Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • A Writer with a Gun: Ambrose Bierce and American Short Stories

    Thu, 12 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ambrose Bierce caused quite a ruckus as a writer. Public opinion surrounding the man can be summed up in one fact: he carried a gun to ward off detractors. Bierce was sarcastic, brutally tasteless and very good at not making friends. He was also a fantastic wordsmith. For being such a divisive a public figure, he backed it up with a commitment to his craft. His extensive repertoire covered all facets of prose from journalism to poetry and most famously, short stories. Bierce’s trailblazing life would end under mysterious circumstances in Mexico. To this day no one knows exactly how Bierce Read More
  • Poetry: All in the Family for Stephen Vincent Benét

    Wed, 11 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Poetry seems to have been woven into the DNA of Stephen Vincent Benét. Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1898, Benét was the youngest child of Colonel James Walker Benét and Frances Neill Rose Benét. Both of the elder Benéts were avid readers with a keen appreciation for poetry. Frances Benét herself wrote poetry, and Stephen said of his father, "[he] was interested in everything from Byzantine Emperors to the development of heavy ordnance and was the finest critic of poetry I have ever known." Read More
  • Sir Thomas Malory: Arbiter of English Mythology?

    Tue, 10 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It seems a bit odd that J.R.R. Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings (1954, '54, '55) and The Hobbit (1937), sought to craft a distinctly English mythology, when by all accounts such a thing already existed. The stories that comprise the King Arthur legend have circulated in France and England since the Middle Ages. Films that depict mythic tropes likes the sword in the stone and the famed round table run the gamut of decades and genres. As such, they've generated classics of children’s cinema (1963's "The Sword in the Stone") and absurdist comedy (1975's "Monty Python and the Read More
  • Join Us at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair!

    Mon, 09 Mar 2015 10:30:00 Permalink
    There are just a few days left before the 34th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair--and we at Books Tell You Why are looking forward to more than just the sunshine. It's the oldest book fair in the Southeastern United States, and it never fails to provide fascinating books and literary conversation. If you find yourself in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area between March 13-15, be sure to stop by. We'll even provide you with free tickets. Read More
  • Douglas Adams: Turning Science Fiction into Comedy

    Mon, 09 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s a well-told story: a man is hitchhiking his way across Europe, has a few too many pints at the pub, lies down in a field, looks up at the stars, and thinks, “Hey, someone should write a guide to hitchhiking across space!” The British writer Douglas Adams (1952-2001) admitted that he’d told the story so many times, he wasn’t completely sure which parts were true and which were embellished.  Read More
  • James Bond and the Recusant Catholic Connection

    Sun, 08 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    One the occasion of its release in 2012, the James Bond film, Skyfall made quite an impression. Not only did it accomplish the sizable feat of breaking new thematic and emotional ground in a series that stretches back more than five decades, but it also managed to subtly reveal new information about James Bond’s notoriously obscure background. Read More
  • A Collection of Bookish Humor

    Sat, 07 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In need of a laugh today? You're in luck--we've compiled a list of some of our favorite literary jokes and puns. Peruse witticisms by such greats as Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and even Flannery O'Connor. We hope that you'll be amused by our selection of literary humor and then, perhaps, share your own favorites in the comments below. Enjoy! Read More
  • Bret Easton Ellis and the Darker Side of Literary Fiction

    Fri, 06 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    There are writers who revel in the sophisticated circles of the literary world – attending parties in New York, rubbing elbows with publishers, blurbing the books of debut authors. And then there are writers like Bret Easton Ellis who could not care less. Ellis has come to be known as a sort of “bad boy” of literary fiction. His novels are dark, disturbing, and populated by characters filled with malaise. Read More
  • Case Studies in Collecting: Louisa May Alcott

    Thu, 05 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many readers, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women was a powerful novel. Despite the fact that most of her works were published nearly 150 years ago, they feel strikingly modern and relevant. Whether you’re interested in collecting early dust-jacketed editions of some of Alcott’s most famous novels or rare literary magazines containing contributions from the writer, you may not need to look too far. Read More
  • A Brief History of Book Auctions

    Wed, 04 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    While the book has been around for millennia, the practice of selling them at auction is relatively new. By most accounts, the first book auctions occurred in the Low Countries in the late sixteenth century. To understand why the rise of the book auction happened at this time, it is essential to remember that the printing press was invented the century before. While the onset of book auctions saw its fair share of detractors, the practice has continued through today. Read More
  • Announcing a New Internship Opportunity

    Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Announcing an exciting opportunity for college students and recent graduates: Books Tell You Why is accepting applications for a social media and marketing internship! Our program will provide hands on training with cutting edge software as well as experience with social media, marketing, and rare books. Best of all, it's remote. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Old Library & The Book of Kells

    Mon, 02 Mar 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today’s featured library is both one of the world’s most beautiful libraries and the permanent location of a very noteworthy book: the Book of Kells. This 1,200 year old collection of Christian Gospels is famous for its intricate and sometimes puzzling illustrations. Distinctly Irish in design and amazingly preserved, the Book of Kells is held and displayed at the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin. Read More
  • 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
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