Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • 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
  • The Power of Language: Emile Zola and the Dreyfus Affair

    Tue, 13 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    "No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world," Robin Williams's character, Mr. Keating asserts in the film "Dead Poets Society." Mr. Keating could have used French writer Emile Zola and the letter he wrote to a Paris newspaper in January 1898 to illustrate his point. Simply titled "J'Accuse" ("I accuse!"), Zola's letter shone a light on the injustice and antisemitism of 19th century France. So powerful was the document that it ultimately led to the exoneration of an innocent man and the passing of a French law separating church and state. Read More
  • Albert Schweitzer's Nobel-Worthy Reverence for Life

    Mon, 12 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    It has been suggested that Alfred Nobel created the peace prize in his will to assuage his guilt at the destruction and harm caused by his own inventions (dynamite among them). It is perhaps fitting, then, that in 1952 the prize was awarded to a man whose medical work in an African mission transcended guilt about colonialism to yield a legacy of saved lives, as well as a globally-praised philosophy. Read More
  • The Global Appeal of Haruki Murakami

    Sun, 11 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Haruki Murakami is one of contemporary literature’s true international stars. American readers, not known for their fondness of translations, cannot get enough of the Japanese writer's work. One of his most recent books, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, was released in August 2014 and topped The New York Times bestseller list, selling one million copies in Japan alone. He is also immensely popular in his native Japan, and cannot jog in his suburban Tokyo neighborhood without being recognized, a distinction he has called burdensome.  Read More
  • Charles Perrault: French Aristocrat and... Mother Goose!

    Sat, 10 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    You might think you’ve never heard of Charles Perrault, a French aristocrat who lived 1628 to 1703, but you definitely know his work.  A little volume written for his children and published near the end of his life has dwarfed his other contributions to history and made him famous under another name: Mother Goose. Read More
  • Ten Interesting Facts About Jack London

    Fri, 09 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jack London's characteristically raw, edgy writing influenced and inspired such literary giants as Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, George Orwell and Upton Sinclair. He was also one of the first writers to gain fame and wealth from his fiction. However, London's short life was one marked by poverty and struggle from beginning to end. Here are 10 interesting facts about this often abrasive American author: Read More
  • Rare Collection of Early Dust Jackets Available for Purchase

    Fri, 09 Jan 2015 01:52:00 Permalink
    Books Tell You Why is pleased to announce the upcoming offer of a significant collection of 19th-century books in dust jacket, featuring a number of scarce and rare items, including several one-of-a-kind copies. While subject to adjustment, preliminary estimates of the collection's value range from $300,000 to $500,000. The collection spans the 19th century, with a heavy concentration in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. It includes fiction, biographies, travel journals and guides, natural history, and more. Read More
  • A Night with Teju Cole and Salman Rushdie

    Thu, 08 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In December, at The Symphony Space in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, professional actors dramatized the work of two famous authors. Before the performance, the writers personally introduced their work to the audience. These authors were Teju Cole, author of the 2011 PEN/Hemingway winner, Open City, and Salman Rushdie, writer of The Satanic Verses and the classic novel Midnight’s Children. Read More
  • Karel Čapek: Sci-fi Genius, Nazi Nemesis & Creator of the Word "Robot"

    Wed, 07 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    When recollecting writers who utilized the science fiction genre as a means for political and social commentary, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and Isaac Asimov often come to mind. But in the early part of the 20th century, a young writer named Karel Čapek also used sci-fi to expertly grapple with topics like totalitarianism and control, challenging the harsh Nazi rule in his native Eastern European homeland. Credited with inventing the term “robot,” Čapek’s life and work provide an interesting study for many reasons. Not only did he greatly influence the science fiction genre, but he also played an integral part in Read More
  • Re-Writing War: Famous Literature About Modern Warfare

    Tue, 06 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    The twentieth century witnessed more than its fair share of war. Indeed, most of our conceptions of modern warfare began with World War I in the early twentieth century, and our views have grown and shifted with the onset of World War II, the violence that took place throughout the Cold War, and the most recent face of war in the Middle East. For many of the writers who chronicled wartime in the twentieth century, they did so with first-hand experience. What can literature tell us about modern warfare and the traumas that soldiers face at home and abroad? Read More
  • Caring for Handwritten Documents

