Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • A James Bond Novel Ian Fleming Didn't Want You to Read

    Sun, 14 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    One hears a lot, in certain circles, about experimental literature. From James Joyce to Tom McCarthy, authors have always seen themselves as engaging in experiments, be they with prose, structure, or content. While the notion of books-as-experiments can be appealing, one almost never hears whether these experiments succeed or fail. An exception, however, comes, in this regard as in so many others, from beloved James Bond creator Ian Fleming. Read More
  • Saltwater Fly Fishing: Fresh Takes on an Ancient Sport

    Sat, 13 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Fly fishing is an ancient sport. One of its first mentions was made by Claudius Aelainus in the second century as he described fishermen on the Astraeous River: "They fasten red wool..round a hook, and fit on to the wool two feathers which grow under a cock's wattles...the fish, attracted and maddened by the color, comes straight at it.." In Fly Fishing in Salt Water, Lefty Kreh takes a detailed and engaging look at how this ancient sport can be adapted to the challenges of the ocean. The book is self-described as the saltwater fly fisherman's bible and his treatment of the Read More
  • Real Events Behind Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

    Fri, 12 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is cultural dynamite. Within three months of its publication in 1852, 300,000 copies of the novel were sold in the United States. Many believe the events in Stowe’s book helped propel the United States into the Civil War. Even now, Uncle Tom’s Cabin remains one of the most widely read and acknowledged abolitionist works of all time. Today, we explore Harriet Beecher Stowe’s inspiration for her characters and storyline.  Read More
  • Pasternak Archives at Stanford Special Collections

    Thu, 11 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Where can you find the largest archive of Boris Pasternak material in the world? The Special Collections and University Archives at Stanford University holds this vast collection, where researchers have the opportunity to peruse documents contained in 156 manuscript boxes and 23 oversize boxes, not to mention videotapes and phonotapes. While access to specific items will require permission from the archivist and a trip to Palo Alto, digital use copies of some of the materials are available. The collection spans from 1878 to 2013. Read More
  • William Styron and Other Critics of Formal Education

    Wed, 10 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    At first thought, it seems ludicrous that any author — any person who depends on lovers of books and knowledge, really — would condemn formal education. In an age when more and more authors are cultivated in an MFA program, you'd assume to find only champions of education. After all, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Flannery O’Connor all passed through an MFA program, and plenty more, like Zadie Smith and Joyce Carol Oates, have taught in one. Despite the firm bond between writers and academic institutions, there are some authors who can’t help but criticize formal education. Read More
  • Maurice Sendak: A Wild Imagination

    Tue, 09 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When beloved writer and illustrator of children’s books Maurice Sendak passed away in 2012, it was Stephen Colbert who best summed up the sentiment that accompanied Sendak’s passing. “We are all honored” he said, “to have been briefly invited into his world.” And indeed, Sendak’s most beloved works, like Where the Wild Things Are (1963) and Brundibar (2003), were invitations to worlds wholly separate from this one: worlds that were at once startling and beautiful, inviting and grotesque, smartly crafted and whimsical. It wasn’t just the worlds populated with wild things, however, to which Sendak invited his readers. Read More
  • When Ernest Hemingway Fought Max Eastman

    Mon, 08 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Hemingway Slaps Eastman in the Face,” read the New York Times headline on August 14, 1937. This famous spat happened one afternoon when Max Eastman—a prominent critic who wrote about politics, literature, and more—discovered that one of the subjects of his criticism, Ernest Hemingway, wanted to fight back. Hemingway, who was visiting New York at the time, walked into the Fifth Avenue location of publisher Charles Scribner & Son. There, in the office of editor Max Perkins, one of the most peculiar author exchanges of the century transpired. Read More
  • Quiz: Who Is Your Literary Father Figure?

    Sun, 07 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the United States, Father's Day is just a few weeks away. How will you celebrate your dad? We've put together a fun, bookish quiz to get you into the spirit and also compiled some books to give you a few ideas for all budgets.  Read More
  • A Gwendolyn Brooks Primer

    Sat, 06 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "There is no self-pity here, not a striving for effects. She takes hold of reality as it is and renders it faithfully...She easily catches the pathos of petty destinies; the whimper of the wounded." -Richard Wright on Gwendolyn Brooks Read More
  • Thomas Mann: An Exploration of Philosophy and Practicality

