Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • The Quotable Ogden Nash

    Wed, 19 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    “How are we to survive? Solemnity is not the answer, any more than witless and irresponsible frivolity is. I think our best chance lies in humor, which in this case means a wry acceptance of our predicament. We don't have to like it but we can at least recognize its ridiculous aspects, one of which is ourselves.” -Ogden Nash Truly, Ogden Nash's humor is still alive and well. A look at both his written verse and some of his off-handed remarks is delightful, and it proves just how impeccable his wit and timing continue to be. Read More
  • Searching for Antiquarian Books in Kyoto

    Tue, 18 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you can’t read much Japanese, you’ll likely have some difficulty finding books of any particular authors on your list. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t wholly enjoy browsing in Kyoto’s antiquarian bookstores. Indeed, from Ukiyoe (woodblock prints) to handmade artists’ books, you’ll be amazed by the beautiful objects lining the shelves of the shops in Japan’s former imperial capital. Read More
  • The Quiet Achievement of Evan S. Connell, Jr.

    Mon, 17 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the Santa Fe nursing home in which Evan S. Connell, Jr. spent the final years of his life, he spoke so little that some residents thought him to be mute. He kept to himself, generally, granting few interviews and was perpetually turning down teaching positions. Spouseless and childless, some might say Connell lived the definition of a solitary life. It seems as if writing was where he displaced the majority of his vitality. Connell has a reputation among writers and readers for valuing his writing above all else. There’s one anecdote where the author, upon seeing two attractive girls Read More
  • Bernice Rubens: The Booker Prize Winner Who Was 'Better Than Most'

    Sun, 16 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When asked about what makes good writing, Bernice Rubens replied: “The acid test of good writing, even if it is of violence or cruelty, is that it must make one’s ears water.” Scientific questions about the ability of one’s ears to water aside, that’s a bold statement from the second overall and first ever female winner of the prestigious Booker Prize for Fiction, which Rubens won in 1970 for her novel The Elected Member. And yet how truthful a sentiment, wrapped around something of a visceral, bombastic image. Perhaps how true to Rubens as a writer, as well.  Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts About Sir Walter Scott

    Sat, 15 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Sir Walter Scott is credited with popularizing the modern novel and making it a thing of respectability. Additionally, he helped form historical fiction as a genre and put Scotland on the map as a tourist destination. Here are five more interesting facts about the man who gave us the oft quoted line, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!" Read More
  • Tips for Collecting Caldecott First Editions

    Fri, 14 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Winning a Caldecott Medal is the highest achievement for an illustrator, and it comes with a huge perk: your book will be remembered. Caldecott Medal (and honor) books are in print for years, and libraries are more likely to keep them on the shelf. These books represent the best and most innovative work in children’s book illustration, which also makes them highly desirable as collector’s items. Read More
  • Resistance Writers During World War II

    Thu, 13 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    What is resistance literature? Many academics link the term with early work on postcolonialism. For instance, world literature scholars might point you to Barbara Harlow’s seminal work, Resistance Literature (1987), which discusses the ways in which fiction can help us to think through the struggle against colonial and imperial forces outside the narrowly defined Western world. But can we also give the term other meanings? While imaginative literature that engages with the struggle against colonialism is of great significance to any thinking about power and inequality, we might also think a bit further back to World War II. While their Read More
  • Why You Shouldn't Dismiss Ian Fleming's The Man With the Golden Gun

    Wed, 12 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Upon his death in 1964, Ian Fleming’s obituary noted that he “had completed, and was revising, a new novel, The Man With the Golden Gun.” Today, we delve deeper into this posthumous publication. Although not necessarily considered Fleming’s best work, it is a necessary piece of the James Bond puzzle, a prized collectible, and it gives us a final taste of one of the greatest spy novelists of all time. Read More
  • A History of Drama as Literature

    Tue, 11 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    There is an often unthought-of tension between the stage’s representation of drama and the play in its written form. Neoclassical considerations of the stage as immoral, temporary, and material were in stark contrast to its view of printed literature as immortal, spiritual, and morally grounded. These complications have a long history, beginning with Platonic forms, leading all the way to the boom of print culture in renaissance England. Here, we explore a brief history of drama as literature. Read More
  • Jorge Amado's Influence on Brazilian Culture

    Mon, 10 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When Jorge Amado died in 2001, people were already talking about him as Brazil’s cultural ambassador to the world. His novels, translated into nearly 50 languages, made many in the West suddenly familiar with the largest Latin American nation. In 1987, Bantam paid $250,000 for the hardcover rights to his novel Showdown. It was a record purchase at the time for a foreign language book, but international readers readily justified the price. Amado’s emphasis on regional dialect, empowered female characters, anti-racism, folk culture, and the dignity of the worker offer a rich and politically-charged vision of Brazilian life. The author Read More
  • Interesting Editions of Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler

