Member Blogs > Books Tell You Why

  • Umberto Eco: A Retrospective

    Thu, 05 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    In February of 2016, one of the greatest thinkers and writers of this era died. Indeed, Umberto Eco was a rare and notable writer. Not only did he publish over twenty books of academic nonfiction in the field of semiotics—the study of signs and symbols—but he also wrote novels that achieved the type of blockbuster success many authors only dream of having. His fictive work married his interest in his academic pursuits with a love of mystery and pop culture that captivated readers, many of which had no clue what semiotics are and were simply drawn to the captivating plots Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: The Spy Who Loved Me

    Wed, 04 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    “The experiment has obviously gone very much awry.” —Ian Fleming This line, taken from a letter James Bond creator and novelist Ian Fleming wrote to his publisher upon the release of his ninth Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me, is the perfect encapsulation of when an artist attempts to reinvent his art and fails. Published in 1962, The Spy Who Loved Me is not only thought to be Fleming’s most drastic shift in his portrayal of both Bond and his titular spy’s adventures, but it’s also the most poorly received of Fleming’s Bond novels. So poor was the reception, Read More
  • Collecting J.R.R. Tolkien: His Letters

    Tue, 03 Jan 2017 08:00:00 Permalink
    Nearly everyone can name titles written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Often considered the father of modern fantasy, it’s no surprise that his works are well-known and well-loved. Whether fans have read his books or watched the film adaptations, Tolkien’s Middle Earth and its inhabitants have infiltrated 20th and 21st century culture to an astounding degree. For collectors of the great British author, information and works about his own life may prove to be both satisfying and necessary additions to a Tolkien Library. Where should you begin if you’re looking to add to the books in your collection? It makes sense to Read More
  • The Best of 2016: Our Ten Most Popular Blog Posts

    Sat, 31 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    As the year winds down, the writers and staff at Books Tell You Why would like to take a moment to thank all of our loyal readers. Engaging with you over the course of 2016 has been a delight. It is your smart commentary, unique insights, and thoughtful criticism that make this blog a remarkable platform for rare book collectors and book-lovers of all kinds. Let’s take a look back at some of our highlights this year. Here are the ten most-read posts on blogis liborum, written and published in 2016. Read More
  • Bessie Head's Experience at the International Writing Program

    Fri, 30 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Since 1967, the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa has brought together writers from more than 140 different countries to be in residence for a semester at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. During the fall residency each year, the University of Iowa hosts events for the writers in residence, who read work from their recent novels, short stories, poetry collections, drama, and books of creative non-fiction. To be eligible for residency in the IWP, writers must have at least one book published, and they must have sufficient English-language skills. In 1977, Bessie Head traveled from Read More
  • The Great Friendship of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins

    Thu, 29 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The famous literary friendship between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins began not in the world of the written word but on the stage. A mutual friend of the two, the Dickensianly-named painter Augustus Egg, connected Dickens to the younger Collins, who was a budding writer in his late twenties. Like Dickens, Collins was happy to perform on occasion, and in an amateur play production, he played the valet to Dickens’s leading role, a dandyish aristocrat named Lord Wilmot. Read More
  • The Obama Presidential Library

    Wed, 28 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “(A Nation) must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgement in creating their own future.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt, June 30 1941, at the dedication of his Presidential Library For the bookish, there is something incredibly charming about the fact that the nation’s preferred mode of commemorating presidents as they leave office is the construction of a library. Read More
  • Freedom of the Press Battles in America

    Tue, 27 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    In 1853, a Swedish visitor named Per Siljeström noted that “In no country in the world is the taste for reading so diffused among the people as in America.” Alexis de Tocqueville reached a similar conclusion two decades earlier, while surveying the young nation. The French sociologist observed the overwhelming inclination for reading and self-education among the American people. He even went so far as to call this land “the most enlightened community in the world.” The United States began as a nation of bookworms. Read More
  • Influential Images: The Night Before Christmas

    Sat, 24 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    "A Visit From Saint Nicholas” has the distinction of being perhaps the most well-known American poem. Also known as “The Night Before Christmas” and “'Twas the Night Before Christmas”, the poem was originally published anonymously in 1823 in the Sentinel, a newspaper out of Troy, New York. It was an immediate hit and was soon reprinted in papers across the country. Though there has been some controversy over the authorship of the poem (with some believing it to be written by Henry Livingston, Jr.), it is most commonly attributed to Clement Clarke Moore who eventually included the poem in a Read More
  • Multifaceted Creativity: Jim Dine as Both Artist and Poet

    Fri, 23 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many Americans familiar with Pop Art or Conceptual Art might know of Jim Dine’s role in creating “Happenings” throughout New York City alongside other artists such as Claes Oldenburg and Allan Kaprow. Given that he has been such a prolific painter, experimenting with conceptual forms and new media, Dine often is thought of first and foremost as an artist. Yet, as a Fall 1969 issue of The Paris Review* made clear to readers, Dine is also a poet. Read More
  • Local Legends: The Book Club of California