    Fri, 05 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thomas Mann was born into the Hanseatic ruling Mann family, a wealthy clan who held great influence over the city republic of Lübeck, in what was then the German Empire. Mann grew up under the aegis of privilege, raised by tales of his ancestors’ prosperity and the ethos of bourgeoisie practicality. The Manns, as ruling families are wont to do, were preoccupied with the maintenance of their influence, wealth, and respectability. Thus, when the 21 year-old Thomas Mann announced his plans to become a writer, his family took his artistic calling as a betrayal of his auspicious pedigree. Despite his Read More
  • Caldecott Medalist Peter Spier: An Illustrious Career

    Thu, 04 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many elements combine to make for a deeply affecting children’s book. As in most any writing, story and characters are major factors in the success or failure of a children’s book. Likewise, an aesthetic is essential, one that is both captivating to children and palatable to the adults who often purchase and read the books aloud. While there’s no denying the importance of these elements, it seems likely that for many the most crucial element of a good children’s book is its artwork. Artwork, after all, is what imbues the plot, the characters, and the aesthetics with a sense of Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: The Poetry Foundation Library

    Wed, 03 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Among the many small libraries in the United States attached to organizations, the Poetry Foundation Library in Chicago is a gem. The library itself only opened in 2011, but the collection began as a resource for Poetry magazine in 1912. Open to the public, the library is an extension of the Poetry Foundation’s mission “to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in American culture.” Read More
  • Heinrich Bӧll: Nobel Prize Winner and D-Day Adversary

    Tue, 02 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    As another anniversary of the 1944 allied landing at Normandy takes place this June, thousands of participants will trod the roads and fields once defended by Hitler’s Wehrmacht. One of the members of Wehrmacht was Heinrich Bӧll, a devout Catholic from Cologne and an eventual Nobel Prize in Literature winner in 1972. Read More
  • Carol Shields: Our Literary Neighbor to the North

    Mon, 01 Jun 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It may (or may not) shock some of you to know that Alice Munro, who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, was the first Canadian writer to achieve Nobel laureate-status. Still others, while in the process of reading these sentences, may be equally shocked to realize that they can hardly name any Canadian authors. Munro, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje; for many the list stops there. Though Canada’s most populous cities are often mere hours of travel from the literary hubs of the lower 48, a deep awareness of our northern neighbor’s literary output rarely seems to make it through Read More
  • T.S. Eliot and the Struggle of Faith

    Sun, 31 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot made some of the most recognizable and well-respected contributions to the American literary canon. He is best remembered for poems like "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915) and The Wasteland (1922), and his poetic efforts are often considered synonymous with the “high” modernist style of his time. Though less well known, T.S. Eliot also penned several plays—religious in nature—later in his career. They, too, are deserving of our attention, if for no other reason than for the insight they give us into the ever-searching mind of one of the greatest writers of the 20th Read More
  • Beer Me: Five Writers on America's Most Famous Beverage

    Sat, 30 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    This month, we were treated to American Craft Beer Week, an annual celebration of the craft beer movement across the country. For seven days, craft beer lovers, brewers, critics and writers – yes, there are many wordsmiths and literature-minded folks putting pen to paper in the name of craft beer – took part in tastings, special beer releases, panel discussions and other gatherings. Read More
  • An Interview with David Pascoe of Nawakum Press

    Fri, 29 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    We were fortunate enough to interview David Pascoe of Nawakum Press--a publisher of unique, handcrafted books. David has collaborated with an impressive group of writers and artists, including Barry Moser and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Paul Muldoon. His books have been collected by many important institutions, including the Library of Congress, Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book Library, Stanford University's Cecil H. Green Library, Harvard University's Houghton Library, and many others. In this interview, David shares with us the story of Nawakum Press: its origins, inspirations, and notable collaborations.  Read More
  • Feminist Literature from Iran

    Thu, 28 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thinking about the contemporary politics of the Middle East, few of us immediately think of the rich history of Iranian literary production. However, modern Iran—from the time of the Shah through to the depths of Islamic fundamentalism and the suppression of human rights—has produced some of the most interesting texts by and about women. What does feminism look like in Iran? We might begin to answer such a question by reading the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad, ending with the graphic novel Persepolis, written by Marjane Satrapi, and exploring various genres in between. Read More
  • When Ian Fleming Met John F. Kennedy

    Wed, 27 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ian Fleming was one of the great raconteurs of 20th century international life. Not surprisingly, he was also a great participant in it. Fleming was famously at the forefront of British secret intelligence during World War II, helping establish the vital No. 30 Commando unit to intercept Nazi communications. This experience was essential in creating the espionage stories of the James Bond books. Fleming, as he became a celebrity author, often met with leading figures of his time, some of whom were also big fans of his work. One of the most memorable of these meetings was with soon-to-be U.S. president Read More
  • Real Life Examples of Successful Women in Science

