Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Mary Shelley: From a Scandalous Affair to the Creation of a Monster

    Thu, 28 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mistress of the Gothic novel, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley—née Godwin—was born August 30, 1797 in London, England. Her parents were famous intellectuals: writer and philosopher, William Godwin, and women’s rights activist, Mary Wollstonecraft. Sadly, complications from childbirth led to Wollstonecraft's death just days following Mary's birth. Read More
  • Tasha Tudor, Classic Children's Illustrator

    Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Twentieth-century woman, Tasha Tudor, lived her life as though she occupied a nineteenth-century world. Indeed, this Caldecott winner believed herself the reincarnation of a sailor’s wife from the 1800s. Her passion for the Victorian Era was a natural outpouring of this earlier existence--real or imaginary. Her appreciation for Victorian classics resonates in her illustrations and fosters a similar enthusiasm in all who enjoy her work. Read More
  • Robertson Davies, Would-Be Nobel Laureate

    Tue, 26 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Some have speculated that if Robertson Davies had been British, he might have won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. But Davies was Canadian and for better or worse, the award went to Toni Morrison. Davies was one of Canada’s most important and talented writers—the author of over thirty works of fiction as well as a multitude of plays and essays. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1986, Davies won the Stephen Leacock Medal in 1955, the Lorne Pierce Medal in 1961, the Governor-General’s Award in 1972, and 23 honorary degrees. During his life, he was a successful playwright, journalist, professor, Read More
  • Theodore Dreiser, Pioneer of Naturalism

    Mon, 25 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    American novelist Theodore Dreiser popularized naturalism in the United States during the early 1900s. Although the movement was begun by French writer Émile Zola, it was largely through the perseverance of Dreiser that it became a force in America. Emphasizing realism and accuracy in art, naturalism went beyond these qualities to reveal how humans are shaped by their circumstances and environment. Renowned literary critic Irving Howe described Dreiser as, "one of the very few American giants we have had." Read More
  • The Inflamatory Martin Amis: an Accomplished Author with a Sharp Tongue

    Sun, 24 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    English novelist, Martin Louis Amis was born on August 25, 1949. Works such as his bestselling novel Money and his memoir Experience, have brought Amis both critical acclaim and awards, however, his life and works have not been without controversy. Read More
  • The Inflammatory Martin Amis: an Accomplished Author with a Sharp Tongue

    Sun, 24 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    English novelist, Martin Louis Amis was born on August 25, 1949. Works such as his bestselling novel Money and his memoir Experience, have brought Amis both critical acclaim and awards. However, his life and works have not been without controversy. Read More
  • A. S. Byatt, Acclaimed Writer and Grieving Mother

    Sat, 23 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Possession is A. S. Byatt’s most widely read novel; it won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and made Byatt famous. This doesn’t surprise the British author who claims, “I knew people would like it. It's the only one I've written to be liked, and I did it partly to show off. I thought, Why not pull out the stops, why do this painstaking observation . . . why not write about the 19th century! I actually paced it for the first time with the reader's attention span in mind. There is very little life in 'Possession': it's all art." Read More
  • The Legacy of Jorge Luis Borges

    Fri, 22 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    The work of Jorge Luis Borges has inspired countless writers while remaining unsurpassed; this accomplishment speaks to his distinct and important legacy. Borges is sometimes compared to Samuel Beckett, with whom he shared the first Prix International, an award which was instrumental to bringing fame and wide translation to the Argentinian author and his work. Borges was recognized for his collection Ficciones (1944), and Beckett for his Molloy Trilogy - works that are similarly influential and inimitable.  Read More
  • Exploring British History: The Jacobites' Last Stand

    Thu, 21 Aug 2014 01:54:00 Permalink
    On August 22, 1746, three men were executed for high treason at Kennington Common. They wore Highland costume. The government showed some mercy, allowing the bodies to hang for fifteen minutes (instead of the usual three) before they were desecrated. The execution of Donald MacDonald, Jack Nicholson, and Walter Ogilvie in many ways represented the demise of the Jacobite movement, which had begun many decades earlier.  Read More
  • The Many Hats of Science Fiction Author Ray Bradbury

