Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Ten Things You Should Know About Kurt Vonnegut

    Mon, 10 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Kurt Vonnegut belongs to a generation of American writers whose work was strongly influenced by their service in World War II. Vonnegut was a soldier as well as a prisoner of war, and he suffered firsthand the horrors of combat. Inspired by his wartime anguish, Vonnegut's work is characterized by a humane sensitivity; indeed, his writing has established him as one of the finest paladins of compassion in twentieth-century literature. Here are ten facts you should know about this legendary author: Read More
  • Oliver Goldsmith: Not Quite a Goody Two-Shoes

    Sun, 09 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Despite his tendency to attract biting "compliments," such as Horace Walpole's description of "an inspired idiot," Oliver Goldsmith left his mark on the literary world as a poet, novelist, and playwright. He is not credited with starting a movement among his peers, but no one could label him as a follower. He is most famous for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield, one of the most widely read novels of the Victorian era. The book is widely referenced in British literature - from Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities to Jane Austen's Emma and George Eliot's Middlemarch - and continues to hold literary significance today.  Read More
  • Ten Facts You Should Know about Margaret Mitchell

    Sat, 08 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    On November 8. 1900, Margaret Mitchell was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Although Mitchell published only one novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gone with the Wind, she became one of the best known authors of the South. Gone with the Wind quickly became a bestseller and has remained both beloved and controversial ever since. The film adaptation, starring Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable, remains a classic. Check out these ten tidbits you might not know about Mitchell and her magnum opus. Read More
  • A Brief History of Bram Stoker and His Horror Classic, Dracula

    Thu, 06 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the history of the horror novel, some works have come alive in popular imagination. One of these is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) - almost everyone is familiar with the plot regardless of whether they've read the book. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is similarly ubiquitous. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire legend, his classic work has defined and popularized the myth across continents and generations. We all know who Dracula is, but what about Stoker? Who was the man who made "vampire" a household name? Read More
  • Sinclair Lewis' Nobel Prize: a Critique of the American Establishment?

    Wed, 05 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1930, Sinclair Lewis became the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. His won the prize “for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters.” Some speculate, however, that Lewis won as much for the quality of his writing as for his harsh criticism of the American establishment.  Read More
  • Book Collecting Basics: Pirated Editions

    Tue, 04 Nov 2014 07:21:00 Permalink
    In July 2007, JK Rowling fans around the world anxiously awaited the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in Rowling's beloved Harry Potter series. The official release of the English-language version was scheduled to take place on July 21, 2007. But readers in China got their hands on the novel a full ten days earlier, when the book unexpectedly popped up in book stores. Thousands bought the early editions...unaware that the copies in their hands had virtually nothing in common with the authorized edition actually written by JK Rowling. Read More
  • Stephen King's Carrie in Literature and Film

    Mon, 03 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Carrie (1974) is Stephen King’s first novel, published when he was just 26 years old. The story was published to immediate commercial and critical success.  A movie adaptation was released two years later, solidifying King's reputation as well as that of director Brian de Palma. In a few short years, King had placed his imprint on the horror genre, forever changing the way audiences viewed horror films and literature.   Read More
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover on Trial: Literary Classic or Pornography?

    Sun, 02 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    The history books all agree that the 1960s were a period of enormous social upheaval in Great Britain. The psychedelic rock, mini-skirts, and hedonism of the post-war generation were inescapable. While there is no one event that can be identified as the tipping point for cultural change, some historians give credit to the public obscenity trial of D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Previously banned by the British government, Lady Chatterley’s Lover divided people in opinion – was it a literary classic or was it thinly-veiled pornography? The trial, which was meant as a test case, did not go quite Read More
  • The Short, Full Life of Stephen Crane

    Sat, 01 Nov 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Author Stephen Crane, was born November 1, 1871  in Newark, New Jersey. Despite a severely religious upbringing--or perhaps because of it--Crane lived an unconventional life. He was first involved in scandal during his twenties, when he was called as a witness for the trial of Dora Clark: a prostitute and friend. Later, he began a long-term relationship with Cora Taylor, the owner of a brothel. The two lived in London where they became friends with writers including Joseph Conrad and H. G. Wells. Just a few years after writing his novel, The Red Badge of Courage, Crane died at the age of Read More
  • The Fascinating Inspiration Behind Favorite Horror Novels

    Fri, 31 Oct 2014 08:15:00 Permalink
    Halloween has finally arrived! Here's a look at the inspiration behind some of our all-time favorite horror novels.  Read More
  • Orson Welles and the "War of the Worlds" Broadcast: A Nation Duped?

