Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Read More Poetry: The Langston Hughes Edition

    Thu, 16 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    We're a little over one month into the new year. How are your new year's resolutions shaping up? One of our promises for 2017 was (and is!) to read more poetry. You should make it a habit to do so, too. Today, we’ll help the poetry cause by presenting poems from legendary poet and author, Langston Hughes. Read More
  • Visiting Thomas Wolfe's Old Kentucky Home in Asheville, NC

    Wed, 15 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thomas Wolfe lived a very brief life. He was born in 1900 and lived only until 1938, dying of tuberculosis in his family’s stately home in Asheville, North Carolina. Although Wolfe was only 37 years old at the time of his death, he produced some of the greatest American modernist novels, including Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life (1929). In that novel, Thomas Wolfe celebrated his “Old Kentucky Home”—the house in Asheville where he was raised. If you’re interested in learning more about the writer, we recommend taking a trip to Asheville and touring the Wolfe family Read More
  • Five of the Best Couples in All of Literature

    Tue, 14 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Valentine's Day is a chance to celebrate love in all its forms. What better way to do so than to consider some of the best couples, and arguably the most famous couples, in literature? Whether they fell in love at first sight or took a little while longer to work their way into each other's hearts, the following literary couples have one thing in common: people keep coming back to their stories again and again, to see both the best and the worst love has to offer.  Read More
  • Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Costa Rica

    Sat, 11 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Buying used, rare, and antiquarian books in Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose can be quite a challenge, but not because of a dearth of bookstores. Rather, unlike many cities in various parts of the world packed that are packed with bookshops, San Jose streets don’t have numbers that allow visitors unfamiliar with the city’s directional methods to locate with ease their intended destinations. Instead, directions are developed almost entirely on landmarks. As such, rather than receiving a specific address for a bookstore, you’ll get directions based on distance to or from a nearby restaurant, church, or coffee shop Read More
  • Charles Lamb vs. Bob Dylan: Rereading and Retelling Shakespeare

    Fri, 10 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Controversial Nobel Prize in Literature winner Bob Dylan admitted to being flabbergasted when he learned of the honor that’s lately been bestowed on him—but at least he managed to compare himself to Shakespeare in the process. The comparison, though, was an interesting one, and one that takes up the question of how we should approach the Bard’s writing. Dylan’s assertion was that he has never thought about whether his songs are ‘literature’ and that Shakespeare probably would have been in the same boat regarding his plays. Dylan says, imagining Shakespeare’s thoughts leading up to the original production of Hamlet (1599), Read More
  • Sam Shepard's Wildly Varied Literary Career

    Thu, 09 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Just two years ago, Sam Shepard’s now-famous play True West (1980) was revived on the London stage at the tricycle theatre. About fifteen years ago now, the seminal work was revived for the first time in New York City on a stage starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly. For many theatregoers and movie viewers today, we know Sam Shepard best for his own performances as an actor, in films such as Days of Heaven (1978), The Right Stuff (1983), and All the Pretty Horses (2000). Yet Shepard has a long and interesting literary career that began years before Read More
  • Kate Chopin's Personal and Literary Awakening

    Wed, 08 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Sometimes it takes an outsider to see our strengths and put us on the road we are destined to travel. And so it was for Kate Chopin in the late 1880s. She is now well-known for her short stories and one famous novel. In the late nineteenth century, however, she was not an author at all, but a widow and mother of five saddled with an enormous debt left by her late husband. Shortly after her husband’s death, her mother died as well, leaving Kate in a state of depression. Read More
  • How the Iowa Writers' Workshop Proves the Value of an MFA

    Tue, 07 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Six years ago, author Chad Harbach wrote an essay about the two cultures producing the glut of literary fiction writers today: that of New York City media and publishing, and that of the university MFA program. New York City has long been the hotbed of American cosmopolitan culture, and many of the country’s great writers from the very beginning, like Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Edith Wharton helped ossify New York as the closest thing the nation would have to a literary epicenter. Yet in the past few decades, a new titan has emerged, coming from the halls of higher Read More
  • Seven Famous Literary Cafés

    Sat, 04 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The idea of the writer in a café is so prominent it has become almost cliché. Depicted in books and movies for decades, it's likely something you have even seen for yourself: young men and women working diligently on their laptops in the local coffee shop. Next time you find yourself irritated by the writer hogging the power outlet for hours while your cell phone dies, consider the fact that these writers are part of a time-honored literary tradition. Businesses all over the world offer up stories of their famous patrons as a means to draw in new customers. These Read More
  • Best Books on Canada

    Fri, 03 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In many ways, writing a short article listing the best books on Canada is an impossible task. The nation is a particularly diverse one filled with prolific First Nations indigenous writers, novelists who are descendants of European settlers, and immigrant authors from Southern and West Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Europe, and other parts of the world. In short, we can’t imagine any kind of singular classification of Canadian literature. We can, however, offer you some of our more recent favorites that make up at least one list of the best books on this country. Read More
  • How Ulysses Got Published

