Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Out at First: The History of the World Series Novel

    Sun, 19 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    “(It) belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.” - Walt Whitman on baseball With this year’s World Series rapidly approaching, it is not difficult to see what Whitman means.  Even after falling behind football in popularity, baseball dominates America’s October conversations.  And, if we take a look at recent literary releases like Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding (2011), Michael Chabon’s Summerland (2002), and David James Duncan’s The Brothers K (1992), it is clear that baseball dominates not just our national attention, Read More
  • John le Carré: From Spy to Spy Novelist

    Sat, 18 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Bestselling spy novelist, David John Moore Cornwell—John le Carré—was born October 19, 1931, in Poole, England. He had a rough childhood characterized by betrayals and dishonesty. His mother abandoned the family when he was five and the family was frequently uprooted due to his father's penchant for fraud. As a child, his father actively discouraged reading. "Anyone caught reading a book," le Carré said, "was not being loyal." Read More
  • Philip Pullman, Impassioned Storyteller for All Ages

    Fri, 17 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Author Philip Pullman is a master of modern children's literature. His trilogy, His Dark Materials, is one of the most beloved fantasy series of the last twenty five years, although Pullman himself considers the books "stark realism" not fantasy. Writing for children, Pullman believes, enables him to engage his readers in ways he would otherwise be prohibited - he revels in intricate plots and characters. He has won the Carnegie Medal (1995), Guardian Prize (1996), and Astrid Lindgren Award (2005).  Read More
  • How Terry McMillan Got Her Groove Back

    Thu, 16 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Terry McMillan, author of bestselling novels Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, was born October 18, 1951 in Port Huron, Michigan. She was the oldest of her four siblings and after her parents separated, she was left  to care for her brother and sisters. Although forced to grow up at an early age, she found solace in her personal retreat: the Port Huron library. There, she fell in love with reading—relishing the works of classic writers including Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. As much as she enjoyed their writing, she was discouraged that great works Read More
  • The Fickle Fortunes of Oscar Wilde

    Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Oscar Wilde is often remembered for his bright wit and lavish lifestyle as well as his works The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Master of the epigram, he coined phrases such as "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken" and "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much." He lived much of his life as an evangelist for the Aesthetic movement in art, believing that life should be beautiful. What life delivered him, however, was not so idyllic. Read More
  • The Princess Bride Back in the News

    Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Cult classic, The Princess Bride, is back in the news. Today—over forty years after the book was published and 27 years after the movie was released—star Cary Elwes has released his first-hand account of the making of the film. Titled, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Elwes shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes and photographs. When asked if it was as much fun to make the film as it looked, Elwes responded, “It was more fun than it looked.” Read More
  • The Impressive Levity and Longevity of P. G. Wodehouse

    Mon, 13 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    When it comes to comedic writing, P.G. Wodehouse was one of the greats. His body of work extends from novels and short stories to Broadway musicals. Yet, his legacy chiefly relies on two series of books series of books: “The Blandings Castle Saga” and stories about valet extraordinaire, Jeeves. Both worlds were created by Wodehouse in the 1910s, but he added to the stories for sixty years, until he passed away in 1975.  Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Folger Shakespeare Library

    Sun, 12 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today, we kick off a series about the most exceptional libraries in the world. Focusing on everything from Shakespeare to botany, they hold some of the rarest books and print materials on earth.  For those of you who cannot physically visit these places, we hope our articles will provide a peek into the amazing breadth and richness of book collecting. There are three must-see vacation destinations for the Shakespeare lover: his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Globe Theatre in London, and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.  Read More
  • Elmore Leonard Goes to Hollywood

    Sat, 11 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writing Western novels hardly seems like an effective way to make it in Hollywood, but for Elmore Leonard it worked wonders. The 1940s through 1960s saw peak interest in Western dramas due to the affordability and availability of cinema and television. Leonard began his writing career during the 1950s producing a string of Westerns: five novels and thirty short stories. However, once the genre had peaked, Leonard moved on to a more contemporary interest—crime. Read More
  • Patrick Modiano, Winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature

    Fri, 10 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Yesterday, many were surprised when Patrick Modiano won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature. None more than the winner himself. “I wasn’t expecting this at all,” he confessed.So, who is this new Nobel laureate? It is a fair question, for while the Frenchman is beloved in his own country, he received little international recognition before yesterday’s bombshell. His quiet reputation was in part by design. A humble man, he avoids interviews and rejected his nomination to the Académie Francaise for fear that it would bring unwanted fame. Read More
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: A Noble Fight and Nobel Prize