    Thu, 30 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    In the decades since it first aired, Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast has become infamous - even called the most notorious radio hoax in history. NPR reported, "The United States experienced a kind of mass hysteria that we’ve never seen before." But was the event really so shocking? Evidence points to a different hoax - one perpetuated not by Welles, but by newspapers attempting to discredit radio as a trustworthy news source.  Read More
  • Harry Houdini: From Vaudeville Performer to World-Class Magician

    Wed, 29 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    The feats of Harry Houdini amaze us even today. In his Chinese Water Torture trick, Houdini was suspended upside down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet overflowing with water. In another stunt, he strapped himself into a straitjacket and then, suspended by his ankles, would escape before a crowd of onlookers. Sometimes he dislocated his shoulders in the process. Even now, nearly a century after his death, Harry Houdini remains the world's most well-known magician. Read More
  • Top 10 Reads for Halloween

    Tue, 28 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    It's that time of year again. Darkness falls earlier each night, bare tree branches creak in the sky, and the chill of winter creeps ever closer. As autumn chases away the vestiges of summer, Halloween and its ghosts and ghouls come out to play. So grab a cup of cider and enter into the season by reading our top ten creepy blog posts: Read More
  • How James Boswell Revolutionized Copyright Law

    Mon, 27 Oct 2014 06:09:08 Permalink
    Born on October 29, 1740 James Boswell is best remembered for his momentous Life of Johnson. Often regarded as the most important biography written in the English language, Boswell's masterpiece is certainly an incredible contribution to the world of literature and books. But during his own lifetime, Boswell was much better known for another contribution: his role in the establishment of new copyright law for the United Kingdom. Read More
  • A "Marriage of True Minds": Famous Author Pen Pals

    Sun, 26 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    On October 26, 1900, writer Henry James (The Portrait of a Lady) responded to a short note from Edith Wharton wishing him luck on a new play. This began a lifelong correspondence and friendship between a fledgling author and her literary idol. Later in life, Wharton reflected on her friendship with James that “the real marriage of true minds is for any two people to possess a sense of humour or irony pitched in exactly the same key.” We celebrate this meeting of artistic minds today with famous author pen pals. Read More
  • A Brief History of the Pop-Up Book

    Sat, 25 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Books contain tremendous power. They captivate our minds, change the way we look at the world, and transport us to faraway lands. It seems hardly possible to make books any richer than they already are. However, through the beauty of illustrations and the mechanics of pop-up books, readers of all ages can find an even greater appreciation for literature. Read More
  • How Pat Conroy's Writing Destroyed and Healed His Family

    Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Pat Conroy, best known for his novel The Prince of Tides, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1945. His father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot, his mother loved books, and the two raised their children in a strict military home. Still, his childhood was tumultuous: the family moved nearly every year to different military bases throughout the South. Life at home was filled with aggression, tension, and hostility, due in most part to Conroy’s father. His childhood and educational experiences provided the fodder for some of his most famous works. Read More
  • Anne Tyler: The Pulitzer Prize, Bare Feet, and Index Cards

    Thu, 23 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    While Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler has been writing books since the 60s, she has only recently emerged in the public eye. She long preferred keeping a low profile, granting few interviews and minimal photographs. Her reclusiveness, and the consequent curiousity of her readers, was reminiscent of J.D. Salinger. But a more accurate comparison would be to author John Updike, a companion in subject and in some ways, sensibility. Both are American writers who have rendered with care the lives of their average, but striking, characters. Read More
  • Case Studies in Collecting: Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven

    Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:26:00 Permalink
    "I'd rather travel with that old portly, hearty, silly, boisterous, good-natured sailor...than with any other man I've ever come across." - Mark Twain, of Captain Edgar "Ned" Wakeman Read More
  • Five books That Brought Michael Crichton Fame and Fortune

    Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Michael Crichton was one of America's most popular science fiction writers, known not only for his books but also for many successful film adaptations. His novels have sold more than 200 million copies worldwide and the movies have grossed billions in revenue. Beyond working as a novelist, Crichton was also a physician, director, and screenwriter. Here we highlight five of Crichton's bestselling novels. Read More
  • Doris Lessing and the Power of Life-Long Learning

    Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nobel laureate, Doris Lessing, is one of the great literary minds of the twenty-first century. Lessing's genius is undeniable: her writing merges staggering quantity with incredible quality. Perhaps what makes Doris Lessing such an interesting study, though, is the unique way in which she garnered the insights, lessons, and beliefs which seep into her writing. Read More
  • Out at First: The History of the World Series Novel

    Sun, 19 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    “(It) belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life.” - Walt Whitman on baseball With this year’s World Series rapidly approaching, it is not difficult to see what Whitman means.  Even after falling behind football in popularity, baseball dominates America’s October conversations.  And, if we take a look at recent literary releases like Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding (2011), Michael Chabon’s Summerland (2002), and David James Duncan’s The Brothers K (1992), it is clear that baseball dominates not just our national attention, Read More
  • John le Carré: From Spy to Spy Novelist

    Sat, 18 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Bestselling spy novelist, David John Moore Cornwell—John le Carré—was born October 19, 1931, in Poole, England. He had a rough childhood characterized by betrayals and dishonesty. His mother abandoned the family when he was five and the family was frequently uprooted due to his father's penchant for fraud. As a child, his father actively discouraged reading. "Anyone caught reading a book," le Carré said, "was not being loyal." Read More
  • Philip Pullman, Impassioned Storyteller for All Ages

    Fri, 17 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Author Philip Pullman is a master of modern children's literature. His trilogy, His Dark Materials, is one of the most beloved fantasy series of the last twenty five years, although Pullman himself considers the books "stark realism" not fantasy. Writing for children, Pullman believes, enables him to engage his readers in ways he would otherwise be prohibited - he revels in intricate plots and characters. He has won the Carnegie Medal (1995), Guardian Prize (1996), and Astrid Lindgren Award (2005).  Read More
  • How Terry McMillan Got Her Groove Back

    Thu, 16 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Terry McMillan, author of bestselling novels Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, was born October 18, 1951 in Port Huron, Michigan. She was the oldest of her four siblings and after her parents separated, she was left  to care for her brother and sisters. Although forced to grow up at an early age, she found solace in her personal retreat: the Port Huron library. There, she fell in love with reading—relishing the works of classic writers including Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. As much as she enjoyed their writing, she was discouraged that great works Read More
  • The Fickle Fortunes of Oscar Wilde

    Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Oscar Wilde is often remembered for his bright wit and lavish lifestyle as well as his works The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Master of the epigram, he coined phrases such as "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken" and "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much." He lived much of his life as an evangelist for the Aesthetic movement in art, believing that life should be beautiful. What life delivered him, however, was not so idyllic. Read More
  • The Princess Bride Back in the News

    Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Cult classic, The Princess Bride, is back in the news. Today—over forty years after the book was published and 27 years after the movie was released—star Cary Elwes has released his first-hand account of the making of the film. Titled, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Elwes shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes and photographs. When asked if it was as much fun to make the film as it looked, Elwes responded, “It was more fun than it looked.” Read More
  • The Impressive Levity and Longevity of P. G. Wodehouse

    Mon, 13 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    When it comes to comedic writing, P.G. Wodehouse was one of the greats. His body of work extends from novels and short stories to Broadway musicals. Yet, his legacy chiefly relies on two series of books series of books: “The Blandings Castle Saga” and stories about valet extraordinaire, Jeeves. Both worlds were created by Wodehouse in the 1910s, but he added to the stories for sixty years, until he passed away in 1975.  Read More
  • Libraries and Special Collections: The Folger Shakespeare Library

    Sun, 12 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Today, we kick off a series about the most exceptional libraries in the world. Focusing on everything from Shakespeare to botany, they hold some of the rarest books and print materials on earth.  For those of you who cannot physically visit these places, we hope our articles will provide a peek into the amazing breadth and richness of book collecting. There are three must-see vacation destinations for the Shakespeare lover: his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Globe Theatre in London, and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.  Read More
  • Elmore Leonard Goes to Hollywood

    Sat, 11 Oct 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writing Western novels hardly seems like an effective way to make it in Hollywood, but for Elmore Leonard it worked wonders. The 1940s through 1960s saw peak interest in Western dramas due to the affordability and availability of cinema and television. Leonard began his writing career during the 1950s producing a string of Westerns: five novels and thirty short stories. However, once the genre had peaked, Leonard moved on to a more contemporary interest—crime. Read More
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