Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • How Evelyn Waugh Tried to Save P.G. Wodehouse's Reputation

    Fri, 26 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writers are often the best champions of other writers. In the early days of the last century, it was Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw who helped cement Henrik Ibsen’s reputation in the English-speaking world. Years later, Pulitzer Prize winner Walker Percy would play a crucial role in arranging the posthumous publication of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) after a manuscript thereof was sent to him by Toole’s mother. That Bernard Shaw and Walker Percy were, by then, quite prominent in their own rights was of course a huge help to their causes, as seems so often to be Read More
  • How To Beat the Bookworm

    Thu, 25 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    What is a bookworm, anyway? Is it the baby of a beetle? A living creature that loves books? A larvae placed there by a moth? Why do we care, again? If you're interested in learning more about how to identify and beat the bookworm in order to keep your books and collection safe, you're in the right place. Read on for our best bookworm-busting strategies. Read More
  • The Fascinating World of Children's Book Collecting

    Wed, 24 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Book collecting can be a complex and varied activity, hobby, or profession. First editions, rare editions, signed editions, provenance...these are all areas in which one needs to be educated. But what if you want to collect, but don’t necessarily want to take a master’s course to do it? Even better, what if you just want to collect what you love, and love what you collect? One possible solution is to become a collector of children’s books. Read More
  • We Still Have Much to Learn from W.E.B. Du Bois

    Tue, 23 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The life of W.E.B. Du Bois occupies a remarkable span. He was born in Massachusetts in 1868 to a nation in the middle of its very reconstruction. He took up the mantel of the previous generation of great African-American thinkers, like Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, who themselves escaped bondage. But even with emancipation, America’s work was, and still is, not nearly over. But thanks to the life and work of W.E.B. Du Bois, the United States, and the world, are a little more humane. Read More
  • Recent Literature of the Iraq War

    Mon, 22 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Over the last century, war literature has become a popular genre for readers in many parts of the world. Whether you were assigned Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) on a literature syllabus dealing with World War I, or if you picked up a copy of Michael Herr’s Dispatches (1977) to learn more about the war in Vietnam, you’re likely acquainted with fiction and creative nonfiction that interrogates and remakes wartime experiences. But one area of war literature that isn’t so commonly read or taught is fiction from the recent Iraq War. If you’d like to Read More
  • By the Bay: A Literary Tour of San Francisco

    Sun, 21 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The San Francisco Bay Area is something of a puzzle. It’s a massive, sprawling metropolitan center whose topography and landscape is as varied as its residents. Rugged, broken hills give way to sweeping shorelines and sand dunes just as quickly as Silicon Valley life butts up against hipsters and hippies clinging to scraps of a Bohemian lifestyle first introduced by the Beat Generation of the 1950s. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: Visiting the Biblioteca de Montserrat

    Sat, 20 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you have an academic interest in historical archives or merely a personal passion for learning more about the origins of literary culture, there are many libraries both in the United States and abroad that are likely to pique your interest. One of the most interesting libraries that you are likely to encounter is one set high above the city of Barcelona in the mountain of Montserrat. Indeed, the Abbey of Montserrat, located in Catalonia, Spain, contains a library founded in the 11th century. And if you make plans ahead of time, you can visit the collections, including various manuscript Read More
  • Legendary Author Harper Lee Dies at Age 89

    Fri, 19 Feb 2016 11:00:39 Permalink
    Legendary author Harper Lee passed away today at the age of 89. She leaves behind a legacy that has reverberated through the international literary community since the publication of her landmark novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in 1960. The novel was an instant sensation worldwide and earned Lee a number of prestigious accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. Read More
  • Alan Paton and Anti-Apartheid Writers

    Fri, 19 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    "If you wrote a novel in South Africa which didn't concern the central issues, it wouldn't be worth publishing.” – Alan Paton It’s frequently said that history is written by the winners. When it comes to some of the great humanitarian causes of the last century, it often seems that the winners write most of the great literature, as well. In the case of the American Civil Rights Movement, for instance, the American canon was able to embrace such monumental works as Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), James Baldwin’s Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953), and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Read More
  • The Trials of Oscar Wilde

    Thu, 18 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” —Oscar Wilde At the outset, the proceedings that led to Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for sodomy read much like his plays. Four days after the successful London premier of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), arguably the absolute pinnacle of 19th century comedic farce, John Douglas, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry (creator of a set of eponymous, wildly circulated boxing rules), left a calling card at Wilde’s club. It read: “For Oscar Wilde, posing as somdomite" [sic]. Read More
  • Welcome, Mr. Bond: Five Facts About Ian Fleming's Casino Royale