    Wed, 20 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    We remember and celebrate Ray Bradbury as the author of Farenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and other science-fiction classics. But Bradbury was more than an author of novels and short stories; he delved into other disciplines, from screen writing to urban planning.  Read More
  • Why Annie Proulx Dislikes Literary Awards

    Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Edna Annie Proulx was born August 22nd, 1935, in Connecticut. She spent a significant portion of her early life in the rural American Northeast. As an author, she found inspiration throughout pastoral North America, including Newfoundland, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The agrarian landscape she inhabited - filled with farmers, ranches, and the general frontier spirit - thoroughly characterizes her work. Read More
  • How Nabokov Wrote His Masterpiece, Lolita

    Mon, 18 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Lolita – the simple, one-word title carries so much weight. The nickname that narrator Humbert Humbert gave to 12-year-old Dolores Haze now drips with sex, sin, and shame. The novel by Vladimir Nabokov, published during the 1950s, still causes controversy today. Although Lolita has never been formally banned in the United States, it’s the kind of book that mothers warn their teenage children about. And yet Lolita has become a classic in its own right. In the hands of a different author, the story of Humbert and Dolores could have been a racy, flash-in-the-pan fad success like today’s Fifty Shades Read More
  • A Quick Guide to Bill Clinton and His Autobiography, My Life

    Sun, 17 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton received a $15 million dollar advance for his autobiography, My Life (2004) - perhaps the largest advance ever received for a book. By all measures, the book was a great financial success, selling 2,250,000 copies and earning Clinton $30 million dollars. Yet this achievement did not come easily; it took Clinton over two years to write the book, written in longhand in sixteen notebooks, with no help from a ghost writer. Read More
  • Jonathan Franzen vs. Oprah Winfrey

    Sat, 16 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jonathan Franzen is no stranger to the fickle nature of literary fame. His novel The Corrections earned the 2001 National Book Award and in 2002 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He appeared on the cover of TIME magazine with the title "Great American Novelist" after the release of his novel, Freedom. But even as literary critics praise his talent, there many who call Franzen elitist, egotistical, and arrogant. Read More
  • V.S. Naipaul and Other Writers Who Hated Their Biographies

    Fri, 15 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writers are often meticulous and private people. Thus, the creation of authorized biographies can be a contentious matter. Some authors, like Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul, allowed a biographer into their home and shared personal information only to find that the resulting biography presented a person foreign to themselves. Although the biographer has a greater duty to his work than to his subject, one can understand why many authors feel betrayed at the end of the process. This article will catalog a few bitter episodes between authors and their biographers including V.S. Naipaul, William S. Burroughs, and Vladimir Nabokov. Read More
  • Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz

    Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    August 15 marks the 75th Anniversary of the film premiere of The Wizard of Oz. Both the film and the novel on which it is based - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - have a timeless appeal beloved by children and adults alike. Read More
  • How Julia Child Transformed American Cooking

    Wed, 13 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In terms of impact on American culture, Mastering the Art of French Cooking is one of the most influential books written in the last several decades. Published when the United States was immersed in TV dinners and green bean casserole, Julia Child’s first and most famous book taught Americans to view food through a lens of pleasure and art rather than convenience. Written in tandem with two French authors, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, it sold over 100,000 copies its first year. Mastering the Art is in its 47 printing, has sold over 4 million copies, and has never been out Read More
  • Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the Byron Scandal

    Tue, 12 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    On August 24, 1869, an unsigned editorial appeared in the Buffalo Express. Written by none other than Mark Twain, the short piece defended Harriet Beecher Stowe, who had recently published a scandalous exposé on George Gordon, Lord Byron. Twain defended Stowe not once, but seven times, illustrating his intense interest in Stowe's literary career.  Read More
  • Steve Martin: Comedian, Musician, and Writer

    Mon, 11 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Few celebrities are renowned for their sheer variety of talent like Steve Martin. We all know him as an exuberant Hollywood comedian whose career spans five decades, famous for performing in films such as The Jerk and Three Amigos. His stand up acts reveal his many skills, including everything from juggling to music. Aside from comedy, Martin is a Grammy-winning banjo player and an advocate of Americana music and bluegrass. He is an astute art collector, and once sold an Edward Hopper painting for $26 million. And finally, he is a talented writer and author. Read More
  • Harold Pinter and The Proust Screenplay

    Sun, 10 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Harold Pinter (October 10, 1930 - December 24, 2008) was a British playwright, screenwriter, actor, director, poet, and political activist. He won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature for being a writer “who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms.” Read More
  • The Founding of the Smithsonian Institution: Increasing & Diffusing Knowledge

    Sat, 09 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Imagine you wake up one morning and discover that a mysterious benefactor left you a small fortune, stipulating that the funds be used to help others. How would you spend it? Now imagine that you have to make that decision with 293 other people without splitting the money. This is the task that the 24th Congress of the United States faced when it created the Smithsonian Institution.  Read More
  • Doyle Brunson- Poker Legend!

