Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • The Lasting Legacy of Athol Fugard's Dramatic Works

    Sat, 06 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    For most American readers, references to South African literature conjure the names of the country’s two Nobel Prize winners: Nadine Gordimer and J.M. Coetzee. While the essays and works of fiction by these Nobel laureates are enormously important for understanding the politics of and modes of resistance to apartheid in South Africa, we want to highlight the significance of another genre for you today. Born in 1932 in a remote region of South Africa to an Afrikaner father and English-speaking mother, Athol Fugard has become one of the more prominent names in South African theatre. He often co-wrote plays with Read More
  • Authors As Both Novelists & Screenwriters

    Fri, 05 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Every year, thousands of readers look forward to film adaptations of their favorite novels. Often the screenplays for these films are adapted by independent screenwriters, but there are also many cases when the screenplays are actually written by the author of the source material. For lovers of the original books, it's comforting to know their favorite stories are being treated respectfully and with consideration to the author's original intentions. Many authors also work as screenwriters and not just on adaptations of their own works, but on movies based on novels by other authors or on the scripts for entirely original Read More
  • The Witty Textbook Parody Jane Austen Wrote at 15

    Thu, 04 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Lovers of Jane Austen are lucky. Few other authors have left behind a greater wealth of juvenalia. From the ages of 11 to 18, Austen filled three notebooks with stories, parodies, mini-plays, and more, all displaying the shrewd wit and intelligence that would later blossom into genius. Among the shining examples of her earliest work is a short, satirical piece titled The History of England, written when the author was only 15 years old. Read More
  • Four Phenomenal Editions from Arion Press

    Wed, 03 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Twentieth century San Francisco was a hotbed for creative thinking and artistic pursuits, including those of fine press printers. Robert Grabhorn and his brother Edwin had the most heralded press in the city for nearly half a century. Indeed, Grabhorn Press set the standard for typographic ingenuity and artistic mastery. When the press closed in 1965, younger brother Robert joined forces with a printer by the name of Andrew Hoyem who had worked for Grabhorn in the 1960s. Together, the two continued their fine press efforts, publishing impressive limited edition books including an edition of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl". When Grabhorn Read More
  • Famous Lost and Destroyed Manuscripts

    Tue, 02 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Some of the most thrilling stories I’ve ever heard are those of treasure hunts. Explorers, pirates, and detectives alike all strike out on a mission to obtain the objects of their desires—whether the value be monetary or sentimental. Within the literary world, we have our own lost treasures: famous manuscripts misplaced by time or destroyed at the hands of frustrated writers or natural disasters. Here are five of the most famous missing or destroyed manuscripts. Read More
  • Worker's Influence: The Literature of May Day

    Mon, 01 May 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Traditionally speaking, when you think of May Day one of the first things that comes to mind is dancing around a maypole wearing flower crowns. While this spring festival version of the holiday certainly has its place in literature (part of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream takes place on May Day), May Day is more commonly celebrated worldwide today as International Workers Day, or in some places, Labor Day. What is the history of May Day? And how has May Day influenced literature? Read More
  • The Travel Writing of Henry James

    Sat, 29 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    On a recent trip to Italy, I had two tools at my disposal: a GPS and a guide book. Given the complexity of the network of roads and the simplicity of the road construction—often nothing more than ruts worn into gravel clinging precariously to hillsides—the GPS often failed me utterly. The guidebook, on the other hand, helped me navigate hill towns, wine cellars and even menus with amazing precision. It led me to all the destinations and experiences I had imagined before I left for Tuscany. Navigating, however, is different from transporting. It is travel writing that allows us to Read More
  • Sharing the Nobel Prize in Literature

    Fri, 28 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    While Nobel Prizes in the sciences often are shared, the Nobel Prize in Literature has only been shared on four occasions over the last century. And we’re willing to bet that the eight writers who have shared the Nobel Prize are not authors with whom you’re particularly familiar. Why, then, did these novelists end up sharing the award? There are a few different ideas floating around as to why the Nobel Prize in Literature is rarely divided between two writers. Let’s take a look at the four instances in which the Nobel Prize in Literature has been shared. Read More
  • Ten Pounds for Paradise Lost?

    Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Art and commerce have always intersected in uncomfortable ways. The difficulty of correctly appraising the quality of a work of art in the moment combined with the near-impossibility of putting a dollar value on the types of things that art provides have led to a strange patchwork of financial realities for artists and writers throughout history, from the patronage system of the Renaissance to the writerly financial refuge of the modern university creative writing department. In all this time there have been some particularly notable failures at correctly giving a work its monetary value. Just ask John Milton. Read More
  • A Reading Guide to Daniel Defoe

    Wed, 26 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Daniel Defoe was born Daniel Foe around the year 1660, and to say his childhood was harrowing is an understatment. Before he was ten years old, Defoe survived the Great Plague of London; his home survived the Great Fire of London; and he survived an attack from the Dutch. As an adult, Defoe was at one time a secret agent and was the collector for taxes on glass bottles at another point. He spent time in debtor's prison, the pillory, and was eventually jailed again for his political writings. Throughout his prolific career, he wrote upwards of five hundred political Read More
  • Important Elements of Provenance in Rare Book Collecting

    Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Condition. Binding. Completeness. These are all relatively easy to understand concepts in the rare book world when judging the value of a piece. But what about provenance? What is provenance? Why is it so important? Why does it impact the value of a book in such a significant way? These are the questions rare book enthusiasts need to ask as they come across rare or unique volumes where the term provenance is bandied about as a crucial indicator as to why a book is valued in such a way. And confusing though it can be, once understood, provenance adds an Read More
  • How to Prevent and Reverse Foxing in Rare Books

    Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    There is never a wrong time to think about the effects of moisture and humidity on rare books. Just as too much sun can damage your rare books, so can too much moisture. And we'’re not just talking about direct moisture, such as liquid spills. The relative humidity of the air is also a concern. Excess humidity (usually relative humidity above 75%) can encourage the growth of fungi and mildew, which can lead to foxing. If foxing occurs, what are the best ways to reverse it? Better yet, how can you prevent foxing in your rare books? Read More
  • Ernest Hemingway's Feelings Toward F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’ve ever seen the movie Midnight in Paris then you are familiar with the rose colored glasses romanticists often wear when thinking of the past. In the film, writer Gill Pender (played by Owen Wilson), somehow manages to travel back in time to 1920s Paris and meet many of the greatest minds in literature, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this particular movie, the two historical writers seem to be cordial, Fitzgerald is handsome and sociable while Hemingway is philosophical and intense. Though Midnight in Paris is immensely enjoyable, it may not be wholly accurate in it’s Read More
  • VLOG: How Is Vellum Made?

    Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Vellum, a fine parchment traditionally made from calf skins, was for many years the default material for use in printing important manuscripts or documents. Many of Gutenberg’s first Bibles, for instance, were printed on Vellum, as were many illuminated manuscripts from the Medieval Era. And, in fact, despite the decrease in the material’s prevalence over the centuries, all British Acts of Parliament are still printed and archived on vellum. Differentiated from other forms of parchment by the quality of the animal skin used (debate continues as to whether vellum must refer to parchment made from calf skins or if it Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: The Man With the Golden Gun

    Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    All good things must come to an end. It’s a cliche, of course, but no truer sentiment can be applied to the string of critical and commercial successes Ian Fleming produced via his internationally loved British spy, James Bond. Fleming's run culminated with the publication of his 12th Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun. Released just eight months after Fleming’s death, The Man with the Golden Gun is something of a melancholic note for the series to end on, as Fleming’s health was failing throughout the composition of the novel. While both critics and fans alike believe The Read More
  • Best Books on New Zealand

    Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    New Zealand writers largely emerged on the global scene in the mid-twentieth century (although writers from the country existed long before). Some critics cite the government’s decision in 1946 to establish a literary fund as one of the primary catalysts for publishing literature within the country, while others cite events such as the creation of a publishing house at the University of New Zealand.* That this country is a prominent space for literary production shouldn’t come as a surprise to most twenty-first century readers, many of whom are well-acquainted with the internationally renowned Auckland Writers Festival, which brings acclaimed writers Read More
  • Ezra Pound and Mentally Ill Writers

    Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Of the great writers of the 20th century there were a tremendous number battling serious mental illness. Virginia Woolf struggled with bipolarity throughout her life, eventually killing herself in 1941; Hemingway was beset by a crippling depression that led to alcoholism and eventually suicide; Robert Lowell spent time in a mental hospital, as did Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace, both of whom famously committed suicide after producing works of monumental importance dealing with, among other things, the horrors of depression. As we go back further, we encounter the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Thomas Hardy. Everyone on this list Read More
  • Salman Rushdie's Novels on Film

    Sat, 15 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Readers of Salman Rushdie’s novels know that he has been a prolific writer over the last few decades. Not only have his books received heaps of international critical acclaim, but they have also been loved by readers across the globe. So here’s where we have to tell you that the title of this article is a bit of a misnomer: only one of Rushdie’s novels has ever been adapted for the silver screen. In all these years, Rushdie’s works simply have not been remade as feature films. And it took more than 30 years for his novel, Midnight’s Children (1981), Read More
  • Collecting Striking Editions of the Rubaiyat

    Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    I bought my edition of the Rubaiyat from a secondhand bookstore. I can’t tell exactly how old it is; it doesn’t include a date. It was printed by Concord Books, Inc., a publisher whose fate I’ve yet been able to discern. But the volume itself is attractive: a faithful representation of the same Persian poem that captivated Victorian readers some 150 years ago. That is, it’s exquisitely translated, and comes with joyous, beautiful illustrations to boot. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz

    Thu, 13 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    When one thinks of the great literary minds to come out of Latin America, Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz often top the list. Indeed, both Gabo and Paz have had a significant impact on the world of Latin American letters and politics. Likewise, each man won a Nobel Prize in Literature. If you are collecting Nobel laureates, especially Nobel laureates from Latin America, these two authors must be included. Read on for collecting points and ideas for the Gabriel García Márquez and Octavio Paz enthusiast. Read More
  • Esther Forbes: First Female Member of the American Antiquarian Society

    Wed, 12 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Historian and writer Esther Forbes had a knack for bringing the life and experiences of the past to present-day readers through the pages of her books. Most well known for her books, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (1942) and Johnny Tremain (1943), Forbes’ writing garnered her attention from the outset. Her first published novel, O Genteel Lady!  was selected as the second book for the Book of the Month Club, ensuring her book was sold to a wide readership. In a review in The Independent, O Genteel Lady! was described as “A distinguished first novel, written with Read More
  • Bird & Bull: A Fine History of a Fine Press

    Tue, 11 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1958, Henry Morris, inspired by piece of medieval paper he'd recently acquired and a new hobby of paper making, founded Bird & Bull Press. Bird & Bull Press published over seventy-five beautiful books, each printed on paper handmade by Morris himself or carefully selected and imported. Bird & Bull publications were printed by letterpress from metal type, creating books that not only serve as a lovely example of the skill and artistry that goes into bookmaking, typography, and paper making, but as a means of preserving a history and tradition that otherwise may have been lost. Read More
  • Multilingual Literature of Singapore

    Sat, 08 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Have you read any literature from Singapore lately? This city-state is located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, and it has long been along various trade routes throughout Southeast Asia. As a result of its geographic location, as well as its status as a British colony through much of the nineteenth century and into the first half of the twentieth century, Singapore has attracted immigrants from across the region. Indeed, there are four national languages in Singapore, including English, Malay, Mandarin (Chinese), and Tamil. Given the wide range of national languages in the region, the literary history of Read More
  • First Books vs. First Editions: The Difference and Significance