    Wed, 17 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s February 1952 and aspiring-novelist Ian Fleming sits at a desk in his Jamaican, beachfront bungalow with a head full of ideas for a spy novel about gambling, espionage, and international intrigue. The writing comes easy, a little in the morning and a little in the evening, and in less than a month Fleming completes a draft of a novel that would launch a multimedia empire audiences worldwide have adored for more than 50 years. Read More
  • Top Ten Collectible Presidential Books

    Tue, 16 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Presidents define our eras, lead our lawmakers, and create moments in history that will live for generations. To own a small piece of that legacy—something written about, written by, or signed by one of these iconic figures—is to own a piece of history. This is a list of the top ten presidential collectibles, chosen for their provenance, condition, but most importantly, for the history they represent. Read More
  • More Than Just Cheesesteaks: Five Famous Philadelphia Writers

    Mon, 15 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Philadelphia is one of those great American cities that suffers from a watered-down public perception of its identity. The City of Brotherly Love. The Epicenter of the American Revolution. The cheesesteak. These are things with which Philadelphia is most closely associated. While certainly true enough associations, Philadelphia has and has always had a grand literary tradition – a vibrant, diverse landscape of writers, poets, playwrights, and literati who made great strides in innovating language, form, style, aesthetics, and narrative. Read More
  • 20 of the Most Romantic Quotes in All of Literature

    Sun, 14 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Valentine's Day has a long and storied history. It was originally a celebration of the martyrdom of Saint Valentine, a Christian priest of Rome. St. Valentine was imprisoned and beheaded for marrying soldiers despite being forbidden to do so and for preaching his faith which was against Roman law. February 14 did not become associated with romance until the Middle Ages. And sometime in the 18th century, it became customary to give flowers, candies, and cards. While today Valentine's Day is symbolized by hearts, cupids, and a score of other glittery commercialized items, at it's core, Valentine's Day is all Read More
  • Scheuchzer and the History of the Biblical Encyclopedia

    Sat, 13 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    "How is it possible to understand the whole universe? All the books that are made treat only some of the imaginable topics. What could we read that would treat absolutely everything?"  So wrote François de Grenaille, author of Theatre de l'universe, published in 1643. Scholars had expressed similar consternation for a full century. With the advent of the printing press, the sheer volume of books reached what many scholars considered crisis levels—they were simply unable to keep up with so much new information.  Read More
  • A Brief Guide to the Works of Judy Blume

    Fri, 12 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Judy Blume has an influence all her own. Throughout her career, she has written books for children, young adults, and adult readers. Blume is known for her frank depictions of issues facing children and teenagers. As a result, in the 1980s an organized effort was made to ban her books from libraries and schools. Inspired by the objections against so many of her books, Blume became an advocate for intellectual freedom and serves on the board for the National Coalition Against Censorship. Because of her dedication to the real issues facing young people, Blume is beloved by readers of all Read More
  • The Many Homes of Ernest Hemingway

    Thu, 11 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    What would it look like to take a trek across the country (and outside the country, too) to visit all of the homes and favorite haunts of Ernest Hemingway? The novelist and short-story writer made his homes in seemingly disparate parts of the United States and the Caribbean, not to mention the years he spent living abroad as an expatriate in Paris, France. We’re intrigued by the varied climates that captured the writer’s interest, particularly in relation to his relatively domestic beginnings in Oak Park, Illinois. So, if you were going to take a tour through Hemingway’s life, what homes Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Mommsen, Eucken, & Heyse

    Wed, 10 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Collecting the works of Nobel Prize in Literature winners is a great way to focus one’s collection. Nobel laureates are the best-of-the-best, so a collection full of their works is one way to guarantee exceptional titles. Today, we’d like to focus on information about the work of three German-language Nobel Prize in Literature winners from the early part of the twentieth century: Theodor Mommsen, Rudolf Christoph Eucken, and Paul Johann Ludwig von Heyse. For more about our previous Nobel laureate spotlights, see the end of the post. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: Visiting Libraries in Austria

    Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Libraries provide an extraordinary window into the world. Indeed, for collectors and book enthusiasts, few pleasures equal a visit to a well-curated library. When planning a trip, it only makes sense to include famous (or not so famous) libraries on your itinerary. Recently, a friend of Books Tell You Why and an avid book collector did just that. While traveling to Austria, he visited the libraries of five Austrian monasteries and was kind enough to detail his experiences for us to share. Whether you plan to visit Austria or simply enjoy great libraries, we are confident you will find his Read More
  • Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Unwitting Namesake of a Giant Salamander

    Mon, 08 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    By the time Johann Jakob Scheuchzer published the first volume of his momentous Physica Sacra in 1731, he was already a renowned scientist. Like many scholars of his age, Scheuchzer did not limit himself to only one field. Well versed in astronomy, he depicted one of the earliest known accounts of the Perseid meteor shower in 1709. That same year, Scheuchzer also published Herbarium Diluvianum ("Herbarium of the Deluge"), an exhaustive botanical reference consulted long into the following century. A colleague of Sir Isaac Newton and other luminaries of the early modern era, Scheuchzer is unfortunately often remembered not for his expansive body Read More
  • Four Things You Probably Didn't Know About Charles Dickens

