high desert; rugged, mountainous terrain; rocky coastlines; and unpredictable weather. But then on the other hand, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is home to some of the most concentrated hipster and millennial-driven enclaves in the country. Cities like Portland and Seattle are famous for their artisanal coffee, farmers markets, fine food and beverage, and progressive attitudes toward culture and politics. If great writing is born out of conflict, of competing ideas or worldviews, then Read More
  • Visiting the Homes of Mark Twain

    Thu, 21 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or Mark Twain as he’s more commonly known, has become one of the most quintessential nineteenth-century American authors. Given his longstanding popularity, visits to regions of the country that influenced his work have become popular destinations for readers and fans of such novels as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). While some might argue that the whole of the Mississippi River and the many towns surrounding it play an important historical role in Twain’s collected works, there are a handful of sites where Read More
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Father of Detective Fiction

    Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    American author Edgar Allan Poe is commonly associated with the horror genre. Indeed, poems like “The Raven” and “Annabelle Lee” and stories like The Telltale Heart and The Black Cat lend credence and validity to this association. However, what most don't realize is that Poe is responsible for the modern version of one of the most popular and enduring literary genres: detective fiction. Fans of mysteries and detective stories will recognize the author as the namesake of the prestigious Edgar Award for outstanding mystery novels.  Read More
  • 42: A Literary Celebration of Jackie Robinson Day

    Tue, 19 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson It was just six days prior to the start of the 1947 season when baseball—and the world and culture in which the sport exists—would be forever changed. Jackie Robinson, baseball phenom and the first professional African American to play in the major leagues, was called up from a Brooklyn Dodgers minor league team to start at first base on Opening Day. Read More
  • Thomas Middleton and British Playwrights

    Mon, 18 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Let me feel how thy pulses beat.” ―Thomas Middleon, The Changeling Entertainment is a word that can carry many different meanings. Before the days of Hollywood movies, Broadway musicals, and Netflix accounts, the world was enamored with the stage. Theatres in 16th century England brought tragedy, comedy, and romance to life—cultivated in the minds of brilliant writers, and brought into fruition by passionate actors. Read More
  • Chaucer's Day Job in the Court of the King

    Sun, 17 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Even when they’re successful, some writers prefer to keep their day jobs. For example, Wallace Stevens was an executive at a Connecticut insurance company, and he believed that work kept the poetic spirit properly anchored. Goethe worked as an enthusiastic civil servant and administrator long after the smashing success of Young Werther. To this camp also belongs Geoffrey Chaucer, who stayed gainfully employed despite being a prolific poet. Chaucer’s day job, however, was far from the typical cubical-and-office grind. He worked in the court of the King. Read More
  • The Significance of The Golden Notebook

    Sat, 16 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Rarely can a work be called “unique” and truly earn that qualifier. The Golden Notebook is that unicorn in literature that is recognized as one of a kind, or as the Oxford Companion to English Literature terms it, "inner space fiction." It's a novel in four parts, (or is it one?) that reflect the narrator’s feelings about communism, and include a novel within a novel, a personal diary, and then the final depiction wherein the previous three become one, glorious, Golden Notebook. Each part is revisited, overlapping with one another, and the whole thing is a reading experience like no Read More
  • Happy Birthday to Nobel Prize Winner Tomas Tranströmer

    Fri, 15 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On April 15, 1931, Tomas Gösta Tranströmer was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Although he passed away in March of last year, this Nobel Prize-wining poet’s legacy lives on in the books and broadsides that reflect a style described in his New York Times obituary of “deceptively spare language, crystalline descriptions of natural beauty, and explorations of the mysteries of identity and creativity.” We’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate Tranströmer’s birthday by looking into some of his most famous (and most collectible) works. Read More
  • The History and Significance of Dictionaries

    Thu, 14 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Language is fluid. In fact, the most recent edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary boasts seventeen hundred new entries including "photobomb," "meme," "emoji," and "jegging." Looking back at the history of language, it's interesting to note that Noah Webster, the “Father of the American Dictionary,” came of age during the American Revolution. At that time, words had the power to define our national identity. Later, they had the power to reflect that new identity as it evolved. Webster believed that “Great Britain, whose children we are, and whose language we speak, should no longer be our standard...” and so he set Read More
  • Three Seamus Heaney Poems You Should Know

