Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • John Dryden: (Literal) Poet Laureate of Political Upheaval

    Wed, 09 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The great English poets of the 17th century did not always fare especially well. John Milton, following the Restoration in May 1660, had to go into hiding until a royal pardon was issued exonerating him for the civic and poetic work he did during Oliver Cromwell’s reign (some of his poems in that era were seen as condoning Cromwell’s regicide of King Charles I). Even after the pardon was issued, Milton found himself imprisoned until Andrew Marvell convinced the monarchy not to execute him. Marvell himself, another poetic luminary of the era, had only narrowly avoided prison himself on the Read More
  • A Brief Introduction to the Works of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

    Tue, 08 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    A few days ago as my family was unloading groceries in the kitchen, some movement along the edge of the tree line caught our eyes. To our delight, we spotted the first fawn of the season, wobbling close to her mother in the dappled sunlight of our backyard. After a few minutes of awed observation, we saw the doe take off, and the fawn curl up behind a tree just off the side of our house. It is not uncommon for mothers to leave their newborn fawns unattended for hours at a time, as fawns do not yet carry a Read More
  • Why We Need Wendell Berry More Than Ever

    Sat, 05 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    For a healthy discourse, voices from all across the country are needed. These distinctions occur not just along the lines of race and gender, but class and region as well. Much of literature and cultural taste, like the forces of political change and economics, are dictated by those in the cities, leaving behind those in rural and farming counties. One of the most important literary voices of rural America today, telling the stories and bringing to light the issues of a forgotten region, is Wendell Berry, an author of poetry, fiction, essays, and more. Read More
  • Four Writers Inspired by Beatrix Potter

    Fri, 04 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Beatrix Potter's charming stories and enchanting illustrations have captivated children for generations. Indeed, ever since her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published in 1902, children have learned valuable lessons from Peter and his cohorts, all while being delightedly entertained. All of Potter's books are still in print today, and in 2016 a previously unreleased book was published—The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots. Beyond her endurance as a much-loved children's writer, Beatrix Potter has served as an inspiration to many writers and illustrators. She was a woman who not only forged a path for herself in literature when the field of Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: Notable College Libraries

    Thu, 03 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The international library system would be sorely lacking without universities. Where government and private interests (and resources) fail, academic ones pick up the slack, snapping up the archives of major authors and collecting volumes on specialized and specific topics. They prove vital assets to researchers and professors. They provide working space for students and writers (I happened upon Zadie Smith, headphones in her ears, in New York University’s Bobst Library one afternoon). They are essential to the health of literature and education. And they are often very beautiful. Read More
  • Ten of the Best Books for Summer

    Wed, 02 Aug 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There's a book for every season, it's true. We've written about the best winter reads, great books for Halloween, and patriotic titles that are sure to delight. But today, we want to focus on sweet summertime reads. Because nothing says summer like a good book. Whether you're by the pool, on the porch, or sitting in your favorite chair, here are ten of the best books for summer. Read More
  • Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

    Mon, 31 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In Chapter Four of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known to many American readers as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), the gentle giant, Hagrid—keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts—presents Harry with a “large, sticky chocolate cake” for his eleventh birthday. Twenty years have passed since that first book in the Harry Potter series was published. We’ve all celebrated lots of birthdays since then. We’ve all grown—some of us “up” and some of us “old.” And in that time, the beloved character, Harry, has grown as well.  Read More
  • Man Booker Prize Winners from India

    Sat, 29 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Man Booker Prize, designed “to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom,” has been awarded annually since 1969. The prize isn’t awarded to an author, but rather to a specific work of fiction. Each year, a group of judges is selected from a wide range of professions and disciplines, and previous judges have included “poets, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, and actors,” according to the Man Booker Prize website. Since its inception, the prize has been awarded to numerous writers from India or of Indian descent. Read More
  • The Art and Scandal of the Shelleys' Romance

    Fri, 28 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1814, a relationship that would one day produce immortal art was only producing a scandal. The journey to some of the 19th century’s best Romantic poetry and the gothic genius of Frankenstein was going to be, in hindsight, a bumpy one. It was a relationship so taboo that it began in secret, and had to be nurtured in exile. Read More
  • Light Verse and Strong Opinions: A Hilaire Belloc Reading Guide

    Thu, 27 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.” –Hilaire Belloc Hilaire Belloc stands as one of the most controversial men in Anglophone letters. While the French-born poet, essayist, historian, and one-time Minister of Parliament boasted more fame and influence than almost any other Edwardian writers, he was, as George Bernard Shaw described him, a champion of lost causes (for what it’s worth, Shaw also referred to Belloc and his frequent collaborator G.K. Chesterton, collectively as “the Chesterbelloc”). As such, his critical and historical writings take the form of bellicose Read More
  • Picture This: Illustrations in Rare Book Collecting