    Thu, 22 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The Book Club of California was founded in 1912 when John Henry Nash, W.R.K. Young, James D. Blake, and Edward Robeson Taylor went to lunch with Charles Moore. Nash and company were hoping to showcase some of the books they owned in the upcoming Panama Pacific International Exposition. Moore said their entry would have more weight if the request came from an organization rather than a handful of individuals. Though the exhibition fell through, the newly formed Book Club of California grew to 58 members by the end of the year. Now, membership is close to 1,000. The club is Read More
  • First Day of Winter Reading Guide (Or, Four Strategies for Ringing in the Season)

    Wed, 21 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Winter, let us say, has its detractors. Beyond a certain latitude, the Winter Solstice is a symbol of minimal sunlight, bracing cold, and brutal snowstorms. This does not mean that the season has nothing to recommend it. The colder months offer the opportunity to stay in, drink hot cocoa, and watch something seasonal or festive, say, It's a Wonderful Life (1946). And really, snow’s not so bad if you’re watching it fall from the comfort of your own home. Here are four strategies for reading around the winter solstice. Read More
  • VLOG: Four Videos on the Art of Chromolithography

    Tue, 20 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The word lithograph comes from lithos, the Greek word for stone. Lithography differs from similar image-based printing methods by not requiring the artist to carve into the medium, as she would have to do with a copper engraving or a woodcut relief. Instead, she draws the image onto the smooth surface of a limestone block, and then uses oil and other substances to transfer it onto paper. Read More
  • Why Did Ernest Hemingway Despise Ford Madox Ford?

    Sat, 17 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Ernest Hemingway, author of A Farewell to Arms (1929) and The Old Man and the Sea (1952), was not one to shy away from literary feuds. He and F. Scott Fitzgerald had a friendship that seems, in retrospect, more like a sibling rivalry than anything else, and his and fellow Nobel laureate William Faulkner’s mutual distaste for each other’s writing is well documented. Often forgotten, however, is Hemingway’s feud with English novelist Ford Madox Ford. This in spite of the fact that one of the most scathing character sketches in Hemingway’s posthumously published memoir A Moveable Feast (1964) focuses not Read More
  • Test Your Jane Austen Knowledge Against These Facts

    Fri, 16 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Jane Austen completed six novels in her lifetime. Not only were her books popular immediately after publication, but each of her novels is now considered a classic. Readers today love Austen's work for its engaging characters and love stories, but her books do more than entertain. In fact, they cast a fascinating light on the social and class structure of the 18th century and the unique position of Georgian society women. Despite the years that separate the society represented in her novels from today, Austen remains a beloved author whose characters' struggles and victories still resonate long after the culture Read More
  • Native American Writers and Artists in N. Scott Momaday's Family

    Thu, 15 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Many readers of twentieth-century literature are familiar with the works of Native American novelist N. Scott Momaday. A writer of Kiowa and Cherokee ancestry, Momaday was born in Lawton, Oklahoma at the Kiowa-Comanche Indian Hospital to Natachee Scott and Alfred Morris Momaday. In 1963, N. Scott Momaday received a Ph.D. in literature from Stanford University, and shortly thereafter, his novel House Made of Dawn (1968) won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Many critics cite House Made of Dawn as the beginning of what scholars and critics have described as the “Native American Renaissance,” referring to the (re)emergence of native American Read More
  • The Tie That Binds: The Importance of Binding in Rare Book Collecting

    Wed, 14 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    It’s the first thing you see. It’s the first thing you feel when you pick it up. It often goes a long way toward determining how you feel about it or how you’re going to feel about it once you crack the pages. While we’re talking about book covers in this example, what we’re really talking about is binding: the method in which the front and back cover are fastened over the actual book pages. Because a book’s binding can be decorative as well as pragmatic—helping to protect the book from the elements—it’s often a critical factor in determining a Read More
  • Historical Accuracy of Little House on the Prairie

    Tue, 13 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    "A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin." One of the most beloved opening lines in children’s literature comes from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s third book in the Little House series, Little House on the Prairie. It details the experience of a northern family’s migration in their covered wagon and working the land they eventually call home. From Wisconsin to Kansas to Read More
  • Portraits of Appalachia: Stereotypical Images of the Mountain Man on Local Color Literature

    Sat, 10 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    How is stereotype developed and how is it spread? Historically, books have played a role as purveyors of stereotype, both intentionally and unintentionally. It’s easy to think of a book’s text as promoting stereotypical points of view, but the book’s cover design is just as influential. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, book cover design was an unwitting influence on the development of the Appalachian stereotype. The artistic portraits of Appalachia and Appalachians found on the covers of books widely dispersed to reading audiences across the nation had a lasting impact on the stereotypical image of Appalachia.  Read More
  • A Guide to Buying and Collecting Signed Books

    Fri, 09 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    A signed book is a sought-after collectible for a bibliophile, and it can add exponential value to a book collection. Whether you’re just beginning your collection or are a seasoned collector, what should you consider when looking for and purchasing a signed book? What’s the best “type” of signature? Below is a brief guide to collecting signed books, including a glossary of signed book terms and a guide to finding signed books. Scroll to the bottom of the post for a list of noteworthy signed books to add to your collection today. Read More
  • 45th Anniversary of Pablo Neruda's Nobel Prize