    Wed, 13 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the last 30 or 40 years, it’s become increasingly rare for a poet to achieve the same massive readerships as poets in the early part of the 20th Century. Yet the work of one 20th Century poet at the height of his popularity accounted for nearly 2/3 of all the book sales of living poets, according to the BBC.   That poet was Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Irish national treasure and 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature winner whose work has influenced countless poets, writers, critics, and intellectuals worldwide. Born in Northern Ireland, writer Robert Lowell called Heaney “the most important Irish poet Read More
  • Literature of the Civil War

    Tue, 12 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Civil War. It began on April 12, 1861 after months of political tension and declarations of secession. It came to a head when the North and South were first brought to conflict at Fort Sumter, a Union base by Charleston, South Carolina. From these fires raged years of bloodshed and war—forming the most harrowing period in the nation’s history. But you probably knew this already. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Luigi Pirandello and Salvatore Quasimodo

    Mon, 11 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today, we’d like to continue our efforts to compile collector’s resources for those interested in acquiring the works of Nobel laureates. As we’ve argued before, collecting Nobel Prize in Literature winners makes sense: there is a list to follow; a different person is picked each year from around the world, allowing for an eclectic reach; and the books in your collection will be written by the best-of-the-best. In this case, we keep our focus on past Italian winners. For those who may be interested in collecting the works of Italian Nobel Prize in Literature winners—there have been six Italian authors Read More
  • Three Writers Who Knew What Was So Great About Gatsby

    Sun, 10 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby gives us one of the most illustrious characters in fiction, Jay Gatsby. Narrated by character Nick Carroway, the novel explores issues of class, decadence, and obsession in the jazz-soaked Roaring Twenties. Since its publication in 1925, The Great Gatsby has sold over twenty-five million copies. It has been adapted into plays, ballets, an opera, a radio show, and seven movies, most notably the 2013 Baz Lurhman film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey MacGuire, and Carey Mulligan. Francis Cugat's iconic blue cover art can be found on t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags. The novel is found Read More
  • 4 Hans Christian Andersen Stories That Are Way Stranger Than You Think

    Sat, 09 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Hans Christian Andersen is a strange and fascinating figure who wrote a great many stories for children. His name is synonymous with love, splendor, and the wonderment of childhood. His own childhood was less than perfect, existing in deep poverty as the child of an illiterate washerwoman. He left his first life at 14 to find a new one with a wealthy family. He spun this fortune into a career in the arts, finding his mark with children’s stories in 1835. From there he remained a servant to the child’s ear, and his work has spawned retellings, both comical and Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts about Barbara Kingsolver

    Fri, 08 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Bean Trees (1988) and Prodigal Summer (2000), has developed a reputation as one of the most compelling, politically-charged authors of the last 50 years. After a life of activism and travel that included a few childhood years living in the Congo, as well as a significant amount of scientific training, Kingsolver ultimately found much success (and a place on Oprah’s Book Club) with her 1998 novel The Poisonwood Bible, which depicts characters whose lives are impacted by the political strife of the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. Here are some interesting facts about her.   Read More
  • Donald Barthelme: Postmodern Master

    Thu, 07 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Donald Barthelme is best known for his surreal and postmodern short fiction and novels which he published from the 196os through the 1980s. His style has been described as concise and humorous and he as a master of irony and form. His father disapproved of the postmodern attitudes Barthelme's works embody to the extent that his novels, The King and The Dead Father, are inspired by their strained relationship. In his lifetime, he published four novels and over one hundred short stories. Read More
  • 3 Rare Editions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Wed, 06 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    When you hear the phrase ‘great American novel,’ a few titles immediately jump to mind. The Grapes of Wrath. The Great Gatsby. Catcher in the Rye. But long before these classic novels helped redefine what is meant by the ‘great American novel,’ Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn defined the term in such a way that the novel is still regarded today as perhaps one of the most seminal works in the American literary landscape. First published in the United States in 1885—the novel was actually released in December 1884 in the U.K.—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn chronicles the title character’s Read More
  • Copper Canyon's Release of "The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda"

    Tue, 05 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda hasn’t been alive—at least in physical form—since September 1973. Yet his work continues to live on, and often in unexpected ways. In June 2014, archivists at the Fundación Pablo Neruda in Santiago, Chile discovered a series of boxes that contained poems written by Neruda and published only in Spanish by Seix Barral. However, in many ways these poems became “lost” to a global audience as they were never translated into English. Thus, the project became known as “The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda.” This month, the book is set to become available to Read More
  • Announcing Our 2016 Rare Book School Scholarship Winner!

