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T.S. Eliot and the Struggle of Faith

By Leah Dobrinska. May 31, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners

Nobel laureate T.S. Eliot made some of the most recognizable and well-respected contributions to the American literary canon. He is best remembered for poems like "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915) and The Wasteland (1922), and his poetic efforts are often considered synonymous with the “high” modernist style of his time. Though less well known, T.S. Eliot also penned several plays—religious in nature—later in his career. They, too, are deserving of our attention, if for no other reason than for the insight they give us into the ever-searching mind of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.


Beer Me: Five Writers on America’s Most Famous Beverage

By Nick Ostdick. May 30, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry, Literature

This month, we were treated to American Craft Beer Week, an annual celebration of the craft beer movement across the country. For seven days, craft beer lovers, brewers, critics and writers – yes, there are many wordsmiths and literature-minded folks putting pen to paper in the name of craft beer – took part in tastings, special beer releases, panel discussions and other gatherings.


An Interview with David Pascoe of Nawakum Press

By Andrea Koczela. May 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Fine Press, Interviews

We were fortunate enough to interview David Pascoe of Nawakum Press--a publisher of unique, handcrafted books. David has collaborated with an impressive group of writers and artists, including Barry Moser and Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Paul Muldoon. His books have been collected by many important institutions, including the Library of Congress, Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book Library, Stanford University's Cecil H. Green Library, Harvard University's Houghton Library, and many others. In this interview, David shares with us the story of Nawakum Press: its origins, inspirations, and notable collaborations. 


Feminist Literature from Iran

By Audrey Golden. May 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, History

Thinking about the contemporary politics of the Middle East, few of us immediately think of the rich history of Iranian literary production. However, modern Iran—from the time of the Shah through to the depths of Islamic fundamentalism and the suppression of human rights—has produced some of the most interesting texts by and about women. What does feminism look like in Iran? We might begin to answer such a question by reading the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad, ending with the graphic novel Persepolis, written by Marjane Satrapi, and exploring various genres in between.


When Ian Fleming Met John F. Kennedy

By Matt Reimann. May 27, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, James Bond

Ian Fleming was one of the great raconteurs of 20th century international life. Not surprisingly, he was also a great participant in it. Fleming was famously at the forefront of British secret intelligence during World War II, helping establish the vital No. 30 Commando unit to intercept Nazi communications. This experience was essential in creating the espionage stories of the James Bond books. Fleming, as he became a celebrity author, often met with leading figures of his time, some of whom were also big fans of his work. One of the most memorable of these meetings was with soon-to-be U.S. president John F. Kennedy.


Real Life Examples of Successful Women in Science

By Leah Dobrinska. May 26, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science

History is packed with examples of powerful women who've made names for themselves in the fields of science and technology. Think Jane Goodall. Mae Jemison. Barbara McClintock. Rachel Carson. Each of these ladies has had a significant and lasting impact. So, we wondered, is there something these women in science had in common? What led to their success?


Writing between Dogma and Despair: Walker Percy's Catholicism

By Brian Hoey. May 25, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature

Lately, much has been said about whether the Catholic Church should canonize prolific 19th and 20th Century thinker and writer G.K. Chesterton. He was, proponents insist, one of the most vocal lay-supporters of the Catholic faith in the last two centuries. His arguments for the church’s doctrines were imaginative and seemingly boundless. Whether or not the beloved crafter of fairy tales and treatises stands a real chance of sainthood, the speculation does make one wonder: where are the sainthood campaigns for other great Catholic authors? Where is the push to canonize Flannery O’Connor? Gerard Manly Hopkins? Graham Greene? Where, most relevantly, is the sainthood campaign for Walker Percy?


Ralph Waldo Emerson's Influence: An American Literary Tradition

By Matt Reimann. May 24, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

"In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts:
they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Philosophy, in its purest form, should be about a love of wisdom. Unfortunately, it is often a field dominated by pedants, logicians, and empiricists. Yet we know life is scarcely described best through laws and technicalities. It is far too complex and marvelous for rigid deconstruction. Ralph Waldo Emerson understood this well. And he offered nearly two centuries of readers a loving interpretation of life, art, and the New World in which he lived.


King's Printers in England: Giving Monarchs a Voice Throughout History

By Katie Behrens. May 23, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, History

Many established governments around the globe have a dedicated printing house that handles all official documents and resources. In the United States, it’s the US Government Printing Office. In the British Commonwealth (primarily the United Kingdom and Canada), the role of King’s or Queen’s Printer may be assigned at the monarch’s pleasure. And things get sticky when politics, religion, and publishing mix.


Famous Holocaust Memoirs

By Audrey Golden. May 22, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies, History

What kind of text do you imagine when you hear the word memoir? The term might be narrowly defined as a biographical narrative that recounts an important historical event, in a linear chronology, from the viewpoint of a witness. Yet the form that these accounts take also can be experimental, playing with notions of contested memory, witness, and testimony. Holocaust memoirs, perhaps more than most other works of literature connected to a particular moment of political violence, have taught readers about the significance of such texts in redefining the ways we think about history and its indelible effects on the present.


