Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Five Facts About Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart

    Sat, 17 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”―Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Colonel Sun

    Fri, 16 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There comes a time in many artistic endeavors when the torch is passed. Film franchises change directors. Television shows bring in new producers and writers. And wildly popular novel serializations employ different writers to help ferry the characters into new territory. This is perhaps evidenced most clearly in Ian Fleming’s James Bond series when the mantle was passed to a host of new writers following Fleming’s death in 1964. Read More
  • Visiting the Homes of Victor Hugo

    Thu, 15 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Planning a trip to France or the U.K. anytime soon? While many famous writers have called these places home, perhaps no author’s experiences living in both regions better reflect a life lived, in many ways, on the margins, as those of Victor Hugo. As you might know, Victor Hugo was a central figure in the Romantic movement, and he remains one of the most well-known French novelists and dramatists today. He published his first works in the 1820s, but it wasn’t until the publication of the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame [Notre Dame de Paris] in 1831 that Hugo Read More
  • Libraries & Special Collections: Notable Private Libraries

    Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ever since Alexandria, the library has been an institution engineered for the public good. Most major libraries belong to communities and to universities, places where one large group or another may borrow books and read them. But there are, of course, some spectacular libraries in private hands. Places where knowledge, and the sharing of it, are highly valued by the person who filled the shelves. Read More
  • Dorothy Sayers, Detective Fiction, and Dante's Divine Comedy

    Tue, 13 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Dorothy Sayers is often regarded as one of the top mystery writers of all time. Her detective stories continue to be read today, and her books' hero Lord Peter Wimsey is often mentioned among such fictional greats as Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, and Hercule Poirot. A prolific writer, Sayers published widely and not just the novels for which she is best known. Sayers also had considerable success as a playwright, short story writer, poet, and Dante scholar. If what you know of Sayers' work only includes Lord Wimsey, the breadth and scope of the rest of her work—and of her rather Read More
  • A Brief Guide to Collecting Maurice Sendak

    Sat, 10 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Why do collectors collect?  I imagine the answers to this question are as varied as the things they treasure. For some, it’s the classic affinity for coins and stamps connecting them to the past. For others it’s the acquisition of expensive art, building a portfolio along with a gallery, while for still others, it’s the nostalgia of scouring markets for marbles and action figures that remind them of their youth. Professor Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince famously collected the famous. He lamented that he had taught the entire Black family save Sirius saying, “I got Regulus when Read More
  • VLOG: The Entrancing Art of Japanese Papermaking

    Fri, 09 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Centuries before Europe, and as early as the 800s, Japan hosted the best papermaking craftsmanship in the world. To this day, a few hundred businesses—often family-run and owned—continue the tradition of making superior-quality paper by hand. The process is labor intensive, slow, and requires years of expertise, but why expect anything less when it comes to manufacturing some of the best paper on earth? Read More
  • Best Books on Cuba

    Thu, 08 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As you may know, former President Obama’s announcement of an opening of U.S. relations with Cuba occurred in December 2014. The United States had not had an embassy in the country since 1961, the year of the Bay of Pigs Invasion that occurred two years after the Cuban Revolution through which Fidel Castro came to power in the nation. Until former Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the country during the Obama presidency, no U.S. secretary of state had traveled to Cuba for over 50 years. Now that it is more “open,” so to speak, for American visitors, we Read More
  • A Reader's Guide to Louise Erdrich

    Wed, 07 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    American author Louise Erdrich has been publishing novels, short stories, children's books, and poetry since 1984. Erdrich has been awarded in every genre in which she has published. Her novels Love Medicine and LaRose won the National Book Critics Circle Award while The Round House won the National Book Award. She received the World Fantasy Award for The Antelope Wife. Her children's book The Game of Silence won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. Her poetry has won the Pushcart Prize, and in 2005, she was the Associate Poet Laureate of North Dakota. She holds several honorary doctorates and Read More
  • Prohibition and the Writers Who Tried to Get America to Stop Drinking

    Tue, 06 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Part of the joy of being an proper, democracy-protecting American is getting to tell people what to do. The founders told the prominent how to govern, Evangelists told their parishioners how to behave, Emerson told his readers to be self-reliant, and Theodore Roosevelt told the nation’s men to be manly (whatever that may mean). Yet out of these many, bloviating camps, few have been more dedicated or influential than those who told us to be sober. Read More
  • Ginsberg & Sons: What Happens When Poetry is the Family Business?