    Wed, 26 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s a tired cliche, but when it comes to collecting rare or vintage books, there is perhaps no truer sentiment. Illustrations in rare book collecting, while not necessarily the first element that jumps to mind for a would-be collector, can be a significant driver in terms of the value and rarity of a given volume. Because illustrations have long been a part of literature in a variety of forms—everything from supplementing a narrative to depicting important scenes to enhancing the overall texture or theme of a story—illustrations are a critical element in helping Read More
  • Authors Who Went to Jail

    Tue, 25 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As a whole, writers are no different from the rest of humanity. This applies as much to a propensity for crime. Traditionally, writers have been imprisoned for two vices popular to their caste—espousing radical politics and not paying creditors. That’s not to say there haven’t been authors who went to jail for more prosaic crimes, like embezzling (O. Henry) and armed robbery (Chester Himes), for example. A few of them have also written their finest books in jail. Read More
  • Best Books from Iran

    Sat, 22 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    During various periods of repression throughout the twentieth century, Iranian writers haven’t been read as widely as they should have been. Certainly, Iranian novelists and poets are not the first to be subjected to the heavy hand of censorship from a tyrannical government. However, since the Iranian Revolution, prejudices and other forms of sociocultural censorship have excluded, in various ways, significant works of Iranian literature. While we can’t list all of the best books from Iran, we have a handful for you to explore. Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: License Renewed

    Fri, 21 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    More than a decade. That’s how much time elapsed between adventures of the world’s most famous superspy, James Bond. Following the publication of the first post-Ian Fleming 007 novel, Colonel Sun in 1968, the Bond series went into hiatus for roughly 13 years before Glidrose Publications (now named Ian Fleming Publications) approached noted British spy and literary thriller writer John Gardner to revive the series in the late 1970s. After several years of negotiations, Gardner agreed to take up the 007 mantle and relaunched the 007 series with the 1981 publication of License Renewed, an aggressive reboot and branding of Read More
  • Read More Poetry: The Richard Wilbur Edition

    Thu, 20 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re interested in twentieth-century poetry, Richard Wilbur should be on your reading list. Born in New York City, Wilbur became the second United States Poet Laureate in 1987. His poems draw on a number of life experiences—including his time of service during World War II. When he took his post as Poet Laureate, Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin described him as “a poet for all of us, whose elegant words brim with wit and paradox.” Read More
  • Where Writing and Politics Collide: Authors as Activists

    Wed, 19 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Writing has always existed as a means to explore the realities of the world, to illuminate both the good and the bad. As long as people have been writing, they have been writing about the world around them, and in many ways, the relationship between art and politics—writing and politics, to be specific—is inexorable. Aristotle wrote his Politics in the 4th century. Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal, his satire on the Irish potato famine, in 1729. Anna Laetitia Barbauld wrote her critiques of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars not long after. There is a long history of Read More
  • Nelson Mandela's Literary Influence

    Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The enormity of Nelson Mandela’s influence on the world is undeniable. He fought for years against apartheid in South Africa, suffering a long imprisonment and a constant stream of indignities en route to dismantling the South African National Party’s legally codified racism, becoming the first black president of South Africa, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Given the number of lives he touched in carrying out his work, it should come as little surprise that his influence has extended beyond politics and human rights to the world of literature. Read More
  • How MacGyver Can Help Us Understand Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction

    Sat, 15 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Deconstructionism is one of the most significant intellectual movements of the 20th century, having helped to usher the post-structuralist era and having had wide implications for the study of history, literature, and philosophy. As a method for criticism, it has been practiced by Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller, but the term and technique were both originally coined by Jacques Derrida in his seminal work Of Grammatology (1967). For all of its influence on the intellectual landscape of the 20th and 21st centuries, however, it can be a difficult concept to describe or understand. For starters, however, Read More
  • A Brief History of the Thriller Genre

    Fri, 14 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thrillers are characterized by suspense—a feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement over what is to come next, mixed in with apprehension, anticipation, and sometimes even, fear. These feelings develop throughout a narrative from unpredictable events that make the reader or viewer think about the consequences of certain characters’ actions. The suspenseful feelings build towards a climax that is sure to be memorable. With suspense and crime, with conspiracies and revenge, the thriller genre has been keeping audiences on their toes with tension and excitement for centuries. When it comes to thrillers, many think of Alfred Hitchcock and his movies, like Read More
  • Visiting Czesław Miłosz's Home in Kraków