    Fri, 07 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Everyone thinks they understand the value of a first edition. The first printing of a book automatically makes it rare, right? Because X or Y novel is a first run, it’s immediately valuable and worthy of collecting, yes? While this is certainly the case with a number of books throughout the literary landscape, first editions are not necessarily sought after by collectors just because they’re the first run. In fact, when you think about it, every book ever published has a first edition printing, but some were not lucky enough to see a second or third. One factor that truly Read More
  • Famous Writers and Their Famous Spouses

    Thu, 06 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Creativity attracts creativity. It's true: creative minds often gravitate to one another. Perhaps this is why it is not uncommon to see couples formed after two people come together in a shared desire to create something meaningful, important, and lasting. Here's a list of famous and creative writers whose relationships with their spouses were forged by a mutual love of everything from aviation to photography. Read More
  • Collecting Nobel Laureates: Miguel Angel Asturias & Pablo Neruda

    Wed, 05 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Recently, we began spotlighting Nobel Prize in Literature winners from Latin America. Today, we’d like to highlight a couple more of our favorites. Read on for general information, ideas, and collecting points on Miguel Angel Asturias and Pablo Neruda, winners of the Prize at a time in history when the world as a whole was waking up to the amazing works and writers emerging from Latin America. For more information on our previous Latin American Nobel laureate spotlights featuring Gabriela Mistral and Mario Vargas Llosa, please see the end of this post.  Read More
  • George MacDonald: Master of Fantasy & Religious Thought

    Tue, 04 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    For a while in the West it’s been somewhat difficult for Christian intellectuals to be taken seriously. Though not exactly extinct (Marilynne Robinson comes to mind), religious writers are hard to find, and they are often dogged by the presumption that to be credible you must be secular. Even Christian writers of generations past, like G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, felt and battled this anxiety. But for these thinkers, the Scottish author and minister George MacDonald presented an enduring model for being both an intellectual and a person of faith. Read More
  • Writers of Ghazals and Persian Poetry

    Sat, 01 Apr 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    What is a ghazal, and who writes them? In short, it’s a poem that is typically composed of anywhere between five and fifteen couplets that are, according to the American Academy of Poets, “structurally, thematically, and emotionally autonomous.” Traditionally, the first couplet of a ghazal will introduce a scheme, which subsequent couplets will pick up. The final couplet of a ghazal usually will refer to the poet and sometimes even includes his or her name. It’s a poetic form that began in what we now call the Middle East in the seventh century, and it was popularized in the thirteenth Read More
  • Rethinking Form: Musician Lou Reed's Short Stories

    Fri, 31 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    It has now been more than three years since Lou Reed’s death, yet fans across the globe continue to listen to his music, and musicians cover his songs in homage. We’re willing to bet that you’re at least somewhat acquainted with the Velvet Underground, the band fronted and formed by Reed in the 1960s that was once managed by Andy Warhol, and you might even be a fan of Reed’s later solo work. But what do you know about the connections between his music and the world of literature? There are more links between famous fiction and Reed’s songwriting process Read More
  • Novelist Ken Kesey's Life and Work

    Thu, 30 Mar 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Novelist Ken Kesey was an important member of the 1960s counterculture movement. His home served as a meeting place for some famous, like-minded friends. Indeed, he fostered and befriended a community of artists that included such important Beat and counterculture figures as Allen Ginsburg and Tom Wolfe. Likewise, Kesey's own work remains an important reflection of counterculture ideas, the treatment of the mentally ill, and life in the American Northwest. His novels One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) and Sometimes a Great Notion (1964) are considered modern classics. Let's learn a bit more about Kesey's life and work. Read More
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