Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • The Politics of Exhuming Pablo Neruda

    Fri, 15 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power in Chile, installing himself as leader in one of the longest-running dictatorships in modern history. Given Pablo Neruda’s powerful voice as a leftist poet, he was targeted by the Pinochet regime. Indeed, Pinochet sent soldiers to destroy Neruda’s library at La Chascona, his home in Santiago. Neruda died just twelve days after the coup. While many Chileans and others worldwide knew that Neruda had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the timing of his death led to questions about whether he actually had been a victim of the Pinochet regime. As a result, nearly forty years Read More
  • Presidents, Generals, and Munchkins; Oh My! L. Frank Baum's Influence

    Thu, 14 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Well, I've worried some about, you know, why write books … why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it's been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with … humanity." -Kurt Vonnegut, 1976 Read More
  • From Book-to-Film: Books Made Famous by Hollywood

    Wed, 13 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    From early nineteenth-century novelists to Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the twentieth century, many writers have seen their works of fiction adapted for the silver screen and met with enormous popularity and acclaim. Indeed, numerous book-to-film adaptations have gained millions of viewers over the years, and books of Academy Award-winning movies continue to be purchased in bookstores across the country. Read More
  • Charles Baxter's Real Life Fiction

    Tue, 12 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today, the state of the English language short story is too multifarious to pin down. We have the well-crafted and masterful stories of Nobel laureate Alice Munro, which the likes of Anton Chekhov and Henry James perfected. There are the zany, first-person narrated stories of George Saunders and the frontier tales of Annie Proulx. Then there’s Charles Baxter, whose work tends to turn toward our quotidian relationships and the small interactions that make up a lifetime. Read More
  • Learning About Literature and Partition

    Mon, 11 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For much of the first half of the twentieth century, India remained under the control of the British Empire. While many leaders in India had pushed for independence for decades, it wasn’t until the end of World War II—and the crumbling of the system of Western colonization—that Britain began to conceive of leaving the subcontinent. In an attempt to leave as peacefully as possible, misguided efforts to divide the area into the nations of India and Pakistan based on religious and ethnic differences resulted in bloody riots that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands in the Punjab. In the decades Read More
  • From Hester Prynne to Lily Potter: Five Famous Literary Mothers

    Sun, 10 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    J.D. Salinger said, "Mothers are all slightly insane." Alice Walker complemented her mother with these words, "Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me." Maya Angelou wrote of her mother, "To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power." From the slightly insane to the flawed to the near saintly, mothers have been a force of nature in both human history and in literature. In honor of Mother's Day, here are five literary mothers on which to ruminate this May. Read More
  • A Glossary of Publishing Industry Terms, Part IV

    Sat, 09 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The process of printing and publishing a book has many steps, and when it comes to collecting rare books, the pre-publication material can be as valuable (if not more so) than the actual book. What are the terms to distinguish these unique items? We hope this quick glossary helps in your collecting! Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: The Library of Alexandria

    Fri, 08 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    You can’t talk about the history of libraries without including the Library of Alexandria, that pinnacle of human knowledge and wisdom in the Ancient World. Like other aspects of far history, not very much is concretely known about the Library of Alexandria, but we can piece together what Ancient historians and thinkers have said about it. It is not just a matter of legend. Read More
  • JAWS Author Peter Benchley as Ocean Advocate

    Thu, 07 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Author Peter Benchley may have stumbled into fame as an expert on all things shark, but he quickly took up the mantle as their advocate. Benchley’s smash hit novel, Jaws, came out in 1974, spent 44 weeks on the bestseller list, and became the first summer blockbuster film (ever) the following year. Although Benchley cast a great white shark as his villain, he would spend the rest of his career debunking the stereotype he created. Read More
  • Quiz: Where Would You Live in Tolkien's Middle Earth?

    Wed, 06 May 2015 10:08:57 Permalink
    Are you a fan of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Ever wonder what it would be like to live in Middle Earth? Are you more of a hobbit, elf, dwarf, orc, or human? Take our quiz to discover where you belong on Middle Earth. Read More
  • Robert Browning's Literary Rivalry...with His Wife

    Wed, 06 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today, Robert Browning is a firmly canonical author. His art draws a line between the Victorian literary tradition of psychological realism and the following tidal wave of modernism. His great talent is most apparent in his dramatic monologues, in which his poetry expertly illustrates the thoughts, motivations, and intellectual machinations of a character. Yet despite his posthumous fame, for a considerable portion of his life, Browning was overshadowed by his poetically gifted wife, Elizabeth Barrett. Read More
  • Interview with Jared Loewenstein About the Borges Collection