    Thu, 13 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Given that Kraków, Poland is a UNESCO City of Literature, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kraków is where the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czesław Miłosz (pronounced CHESS-wahf MEE-wosh) made his home until his death in 2004. Indeed, in addition to national presses, there are numerous independent book publishers located throughout Kraków, and there are nearly 80 bookstores throughout the city. Moreover, the city hosts international books fairs and literary festivals on an annual basis, including the Miłosz Festival, which honors the late poet and brings literary guests to the city every June. If you’re hoping to visit Miłosz’s home, Read More
  • A Guide to the Eloise Books

    Wed, 12 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1955, writer Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight published Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups. Interestingly, as the original title suggests, the Eloise books were first marketed to adults—perhaps it was an early sign that they would be a hit with children, as well.  In 1969, the title changed simply to Eloise, leaving out the “grown-ups” part, but the spirit of Eloise as a both mature and juvenile girl was already set. Ever since, she has been the rare sort of character that grows with the reader, coming to mean different things in all stages of life. Read More
  • Mixed Reviews of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

    Tue, 11 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Maycomb County is a small, unassuming town, nestled in the state of Alabama. Many of us have been there (I myself have visited several times throughout the years) to check in on the beloved Finch family. When Harper Lee’s fictional southern story, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, the reception was quite positive. Readers and critics alike praised Lee’s eclectic characters and important life lessons. Let's take a look at some of these positive reviews while also addressing the later change in tune regarding this seminal work. Read More
  • Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Poland

    Sat, 08 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Will you be traveling to Poland anytime soon? There’s no better country in Eastern Europe to seek out rare and antiquarian books, and in fact, we’re pretty well convinced that Kraków and Warsaw contain some of our favorite rare bookshops in the world. Read More
  • Politics Aside: Robert Heinlein's Long Transformation

    Fri, 07 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Robert Heinlein left behind a body of work with a bewildering diversity of imaginings and ideas. It would be difficult to reconcile the free love, communal interests of the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, with say, the martial authoritarianism of Starship Troopers, or the anarchic libertarianism of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Indeed, doing so would be impossible. And there is little doubt this has much to do with why his readers appreciate his writing so much. Read More
  • Getting to Know Nobel Laureate Verner von Heidenstam

    Thu, 06 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Nobel committee is known for its “prize motivation” citations when it awards its coveted Prizes each year. We hear these short snippets in articles and press releases about each winner, and they serve their purpose well: they are brief snapshots of why the winner won. While Nobel Prize in Literature winners are chosen based on the entire body of their work, in some cases, the committee cites a specific example. For example, in 1954 when Ernest Hemingway won, the committee said it was “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and Read More
  • Five All-American Reads for Independence Day

    Tue, 04 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Happy 4th of July! Today marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the event that triggered the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. In honor of the festivities, here’s a look at five all-American reads to get you in the mood for some fireworks. Read More
  • Happy Birthday, Wisława Szymborska!

    Sun, 02 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If Wisława Szymborska (pronounced vees-WAH-vah shim-BOR-ska) were still alive today, she would celebrate her 94th birthday on July 2. Symborska passed away in February 2012, but she remains a remarkably prominent poet both in her native Poland as well as in various translations throughout the world. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996, and her work has been translated into dozens of languages. To celebrate her birthday this summer, we thought we’d tell you a little bit more about the poet and introduce you to some of our favorite works. Read More
  • The Magnetic Charm of George Sand

    Sat, 01 Jul 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    George Sand knew how to make people talk. Ever since she strutted onto the French literary scene, everyone in Paris turned their eyes toward this charming, strangely dressed woman of veritable artistic talent. She had a two-pronged approach: her conduct would gain the immediate attention of her peers, and her talent would sustain it. Her strategy, buoyed by her robust and wise talent, has been successful to this very day. Read More
  • The Woman Behind Gone With the Wind

    Fri, 30 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Though Margaret Mitchell had only one book published in her lifetime, it remains one of the most popular books of all time. Gone With the Wind won the National Book Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1937. The story of Scarlett O'Hara's life in the aftermath of the Civil War, the changing nature of Atlanta, and her tumultuous relationship with Rhett Butler has intrigued generations of readers and movie fans. It's film adaptation, too, has endured as a classic and was a major influence on films for years after its release. Starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Read More
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Author of "The Little Prince"

    Thu, 29 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Little Prince (1943) is one of the most popular children's books (or books of any kind, really) of all time. Combined, its child-centric worldview and its surprisingly subtle psychological and philosophical observations have led to decades of adoration and constant re-rereading from children and adults alike—all of this is quite remarkable given the fact that the book's author, French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was neither a children’s book author nor an illustrator of any standing. In fact, Saint-Exupéry began writing the book only at the suggestion of his publisher’s wife, who believed that the project might calm Read More
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