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Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

By Andrea Koczela. Dec 31, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature

2014 was a great year for blogis librorum. We'd like to thank all of you who came along for the ride - we're so grateful for our loyal readership! Thanks to all of you who read, subscribed, and commented on our blog. Your participation reminds us of why we do what we do.

In case you missed anything, we've compiled our ten most popular blog posts of 2014. Take a moment to explore our list, then tell us your favorite or what should have made the cut.

Happy New Year!


The Bloomsbury Group: Its Influence on the 20th Century and Beyond

By Katie Behrens. Dec 30, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, History

What did a handful of writers, artists, critics, and an economist have in common at the beginning of the 20th century?  Living in a similar area of London, certainly. But it was a shared vision of life in all its creative, aesthetic, and intellectual glory that drew the Bloomsbury Group together.  

The collective influence of the Bloomsbury Group in the artistic and literary communities of the era should not be downplayed.  Despite an oft-changing membership list and much political upheaval in the world around them, the group existed over several decades and still casts its shadow on us today.


A Brief History of Serial Fiction

By Brian Hoey. Dec 29, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Charles Dickens

In Rob Reiner’s 1987 cult classic The Princess Bride (based on William Goldman's 1973 book of the same name), the story begins with a grandfather’s proclamation to his ailing grandson that “back in (his) day, television was called books.” While the old man’s dictum may be an overly bold one, it’s certainly true that books used to be a lot more like television. Indeed, the serialized format that modern television viewers have come to love-hate began nearly a century before the TV’s inception with the rise of serialized novels.


The Challenge and Reward of Collecting Rudyard Kipling

Upon receipt of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, Rudyard Kipling was described as a “world-famous” author. Indeed, Kipling is rightly considered the author of the British Empire, expertly detailing the 19th and 20th century British imperial experience. His writing holds a significant place in the English Canon, both for its breadth as well as for its content, and limited editions of his short stories and poetry prove true treasures for the Kipling collector.


Jerome Kern: Colossus of Musical Theater and Rare Books

By Neely Simpson. Dec 27, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting

American composer, Jerome Kern, was a colossus of twentieth century musical theater with a career spanning over forty years. His success in theater and film provided him the means to amass an equally remarkable rare books collection. Born in New York City on January 27, 1885, Kern was the composer of such iconic songs as, "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Long Ago (and Far Away)."

An avid reader, Kern's love of books left its greatest mark on his career through the musical for which he is best known, Show Boat. An admirer of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Edna Ferber, Kern is credited with the idea of turning her 1926 bestselling novel of the same name into a musical. Another professional nod to his love of literature came in 1942 in the form of the last orchestral suite he composed, "The Mark Twain Suite: Portrait for Orchestra." 


Aesop's Fables and Slave Narratives: Reactionaries and Revolutionaries

By Brian Hoey. Dec 26, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, History

Somewhere between freedom and slavery lies the seed of literary greatness. America’s literary history has borne out this notion time and time again, from Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) to Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). For those authors and more, the tumultuous journey out of slavery defines careers laden with aesthetic triumphs and radical politics. This tradition of slaves turned literary superstars ought, by rights, to feature legendary Greek fabulist Aesop as its cornerstone.


Literary Christmas Traditions: Celebrating with Books and Letters

By Leah Dobrinska. Dec 25, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Christmas Books

Traditions abound during the Christmas season. Some people carol, others sled. Some vacation, others stay close to home. Many celebrate with a church community or eat a holiday meal with family and friends. Perhaps most appropriately - especially here in this bookish corner of the internet - is the fact that for many people, Christmas traditions center around books and storytelling.


A Quick Guide to "The Woman Warrior" by Maxine Hong Kingston

By Audrey Golden. Dec 24, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

High school teachers and college professors across the country assign Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976). At the same time, other readers have discovered this book through articles on feminism and literature, or interviews with the author concerning her work with Vietnam veterans and immigrants interested in storytelling. If you’ve read Kingston’s memoir, you probably know that she was born in California to parents who emigrated from China. But what else should you know about this novel that’s slowly becoming part of a multi-ethnic literature canon? Read on to learn five important facts about The Woman Warrior.


Ashurbanipal: The First Bibliomaniac

By Brian Hoey. Dec 23, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, History

“Whosoever shall carry off this tablet, or shall inscribe his name on it, side by side with
mine own, may Ashur and Belit overthrow him in wrath and anger,
and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land”
- King Ashurbanipal, Assyria, circa 7th Century BC

The above is one of the first known instances of a book curse, a practice used widely throughout the centuries to instill the fear of god(s) into would-be book thieves. Some Medieval Spanish manuscripts contained threats of excommunication and damnation the likes of which make the wrath of Assyrian gods Ahur and Belit seem positively tame, and bookstore owners across the world have poured grim wit and poetry into similar practices aimed at warding off shoplifters. For those of us who are protective of our books, there can be a certain charm to the notion of laying curses at the feet of those who would spoil our collection, but book curses are hardly the only thing for which bibliophiles owe thanks to Ashurbanipal. 