    Thu, 02 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The past few years have been big for small presses. The two most recent Man Booker Award-winning novels were published by the same small press in England: London’s Oneworld Publications put out both Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) and the British edition of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (2015). Meanwhile, in the United States, Coffee House Press in Minneapolis put out the first American edition of Eimear McBride’s acclaimed debut tour-de-force, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013) which won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Anyone who claims that we are entering a golden era of Read More
  • Saving Langston Hughes' Home

    Wed, 01 Feb 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The slow and ever-increasing gentrification of New York neighborhoods isn't breaking news to anyone. Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Chinatown are full of newly renovated apartments and upscale restaurants, and those are just a few examples. Yet the transformation of these neighborhoods is a cultural and emotional loss to the generations of people who have called them home. In the wake of these changes, they are faced with the prospect of being displaced due to increasing costs. In some cases, even city landmarks aren't safe. Read More
  • Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama: Spiritual Brothers

    Tue, 31 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In an era where people all over the world are feeling increasingly divided by matters like race and religion, we can take solace in the knowledge that, recently, Pope Francis rated Thomas Merton alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Dorothy Day as his most admired Americans. This after years of certain Catholics in the United States tried to downplay the importance of Merton’s work as a champion of interfaith understanding. Of course, the Pope is not the only Thomas Merton fan who holds a high religious office today. Merton also boasts the regard of His Holiness the Dalai Read More
  • Read More Poetry: The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Edition

    Sat, 28 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    As we continue to encourage the world to read more poetry, today, we’d like to highlight one American poet in particular whose work did much to shape the landscape of U.S. thought and history. Indeed, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is remembered for the sincerity with which he wrote. He was firmly entrenched in the American story he was living, and his poetry helped to preserve it for the future. Read More
  • Reimagining Detroit: The Fiction of Jeffrey Eugenides

    Fri, 27 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since when has Detroit been an important setting for works of fiction? Sure, if you look to cinema, you might be able to name a number of movies set in Detroit that emphasize characteristics of the city, such as Alex Proyas’s The Crow (1994) or Curtis Hanson’s 8 Mile (2002). But in all honesty, Detroit really wasn’t seen by most readers as a productive literary space until Jeffrey Eugenides depicted the city in new and interesting ways for readers. Detroit, it turns out, is more than just Motown when it comes to artistic production. In both The Virgin Suicides (1993) Read More
  • Thomas Bewick's Most Noteworthy Engravings

    Thu, 26 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Thomas Bewick, an English naturalist and woodcut engraver working during the 18th and 19th centuries, was by all accounts at the top of his field during his lifetime. He combined tools originally developed for metal engraving and innovative techniques that introduced the gray scale into what was previously a black-and-white medium with tremendous wit and artistic talent. In doing so, he created engravings that still delight audiences today. His devotion to the natural world (birds in particular) as well as his interest in fairy tales led to the creation of images so intricate and detailed that they often had to Read More
  • South African Literature in the Early Days of Apartheid

    Wed, 25 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    After World War II ended in 1945, the de facto racism that had plagued Black South Africans for decades became institutionalized when the National Party came to power in 1948. The all-white Afrikaner government instituted the system of apartheid, which produced laws that required racial segregation and imposed severe penalties for those who opposed the regime. Through the 1960s, Black South Africans were forced into segregated townships outside the major cities of South Africa, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. For fiction writers and authors of creative nonfiction who sought to speak out against the policies of apartheid, publication Read More
  • Edith Wharton's Bygone New York

    Tue, 24 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Novelist, short story writer, poet, and non-fiction writer Edith Wharton is well known for being the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. She is also well know for bucking the traditional lifestyle expected of women of her status during her day and age, and for her incredible efforts to help women and children in France during World War I. Amazingly, her prolific literary career did not gain momentum until she was forty years old. However, the wide variety of her publications—including nonfiction relating to travel and interior design—instilled in readers and critics of numerous genres a lasting sense of Read More
  • Politics & the Nobel Prize: The Works of Naguib Mahfouz

    Sat, 21 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Who is Naguib Mahfouz, and why should you read his works of fiction? Mahfouz was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1911, and he wrote ten novels within a span of just over a decade. However, the reason that most of us know Mahfouz’s work has to do with a series of works he wrote in the late 1950s which ultimately led to him winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988. In 1957, the “Cairo Trilogy” appeared, which included three texts: Between-the-Palaces, Palace of Longing, and Sugarhouse. According to the Nobel Prize committee, these narratives “made him famous throughout the Read More
  • Collecting Famous Inaugural Addresses

    Fri, 20 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The presidential inaugural address is the speech that sets the stage for the presidency. It tells the nation what one person thinks he can do to change the course of history. It goes on to be dissected and discussed in an effort to determine presidential plans and motives. With the advent of broadcast media and more recently social media, presidential inaugural addresses are viewed and shared now more than ever. But for the political collector or history buff, a written copy of certain inaugural addresses makes for a fantastic addition to one’s collection. What are some of the most famous Read More
  • Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature

    Thu, 19 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Did you know that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a “Creative Cities Network,” and did you know that only one city in the United States has been honored as a “City of Literature”? In short, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network has seven different fields through which it honors sites and cities across the globe, including for crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, music, and media arts. The only place in the United States that has been recognized for its literary significance is Iowa City, IA, home to the University of Iowa and the Read More
  • Beyond Winnie-the-Pooh: A. A. Milne's Lesser Known Work

    Wed, 18 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Those of us who grew up in the shade of the Hundred Acre Wood, or who raised our children there, owe a debt of gratitude to A. A. Milne. That name, or more accurately those initials, are as famous as the charming stories he penned. The four classic books that comprise the original Winnie-The-Pooh set are, of course Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) along with The House at Pooh Corner (1928), When We Were Very Young (1924), and Now We are Six (1927). The same voice that animated the stuffed toys in his son’s nursery room and brought them into most every nursery Read More
  • Anne's Accent: Imagining the Voice of Anne Brontë

    Tue, 17 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In today's technological age, if you have an author you enjoy, learning more about him or her is as easy as doing a quick internet search. This search often leads to social media sites where fans can gain insider knowledge of their favorite authors and books. Beyond this direct access, the same simple search can yield dozens of articles and reviews as well as interviews given by the author in text, podcast, and even video form. Today, authors are more accessible than ever, and readers are easily able to satisfy their curiosity about the face and voice behind their favorite Read More
  • Learning More About New Zealand Literary Journals

    Sat, 14 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    What kinds of literary journals have been most popular in New Zealand in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? This isn’t a question that most American readers have an answer to, given that many New Zealand literary journals simply are not readily available in the United States (or on the internet, for that matter). Yet New Zealand journals like Cave, Edge, and Landfall have been publishing scholarship, fiction, and poetry for decades, featuring works by famous New Zealand authors as well as award-winning poets and writers from other parts of the world. If you’re interested in learning more about these New Read More
  • A Twentieth Century Literary "It" Couple: Charles and Kathleen Norris

    Fri, 13 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    The 1900s was a golden era for literature. Hemmingway, Cummings, and Fitzgerald are just a few of the household names that might have found themselves socializing at the same bar on any given weekend (geographical inconvenience aside). It was a time of artistic exploration and social transitions that would change the course of history and produce works that would be well-loved for years to come. While many of these 20th century writers are easily recalled by anyone who has graced a middle-school English classroom, there are others who softly faded out of memory. Though their names may not be as Read More
  • Legendary Book Editors: Maxwell Perkins, Gordon Lish, Robert Gottlieb

    Thu, 12 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Robert Gottlieb, who famously edited the works of Joseph Heller, John Le Carré, John Cheever, and Toni Morrison (who was herself a literary editor before beginning her career as a novelist at age 39), said of editing books that the often-mysterious task "is simply the application of the common sense of any good reader." In the same Paris Review interview, he cautions against the "glorification of editors,” and says that "the editor's relationship to a book should be an invisible one." Read More
  • Getting to Know Tomas Tranströmer

    Wed, 11 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    To call him Sweden’s most beloved Renaissance man would be something of an understatement. A world-renowned poet, translator, psychologist, and thinker, Tomas Tranströmer dedicated his life’s work in one way or another to the exploration of who we are and why we’re here. Whether through one of his major literary publications or his psychological work at the prestigious Roxtuna Center for juvenile offenders, Tranströmer strived for a deeper understanding of the human condition and the beauty of the routine, rote moments in everyday life. Read More
  • Best Books on Finland

    Tue, 10 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Of the literature from all the Nordic countries, Finland may be the region that English-language readers tend to know the least about. To be sure, most readers in the U.S. have encountered (or at least have heard about) the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle series and Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Even Icelandic Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness gained popularity here in the 1950s and 1960s, with first editions of his 1934 novel Independent People now highly collectible. And don’t get us started on the global fame of Danish fiction writers such as Read More
  • VLOG: The Art of Etching

    Sat, 07 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    A picture is worth a thousand words, and it seems there are a thousand ways to make a picture. Pencil drawings, charcoal sketches, digital creations, are just a few ways illustrations come to life in our favorite books. One of the oldest methods of illustration is etching. Etching is a complex art in which images are engraved on a soft metal, then transferred to paper. It is a labor-intensive process, and printmakers take a great deal of pride in their work. Rather than reading a step-by-step account of the process, you can watch these three videos to learn from the Read More
  • Four of the Best Books from Argentina

    Fri, 06 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Are you thinking about traveling to Argentina in the near future? Or perhaps you’re considering a trip to Buenos Aires through literature? Argentina is a socially, culturally, and geographically varied country, with a world-famous wine region, the literary capital city of Buenos Aires, and part of the archipelago known as Tierra del Fuego. In addition to its scenic splendor, the city of Buenos Aires is well-known for the world-famous writers it produced in the twentieth century. From novelists and short-story writers associated with the journal Sur, such as Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges, and Silvina Ocampo to expatriate novelists Read More
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