Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Authors in Exile Part II: Voltaire's Return to Paris

    Wed, 11 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nostos, the Greek word for ‘homecoming,’ or a hero’s return, has been of particular interest to authors since time immemorial. The motif appears as the driving force of Homer’s Odyssey and stretches forth through the millennia toward James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), making pivotal pit stops in the likes of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611). Nobel Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter even has a 1964 play about it, fittingly entitled The Homecoming. For all of its prominence in the canon, however, the concept of a hero’s return rarely rises above the level of mythology. James Joyce, Read More
  • Catalog of Rare & Early Dust Jackets Available & Highlights from the Collection

    Tue, 10 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Throughout the nineteenth century--and even beyond--dust jackets were intended to be disposable. As such, they were often discarded after purchase. Given their frail construction and the likelihood of them being thrown away, it can be quite rare to find nineteenth books that retain their original dust jackets. Books Tell You Why is pleased to offer a remarkable selection of such titles. Many of the books represent the earliest known examples of classic works in dust jackets. You may view our catalog for the collection here or browse a sampling of ten notable titles below: Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Library of Congress

    Mon, 09 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The United States Library of Congress claims a long list of “world’s largest” accolades amongst libraries: world’s largest law library, world’s largest collection of comic books, world’s largest collection of cartographic materials, as well as the world’s largest library, period. With more than 158 million items on about 838 miles of shelving, it’s hard to argue with that one. In addition to its utterly massive collection, the Library of Congress is a bastion in the fight to archive American culture. Read More
  • J. M. Coetzee and the Politics of Otherness

    Sun, 08 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In early 2007, Nobel Prize winning South African author J.M. Coetzee wrote a speech. It was delivered on February 7th of that year in Sydney, Australia, vocalizing strong support for Voiceless, an Australian animal-rights non-profit, and eviscerating the practices of the modern animal husbandry industry. It was, no doubt, a speech worthy of Coetzee’s weighty reputation. At the podium, however, the words came not from Coetzee but from award winning actor, Hugo Weaving. Read More
  • A Beginner's Guide To Collecting Comic Books

    Sat, 07 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In recent years, the longstanding divide between comic books, graphic novels, and "serious" literature has begun to erode. The efforts of Art Spiegelman (Maus (1980)), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis (2000)), and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant recipient, Alison Bechdel (Fun Home (2006), Are You My Mother? (2012)), have drawn interest from previously standoffish literary types. The stigma that has historically been tied to graphica is fading fast and more readers are immersing themselves in the genre. Even works like Frank Miller’s Sin City (1993), with its recent film adaptation, are expanding the traditional scope of the comic book audience. What this will ultimately mean for Read More
  • Five Interesting Facts About Sinclair Lewis

    Fri, 06 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    American author and Nobel laureate, Sinclair Lewis, was born in 1885 in the small Minnesota town of Sauk Centre. He was the youngest son of the town doctor. Unlike his two older brothers, he was awkward, gangly, sensitive and bad at sports. He also had very bad acne and was teased mercilessly for his looks. His was a lonely childhood. However, he showed an early aptitude for writing and found an escape in journaling and books. He left Sauk Centre at the age of seventeen to attend Oberlin Academy (Oberlin College) for a year. After his year at Oberlin, he Read More
  • Charles Dickens: First Modern Celebrity & Pioneer of the Farewell Tour

    Thu, 05 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mötley Crüe may be among the least Dickensian entities on the planet. Certainly, if we deploy the word the way it’s often used, to refer to over-the-top poverty and industrial hardship, we are left scratching our heads at whether ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ could, under any circumstances, be taken as an allegory for the British working class. Even if the word is just meant to evoke the esteemed author of such beloved works as Oliver Twist (1838) and A Christmas Carol (1843), the gap between Charles Dickens and Nikki Sixx still seems hard to bridge. With the band’s ongoing farewell tour, however, Read More
  • William S. Burroughs: A Writer on the Margins

    Wed, 04 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    William S. Burroughs is the kind of author whose life often upstages his writing. His style is challenging, his subject matter unusual, and to many, he is easier to read about than to read. Those who do read his books are often of differing opinions. To some he is a genius, while to others he is a literary madman, possessed by drugs and misguided avante-garde ambitions. Yet beyond the larger-than-life character, the contentions and the clamorous criticism, there’s an oeuvre worth a serious reader’s attention. Read More
  • Five Outstanding African American Authors

    Tue, 03 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    As we celebrate Black History month, we shine a particular spotlight on some of the most renowned African American writers of the past century. Whether you’re a lifelong devotee or looking to diversify your reading, these extraordinary authors--winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and Nobel Prize--are sure to blow you away. Read More
  • Congratulations to the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott Winners!