Libraries and Special Collections: The Bodleian Library

By Katie Behrens. Dec 22, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections

Fans of the Harry Potter movies would recognize the Upper Reading Room of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The filmmakers used the picturesque library – filled with old tomes, decorative shelving, and books chained to the stacks – to recreate the Hogwarts school library. The Bodleian is not only one of the most recognizable libraries in the world, but also one of the oldest and most revered.


The Birth of "Mark Twain": His First National Article

By Brian Hoey. Dec 21, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature, Mark Twain

In retrospect, 1866 was a watershed year for Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He gained a cult following for his Hawaii travelogue (then referred to as the "Sandwich Islands"), published his first piece in a national magazine, and--finding "Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass" to be an unsuitable moniker--chose a new pen name: Mark Twain. "Forty-three Days in An Open Boat," published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in December of 1866, was the first of his works published on a national scale.


The Ten Most Readable Newbery Medal Winners

By Katie Behrens. Dec 20, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Newbery Award

Every year, committees of experts and librarians gather to discuss the best books published for children that year.  Out of that process, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals are awarded for excellence in writing and illustration, respectively.  Every committee is different – sometimes there are clear favorites, sometimes not – but the very act of awarding the medals marks the books as favorites and collectibles for years to come. Whether you’re searching for a special gift or hoping to learn more about the award, look no further than this list of the ten most engaging Newbery Medal winners.


Ian Fleming's Banned Book and the Unexpected Gravity of James Bond

By Brian Hoey. Dec 19, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond

A banned book always carries with it a certain social cache. Perhaps it’s simply that people want what they can’t have, or that censored works are coveted precisely for their perceived power to affect change. But the fact remains that once a book joins the banned book list, including such revolutionary political and aesthetic statements as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) and Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961), the work becomes difficult to ignore.


Victor Canning: Forgotten Rival of Ian Fleming

By John Higgins. Dec 18, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

Victor Canning was a prolific writer who would surely be as famous as Ian Fleming if he had managed to write a little less. Certainly in the 1950s he was better known than Fleming in Britain and the United States. If only President Kennedy had picked up a copy of Panthers’ Moon rather than From Russia with Love, Canning might enjoy a greater legacy today.


Top Ten Collectible Christmas Books

By Brian Hoey. Dec 17, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Christmas Books

With the holidays fast approaching, it can be easy to take for granted all of the Christmas cheer that seeps into daily life. From the omnipresence of Christmas lights and miniature Santas to the unabashed spinning of Bing Crosby records, one might be lulled into such a state of wintry bliss that one could forget that the true force of Christmas spirit emanates from one’s bookshelf. Here are ten of the most collectible Christmas books to enliven your holiday spirit.  


J.R.R. Tolkien's Epic Quest: Writing The Lord of the Rings

By Katie Behrens. Dec 16, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: J. R. R. Tolkien, Science Fiction

Despite plenty of naysayers and literary critics, the English-reading world consistently votes J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as one of the greatest books of the 20th Century.  In 1997, a poll performed by the British bookseller Waterstones voted Tolkien’s epic fantasy as the overall winner – and that was four years before Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations hit the big screen!  Our fascination with Middle Earth, the One Ring, and hobbits seems to have no end.  Today, we salute Tolkien for his epic accomplishment: writing The Lord of the Rings.


A Collector's Guide to The Night Before Christmas

By Katharina Koch. Dec 14, 2014. 10:05 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Christmas Books

With my favorite holiday approaching, there is no better way to get in the Christmas spirit than reading and collecting The Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. This essential children’s book has long been one of my favorites. When I first began collecting, I knew I wanted to focus on something that I had cherished as a child; so naturally I chose The Night before Christmas books, among a few others. Still a classic to this day, The Night before Christmas encompasses the magic of Christmas that is treasured by children and so often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the season. 


Louise Erdrich: Making Ojibwe Language and Culture Relevant to Readers

By Audrey Golden. Dec 13, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature

Perhaps you’ve seen Louise Erdrich’s novels on bookstore shelves or mentioned in book club circles? While Erdrich just might be one of the most prolific contemporary novelists engaging with American Indian traditions, many readers aren’t especially familiar with her personal background or the role that her fiction plays in preserving the narratives of Ojibwe culture and language. The Ojibwe, or Chippewa, remain one of the largest tribes in the United States today, yet many of us don’t know as much as we should about a culture that remains vibrant in the northern states.


Aphra Behn: The First English Novelist?