    Thu, 08 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Pablo Neruda wasn’t born with the name by which so many readers across the globe have come to know his work. Rather, he was born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto in the small Chilean town of Parral, Chile. This December marks the 45th anniversary of Neruda winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1971, Neruda traveled back to Stockholm—he had visited on previous occasions and had met the founder of Sweden’s first poetry journal, FIB:S lyrikklub, Stig Carlson—to accept the Nobel Prize. Yet his winning this award wasn’t entirely a surprise. To be sure, scholars and fans of his work had Read More
  • Willa Cather and Pioneer Novels

    Wed, 07 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    As a hardened millennial, I am well-versed in the first-world problems of modern life. I've been reduced to drinking lattés made with soy milk when my preferred dairy-substitute of almond milk is unavailable. I have made the arduous journey into the gas station when the pay at the pump feature is out of order. I’ve accidentally put clothes that are labeled “lay flat to dry” in the dryer and been left with a pile of sweaters that look like they belong to a Chihuahua. Faced with such difficulties in 2016, I am hard pressed to imagine what daily life must Read More
  • Children's Books: A Gift Giving Guide

    Tue, 06 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    I wonder if the art of gift giving, like that of conversation and letter writing, is becoming lost. Like the latter two, gift giving requires time and attention. Our spans of these seem to be becoming shorter in this fast-paced digital age. Maybe that’s why the allure of the gift card is so strong. For the giver, it’s easy, doesn’t have to be wrapped, and one size fits all. But what if you want to personalize a gift—have it made to order—bespoke?  A children’s book may be the perfect choice. Read More
  • Vladimir Nabokov's Recently Published Letters to His Wife

    Sat, 03 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re interested in twentieth-century literature in any way at all, you’ve probably encountered some of the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov. The Russian immigrant novelist was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1899, and he immigrated with his family to Britain after the Russian Revolution. He moved to the United States in 1939, just two years before the U.S. would enter World War II, and he remained here with his wife, Véra, until 1959. Most American readers are familiar with the novelist’s perhaps most famous—or infamous, depending upon the speaker—work, Lolita. Yet we’d like to introduce you to a recently Read More
  • The Bond Dossier: Thunderball

    Fri, 02 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    There are some books where the story behind the story is just as interesting—if not more so—than the story itself. 007 creator and novelist Ian Fleming had largely avoided this scenario in the publication of his first seven Bond novels; however, Fleming’s eighth 007 novel, Thunderball, found Fleming and his protagonist in some of the most high-stakes peril yet—though Bond’s struggles against international crime syndicates pales slightly in comparison to Fleming’s entanglements with copyright lawyers. Whatever the case, Thunderball marked several turning points for both Fleming and James Bond. While the novel was one of the most well-received and commercially Read More
  • Your 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

    Thu, 01 Dec 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    Books make the best gifts. It’s true. A perfectly selected title is a thoughtful, timeless gift. While giftees may grow out of other items or move on from current fads, books remain—perched on the nearest bookshelf, nightstand, or coffee table, ready to inspire and teach. For our holiday gift guide this year, we’ve broken down books into simple categories to make it easy to pick out a title for everyone on your list. No extra dialogue. No fluff. Just you and the books that’ll make the best gifts for everyone on your list. Some of these titles were picked for Read More
  • Lies, Damned Lies, & Quotations: The Quotable Mark Twain

    Wed, 30 Nov 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it. —Mark Twain, How to Tell a Story (1897) At the beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Mark Twain presents a notice that recalls the book curses of old: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot. BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR.” Looking at this quote Read More
  • The Many Joys of Gardening Books

    Tue, 29 Nov 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    “If you have a garden and a library,” said the Roman philosopher Cicero, “you have everything you need.” These are wise conditions under which to live a life: With books to connect you to humanity, and plants to connect you to nature. And as reading is a lifetime joy—one at which we get better with age—gardening is the same. To cultivate a garden for food or for beauty is a skill one can employ into the farthest reaches of old age. And, it is our luck that we may turn to our library, and peer through the pages of a Read More
  • Visiting Literary Homes in Moscow, Russia

    Sat, 26 Nov 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    If you’re planning a trip to Moscow, Russia and are interested in visiting authors’ homes, you’re in great luck. We only had a handful of days to spend exploring the many literary haunts and homes of some of Russia’s greatest writers, so we packed in as much as we could. While visitors to Russia often think of St. Petersburg as the place to go to visit the homes of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vladimir Nabokov, we can’t recommend a trip to Moscow enough. In addition to the magnificence of Red Square and St. Basil’s Cathedral, where else in the world can Read More
  • 7 Videos to Take You Inside the Craft of Paper Making

    Fri, 25 Nov 2016 08:00:00 Permalink
    No matter how far the digital age encroaches, nothing will ever replace the joys of paper. The pleasures of underlining words with pen or of feeling the page in your hand are hard to beat. Some even argue memory-retention is better when one reads on paper than on the screen. From Ancient Egypt, to Han Dynasty China, to Gutenberg’s Europe, paper has long been a treasured object. Here are seven videos to renew your admiration for the incredible craft of papermaking. Read More
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