    Thu, 09 Oct 2014 06:00:00 Permalink
    It would be an understatement to say that Russian writer Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn had a complicated relationship with his motherland. Despite suffering constant persecution during his adult life, Solzhenitsyn remained faithful to his culture, language, and countrymen. He revealed the cruel reality of the Soviet system to the world in both his fiction and his memoirs, for which he received the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature. The world applauded him; the USSR tried to ruin him. Read More
  • The Most Interesting Man You've Never Heard Of: Fridtjof Nansen

    Wed, 08 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Fridtjof Nansen was an explorer, scientist, sportsman, diplomat, and humanitarian as well as one of the most interesting people you’ve never heard of. He was the first man to traverse Greenland’s interior, traveled closer to the North Pole than anyone in his day, broke national cross-country skiing records, was a leading researcher of neuroanatomy, and created an internationally-recognized passport for stateless refugees. To top it all off, he had one fantastic mustache. Read More
  • For the Love of the Game: Collecting Golf Books

    Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:39:40 Permalink
    Who'd have thought that one of the most accomplished figures in golf started playing with only a half-set of clubs? Born on October 9, 1970, legendary golfer Annika Sorenstam was always a talented athlete. She was a nationally ranked junior tennis player, and the coach of the Swedish national ski team suggested that she move to Northern Sweden to practice skiing year round. Read More
  • For the Love of the Game: Collecting Golf Books

    Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:39:00 Permalink
    Who'd have thought that one of the most accomplished figures in golf started playing with only a half-set of clubs? Born on October 9, 1970, legendary golfer Annika Sorenstam was always a talented athlete. She was a nationally ranked junior tennis player, and the coach of the Swedish national ski team suggested that she move to Northern Sweden to practice skiing year round. Read More
  • Blurring Political Lines: Gabriel García Márquez

    Mon, 06 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Gabriel García Márquez won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 "for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent's life and conflicts.” Affectionately referred to as “Gabo” by nearly everyone in the Spanish speaking community, García Márquez solidified his stature as a national icon with his Nobel Prize. Following his reception of the award, his Columbian countrymen reverently referred to García Márquez as “Nuestro Nobel,” or “our Nobel Prize winner.” Read More
  • Collecting Rare Books FAQ: Ex-Library Copies

    Sun, 05 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you've taken up rare book collecting, you've probably encountered the phrase “ex-library copy” or seen the shorthand “ex-lib” in a book description. Collectors have varied reactions to the ex-library copy, and it's important to make an informed decision before you add ex-library copies to your own personal library. Read More
  • Children's Book Week in the UK

    Sat, 04 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    You may have heard of Children’s Book Week in the United States, but did you know that the UK has its own week-long celebration in honor of children’s literature? While it has historically been held this first full week in October, it was moved this year to midsummer, June 30 – July 4, 2014. As you might expect, Children’s Book Week is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of books and reading for pleasure for all children, no matter their age or family income. Schools, libraries, and lots of other venues get in on the fun with book-themed activities, author Read More
  • Winston Churchill, Nobel Laureate in Literature?

    Fri, 03 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    We think of Winston Churchill as a consummate statesman and brilliant orator, and with great reason. He consistently distinguished himself as a key player in world politics and is frequently named one of the greatest world leaders of all time. Yet Churchill did not win the Nobel Prize  for his diplomacy or steadfast commitment to protecting fundamental human values; he won not the Nobel Peace Prize, but the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Read More
  • Anne Rice and Her Religious Struggles

    Thu, 02 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Anne Rice was born on October 4, 1941 with the unusual name, Howard Allen Frances O'Brien.  One of the most popular American writers today, her books have sold nearly 100 million copies; she is best known for her novels Interview with a Vampire (1976), The Queen of the Damned (1988), and The Wolf Gift (2012). Born in New Orleans to Roman Catholic parents, religion has always been an important force in her life.  Read More
  • The Audacious Gore Vidal: Novelist, Essayist, and Provocateur

    Wed, 01 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Gore Vidal saw himself as the last of a dying breed. Referring often to society's ineptitude, he believed he was part of a culture in decline. He had an attitude fit to rule as well, and admitted that if he hadn’t lived in Rome for so much of his life, he would have continued seeking office in the United States (Vidal ran for Congress twice, but lost both times). While he never became an elected official, his political interest and upbringing forever informed his life as a writer and intellectual. Read More
  • Wallace Stevens: Corporate Executive and Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet

    Tue, 30 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Pulitzer Prize winner, Wallace Stevens, published his first book of poetry when he was forty-four years old. He was awarded two National Book Awards for his poetry, both when he was a septuagenarian. Stevens won the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Collected Poems, the same year of his death, at age 75. He lived one of those rare lives in which artistic and conventional success were intertwined. He graduated from Harvard Law School and after a career as a lawyer, became an executive at a Connecticut insurance company. He kept the position for the majority of his life, and readily defended his stable Read More
  • Laura Esquivel's Recipe for Success

    Mon, 29 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Laura Esquivel is a Mexican author and screenwriter recognized for her revolutionary contributions to Latin American literature. Influenced by writers Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, Esquivel is best known for her novel Like Water for Chocolate (1989). She was born on September 30, 1950 in Mexico City to parents, Julio Esquivel, a telegraph operator, and Josephina Esquivel, the third of four children.  Read More
  • Elie Wiesel: Reluctant Writer and Collectible Nobel Laureate

    Sun, 28 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel was born in Sighet, Romania in 1928, and is best known for his voice as a Holocaust survivor and advocate for peace. Wiesel’s family was separated during World War II when the German army deported their Jewish community of Sighet to Auschwitz-Birkenau. His father died just weeks before the camp was liberated by American troops in 1945. After the war, Wiesel was reunited with two of his three sisters in France; his mother and youngest sister did not survive. Read More
  • The Unrealized Promise of Truman Capote, Author of In Cold Blood

    Sat, 27 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Although Truman Capote is best known for his works Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958), and In Cold Blood (1965), it was his short stories that first launched his writing career. In 1946, Capote won the prestigious O. Henry Award for his short story "Miriam." He has since become one of America's most recognized and eccentric 20th-century writers. Read More
  • Picaresque Authors from Cervantes to Bellow

    Fri, 26 Sep 2014 07:46:05 Permalink
    Likely born on September 29, 1547, Miguel de Cervantes worked as both a chamber assistant to a cardinal and as a tax collector before making his "literary break" with Don Quixote de la Mancha. The first part of the novel, published in 1605, established Cervantes as a formidable man of letters. Don Quixote is considered the first modern European novel and a stellar example of the picaresque novel.  Read More
  • Picaresque Authors from Cervantes to Bellow

    Fri, 26 Sep 2014 07:46:00 Permalink
    Likely born on September 29, 1547, Miguel de Cervantes worked as both a chamber assistant to a cardinal and as a tax collector before making his "literary break" with Don Quixote de la Mancha. The first part of the novel, published in 1605, established Cervantes as a formidable man of letters. Don Quixote is considered the first modern European novel and a stellar example of the picaresque novel.  Read More
  • T. S. Eliot: Nobel Laureate and Voice of the Lost Generation

    Thu, 25 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1888.  A Nobel laureate, The New York Times described his writing as giving "new meaning to English-language poetry,” Due to a congenital double hernia, T. S. Eliot spent much of his childhood reading rather than running around with other children. His family eventually moved to New England where he attended Harvard. At age 22, he moved to Paris; four years later, he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood.  He later claimed, “To her, the marriage brought no happiness. To me, it brought the state of mind out of which came The Waste Land." Read More
  • The PEN/Faulkner Award And Notable Winners

    Wed, 24 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    The PEN/Faulkner Award is one of the highest honors given to American citizens for fiction writing. The award was initially established by William Faulkner who used his 1949 Nobel Prize winnings to create the the William Faulkner Foundation. The primary goal of the foundation was to support emerging fiction writers. Although the foundation was later dissolved, the award came under the management of PEN, the international writers' association. Read More
  • The Enduring Controversy of the Warren Commission

    Tue, 23 Sep 2014 08:03:21 Permalink
    On September 24, 1964, the Warren Commission presented its long-awaited report. The exhaustive 888-page document outlined the Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Though the Commission's own members and even President Lyndon B Johnson professed their confidence in the Commission's findings, the report also fueled the fires of multiple conspiracy theories.  Read More
  • The Great Gatsby's Rocky Road to Popularity

    Mon, 22 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    I want to write something new, something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned. - F. Scott Fitzgerald in a letter in 1922, as he began to write the novel which became The Great Gatsby Few authors ever produce a work that outgrows itself. One so rich in mood and aesthetic distinction that it produces a cultural impression familiar even to those who have never peered between the book's covers. Books of this pedigree often bring to life the monstrous (Frankenstein, Dracula, Moby Dick), which makes the undeniable staying power of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterwork The Great Gatsby (1925) even more peculiar Read More
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