Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Five Things You Should Know About Joseph Heller

    Fri, 01 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Most writers only dream of making the same lasting indent in American cultural consciousness that Joseph Heller did. Even famed novelist John Updike, who didn’t consider Heller to be a ‘top of the chart’ writer, deemed the author’s 1961 satirical behemoth Catch-22 to be “important.” ‘Importance,’ however, isn’t even the half of it. Heller’s inimitable brand of black humor, his keen eye for the absurdity of bureaucracy, and his deep antiwar sentiments combined to form a perfect storm of satirical perfection. Not only did he earn a place in the canon that stretches from Mark Twain to Kurt Vonnegut, but Read More
  • Carl Friedrich Gauss and The Method of Least Squares

    Thu, 30 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking coined the phrase: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” While he probably didn't have 19th century German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss in mind when developing the sentiment, he may well have. Actually, in Gauss’ case, it would be more fitting to say “shoot for the comet,” the Ceres comet at that, and as it turns out, the math genius didn’t have to be too concerned with missing. Read More
  • Annie Dillard and the Influence of Henry David Thoreau

    Wed, 29 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -Henry David Thoreau Contemporary writer Annie Dillard draws great inspiration from legendary author Henry David Thoreau. Her crowning work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is often compared to Thoreau's Walden, for good reason. Here, we briefly explore Dillard's life and work to learn more about how she's both similiar to and different from Thoreau. Read More
  • Who Is Your Literary Mother?

    Tue, 28 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mother's Day is just around the corner but there's no reason to stress. Get some inspiration for the holiday by taking our quiz: Who Is Your Literary Mother? Read More
  • A Brief History of Postcolonial Literature, Part II

    Mon, 27 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Part I of our exploration of the history of Postcolonial literature, we focused on the rise of postcolonial theory and early postcolonial writers, such as Chinua Achebe and Nadine Gordimer, who set the stage for the international genre with their imaginative literature. Today, we shift our emphasis to contemporary writers of the postcolonial condition. Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: And the Oscar Goes to...

    Sun, 26 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Movie-lovers can be just as passionate about collecting rare materials as book-lovers, and it shows in the number of large film collections around the world. One of the most prestigious is found at the library and archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles. The Academy, better known for handing out the Academy Awards or Oscars, has made it their business to make films, screenplays, production sketches, periodicals, and much more available for research and education. Read More
  • Soviet Resistance Literature

    Sat, 25 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    During periods of tyranny, writers of fiction become subject to intense censorship and scrutiny. Remarkably, novelists and poets from the early decades of the Soviet Union produced some of the most imaginative and redemptive works in the history of the twentieth century. From the poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky to the realist prose of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Soviet resistance literature occupies an important place in the contemporary imagination when it comes to linking fiction with politics. Read More
  • Marginalia and Why You Should Write in Your Books

    Fri, 24 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When you pick up a book to read, do you also pick up a pencil, ready to mark up the margins with your thoughts and ideas? If so, your written additions are part of a body of writings called marginalia. For many readers, scribbling on the pages of books is a beloved, recreational practice. For others, it’s more of a necessity. Whether they are humorous jots and tittles, lessons learned from the story, or more serious notes of textual analysis, marginalia are simply fascinating. Read More
  • Anthony Trollope, Wanderlust, and How The "Mastiffs" Went to Iceland

    Thu, 23 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    At a certain point, it seems unusual that any writer should ply his trade in Ireland. Of the small nation’s four Nobel Prize winners in literature, two, Samuel Beckett and George Bernard Shaw, conducted most of their literary careers abroad in France and England, respectively. And, of course, that pair barely scratches the surface of Irish writers’ propensity, as a group, to work in self-imposed exile. Where literary titans like James Joyce and Oscar Wilde could scarcely abscond from the Emerald Isle quickly enough, the Hibernian countryside proved an ideal starting-point for one of England’s most idiosyncratic novelists: Anthony Trollope. Read More
  • Charles Lamb and Retelling Shakespeare

    Wed, 22 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Shakespeare's influence on our everyday language is undeniable. Any time you’ve waited "with bated breath” or taken “cold comfort,” you can thank Shakespeare for your phraseology. Have you recently found yourself “in a pickle” or been sent on a “wild goose chase?” Shakespeare coined those descriptors, as well. Maybe you are thinking everything in this paragraph is a “foregone conclusion.” Well, that’s Shakespeare, too. Truly, Shakespeare’s cultural reach is wide. But think for a minute about your earliest exposure to Shakespeare’s actual works. Was it college? High school? Even before then? In the 19th century, one man worked to bring Read More
  • Umberto Eco: Kant and the Platypus