By Brian Hoey. Dec 12, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

In her seminal work of literary philosophy, A Room of One’s Own (1929), Virginia Woolf said “all women together, ought to let flowers fall on the grave of Aphra Behn.” Aphra Behn, one of the western cannons most enigmatic cases, was not widely read at the time of Woolf’s writing just as she is not widely read now. Indeed, Behn's work has been neglected since her death in the late seventeenth century. However, it was Woolf’s position that any woman who sought to be taken seriously in literature owed Behn a direct debt of gratitude.


Making Science Personal with Jane Goodall

By Leah Dobrinska. Dec 10, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science

Dr. Jane Goodall, widely known for her contributions to the scientific study of chimpanzees in Tanzania, has also contributed tremendously to the breadth of non-fiction literature surrounding her topic of study. Goodall has published numerous accounts of her time in Gombe Stream National Park interacting with and observing the chimpanzees there, and each work is more riveting than the next.

Goodall's writing style is compelling. Her works are true, scientific accounts, and yet they read like finely crafted pieces of fiction. In short, they draw you in and give an intimate look at the human-side of chimpanzee life.


An Interview and Tribute to Caldecott Winners, Berta and Elmer Hader

By Andrea Koczela. Dec 9, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Caldecott Medal

Joy Hoerner Rich is the niece and heir of Caldecott Award winners, Berta and Elmer Hader. Joy founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the Haders' legacy and recently co-authored the award-winning book Berta and Elmer Hader: A Lifetime of Art. In the following interview, Joy shares the charming story of the Haders--from their early careers and marriage, to winning the Caldecott Award for The Big Snow, creating the dust jacket for The Grapes of Wrath, and helping Laura Ingalls Wilder publish The Little House on the Prairie. Joy also describes Berta and Elmer Hader: A Lifetime of Art, from the challenges of publication to its awards and accolades.


Ten Facts About Caldecott Winner, James Thurber

By Matt Reimann. Dec 7, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Caldecott Medal

James Thurber was a short story writer, cartoonist, and humorist. Much of his work was published in The New Yorker, where he began working as an editor in 1927. His most famous short story is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, recently adapted to film. Combining his talents for writing and illustration, Thurber had a successful career writing children's books, and won the Caldecott Medal for the book Many Moons. Below, read ten facts about Thurber's fascinating life and career. 


How to Collect Books in Foreign Languages

By Audrey Golden. Dec 6, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Modern First Editions

For most of us, reading world literature requires translation. Unless you’re fluent in the languages of the globe, from Arabic to Khmer to Zulu, you’ve probably picked up a novel or book of poems that has already been translated for you. What happens when we discover an author whose original works are not in English, and we’re interested in collecting? Collecting books in foreign languages can seem like a daunting task, particularly when we don’t speak the language. Yet one of the most exciting finds of, say, a Günter Grass novel, happens when we locate a German-language first edition.

How can you collect books in a foreign language when language barriers exist? It’s not only possible, but it can be an exciting and very rewarding challenge.


Gifts and First Editions for $100 or Less

By Matt Reimann. Dec 5, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting, Modern First Editions

When you buy a good book, you become the owner of a cultural and historical artifact. As bibliophiles, we can't help but get close to our favorite works, putting our hands on those copies that first heralded the arrival a major creative effort in the world. It's an elevated experience, and an even better one to share in the form of a gift. And while it may seem that great books carry a significant price, there are deals to reward the most shrewd of book hunters. Below, we've compiled some volumes to please both the novice and seasoned collector alike.


John Steinbeck: Marine Biologist?

By Brian Hoey. Dec 4, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

In 1940, John Steinbeck undertook a fishing boat journey around the Gulf of California to collect marine specimens. That, in itself, is not so unusual. Afterall, Vladimir Nabokov worked as a lepidopterist and has several species of butterfly named after him. Indeed, many authors have dabbled in science. Somewhat more unusual, however, is that the journey led to a published collaboration between Steinbeck and famed marine biologist, Ed Ricketts.


Charles Dickens and Christmas: The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

By Matt Reimann. Dec 3, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Charles Dickens, Christmas Books

Charles Dickens published his final Christmas novella, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, A Fancy for Christmas-Time, in 1848. While it has been upstaged by the most famous of his yuletide stories, A Christmas Carol, both share a distinct similarity: a ghostly plot. While Dickens is often credited with inventing the modern idea of Christmas, that of trees and garlands and presents, he also cast a spooky, haunting mood over the holiday. To Dickens, Christmas was not only a time for festive warmth, but one for dark examination, too.


An Interview with Sheree Nielsen: Author of "Folly Beach Dances"

By Andrea Koczela. Dec 1, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book News, Rare Book Gift Ideas

Sheree Nielsen is an award-winning writer and author of Folly Beach Dances: a collection of photography, poems, and prose. The book is more than just gorgeous photography and lyrical poems, it's an escape to the beach, and how every living being or thing dances with the rhythm of the sea and the changing tides. In the following interview, Sheree shares with us her inspirations for Folly Beach Dances, including her own fight with lymphoma.


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How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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