5 Surprising Facts about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

By Brian Hoey. May 21, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Mystery, Suspense & Crime

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s name is synonymous with mystery. The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle’s impact on the world of detective and mystery genre remains too great to measure. With an uncanny sense of detail and a keen eye for inimitable characters, Conan Doyle has riveted and delighted millions of readers over the course of the last century. Here are five interesting facts about him. 


Are You Ready for the London Antiquarian Book Fair?

By Andrea Koczela. May 20, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book News

If you are near London next week (May 28th-30th), we would like to invite you to the London International Antiquarian Book Fair! See our catalog, sign up for your complimentary tickets, and then join us in Olympia to experience some remarkable books.


Eight Surprising Hobbies of Legendary Authors

By Katie Behrens. May 19, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

Writing is a creative release to many people, but when you make your living from the pen, what do you turn to in order to replenish your soul? Those we consider legendary authors today didn’t spend all of their time at the desk. These eight authors and their hidden passions may surprise you.


James Boswell and the Power of Biography

By Leah Dobrinska. May 18, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Biographies

Biography lends to death a new terror.
-Oscar Wilde

Wilde’s take on biography is most obviously meant to garner a laugh—maybe a nervous one— at the thought of leaving the detailing of one’s life in the hands of another. As a result, perhaps in a roundabout way, Wilde also sheds light on the responsibility that falls to the biographer. After all, biographers hold an incredible power, and they can choose to wield it in a number of ways.


Myth, Fairy Tales, & Children: A Brief History of Fantasy

By Katie Behrens. May 17, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Book History

If you were to play a word association game with the word “fantasy,” your brain would probably jump to things like magic, dragons, heroes, wizards, quests, monsters, mythical creatures, other worlds, and so on. In only a few decades, fantasy has declared itself loudly to the public consciousness as an established genre that's demanded to be heard. Where did the human fascination with such stories begin?


A Brief List of Significant Latin American Writers

By Matt Reimann. May 16, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

The twentieth century saw an unmatched period of artistic accomplishment in Latin America. Though it is nearly impossible to choose only a few writers to highlight, the following Latin American authors must be noted for their contributions to the richness of modern literature and poetry.


The Politics of Exhuming Pablo Neruda

By Audrey Golden. May 15, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners, Book News

In 1973, Augusto Pinochet seized power in Chile, installing himself as leader in one of the longest-running dictatorships in modern history. Given Pablo Neruda’s powerful voice as a leftist poet, he was targeted by the Pinochet regime. Indeed, Pinochet sent soldiers to destroy Neruda’s library at La Chascona, his home in Santiago. Neruda died just twelve days after the coup. While many Chileans and others worldwide knew that Neruda had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, the timing of his death led to questions about whether he actually had been a victim of the Pinochet regime. As a result, nearly forty years later, plans were made to exhume Neruda and to reexamine his cause of death—not once, but twice.


Presidents, Generals, and Munchkins; Oh My! L. Frank Baum's Influence

By Brian Hoey. May 14, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

“Well, I've worried some about, you know, why write books … why are we teaching people to write books when presidents and senators do not read them, and generals do not read them. And it's been the university experience that taught me that there is a very good reason, that you catch people before they become generals and presidents and so forth and you poison their minds with … humanity." -Kurt Vonnegut, 1976


From Book-to-Film: Books Made Famous by Hollywood

By Audrey Golden. May 13, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Book History, Movie Tie-Ins

From early nineteenth-century novelists to Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of the twentieth century, many writers have seen their works of fiction adapted for the silver screen and met with enormous popularity and acclaim. Indeed, numerous book-to-film adaptations have gained millions of viewers over the years, and books of Academy Award-winning movies continue to be purchased in bookstores across the country.


Charles Baxter's Real Life Fiction

By Matt Reimann. May 12, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Today, the state of the English language short story is too multifarious to pin down. We have the well-crafted and masterful stories of Nobel laureate Alice Munro, who drew from the great Henry James. There are the zany, first-person narrated stories of George Saunders and the frontier tales of Annie Proulx. Then there’s Charles Baxter, whose work tends to turn toward our quotidian relationships and the small interactions that make up a lifetime.


Learning About Literature and Partition

By Audrey Golden. May 11, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History

For much of the first half of the twentieth century, India remained under the control of the British Empire. While many leaders in India had pushed for independence for decades, it wasn’t until the end of World War II—and the crumbling of the system of Western colonization—that Britain began to conceive of leaving the subcontinent. In an attempt to leave as peacefully as possible, misguided efforts to divide the area into the nations of India and Pakistan based on religious and ethnic differences resulted in bloody riots that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands in the Punjab. In the decades that followed, fiction writers took up the India-Pakistan Partition and related issues of political violence that continue to plague the region.


From Hester Prynne to Lily Potter: Five Famous Literary Mothers

By Neely Simpson. May 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Literature

J.D. Salinger said, "Mothers are all slightly insane." Alice Walker complemented her mother with these words, "Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me." Maya Angelou wrote of her mother, "To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power."

From the slightly insane to the flawed to the near saintly, mothers have been a force of nature in both human history and in literature. In honor of Mother's Day, here are five literary mothers on which to ruminate this May.