    Tue, 26 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    History is packed with examples of powerful women who've made names for themselves in the fields of science and technology. Think Jane Goodall. Mae Jemison. Barbara McClintock. Rachel Carson. Each of these ladies has had a significant and lasting impact. So, we wondered, is there something these women in science had in common? What led to their success? Read More
  • Writing between Dogma and Despair: Walker Percy's Catholicism

    Mon, 25 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Lately, much has been said about whether the Catholic Church should canonize prolific 19th and 20th Century thinker and writer G.K. Chesterton. He was, proponents insist, one of the most vocal lay-supporters of the Catholic faith in the last two centuries. His arguments for the church’s doctrines were imaginative and seemingly boundless. Whether or not the beloved crafter of fairy tales and treatises stands a real chance of sainthood, the speculation does make one wonder: where are the sainthood campaigns for other great Catholic authors? Where is the push to canonize Flannery O’Connor? Gerard Manly Hopkins? Graham Greene? Where, most Read More
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson's Influence: An American Literary Tradition

    Sun, 24 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." - Ralph Waldo Emerson Philosophy, in its purest form, should be about a love of wisdom. Unfortunately, it is often a field dominated by pedants, logicians, and empiricists. Yet we know life is scarcely described best through laws and technicalities. It is far too complex and marvelous for rigid deconstruction. Ralph Waldo Emerson understood this well. And he offered nearly two centuries of readers a loving interpretation of life, art, and the New World in which he lived. Read More
  • King's Printers in England: Giving Monarchs a Voice Throughout History

    Sat, 23 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many established governments around the globe have a dedicated printing house that handles all official documents and resources. In the United States, it’s the US Government Printing Office. In the British Commonwealth (primarily the United Kingdom and Canada), the role of King’s or Queen’s Printer may be assigned at the monarch’s pleasure. And things get sticky when politics, religion, and publishing mix. Read More
  • Famous Holocaust Memoirs

    Fri, 22 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    What kind of text do you imagine when you hear the word memoir? The term might be narrowly defined as a biographical narrative that recounts an important historical event, in a linear chronology, from the viewpoint of a witness. Yet the form that these accounts take also can be experimental, playing with notions of contested memory, witness, and testimony. Holocaust memoirs, perhaps more than most other works of literature connected to a particular moment of political violence, have taught readers about the significance of such texts in redefining the ways we think about history and its indelible effects on the present Read More
  • 5 Surprising Facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Thu, 21 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s name is synonymous with mystery. The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle’s impact on the world of detective and mystery genre remains too great to measure. With an uncanny sense of detail and a keen eye for inimitable characters, Conan Doyle has riveted and delighted millions of readers over the course of the last century. Here are five interesting facts about him.  Read More
  • Are You Ready for the London Antiquarian Book Fair?

    Wed, 20 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you are near London next week (May 28th-30th), we would like to invite you to the London International Antiquarian Book Fair! See our catalog, sign up for your complimentary tickets, and then join us in Olympia to experience some remarkable books. Read More
  • Eight Surprising Hobbies of Legendary Authors

    Tue, 19 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writing is a creative release to many people, but when you make your living from the pen, what do you turn to in order to replenish your soul? Those we consider legendary authors today didn’t spend all of their time at the desk. These eight authors and their hidden passions may surprise you. Read More
  • James Boswell and the Power of Biography

    Mon, 18 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Biography lends to death a new terror. -Oscar Wilde Wilde’s take on biography is most obviously meant to garner a laugh—maybe a nervous one— at the thought of leaving the detailing of one’s life in the hands of another. As a result, perhaps in a roundabout way, Wilde also sheds light on the responsibility that falls to the biographer. After all, biographers hold an incredible power, and they can choose to wield it in a number of ways. Read More
  • Myth, Fairy Tales, & Children: A Brief History of Fantasy

    Sun, 17 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you were to play a word association game with the word “fantasy,” your brain would probably jump to things like magic, dragons, heroes, wizards, quests, monsters, mythical creatures, other worlds, and so on. In only a few decades, fantasy has declared itself loudly to the public consciousness as an established genre that's demanded to be heard. Where did the human fascination with such stories begin? Read More
  • A Brief List of Significant Latin American Writers

    Sat, 16 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The twentieth century saw an unmatched period of artistic accomplishment in Latin America. Though it is nearly impossible to choose only a few writers to highlight, the following Latin American authors must be noted for their contributions to the richness of modern literature and poetry. Read More
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