    Tue, 21 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many years it was believed that Immanuel Kant never made it more than ten miles outside of Konigsberg. Even though this is demonstrably false (he spent some years working as a tutor in Russia) public perception of the father of modern philosophy has not changed. Thousands of freshman philosophy students each year will happily speculate about Kant’s fussiness, his cloistered lifestyle, and what many diagnose as a desperate need to get out of the house more. The grumblings of would-be thinkers notwithstanding, it’s hard to gripe too much about the man who redefined philosophy in the 18th Century, forever Read More
  • Why You Should Read Charlotte Brontë's The Professor

    Mon, 20 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Charlotte Brontë was the third oldest sister in a remarkably learned family. Brontë is best known and loved for her masterpiece, Jane Eyre. After all, who isn’t captivated by Jane’s spirit and resilience and her love saga with Mr. Rochester? Though Jane Eyre was the first of Charlotte Brontë’s novels to be published, it actually was not the first one she wrote. That title goes to The Professor. Although it has earned less popular esteem, here are three reason to pick up and read The Professor. Read More
  • A Brief History of Postcolonial Literature, Part I

    Sun, 19 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since the 1980s, numerous novelists, dramatists, and poets have been marketed as postcolonial writers. But what is postcolonial literature? In the broadest terms, this category includes works that have a relationship to the subjugating forces of imperialism and colonial expansion. In short, postcolonial literature is that which has arisen primarily since the end of World War II from regions of the world undergoing decolonization. Works from such regions in the 20th and 21st centuries, such as the Indian subcontinent, Nigeria, South Africa, and numerous parts of the Caribbean, for example, might be described as postcolonial.  Read More
  • How Best to Begin Collecting Native American Fiction

    Sat, 18 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you thinking about starting a new collection that focuses on Native American literature, including First Nations fiction? Whether you’re looking for works published by notable presses in the U.S. or small-press collections, collecting titles by indigenous authors can be an exciting process. From Native Canadian writers like George Clutesi to Pulitzer Prize-winning authors such as N. Scott Momaday, we have some great ideas to get you started. Read More
  • The Legacy of Gabriel García Márquez

    Fri, 17 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In November 2014, the University of Texas paid $2.2 million for the archives of Gabriel García Márquez. It is hard to put a price on the private works of a colossal author, but if one is assigned, that price is necessarily significant. So, it seems the scramble for his papers and manuscripts is just one of the ways the world is dealing with García Márquez's illustrious legacy. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: Carnegie Libraries

    Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Andrew Carnegie left his name on a lot of American landmarks—Carnegie Hall and Carnegie Mellon University, for example—but perhaps no other philanthropic mission did quite so much good for so many as the libraries he funded. Carnegie believed in helping those who helped themselves, so the public library, where people of all walks of life came seeking knowledge, greatly appealed to him. The first Carnegie library built in the United States became a National Historic Landmark in 2012, and there are hundreds still in use. Read More
  • Win $50 Credit with Books Tell You Why

    Wed, 15 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    At Books Tell You Why, we deeply appreciate all of our readers and customers. As a token of our gratitude, we're giving away $50 store credit to one lucky visitor.  Read More
  • Political Shift: How Kingsley Amis Wrote James Bond

    Tue, 14 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Common folk wisdom suggests that most people move further right on the political spectrum as they age. And while many writers buck that trend, novelist Kingsley Amis was not one of them. Over the course of only a few decades, he adopted staunchly conservative viewpoints ranging from virulent anti-communism to disparagement of public funding for the arts. Interestingly, at the very height of this political shift, Amis was given the reins of one of England’s most beloved characters: James Bond. Read More
  • Nobel Laureate, Günter Grass, Dies at Age 87

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 09:45:55 Permalink
    The great German novelist, Günter Grass, has died at age 87. He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature for his "frolicsome black fables [that] portray the forgotten face of history" and the Nobel Academy named him the "predecessor" of "García Márquez, Rushdie, Gordimer, Lobo Antunes and Kenzaburo Oe." Although his landmark 1959 novel, The Tin Drum, was initially rejected by his countrymen, it became an international success and launched his career. Grass became known as the conscience of Germany--a status that later became questioned when he disclosed his involvement during World War II. Read More
  • Nobel Laureate, Günter Grass, Dies at Age 87

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 09:45:00 Permalink
    The great German novelist, Günter Grass, has died at age 87. He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature for his "frolicsome black fables [that] portray the forgotten face of history" and the Nobel Academy named him the "predecessor" of "García Márquez, Rushdie, Gordimer, Lobo Antunes and Kenzaburo Oe." Although his landmark 1959 novel, The Tin Drum, was initially rejected by his countrymen, it became an international success and launched his career. Grass became known as the conscience of Germany--a status that later became questioned when he disclosed his involvement during World War II. Read More
  • Meetings of the Minds: Henry James on His Contemporaries