    Sun, 09 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many, the allure of fishing is its contemplative nature. No other sport allows the mind to wander for so long, nor do they offer environments conducive to this. This was certainly not lost on Izaak Walton. His The Compleat Angler is a definitive exploration of both the technique and emotion surrounding the sport. For collectors of fishing literature, The Compleat Angler is essential, and its numerous and interesting editions merit our attention. Read More
  • Best South African Books

    Sat, 08 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you want to learn more about South Africa through fiction, where should you start? The country has a rich modern literary history, including two Nobel Prize winners: Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. Much of the imaginative literature that has sprung from South Africa reflects, in large part, the discrimination and violence of the country’s apartheid past. From depicting realistic representations of Johannesburg to novels reenvisioning the nation with alternate histories, the best books on South Africa allow us to immerse ourselves in the beauty and politics of the now “rainbow nation.” Read More
  • Garrison Keillor: Humorist and Book Lover for Our Times

    Fri, 07 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In June 2015, Garrison Keillor announced he would be retiring from hosting his popular radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. At first many people were skeptical that Keillor would truly retire. Like a star athlete, he has a reputation for betraying such promises. Yet this time, it seems to be true. He has already selected his replacement: mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, who has received Keillor’s enthusiastic endorsement. While he may be stepping down, fans can still hope the 72 year-old host will continue to have a contributing role in broadcasting the world of Lake Wobegon. What is Keillor so eager Read More
  • Five Facts about Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    Thu, 06 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    More than a century after his death, Alfred, Lord Tennyson remains one of the Anglophone world’s most popular poets. Poems like "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and "Crossing the Bar" have become so ingrained in the cultural consciousness that T.S. Eliot’s remark that Tennyson had "the finest ear of any English poet since Milton" seems a bit backwards. No doubt he had a great sense of the way the English language was used, but he also had a tremendous hand in shaping its usage. By the time Eliot would have imbibed the delectable melancholia that so defines Tennyson’s best Read More
  • Is There a Doctor in the House? The Maladies of Five Famous Authors

    Wed, 05 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The perceived connection between suffering and the creation of great literary art is something of a well-worn path. Literary scholars and theorists point to examples throughout the canon of American arts and letters to uphold the notion that great stories are born more often than not of mental, emotional, or existential struggle. Such great authors as Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and more recently, David Foster Wallace are remembered as much for their internal battles as their narrative insights into the human condition. On balance, the jury is still out on the necessity of emotional struggle in the creation of relevant, Read More
  • A Brief History of the Printing Press, Part I: Gutenberg to Clymer

    Tue, 04 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    High school history told us of the invention of the printing press: when Johannes Gutenberg, in the Holy Roman Empire, launched the world into a new age, defined by the mass producibility of literature. What is not often considered, though, is the initial genius the invention was and the ingenuity required to improve on his design. Read More
  • P.D. James: An Unlikely Writer

    Mon, 03 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, I immediately wondered: Did he fall — or was he pushed? - P. D. James It's hard to imagine a high school drop-out becoming one of the world's great novelists. In that regard, P.D. James seems an unlikely writer. However, the great P.D. James was a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the page. At the age of 16 she left school to help raise her two younger siblings, and she took a job to support her struggling family. She worked for the Red Cross during World Read More
  • Six Interesting Facts About Isabel Allende

    Sun, 02 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Turning 73 years-old this August, Isabel Allende (pronounced ay-yen-day) is one of the last active members of a talented generation of Latin American writers. Born in Chile in 1942, she now resides in California. She worked as a journalist, fiction writer, and has founded her own charitable foundation. Here are some interesting facts about Isabel Allende, a writer whose kindness and humane sensitivity make an inspiring example of who the modern artist can be.  Read More
  • Ten Things You Should Know About Richard Wright

    Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Richard Wright is a giant name in American literature. His novel Native Son (1940) became a bestseller nearly as soon as it was published by Harper & Brothers, just before the United States entered into World War II. With the release of Native Son, Wright also became the wealthiest African American writer in the country. Yet there’s a lot you may not know about Richard Wright and the influence his life and work have had on thinkers of the Civil Rights movement, anti-colonial figures, and fiction writers from across the globe. Read More
  • The Birth of the Harry Potter Phenomenon