    Mon, 05 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Handwritten documents belong to a special part of a branch of print-collecting called ephemera. The Ephemera Society of the United Kingdom defines such artifacts as "the minor transient documents of everyday life." Ephemera encompass everything from leaflets to tickets to trading cards. There is a particular challenge in the preservation of ephemera, as ephemera are not made to last beyond their brief application. This often means that the materials used are less durable than those of a typical book. Thus, there is a gleeful rebellion in the act of preserving ephemera. While the documents were intended to be discarded, as Read More
  • An Interview with NCBCC Winner Katya Soll

    Sun, 04 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Katya Soll is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas. She won first prize in the 2014 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest with her essay, "Dictatorship, Recovery, and Innovation: Contemporary Theater of the Southern Cone." She has amassed an impressive collection of playbooks, programs, and performance tickets that document her immersion into a remarkable theatrical culture. Her scholarship illuminates a quintessential example of how a people reckon with a difficult history through art and creativity. We were lucky enough to get the chance to interview her about her work and collection. Read More
  • 10 Surprising Facts about Umberto Eco: Comic Books, Crime, & Trumpets

    Sat, 03 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1980, at age 48, Umberto Eco made his debut as a novelist with The Name of the Rose (originally in Italian Il nome della rosa) and has been a literary and philosophical juggernaut ever since.  In addition to his impressive publishing rap sheet, Eco also had a successful academic career in the fields of literature, semiotics, medieval history, and quite a few others. Given that he curated a 2009 exhibition at the Louvre in Paris on the essential nature of lists, we honor this great thinker today with one of our own. Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Beinecke Library at Yale

    Fri, 02 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many major universities maintain a special collections library, either for areas of department expertise or to preserve older books from overuse. However, not all of them are as beautiful as the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Thanks to the iconic glass tower of books at the center of the Beinecke, the library is well-known around the world in pictures. It also has a fascinating history and a very noteworthy collection. Read More
  • A Brief History of Poetry

    Thu, 01 Jan 2015 08:00:00 Permalink
    Unlike other literary forms that we can date to precise texts and time periods, it’s a challenge to pinpoint the earliest work of poetry. In one form or another, poetry has been around for thousands of years. However, we might think of the epic poem as the first instance of poetry, appearing as early as the 20th century B.C. Jumping hundreds of years ahead, we might turn, then, to the sonnet form and its early appearance in the 13th century. Before moving into more modern poetic forms, it’s important to consider Restoration poetry of the 17th century and the satirical Read More
  • Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

    Wed, 31 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    2014 was a great year for blogis librorum. We'd like to thank all of you who came along for the ride - we're so grateful for our loyal readership! Thanks to all of you who read, subscribed, and commented on our blog. Your participation reminds us of why we do what we do. In case you missed anything, we've compiled our ten most popular blog posts of 2014. Take a moment to explore our list, then tell us your favorite or what should have made the cut. Happy New Year! Read More
  • The Bloomsbury Group: Its Influence on the 20th Century and Beyond

    Tue, 30 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    What did a handful of writers, artists, critics, and an economist have in common at the beginning of the 20th century?  Living in a similar area of London, certainly. But it was a shared vision of life in all its creative, aesthetic, and intellectual glory that drew the Bloomsbury Group together.   The collective influence of the Bloomsbury Group in the artistic and literary communities of the era should not be downplayed.  Despite an oft-changing membership list and much political upheaval in the world around them, the group existed over several decades and still casts its shadow on us today. Read More
  • A Brief History of Serial Fiction

    Mon, 29 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Rob Reiner’s 1987 cult classic The Princess Bride (based on William Goldman's 1973 book of the same name), the story begins with a grandfather’s proclamation to his ailing grandson that “back in (his) day, television was called books.” While the old man’s dictum may be an overly bold one, it’s certainly true that books used to be a lot more like television. Indeed, the serialized format that modern television viewers have come to love-hate began nearly a century before the TV’s inception with the rise of serialized novels. Read More
  • The Challenge and Reward of Collecting Rudyard Kipling

    Sun, 28 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Upon receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, Rudyard Kipling was described as a “world-famous” author. Indeed, Kipling is rightly considered the author of the British Empire, expertly detailing the 19th and 20th century British imperial experience. His writing holds a significant place in the English Canon, both for its breadth as well as for its content, and limited editions of his short stories and poetry prove true treasures for the Kipling collector. Read More
  • Jerome Kern: Colossus of Musical Theater and Rare Books

    Sat, 27 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    American composer, Jerome Kern, was a colossus of twentieth century musical theater with a career spanning over forty years. His success in theater and film provided him the means to amass an equally remarkable rare books collection. Born in New York City on January 27, 1885, Kern was the composer of such iconic songs as, "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Long Ago (and Far Away)." An avid reader, Kern's love of books left its greatest mark on his career through the musical for which he is best known, Show Boat. An admirer of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Edna Ferber, Read More
  • Aesop's Fables and Slave Narratives: Reactionaries and Revolutionaries