    Mon, 13 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In his lifetime, Henry James mastered the art of of meeting his contemporaries. As a voracious reader, critic, and globe-trotter, James sought out and engaged the finest literary figures of his time in both his American homeland and in Europe. James enjoyed the company and works of some authors more than others, but no matter whom he was interacting with, the judgmental and perceptive writer almost always left a detailed record of his impressions. Read More
  • Southern Publishing During the American Civil War

    Sun, 12 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Stop for a moment and think about how much society runs on the availability of paper: book publishing, printed money, legally binding documents, etc. When the American southern states seceded from the Union in 1860, they found themselves in need of both an organized government and the paper to make it run. Publishing in the Confederacy was going to require creativity. Read More
  • Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney: Poetry and Politics

    Sat, 11 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    No one denies that the Nobel Prize in Literature has a political bent. It is, for instance, widely believed that playwright Harold Pinter’s 2005 victory was meant to commemorate the slow decline of the Thatcher-Major era in Great Britain. While the Nobel committee’s insistence that writers be honored for their ‘idealism’ has yielded snubs for James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and Henry James, it has leveraged that same commitment into recognition for such overtly political poets as William Butler Yeats and Czeslaw Milosz. It would be easy, in light of all this, to color Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney as a Read More
  • Scott Turow: Novelist, Lawyer, and Rockstar

    Fri, 10 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    On his Twitter profile, Scott Turow relays that he's "Considered by many as the Father of the Modern Legal Thriller." Time magazine would concur. It featured him on its June 11, 1990 cover and called Turow the "Bard of the Litigious Age." The issue goes on to ask, "Is he a lawyer who writes novels or a novelist who is a lawyer?" Time answers its own question stating: "In practice, as he demonstrated in his best-selling Presumed Innocent, Turow is both; his fiction bridges the divide between the popular and the serious, and the subject that keeps his readers turning Read More
  • New or Used: A Glossary of Book Condition Terms, Part III

    Thu, 09 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For those at the beginning of their collecting life, it can seem like sales descriptions are filled with confusing jargon. A whole set of terms exist to identify an item’s condition and features. Taken together with our other glossaries, we hope this list of book condition terms will help you kick-start your book collecting efforts. Read More
  • Collecting Postwar Jewish Writers

    Wed, 08 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed waves of immigration from across the globe, including many Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe. After World War II ended, first-generation Jewish American novelists like Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and Chaim Potok rose to prominence, with Bellow even winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. In the decades that followed, graphic novelists like Art Spiegelman depicted Holocaust narratives in print, while second-generation authors such as Philip Roth and Jonathan Safran Foer became enormously popular. Are you trying to build your collection of Jewish fiction? We have some ideas for you. Read More
  • Charles Baudelaire and French Poetry: A Tradition of Transgression

    Tue, 07 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1857, Charles Baudelaire was prosecuted by the French government. The proofs of his seminal poetry collection, The Flowers of Evil, were seized, and six poems too obscene for publication were removed. Judges argued the poems “necessarily [led] to the excitement of the senses by a crude realism offensive to public decency.” Baudelaire and his publisher were fined, and the poet’s dark and bold work alienated even his friends. All in all, this was a success for Baudelaire, an artist who set out to challenge the poetic preoccupations of artificial refinement and sentiment that came before him. Read More
  • Stars and Books: A List of Celebrity Book Collectors

    Mon, 06 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King Every book lover finds himself enchanted by the stories he reads. Through books, we are all irresistibly drawn into new and different worlds. Truly, the magic of the book doesn't differentiate, and even celebrities - with all of their glamour, wealth, and power - find themselves under the same spell as the rest of us. Here is a look at four celebrity book collectors and the books they love. Read More
  • Barbara Kingsolver and The Role of a Writer

    Sun, 05 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since ancient times, the jury has been out on what the role of writers should be within a society. Percy Shelley suggested that poets are “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” So then, should writers reflect reality back to their constituents, or help them escape from it? Should they prioritize harsh truths? Should beauty be their art’s sole purview? And how should we, as readers, interpret a writer’s efforts? Contemporary American author Barbara Kingsolver fills an interesting position in this discussion. Read More
  • Visiting Legendary Authors' Homes: Concord, Massachusetts

    Sat, 04 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Across the country, legendary authors’ homes have been preserved as museums. From the small-town Asheville, North Carolina home of Thomas Wolfe to the famous Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, it seems as though many cities have their own literary claim to fame. One little New England town, however, appears to be wealthier in literary history than others. Concord, Massachusetts once was home to Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Indeed, many of these authors’ most notable works of fiction are set in this sleepy town just outside of Boston. Read More
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