    Tue, 05 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Jorge Luis Borges Collection at the University of Virginia attracts scholars from across the globe who are interested in examining one—or many—of the more than 2000 titles in its holdings. We were lucky enough to conduct an interview with Jared Loewenstein, who began developing the collection in 1977. Read More
  • Interview with Jared Loewenstein on the Definitive Borges Collection at UVA

    Tue, 05 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Jorge Luis Borges Collection at the University of Virginia attracts scholars from across the globe who are interested in examining one—or many—of the more than 2000 titles in its holdings. In fact, UVA's Borges collection is the most comprehensive in the world. We were lucky enough to conduct an interview with Jared Loewenstein, who began developing the collection in 1977. Read More
  • Kaye Gibbons: Reconciling Wounds Through Writing

    Mon, 04 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Kaye Gibbons's debut novel Ellen Foster (1987), which she wrote at the age of 26, opens with the sentence, "When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy." In a letter to her readers Gibbons explains, "Since Ellen Foster is autobiographical, it shouldn't come as a shock that when I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. My mother...became too sad and died when I was almost ten..." Back to the book, the fictional character, 11-year-old Ellen Foster says a few lines later, "But I did not kill my daddy. He drank Read More
  • Philip the Good: Early Book Collector, Patron of the Arts

    Sun, 03 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 15th century Europe, the act of accumulating a collection of written works was linked to prestige and wealth. An early collector from this period, Philip the Good, proves an interesting study. As the Duke of Burgundy, Philip amassed a vast collection of texts, more specifically, illuminated manuscripts. During his reign, he contributed to a flourishing of the arts throughout the Burgundy province. Read More
  • Nobel Laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz and "Quo Vadis"

    Sat, 02 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The past is never dead. It's not even past. -William Faulkner, 1951 While Faulkner could sometimes be cryptic, this quote seems easy enough to grasp. After all, if the past were really past, why would we read so much historical fiction? Hardly the sole purview of trashy paperback enthusiasts and Civil War reenactors, historical fiction has held a distinguished place in literary history for centuries. It stretches back to the famed 18th Century novelist Sir Walter Raleigh and continues through to contemporary authors like Hilary Mantel. Between these two, the legacy of the historical novel makes another notable stop with Read More
  • Five Things You Should Know About Joseph Heller

    Fri, 01 May 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Most writers only dream of making the same lasting indent in American cultural consciousness that Joseph Heller did. Even famed novelist John Updike, who didn’t consider Heller to be a ‘top of the chart’ writer, deemed the author’s 1961 satirical behemoth Catch-22 to be “important.” ‘Importance,’ however, isn’t even the half of it. Heller’s inimitable brand of black humor, his keen eye for the absurdity of bureaucracy, and his deep antiwar sentiments combined to form a perfect storm of satirical perfection. Not only did he earn a place in the canon that stretches from Mark Twain to Kurt Vonnegut, but Read More
  • Carl Friedrich Gauss and The Method of Least Squares

    Thu, 30 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking coined the phrase: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” While he probably didn't have 19th century German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss in mind when developing the sentiment, he may well have. Actually, in Gauss’ case, it would be more fitting to say “shoot for the comet,” the Ceres comet at that, and as it turns out, the math genius didn’t have to be too concerned with missing. Read More
  • Annie Dillard and the Influence of Henry David Thoreau

    Wed, 29 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -Henry David Thoreau Contemporary writer Annie Dillard draws great inspiration from legendary author Henry David Thoreau. Her crowning work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is often compared to Thoreau's Walden, for good reason. Here, we briefly explore Dillard's life and work to learn more about how she's both similiar to and different from Thoreau. Read More
  • Who Is Your Literary Mother?

    Tue, 28 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Mother's Day is just around the corner but there's no reason to stress. Get some inspiration for the holiday by taking our quiz: Who Is Your Literary Mother? Read More
  • A Brief History of Postcolonial Literature, Part II

    Mon, 27 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Part I of our exploration of the history of Postcolonial literature, we focused on the rise of postcolonial theory and early postcolonial writers, such as Chinua Achebe and Nadine Gordimer, who set the stage for the international genre with their imaginative literature. Today, we shift our emphasis to contemporary writers of the postcolonial condition. Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: And the Oscar Goes to...