    Fri, 26 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Somewhere between freedom and slavery lies the seed of literary greatness. America’s literary history has borne out this notion time and time again, from Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) to Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). For those authors and more, the tumultuous journey out of slavery defines careers laden with aesthetic triumphs and radical politics. This tradition of slaves turned literary superstars ought, by rights, to feature legendary Greek fabulist Aesop as its cornerstone. Read More
  • Literary Christmas Traditions: Celebrating with Books and Letters

    Thu, 25 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Traditions abound during the Christmas season. Some people carol, others sled. Some vacation, others stay close to home. Many celebrate with a church community or eat a holiday meal with family and friends. Perhaps most appropriately - especially here in this bookish corner of the internet - is the fact that for many people, Christmas traditions center around books and storytelling. Read More
  • A Quick Guide to "The Woman Warrior" by Maxine Hong Kingston

    Wed, 24 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    High school teachers and college professors across the country assign Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976). At the same time, other readers have discovered this book through articles on feminism and literature, or interviews with the author concerning her work with Vietnam veterans and immigrants interested in storytelling. If you’ve read Kingston’s memoir, you probably know that she was born in California to parents who emigrated from China. But what else should you know about this novel that’s slowly becoming part of a multi-ethnic literature canon? Read on to learn five important facts Read More
  • Ashurbanipal: The First Bibliomaniac

    Tue, 23 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    “Whosoever shall carry off this tablet, or shall inscribe his name on it, side by side with mine own, may Ashur and Belit overthrow him in wrath and anger, and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land” - King Ashurbanipal, Assyria, circa 7th Century BC The above is one of the first known instances of a book curse, a practice used widely throughout the centuries to instill the fear of god(s) into would-be book thieves. Some Medieval Spanish manuscripts contained threats of excommunication and damnation the likes of which make the wrath of Assyrian gods Ahur and Belit Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Bodleian Library

    Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Fans of the Harry Potter movies would recognize the Upper Reading Room of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The filmmakers used the picturesque library – filled with old tomes, decorative shelving, and books chained to the stacks – to recreate the Hogwarts school library. The Bodleian is not only one of the most recognizable libraries in the world, but also one of the oldest and most revered. Read More
  • The Birth of "Mark Twain": His First National Article

    Sun, 21 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In retrospect, 1866 was a watershed year for Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He gained a cult following for his Hawaii travelogue (then referred to as the "Sandwich Islands"), published his first piece in a national magazine, and--finding "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass" to be an unsuitable moniker--chose a new pen name: Mark Twain. "Forty-three Days in An Open Boat," published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in December of 1866, was the first of his works published on a national scale. Read More
  • The Ten Most Readable Newbery Medal Winners

    Sat, 20 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Every year, committees of experts and librarians gather to discuss the best books published for children that year.  Out of that process, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals are awarded for excellence in writing and illustration, respectively.  Every committee is different – sometimes there are clear favorites, sometimes not – but the very act of awarding the medals marks the books as favorites and collectibles for years to come. Whether you’re searching for a special gift or hoping to learn more about the award, look no further than this list of the ten most engaging Newbery Medal winners. Read More
  • Ian Fleming's Banned Book and the Unexpected Gravity of James Bond

    Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    A banned book always carries with it a certain social cache. Perhaps it’s simply that people want what they can’t have, or that censored works are coveted precisely for their perceived power to affect change. But the fact remains that once a book joins the banned book list, including such revolutionary political and aesthetic statements as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) and Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961), the work becomes difficult to ignore. Read More
  • Victor Canning: Forgotten Rival of Ian Fleming

    Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Victor Canning was a prolific writer who would surely be as famous as Ian Fleming if he had managed to write a little less. Certainly in the 1950s he was better known than Fleming in Britain and the United States. If only President Kennedy had picked up a copy of Panthers’ Moon rather than From Russia with Love, Canning might enjoy a greater legacy today. Read More
  • Top Ten Collectible Christmas Books

    Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    With the holidays fast approaching, it can be easy to take for granted all of the Christmas cheer that seeps into daily life. From the omnipresence of Christmas lights and miniature Santas to the unabashed spinning of Bing Crosby records, one might be lulled into such a state of wintry bliss that one could forget that the true force of Christmas spirit emanates from one’s bookshelf. Here are ten of the most collectible Christmas books to enliven your holiday spirit.   Read More
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