A Glossary of Publishing Industry Terms, Part IV

By Katie Behrens. May 9, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting

The process of printing and publishing a book has many steps, and when it comes to collecting rare books, the pre-publication material can be as valuable (if not more so) than the actual book. What are the terms to distinguish these unique items? We hope this quick glossary helps in your collecting!


Libraries & Special Collections: The Library of Alexandria

By Katie Behrens. May 8, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, Libraries & Special Collections

You can’t talk about the history of libraries without including the Library of Alexandria, that pinnacle of human knowledge and wisdom in the Ancient World. Like other aspects of far history, not very much is concretely known about the Library of Alexandria, but we can piece together what Ancient historians and thinkers have said about it. It is not just a matter of legend.


JAWS Author Peter Benchley as Ocean Advocate

By Katie Behrens. May 7, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins, Science

Author Peter Benchley may have stumbled into fame as an expert on all things shark, but he quickly took up the mantle as their advocate. Benchley’s smash hit novel, Jaws, came out in 1974, spent 44 weeks on the bestseller list, and became the first summer blockbuster film (ever) the following year. Although Benchley cast a great white shark as his villain, he would spend the rest of his career debunking the stereotype he created.


Quiz: Where Would You Live in Tolkien's Middle Earth?

By Andrea Koczela. May 6, 2015. 11:08 AM.

Topics: J. R. R. Tolkien, Quizzes

Are you a fan of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Ever wonder what it would be like to live in Middle Earth? Are you more of a hobbit, elf, dwarf, orc, or human? Take our quiz to discover where you belong on Middle Earth.


Robert Browning's Literary Rivalry...with His Wife

By Matt Reimann. May 6, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry

Today, Robert Browning is a firmly canonical author. His art draws a line between the Victorian literary tradition of psychological realism and the following tidal wave of modernism. His great talent is most apparent in his dramatic monologues, in which his poetry expertly illustrates the thoughts, motivations, and intellectual machinations of a character. Yet despite his posthumous fame, for a considerable portion of his life, Browning was overshadowed by his poetically gifted wife, Elizabeth Barrett.


Interview with Jared Loewenstein on the Definitive Borges Collection at UVA

By Audrey Golden. May 5, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Book Collecting, Interviews

The Jorge Luis Borges Collection at the University of Virginia attracts scholars from across the globe who are interested in examining one—or many—of the more than 2000 titles in its holdings. In fact, UVA's Borges collection is the most comprehensive in the world. We were lucky enough to conduct an interview with Jared Loewenstein, who began developing the collection in 1977.


Kaye Gibbons: Reconciling Wounds Through Writing

By Neely Simpson. May 4, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Biographies

Kaye Gibbons's debut novel Ellen Foster (1987), which she wrote at the age of 26, opens with the sentence, "When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy." In a letter to her readers Gibbons explains, "Since Ellen Foster is autobiographical, it shouldn't come as a shock that when I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. My mother...became too sad and died when I was almost ten..." Back to the book, the fictional character, 11-year-old Ellen Foster says a few lines later, "But I did not kill my daddy. He drank his own self to death a year after the County moved me out." This raw, honest tone penetrates Kaye Gibbons' works, making them poignant reads and lenses into the power of writing through and about pain.


Philip the Good: Early Book Collector, Patron of the Arts

By Leah Dobrinska. May 3, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, History

In 15th century Europe, the act of accumulating a collection of written works was linked to prestige and wealth. An early collector from this period, Philip the Good, proves an interesting study. As the Duke of Burgundy, Philip amassed a vast collection of texts, more specifically, illuminated manuscripts. During his reign, he contributed to a flourishing of the arts throughout the Burgundy province.


Nobel Laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz and "Quo Vadis"

By Brian Hoey. May 2, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, History

The past is never dead. It's not even past. -William Faulkner, 1951

While Faulkner could sometimes be cryptic, this quote seems easy enough to grasp. After all, if the past were really past, why would we read so much historical fiction? Hardly the sole purview of trashy paperback enthusiasts and Civil War reenactors, historical fiction has held a distinguished place in literary history for centuries. It stretches back to the famed 16th Century poet Sir Walter Raleigh and continues through to contemporary authors like Hilary Mantel. Between these two, the legacy of historical fiction makes another notable stop with Nobel Prize-winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz.


Five Things You Should Know About Joseph Heller

By Brian Hoey. May 1, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

Most writers only dream of making the same lasting indent in American cultural consciousness that Joseph Heller did. Even famed novelist John Updike, who didn’t consider Heller to be a ‘top of the chart’ writer, deemed the author’s 1961 satirical behemoth Catch-22 to be “important.” ‘Importance,’ however, isn’t even the half of it. Heller’s inimitable brand of black humor, his keen eye for the absurdity of bureaucracy, and his deep antiwar sentiments combined to form a perfect storm of satirical perfection. Not only did he earn a place in the canon that stretches from Mark Twain to Kurt Vonnegut, but he must also be heralded as a guardian of the deepest absurdity and cynicism that belie the American experience. Here are five facts about him.


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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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