    Sun, 07 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    As one of the world’s first celebrity authors, much is known about Charles Dickens. He was an active public figure, one who liked walking about London, appearing in the press, and traveling and performing his works around the world. Even someone who hasn’t read Dickens will know something about his squalid childhood or his noble politics. But what about those facts and details that slip by the typical biography? Read More
  • Interesting Editions of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men

    Sat, 06 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Legendary author John Steinbeck was a literary mastermind. He wrote prolifically throughout the 20th century, and his work and the themes he presents still resonate today. Of Mice and Men, his 1937 novella, does what all brilliant pieces of literature are wont to do. It gives us characters and situations that make us think and feel deeply. As such, the work has been subject to both high praise and a substantial amount of criticism. But it’s safe to say that Of Mice and Men will continue to be widely read, discussed, and appreciated. For a Steinbeck collector, it’s a must-have Read More
  • Are You Ready for the 2016 California Antiquarian Book Fair?

    Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you are near Pasadena next weekend (February 12th-14th), we would like to invite you to the 49th California Antiquarian Book Fair! Sign up here for your complimentary tickets, and then join us to experience some remarkable books. Read More
  • Robert Coover and the Great American Novel You've Never Heard Of

    Thu, 04 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many great artists live rather modest, obscure lives. Of course there are those individuals, the Casanovas, the Byrons, and the Goethes of the world, who write interesting books and are interesting when written about. But this is not so much the case with Robert Coover, who turns 84 today. Prolific, soft-spoken, and wise, the author taught electronic writing at Brown University for years. No, Coover has not earned the publicity of his equals, such as Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, and Thomas Pynchon. But to his readers, Coover has left behind a trove of books that are as vital and boisterous Read More
  • Top Ten James A. Michener Books

    Wed, 03 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    James A. Michener is well known for his historical fiction, in-depth research, and lengthy volumes. His books are strong narratives that take an intimate look at the human experience through the lens of historical events and times now past. They will also make long layovers, lazy beach weekends, and stretches of time disappear in a sea of historical fascination. These are ten of his biggest and best books of all time. Read More
  • Playing with Time on Groundhog Day

    Tue, 02 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, the protagonist finds himself doomed to live the same day over and over again. Ever since, people have associated this Pennsylvania-German tradition with a time warp, or “time loop,” as it’s often called. Intended to mark the halfway point of winter, Groundhog Day has come to take on a second identity. So this Groundhog Day, we take time to consider the many great books that have a way of playing with time. Read More
  • Who Is the Real Robinson Crusoe?

    Mon, 01 Feb 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    With any truly great novel, the questions are usually the same. Where did the story come from? What inspired it? Were the characters or plot based on real-life elements? But these tried-and-true questions might mean a little more when asked about Daniel Defoe’s 1719 debut novel Robinson Crusoe, a book literary scholars the world over regard as one of the first realistic fiction novels and one that helped popularize the form we still crave today. Read More
  • Zane Grey: Father of the Western Genre

    Sun, 31 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Throughout his extremely prolific career, Zane Grey wrote nearly 100 books—including over 50 Westerns—baseball stories, books on hunting, young adult books, autobiographies, books on fishing, and a handful of books set in Australia. Grey is widely acknowledged as one of the fathers of the Western genre. His seminal work, Riders of the Purple Sage, is considered the best example of what the Western genre has to offer: a sweeping plot and detailed descriptions of the character of both the people and landscape of the American frontier. In effect, Zane Grey created the vision of pop culture's American West. Read More
  • Richard Brautigan and a One-Man Counter Culture

    Sat, 30 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Counter culture is an interesting phenomenon. Many may be dissatisfied with the current state of things, but this doesn’t mean they agree in their response. In the 1960s, some executed their discontent by protesting on campuses, while others departed from society at large to join communes. We tend to remember the groups that emerged during this formative era. But, writer Richard Brautigan created a counter cultural presence all his own. Read More
  • Draw! Three Famous Literary Duels

    Fri, 29 Jan 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Picture this: two feuding men standing back-to-back, pistols at the ready, taking ten paces and then whipping around in the hopes of being the first to unload a bullet into his opponent. Sound familiar? Something straight out of a Western, right? You’ve read about duels in the novels of Zane Grey and Larry McMurtry. You’ve seen them on the big screen in films starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson. You've watched them help define a man's honor and legacy on television in Gunsmoke and Maverick. But what about authors who've actually participated in duels? They are our focus today. Read More
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