    Fri, 08 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    If anyone has a poker face, it is Doyle Brunson. Born on August 10, 1933, he was the first player to earn $1,000,000 in poker tournaments and has won ten World Series of Poker tournaments throughout his career. A master of the game, Brunson is ranked second for all time in poker play. Read More
  • Jonathan Kellerman's Journey from Psychologist to Bestselling Author

    Thu, 07 Aug 2014 08:01:00 Permalink
    "I would never have been a novelist without working as a psychologist...it was a great education in human nature." -Jonathan Kellerman Read More
  • Alex Haley, Best-Selling Author and Embellisher?

    Wed, 06 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Alex Haley was born August 11th, 1921, and grew up in upstate New York and Henning, Tennessee. He withdrew from college at age eighteen and served in World War II and Korea. After working twenty years for the US Coast Guard, Haley changed careers and became the best-selling African-American writer in history. His writing is marked by captivating stories that unite Americans from all backgrounds around the African-American experience, gaining him praise, posterity, and a fair share of critics, too. Read More
  • General John Wool: From Bookseller to War Hero

    Tue, 05 Aug 2014 01:55:50 Permalink
    How does a bookseller become a decorated general in the United States Army? General John Ellis Wool did exactly that, distinguishing himself in three consecutive wars: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War. By the time he began service in the Civil War, General Wool was already 77 years old. Read More
  • Top Ten Spacey Posts: From Astronauts to Science Fiction

    Mon, 04 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    On August 5, 1930, the day Neil Alden Armstrong was born, the stars were still a distant object of wonder. No one could have possibly imagined that the little boy born that day would one day be the first of only a handful of men to walk on the moon. The stars, the moon, and space exploration have remained objects of fascination for people the world over. Take a moment and be fascinated yourself with our ten best articles about space. Read More
  • Knut Hamsun: Nobel Laureate and Nazi Sympathizer

    Sun, 03 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s hard to imagine the thoughts and feelings of those persecuted by Nazi Germany during the Second World War; it is even harder to understand one who would embrace Nazi atrocities. Knut Hamsun was a Norwegian novelist and poet who was honored with the 1920 Nobel Prize for Literature. He published over 20 novels, as well as short stories, plays, and a poetry collection. In addition to being a groundbreaking writer, Hamsun was also a Nazi sympathizer.  Read More
  • Dennis Lehane - Pushing Genre Limits Since 1994

    Sat, 02 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    There are some writers who live and breathe their hometown. Dennis Lehane is such a writer, whose love affair with the seedy underbelly of Boston comes through almost every time he puts pen to paper. Whether working in novels, screenplays, or television episodes, Lehane stands out as a dynamic storyteller whose talents rise above specific genres or mediums. Read More
  • Isabel Allende: The Interesting Life of a "Raging Feminist"

    Fri, 01 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Isabel Allende once said she “didn’t want a happy life but an interesting one.” Raised in Peru, Chile, Lebanon, and Bolivia, and eventually forced into exile when her cousin, Salvador Allende, was deposed as President of Chile, it is safe to say that she is achieving her goal. Read More
  • Civil Rights Activist and Author, James Baldwin

    Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    American writer, James Baldwin was born August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York City. He was the oldest of nine; his younger siblings were all half-siblings and his stepfather was harsher on Baldwin than on the rest of the children. His unusual intelligence--combined with the persecution of his stepfather--caused Baldwin to spend much of his time alone in libraries. By the time Baldwin had reached age fourteen, he had discovered his passion for writing. During his young adult years, his talent for language did not go unnoticed. His educators deemed him gifted—and in 1937, at the age of thirteen, he Read More
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