    Fri, 31 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    July 31 may seem an unremarkable day to some, but not to fans of Harry Potter. It’s Harry’s birthday as well as that of his creator, J.K. Rowling. The publication of the Harry Potter books has unquestionably changed children’s literature and arguably the world. How did this genre-busting phenomenon even begin? Read More
  • Best Books on Nigeria

    Thu, 30 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For a number of decades, Nigerian fiction has played an important role in expanding our thinking about Anglophone fiction and postcolonial literature. While novels like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958) have been staples on high school and college literature syllabi for years, more recent texts by young writers like Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and Teju Cole are helping to redefine the contours of contemporary Nigerian fiction. If you’re planning a trip to Lagos anytime soon, you might pick up one of our top picks for the best books on Nigeria. Read More
  • Five Early Stories of The Lord of the Rings

    Wed, 29 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    As literature endures down through the generations, the details surrounding a book’s birth into the reading world are often forgotten. Even with the immense popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work today, some of these details remain buried in letters and essays. Here are five such interesting tidbits about the early years of The Lord of the Rings that you might not know. Read More
  • Beatrix Potter: Rebel With a Cause

    Tue, 28 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries. But Peter, who was very naughty ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate! Like the mischievous, furry, little protagonist who propelled her into a wildly successful publishing career about as fast as he was able to get himself into trouble in Mr. McGregor's garden, Beatrix Potter had a rebellious streak a mile wide. Although she has become a household name as the author of enchanting children's stories, both her stories and her vocation ran much deeper. A constant disappointment Read More
  • The Thundering, Cocky Canon of Hilaire Belloc

    Mon, 27 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    As a man of letters, Hilaire Belloc epitomizes diversity of expression. He was a poet, journalist, novelist, historian, lecturer, politician, essayist, and critic. His boisterous expression earned him the nickname “Old Thunder,” as he used books, articles, pamphlets, and podia to get his many messages across. Yet for his posterity, writing some 150 books has perhaps done more harm than good. It has left decades of readers with the question: Where does one begin with such an oeuvre? In the end, it would be foolish to neatly summarize Belloc’s various and complicated writings, but it would be even more foolish Read More
  • Right When Other People Are Wrong: George Bernard Shaw's Best Quotes

    Sun, 26 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    “All Shaw's characters are himself: mere puppets stuck up to spout Shaw.” -Fanny’s First Play (1911), Epilogue Read More
  • Interview with Mark Eisner, Translator and Editor of Pablo Neruda

    Sat, 25 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 2004, Mark Eisner's edited bilingual collection of Pablo Neruda's poems, The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, was published by City Lights. It has gone on to receive much acclaim, and indeed is the bestselling edition of Neruda's poetry in America. Eisner is currently at work on an important documentary on the late Chilean poet, The Poet's Calling. We had the opportunity to interview him about the process of editing and translating Neruda, as well as the work he has been doing on the documentary film that's currently in production. Read More
  • The Apple and the Tree: Three Lesser-Known Literary Families

    Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When talking about literary families, everyone knows about the Brontës. But while the Brontës may be one of the most famous literary families, they’re certainly not the only family of wordsmiths across the literary landscape. Here are just a few examples of lesser-known clans with a proclivity for pen and paper, and who also help illustrate that age-old question: Can the ability for great storytelling be taught, or is it simply in the blood? Read More
  • Raymond Chandler: Making Pulp Serious

    Thu, 23 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Raymond Chandler is one of those rare authors that reminds the literary establishment that genre has no bearing over a book’s quality. Chandler bridged gaps in his career. His work helped bring crime fiction to academics, and the serious novel to Hollywood studios. He considered himself an intellectual snob and loved Charles Dickens, Henry James, and Ernest Hemingway. He was a man who studied Greek and Latin, but Chandler emphasized that his own strange preferences brought him to the world of the detective story. Read More
  • Top Ten Children's Books to Beat the Summer Blues

    Wed, 22 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    School’s out for summer, and days are brimming with possible adventures. Every kid longs to make their summer months memorable. Whether or not there are exciting vacations or summer homes in store for the young ones in your life, these children's books will take them on some wild rides. Read More
  • Take a Tour of Zadie Smith's London

    Tue, 21 Jul 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    There’s only one London, right? While major urban centers throughout the world might occupy only one location on a map, many residents of global cities might argue that there’s more than one version of the place in which they live. One such spot might be Zadie Smith’s London. Most of her works of fiction take place in the London she grew up in — an area of North London that’s not typically frequented by tourists coming to see the Thames River, Buckingham Palace, or Big Ben. As such, reading Smith’s novels provides us with a different kind of tour of Read More
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