Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Leo Tolstoy: From Troubled Marriage to Contradictory Worldview

    Sun, 07 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Three facts:Leo Tolstoy was born on September 9th, 1828 in the Tula region of Russia.He was a prolific writer of political and social philosophy, plays, essays, novels, and short stories.His novel War and Peace is widely considered one of the greatest books ever written.Beyond these basic statements, however, there is almost nothing simple that can be said about the classic novelist. Tolstoy as a subject is almost as complicated as the novels he wrote. Read More
  • Download Free Guides about Rare Book Collecting

    Sat, 06 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Over the last several weeks, the staff at Books Tell You Why have been working hard to create the guides and ebooks requested by you, our readers. When you ask for something, we listen. Through your feedback, we've learned that readers want more than blog posts about rare books and collecting. They want high-quality, in-depth ebooks that they can download and peruse at their leisure. We are happy to announce that we've produced several such guides and they are available to any of our readers free of charge. More are on the way. Don't see what you're looking for? Let Read More
  • 10 Surprising Facts About Jennifer Egan: Proust, Steve Jobs & Twitter

    Fri, 05 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jennifer Egan is a journalist and writer whose fame exploded with the publication of her unconventional work of fiction, A Visit from the Goon Squad, in 2010. The book was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2011. A Visit from the Goon Squad evades easy description. Is it a novel? Is it a collection of short stories? Each chapter follows a different character, branching out through time and space, in a messy yet elegant story that keeps readers hooked. Therefore, it only seems fitting to profile Egan and her work in Read More
  • Raymond Benson, the First American writer of James Bond

    Thu, 04 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Strong film screenplays provided the foundation for Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, and the five other actors to bring James Bond - or 007 - to life. These movies have captured the imaginations of movie-goers for decades. Of course, the screenplays derived from original James Bond books and short stories. Ian Fleming was the first James Bond author, the originator of the series. However, there have been seven other authorized James Bond authors; the first American writer was Raymond Benson. Read More
  • The Adventurous Life of Arthur Koestler

    Wed, 03 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    It was Spain, during the height of the Spanish Civil War, and Arthur Koestler - a Communist masquerading as a Fascist sympathizer - was in danger. He was writing about the conflict for a British newspaper, working in the city of Malaga. The Republican army had fled along with the other journalists in the area. It is unknown why Koestler stayed, but the decision was not anomalous in a life punctuated by audacity and adventure. Read More
  • Famous Figures in the History of Bookbinding, Part Two

    Tue, 02 Sep 2014 07:58:53 Permalink
    The way we present and preserve the written word has changed considerably over the millennia. When Johann Gutenberg introduced movable type, our concept of the book changed forever. Since then, famous figures like William Caxton, Jean Grolier, and Samuel Mearne introduced the concept of the book as an object of art. In more recent centuries, Roger Payne and William Morris paved the way for the modern private press movement.  Read More
  • Richard Wright and His "Native Son"

    Mon, 01 Sep 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    Great American writer, Richard Wright, was best known for his novels Black Boy and Native Son. Wright was born on September 4, 1908 in Natchez, Mississippi. He was the grandson of slaves, and the son of a sharecropper. His father left the family when Wright was only five years old, leaving him in the sole care of his mother. Read More
  • Six Classic Novels Censored in the United States

    Sun, 31 Aug 2014 08:00:00 Permalink
    As August draws to a close, we begin anticipating Banned Book Week - a time for celebrating the First Amendment and our freedom to read. Throughout history, people have recognized the transformative power of literature; governments, religious institutions, and even school districts have sought to contain that power by banning controversial books and —in some cases even ordering their destruction. Read More
  • Famous Figures in the History of Book Binding

    Sat, 30 Aug 2014 08:09:31 Permalink
    From the scroll to the codex to the modern volume, the form of the book has evolved considerably over the centuries. And alongside that, our methods for keeping the pages together have also changed considerably. Today we enjoy a thriving world of designer and art bindings, collectible in their own right. We can thank figures like William Caxton, Jean Grolier, and Samule Mearne for bringing innovation and beauty to the craft of bookbinding. Read More
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Controversial Author in Every Era

    Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:01:34 Permalink
    For the entire first half of the twentieth century, Edgar Rice Burroughs was the most widely read American author. And contemporary readers seem just as enamored of Burroughs' books; over ten million copies of Burroughs' books sell each year, accounting for a full third of US paperback sales. While Burroughs' beloved tales are certainly popular for their fantastic plots and classic characters, interest in the books has been spurred by controversy.  Read More
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Controversial Author in Every Era

    Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:01:00 Permalink
    For the entire first half of the twentieth century, Edgar Rice Burroughs was the most widely read American author. As per a 1963 statistic of Life Magazine, Burroughs' paperback books were runaway best-sellers; over ten million copies sold within just one year of their release, accounting for a full thirtieth of US annual paperback sales. While Burroughs' beloved tales are certainly popular for their fantastic plots and classic characters, interest in the books has been spurred by controversy.  Read More
  • 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
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