    Sun, 26 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Movie-lovers can be just as passionate about collecting rare materials as book-lovers, and it shows in the number of large film collections around the world. One of the most prestigious is found at the library and archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles. The Academy, better known for handing out the Academy Awards or Oscars, has made it their business to make films, screenplays, production sketches, periodicals, and much more available for research and education. Read More
  • Soviet Resistance Literature

    Sat, 25 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    During periods of tyranny, writers of fiction become subject to intense censorship and scrutiny. Remarkably, novelists and poets from the early decades of the Soviet Union produced some of the most imaginative and redemptive works in the history of the twentieth century. From the poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky to the realist prose of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Soviet resistance literature occupies an important place in the contemporary imagination when it comes to linking fiction with politics. Read More
  • Marginalia and Why You Should Write in Your Books

    Fri, 24 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When you pick up a book to read, do you also pick up a pencil, ready to mark up the margins with your thoughts and ideas? If so, your written additions are part of a body of writings called marginalia. For many readers, scribbling on the pages of books is a beloved, recreational practice. For others, it’s more of a necessity. Whether they are humorous jots and tittles, lessons learned from the story, or more serious notes of textual analysis, marginalia are simply fascinating. Read More
  • Anthony Trollope, Wanderlust, and How The "Mastiffs" Went to Iceland

    Thu, 23 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    At a certain point, it seems unusual that any writer should ply his trade in Ireland. Of the small nation’s four Nobel Prize winners in literature, two, Samuel Beckett and George Bernard Shaw, conducted most of their literary careers abroad in France and England, respectively. And, of course, that pair barely scratches the surface of Irish writers’ propensity, as a group, to work in self-imposed exile. Where literary titans like James Joyce and Oscar Wilde could scarcely abscond from the Emerald Isle quickly enough, the Hibernian countryside proved an ideal starting-point for one of England’s most idiosyncratic novelists: Anthony Trollope. Read More
  • Charles Lamb and Retelling Shakespeare

    Wed, 22 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Shakespeare's influence on our everyday language is undeniable. Any time you’ve waited "with bated breath” or taken “cold comfort,” you can thank Shakespeare for your phraseology. Have you recently found yourself “in a pickle” or been sent on a “wild goose chase?” Shakespeare coined those descriptors, as well. Maybe you are thinking everything in this paragraph is a “foregone conclusion.” Well, that’s Shakespeare, too. Truly, Shakespeare’s cultural reach is wide. But think for a minute about your earliest exposure to Shakespeare’s actual works. Was it college? High school? Even before then? In the 19th century, one man worked to bring Read More
  • Umberto Eco: Kant and the Platypus

    Tue, 21 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    For many years it was believed that Immanuel Kant never made it more than ten miles outside of Konigsberg. Even though this is demonstrably false (he spent some years working as a tutor in Russia) public perception of the father of modern philosophy has not changed. Thousands of freshman philosophy students each year will happily speculate about Kant’s fussiness, his cloistered lifestyle, and what many diagnose as a desperate need to get out of the house more. The grumblings of would-be thinkers notwithstanding, it’s hard to gripe too much about the man who redefined philosophy in the 18th Century, forever Read More
  • Why You Should Read Charlotte Brontë's The Professor

    Mon, 20 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Charlotte Brontë was the third oldest sister in a remarkably learned family. Brontë is best known and loved for her masterpiece, Jane Eyre. After all, who isn’t captivated by Jane’s spirit and resilience and her love saga with Mr. Rochester? Though Jane Eyre was the first of Charlotte Brontë’s novels to be published, it actually was not the first one she wrote. That title goes to The Professor. Although it has earned less popular esteem, here are three reason to pick up and read The Professor. Read More
  • A Brief History of Postcolonial Literature, Part I

    Sun, 19 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since the 1980s, numerous novelists, dramatists, and poets have been marketed as postcolonial writers. But what is postcolonial literature? In the broadest terms, this category includes works that have a relationship to the subjugating forces of imperialism and colonial expansion. In short, postcolonial literature is that which has arisen primarily since the end of World War II from regions of the world undergoing decolonization. Works from such regions in the 20th and 21st centuries, such as the Indian subcontinent, Nigeria, South Africa, and numerous parts of the Caribbean, for example, might be described as postcolonial.  Read More
  • How Best to Begin Collecting Native American Fiction

    Sat, 18 Apr 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you thinking about starting a new collection that focuses on Native American literature, including First Nations fiction? Whether you’re looking for works published by notable presses in the U.S. or small-press collections, collecting titles by indigenous authors can be an exciting process. From Native Canadian writers like George Clutesi to Pulitzer Prize-winning authors such as N. Scott Momaday, we have some great ideas to get you started. Read More
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