    Sat, 03 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    "Like shoemakers and tailors turning out more second-generation shoemakers and tailors, my father, Louis Ginsberg, the poet, had poets." –Allen Ginsberg Artists and writers are sometimes thought of as being inherently rebellious—taking on low-paying professions and questionable lifestyles that inspire dread in the minds of their parents. But when your father is already a poet, just how rebellious can you be by comparison? If we ask Allen Ginsberg, the answer is obviously “very.” Read More
  • Getting to Know Nobel Laureate Karl Adolph Gjellerup

    Fri, 02 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    One of the highlights of my college years was the semester I spent abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. During my time there, I took a course titled “Danish Language and Culture.” While the language never found a home in me (I provided hours of free entertainment to my host family as I struggled through my homework each evening), the culture was absolutely fascinating. We learned about Danish contributors to art, design, philosophy, science, and literature, and examined their impact on the country as a whole. One of the cultural entrepreneurs briefly (and a bit harshly) discussed was Karl Adolph Gjellerup, Danish Read More
  • The Versions of Anne Frank's Diary Explained

    Thu, 01 Jun 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1945, Otto Frank came to Amsterdam after surviving the torments and traumas of Auschwitz. His return home confirmed the unimaginable. He was the sole survivor of his family. His daughters, including 15-year-old Anne, who had been separated from him and transported to Bergen-Belsen, had died. But soon he was greeted by a glimmer of hopeful news: Miep Gies, a secretary and aid to the Franks during their hiding, had preserved Anne’s diary. Read More
  • Common Myths About Rarity in Book Collecting

    Wed, 31 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The concept of rarity in book collecting is tricky. While many novice collectors might believe rarity is the most important element in assessing a book’s value or worth, seasoned collectors understand rarity is in fact one of the more insignificant elements in judging what a volume is worth or its place in the landscape of rare books. The murky nature of rarity in book collecting stems to some degree from the ill defined character of the term. Essentially, rarity is too nebulous and relative a term for book sellers and collectors to base any substantive, concrete value. However, because the Read More
  • From Fiction to Film: Movie Tie-Ins for Alain Robbe-Grillet

    Tue, 30 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    When most readers hear the name Alain Robbe-Grillet, they think about experimental fiction, or the reemergence of the avant-garde in novel form in France at mid-twentieth century. Indeed, Robbe-Grillet became famous for his narrative works of fiction, including the novels The Erasers (1953), The Voyeur (1955), Jealousy (1957), and In the Labyrinth (1959). These works made Robbe-Grillet famous as one of the “New Novelists” reinventing the forms of fiction. Others included writers such as Michel Butor and Nathalie Sarraute. Yet for cinema-goers, Robbe-Grillet’s name might not even sound familiar until there’s a mention of Alain Resnais’s film Last Year at Read More
  • A Herman Wouk Reading Guide

    Sat, 27 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Herman Wouk has been described as America’s Leo Tolstoy for the enduring power of his detailed, vividly imagined, and expertly researched historical epics. While that’s not a comparison to be taken lightly, it’s also worth noting that he has had more time than most in which to accomplish his various literary feats. Wouk, who turns 102 today, has published more than a dozen works of fiction and non-fiction alike over the course of an illustrious career dating back to the early 1940s. And, he's won a Pulitzer Prize in the process. For fans of historical fiction, it would be foolish Read More
  • Visiting the Home of William Faulkner

    Fri, 26 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Whether you’re simply visiting Oxford, Mississippi and the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”), or you’ve plotted out a road trip to the Deep South to visit the home of William Faulkner, we’d like to tell you more about “Rowan Oak,” the home of the Nobel Prize-winning writer. Located a short drive off I-55 in Mississippi, Rowan Oak is now owned by the University of Mississippi and is open to the public as a museum space. Faulkner owned the home for much of his adult life. Visitors to the home can learn more about Faulkner’s private life, his working space, and Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Octopussy and The Living Daylights

    Thu, 25 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    At some point in their careers, most great bands release a collection of B-sides. Songs that were recorded but were deemed not quite appropriate for official release on a record or CD. These songs often stray from the band’s usual sound and find the musicians experimenting with style, genre, length, instrumentation, and so on. With an author as prolific as Ian Fleming, it stands to reason there would be some B-side material with the world-renowned James Bond stories, which is where we find the 1966 volume, Octopussy and The Living Daylights.   Read More
  • The Recent Translations of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky

    Wed, 24 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Any lovers of twentieth-century Russian literature should learn about—and purchase as soon as possible—the recently translated works of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. The Soviet author was born in Ukraine and studied law before traveling across much of Western Europe. In 1922, when he was thirty-five years old, he moved to Moscow, where he wrote most of his works in that same decade and shortly thereafter. His fiction was never published during his lifetime, likely due to the threat of Soviet censorship. Some have called him a postmodernist, trapped in the post-Revolutionary world of the Soviet Union in which literary dissent was unwelcome Read More
  • The Short Life of Feminist Margaret Fuller

    Tue, 23 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    American writer Margaret Fuller is well known for her roles as a journalist, novelist, critic, and feminist. Her untimely death in 1850 resulted in the loss of the manuscript that by all accounts would have been her masterpiece, but the legacies she left behind in women's history, feminism, and transcendentalism are more than enough to cement her place as one of the most important writers of the early 19th century.   Read More
  • Revisiting Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon

    Sat, 20 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1940, Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon appeared in English. While Koestler, a Hungarian-born author and journalist who later immigrated to Britain, wrote in German early on, he later began writing and publishing in English. The novel has an interesting backstory to it. Koestler wrote the novel in German (indeed, the last novel that he wrote in German), yet for decades, readers, scholars, and other interested parties had only known the novel in its English translation. While attempting to escape to the U.K. during the early years of World War II, Koestler convinced his lover, Daphne Hardy, to translate Read More
  • Books that Medaled: Lesser Known Caldecott Winners

    Fri, 19 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    When my girls had library day at school or took home a book order form in their oversized backpacks, they were always excited to make their book choice. When you consider it, children actually have a fairly small number of things in their life on which they get to make the final decision. In their quest, I’m certain they carefully circled the library shelves at school as well as the pictures and descriptors in the fliers—usually with brightly colored hi-lighters if memory serves. I’m not sure when or how this happened, but nothing tipped the scales more or caused greater Read More
  • Top Five Memorable Ian Fleming Characters (Who Are Not James Bond)

    Thu, 18 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There's nothing like a good spy thriller to get your imagination running wild. And perhaps no one was better able to give his readers such a trip as the legendary Ian Fleming. Indeed, the titular hero of his James Bond series of books started out as an intentionally flat character, someone onto whom readers could project a more complex identity. And project they did. 26 film adaptions (and original reimaginings of the character) later, James Bond is one of the most well-known and well-loved characters in Western film and literature, his exploits having evolved over the years into a full-fledged Read More
  • Visiting Jack London's Ranch

    Wed, 17 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you interested in learning more about the natural spaces that inspired Jack London? Were you under the impression that you’d need to travel to the Yukon Territory in Canada to connect with the author? If you happen to find yourself in Northern California and can make your way to Glen Ellen, you can visit the Jack London State Historic Park, also known as the Jack London Home and Ranch. There’s not exactly a house to tour, but you can visit the remnants of London’s dream house, which was destroyed during a fire and never rebuilt. And this is also Read More
  • Ten of the Best Quotes About Mothers in Literature

    Sun, 14 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Though there are many prestigious job titles in the world, none should be as highly regarded as “mother.” Mothers are the ones who love unconditionally, who support us enthusiastically, and who never let us go rollerblading without wearing our wrist-guards. To the women we cannot possibly repay, here are ten of the best quotes about mothers in literature: Read More
  • Best Books on Indonesia

    Sat, 13 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Like many other countries in South and Southeast Asia, Indonesia’s modern history is one marked by colonization and the harms of imperialism. While some of the most frequently read books on Indonesia focus on the colonial period or postcolonialism in the country, we think it is important to make sure that you don’t think the region’s history begins with its colonization by the Dutch. Indonesia has a widely diverse cultural, social, and religious makeup, with parts of the country still governed by pre-colonial monarchy and others the democratic state. It is often described as one of the most heavily populated Read More
  • The History of Children's Literature: Part 1

    Fri, 12 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Children's literature today is as celebrated and lauded as literature for adult audiences. Entire sections of libraries are dedicated to it. Scholarly publications are dedicated to giving it advanced critical thought. Distinguished panels are put together annually to award the year's best and most important examples of literature for children. In recent years, it has become so popular that entirely separate best seller lists have been established in order to accommodate all of the worthy books being published for children. In short, it is hard to imagine a world in which children's books are not a large part of childhood Read More
  • Collecting the Poetry of Leonard Cohen

    Thu, 11 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    A Rolling Stone article* about Leonard Cohen which appeared just after his death in November 2016 described Cohen as a “song poet.” As many of you might know, Cohen’s music made him famous, with songs such as “Suzanne,” “So Long, Marianne,” and “Hallelujah.” The article cited Nick Cave, who depicted Cohen as “the greatest songwriter of them all,” defining him by his undefinable status of “utterly unique and impossible to imitate no matter how hard we tried.” Indeed, Leonard Cohen was a “song poet,” as the Rolling Stone article declares, but he was also a published poet whose early books, Read More
  • VLOG: Paper Marbling

    Wed, 10 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Paper marbling is an art form that may well date back more than a thousand years. The technique involves creating paint patterns on top of a container of water and transferring those patterns to paper, usually paper of high quality. The result is stunning, unique designs that can be used for covering leather-bound books or simply as decorative art in its own right. At the very latest, it first appeared in 12th century Japan before spreading across Asia. In the 15th century, it had either made its way from East Asia or been re-invented independently in Turkey, where a new, Read More
  • A Snapshot of J.M. Barrie

    Tue, 09 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Once upon a time, there was no Neverland. The Lost Boys weren’t fighting with Captain Hook, Wendy wasn’t flying past Big Ben with Peter, and nobody took a second look at a firefly to check if it was Tinkerbelle. The world was a little less magical and a little less exciting—until J.M. Barrie changed everything. Read More
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