    Mon, 04 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    We love rare books. We love librarians. We love Rare Book School. As a result, we’re excited to be able to send one deserving librarian to an RBS course for free. After reading through dozens of noteworthy applications, Books Tell You Why is delighted to announce the winner of our first annual Rare Book School Scholarship: Rosemary K. J. Davis. Read on for more information about Davis’s work, and please join us in congratulating her on her accomplishment. Read More
  • Book Traces Interview with Professor Andrew Stauffer

    Sun, 03 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There’s an exciting new project at the University of Virginia that highlights the significance of the book as a physical object and the individual histories of library books. At a moment in which the physicality of university libraries (and others across the country) are under threat of depletion due to the looming presence of the electronic text, we couldn’t imagine a more compelling project than Book Traces. It’s a crowd-sourced web project sponsored by NINES at the University of Virginia, and it’s led by Andrew Stauffer, a professor of 19th-century literature at UVA. We had a chance to catch up Read More
  • Remembering Imre Kertész (1929-2016)

    Sat, 02 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    On March 31, 2016, author, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust concentration camp survivor Imre Kertész passed away. Today, we pay tribute to him and all that he taught us through his life and work. To experience the Holocaust before the word was invented, before it had historical context, before it was what it has become in our cultural narrative, when it was just something that was occurring, when the larger questions of humanity were beyond reason and the truth of what was necessary boiled down to moment-to-moment survival...this is the story of the man who won the Noble Prize in Literature Read More
  • Books Tell You Why Acquires Shakespeare-Signed First Folio

    Fri, 01 Apr 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There is probably no English language book more significant than Shakespeare’s Complete Works. It's impossible to imagine our artistic heritage without this remarkable volume, printed in the first half of the seventeenth century. To this day, Shakespeare remains the most written-about author, and the hardest influence for today's writers to avoid. That is why it is with immense excitement that Books Tell You Why announces its own acquisition of an incredible Shakespeare-signed First Folio. Read More
  • From Gogol's Overcoat: Nikolai Gogol's Life and Legacy

    Thu, 31 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nikolai Gogol's name has become synonymous with Russian literature. In fact, Fyodor Dostoyevsky said that all Russian realist writers had "come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat,'” a reference to one of Gogol's most beloved stories, “The Overcoat.” But this influence over Russian works and on the larger literary community almost did not happen. Though Gogol achieved success at a young age, his career was marked with a variety of failures. Despite this, his remarkable literary legacy—which includes works such as Dead Souls, Arabesques, and The Fair at Sorochyntsi—shines on. Read More
  • Buying Antiquarian Books in Spain

    Wed, 30 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re planning a trip to Spain and you like to think of yourself as a book collector, then you’re in luck. The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) lists more than 40 shops selling rare and antiquarian books in various parts of the country, from storefronts in Sevilla in the southern part of Spain to those in Bilbao in the north. Depending on where you travel in the country, the makeup of the cities—from language to culture—varies widely. Anyone who has been to Catalonia will tell you that Catalan, as opposed to Spanish, is the primary language spoken. And Read More
  • Conrad, Madox, and Hemingway: Uncommon Commonalities

    Tue, 29 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The world was a much bigger place in the early part of the 20th Century. Communication was slower, transportation was relegated primarily to ships and trains, and the odds of connecting and interacting with like-minded creatives were much slimmer in an age without text messages and email.  Yet even with massive geographical and cultural obstacles, three literary titans managed to influence each other, cross paths, and even collaborate to create some of the most vibrant and interesting contributions to the literary arts.  Read More
  • The Remarkable Life and Work of Mario Vargas Llosa

    Mon, 28 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mario Vargas Llosa may be one of the finest writers of his generation, but that is not all the man does. His passion for language is coupled with his passion for book collecting and a desire to do great works as well as write them. Among numerous other endeavors, he is finding his place on the stage, and he has recently donated two massive collections to the Arequipa Regional Library. Along with his ongoing commitment to donate further from his personal collection, this donation brings the total number of volumes into the tens of thousands.   Read More
  • The Rewards of Louis Simpson's Poetry

    Sun, 27 Mar 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Wislawa Szymborska, winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, said poetry is something only two in a thousand people really care about. It may have been the poet’s invented statistic, but it doesn’t sound far off the mark. When was the last time, after all, you saw someone in the cafe invested in a collection of verse? A poetic debut tends not to generate the same buzz as a novel or new biography. What gives? Why has the preferred mode of Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare come to be so...neglected? Read More
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