    Mon, 02 Feb 2015 02:41:02 Permalink
    Every year in the dead of winter, people who love children’s books have a reason to celebrate. The Newbery and Caldecott Awards (along with lots of others, click here for the full list) are announced to a packed room of librarians at the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference. The 2015 Newbery Medal went to The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, and the 2015 Caldecott Medal was awarded to The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat. Read More
  • A Brief History of the Dust Jacket

    Sun, 01 Feb 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    As most collectors are aware, a dust jacket in fine condition can greatly enhance the value of a book. Indeed, for modern first editions, a book without the dust jacket will sell for only a fraction of the price. Once intended to be temporary and disposable protection for beautifully bound books, dust jackets have become--in some ways--more valuable than the books they protect. How and when did this change occur?  Read More
  • Are You Ready for the 48th California Antiquarian Book Fair?

    Sat, 31 Jan 2015 11:00:00 Permalink
    If you are near Oakland next weekend (February 6th-8th), we would like to invite you to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Allow us to provide you with complimentary tickets and come spend a few hours browsing remarkable books. Read More
  • Tolkien Spotlight: The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

    Sat, 31 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For fans of the great J. R. R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil provides yet another avenue to experience the unmatched storytelling and myth-spinning for which Tolkien is so famously known. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is a compilation of sixteen poems and a true potpourri of material. It is presented as if it is a literal translation from the manuscript known as the Red Book of Westmarch. Read More
  • An Interview with NCBCC Winner Audrey Golden

    Fri, 30 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Audrey Golden's paper "Pablo Neruda and the Global Politics of Poetry" won the third prize at the 2014 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. She recently earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, and won first prize at her school's Student Book Collecting Contest. Her scholarship not only highlights Neruda as an author to be collected, but as a poet whose destroyed library must be remembered. We were fortunate to be able to interview her about her work and her discoveries about the legendary poet.  Read More
  • The Six Wives of Norman Mailer

    Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "Notorious philanderer," "egomaniac," "pugnacious" and "pompous" are a few of the milder epitaphs that have been used to describe controversial and larger-than-life Norman Mailer. His New York Times obituary was even titled, "Norman Mailer, Towering Writer With Matching Ego, Dies at 84." Known in the literary world as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, Mailer won two Pulitzer Prizes in literature and one National Book Award. He is credited with having pioneered creative nonfiction as a genre, also called New Journalism. During his life he became as famous for his relationships with women as he did for Read More
  • Isaiah Thomas, the American Antiquarian Society, & Other Resources

    Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Isaiah Thomas was a patriot and a printer. His work as a publisher antagonized the British presence in the colonies, and he was the first to proclaim the Declaration of Independence in the state of Massachusetts. Furthermore, Thomas’ research of the printing process and his subsequent library of titles formed the basis for what is now the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), one of the major organizations dedicated to book collectors and history enthusiasts alike. Arguably, Thomas’ legacy can be seen in both the AAS and in the other organizations which have taken up the torch of championing book collectors and their Read More
  • Collecting Signatures & Modern Firsts: An Interview with Vance Morgan

    Tue, 27 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Vance Morgan was born in New Jersey and raised in Florida. He obtained a Doctorate in School Psychology and Counseling from the College of William and Mary, and worked as a school psychologist for 38 years. After becoming interested in collecting as a boy, Vance ultimately acquired a collection of over 2,500 signed books. In the following interview, Vance shares with us his collecting story as well as his insights into corresponding with authors and acquiring their signatures.  Read More
  • Juliana Berners and the Creation of Fishing Literature

    Mon, 26 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    By reliable accounts, The Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle (1496) is the earliest surviving volume on the subject of fishing. It was published by St. Albans Press, the third printing press established in England. Treatyse is a well-written volume: both an intriguing artifact of the history of the sport and an insightful guide for today's modern fishermen. Interestingly enough, given the time period in which it was written, Treatyse was penned by a woman: a prioress named Juliana Berners. Read More
  • Through the Looking Glass of Lewis Carroll: Master Photographer

    Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that made Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, a household name. However, during his own time Charles Dodgson was known for several other vocations besides that of authoring children's books. In addition to being an author, Dodgson was a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, an ordained deacon in the Anglican church, and a very accomplished photographer. Read More
  • Collecting Jorge Luis Borges at the University of Virginia

    Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1899. Borges spent many of his early years abroad in Geneva, Switzerland and later in Spain, where he became acquainted with Western literary trends and the shift into the period that we now describe as "modernism." He returned to Buenos Aires in the early 1920s and published his first book, Fervor de Buenos Aires, in 1923. Read More
  • Celebrating Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott

    Fri, 23 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "for what else is there but books, books and the sea, verandahs and the pages of the sea, to write of the wind and the memory of wind-whipped hair in the sun, the colour of fire!" -- Derek Walcott,  Collected Poems 1948-1984   Caribbean writer and Nobel Prize winner, Derek Walcott, was born on January 23, 1930 in Castries, St. Lucia in the West Indies. His father died in his early 30s, leaving Walcott’s mother, a teacher and lover of the arts, to raise him, his twin brother, Rodrick, and their sister, Pamela. Read More
  • Arthur Miller: International Playwright

    Thu, 22 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1983, Arthur Miller directed his masterpiece, Death of a Salesman, for an audience in China. At the time - in the midst of the Cold War - Communist China was viewed by many as an opposite cultural pole to the capitalist America dramatized in Miller’s famous tragedy. As a result, bringing to life the Brooklyn of the 1940s for a Chinese audience in the 80s was a momentous task for the performers. But, Miller was deliberate in shifting the focus from matters of national and cultural identity. On the first day of rehearsal, Miller said, "the first thing I want Read More
  • Ian Fleming, Real-Life Secret Agent and World War II Commando

    Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Before he was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, he was Commander Fleming, an intelligence officer in the Royal Navy and right-hand man to Admiral John Godfrey, Director of British Naval Intelligence. As such, Fleming was responsible for the creation of what came to be known as Assault Unit 30 (AU 30), a top-secret British commando unit specifically formed to gather intelligence. Fleming proposed the concept of AU 30 to Admiral Godfrey in a March 10, 1942 memo titled, "Proposal for Naval Intelligence Commando Unit." Read More
  • The History and Techniques of Marbled Paper

    Tue, 20 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The art of marbling paper is very, very old. Unfortunately, like many historical facts involving paper, no one is exactly sure how old it is. Paper doesn't tolerate the ravages of time like stone or metal. However, historians agree that the technique of marbling has been making paper exceptionally beautiful since 10th century Japan. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Abbey Library of St. Gall

    Mon, 19 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In its most basic form, a library is just a collection. Traditionally, it’s a collection of books, but these days, people have music or movie libraries. The collection acts as a storehouse of information. As much as we like to think of a library as an unchanging thing in a changing world, they are just as susceptible to the influences of politics, money, and time. The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is a perfect microcosm of history as fact and the progression of time. Read More
  • 17 Essential (and Authentic) Winnie-the-Pooh Quotes

    Sun, 18 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today we celebrate the life of A. A. Milne, beloved author and creator of Winnie-the-Pooh. Although renowned as a novelist and playwright during his own lifetime, his children's stories--inspired by his son, Christopher Robin--have become Milne's enduring legacy. Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, his story collections Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928)--not to mention his poetry collections When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927)--have become indispensable children's classics.  Read More
  • Undercover Art: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Clandestine in Chile

    Sat, 17 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The late, great Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) is best known for his fiction, flowing prose, and use of magical realism.  His non-fiction, though somewhat lesser-known, is just as important to his memory.  Take for example Clandestine in Chile (1986) – written from an eighteen hour interview with filmmaker Miguel Littin, who sneaked back into Chile after exile to expose the realities of the Pinochet dictatorship. In García Márquez's hands, the already thrilling true story becomes both electrifying and fraught with meaning. Read More
  • Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father and Publisher

    Fri, 16 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Benjamin Franklin founded the ideal of the American polymath. He was a statesman through and through, performing roles as theorist, diplomat, and governor; he was an inventor and famously dabbled in the nascent science of electricity. But the portrait of Ben Franklin the publisher is frequently forgotten or understated. His press eventually became the most successful in the Colonies, printing everything from hardcover volumes to almanacs, newspapers, pamphlets, and even lottery tickets. Read More
  • Eight Decades of the Randolph Caldecott Medal

    Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For sixteen years, the illustrators of children’s books were neglected during awards season. Since 1922, the Newbery Medal had been awarded yearly to a work of distinguished children’s writing, but no such equivalent existed for illustrations in picture books. Not, that is, until 1938, whereupon a veritable dark age in the recognition of great illustrators was extinguished with the inception of the Caldecott Medal. Read More
  • Case Studies in Collecting: The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    Wed, 14 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    How much do you know about Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame? It’s considered a seminal text of Gothic fiction, a style that’s often characterized by settings in looming castles with dark passageways, and general elements of the macabre or supernatural. Yet the Gothic isn’t a genre of literature unto itself, but rather a style that can make its way into various literary forms. For Hugo, the Gothic tradition provided him with a way to conjure the medieval period in France in the early 19th century. Given that the term "Gothic" initially referred to a mode of Read More
< prev next >

Looks like you are ready to submit this application

If you are satisfied that your application is complete, go ahead and click "submit this application."
Otherwise, click "review this application" to review your answers or make additional changes.