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Five of the Best Halloween Books for Children

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

Topics: Children's Books

Happy Halloween! We hope you’re able to share some tricks and treats with those you love today. In honor of the festivities, we thought we’d compile a list of some of the top Halloween children’s books. Snuggle up with your little ones and one or more of these favorites after a successful night of trick-or-treating, and you’re sure to round out your day in the best possible way.


Rudolfo Anaya and Chicano Literature

By Matt Reimann. Oct 30, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

On the whole, the term Chicano describes the culture of a people who live within the mixing currents of Mexican and American life. Other than that, the Chicano identity is predictably hard to pin down. Nonetheless, writers of the Chicano tradition have played a vital role in giving a voice to a people who have not easily found one. The Chicano tradition is notably vast and hybridized, coming from two already diverse nations. While there have been Mexican-American writers since the age of exploration, Chicano culture truly came into being after the Mexican American War, when many Mexicans found their home suddenly under the red, white, and blue flag. Since its inception, Chicano literature has helped an entire culture forge its identity by letting its stories be told. Today, we'd like to explore some of voices of the Chicano literary tradition.


Five Bookish Costumes for A Literary Halloween

By Nick Ostdick. Oct 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Whether you fancy the trick or the treat, Halloween may perhaps be the most polarizing holiday. Ask any Halloweener why they’re not quick to don a pirate get-up or nurse uniform and the answer is usually the same: "I don’t know what to dress-up as."

Mummy? Cowboy? Prisoner? Political figure of the day? For a reader with a voracious imagination, these well-worn paths offer very little appeal and only heighten the anxiety about choosing the best costume to wow friends at your Halloween party.

But this year, literary Halloween-goers can rest easy and indulge in a little more candy or that second cup of punch as below you’ll find some DIY costume ideas inspired by some of the most well-known characters across a wide spectrum of American letters that will be the envy of the most ambitious of the costumed kind, but will also be great conversation starters as you gab with party-goers about your favorite books and the characters that populate them.


Revisiting Brideshead: 3 Surprising Facts About Brideshead Revisited

By Nick Ostdick. Oct 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

One could say Evelyn Waugh was something of an early 20th Century Anthony Bourdain. A novelist, essayist, biographer and travel writer, Waugh (1903-1966) was a renowned world traveler and played witness to some of the more seismic events of his era: the fall of the British Empire throughout South America, World War II, the struggles of a post-war Europe, and the emergence of the United States as a world superpower. All of these things Waugh maintained strong views upon and chronicled in his writings, both fictive and non. Perhaps his most well-known endeavor, Brideshead Revisited, is our subject today.


The Noble, Doomed Search for the Philosopher's Stone

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

Topics: History, Science

For something that never existed, the philosopher’s stone has shaped a great deal of history. To people like us — we rational and practical folk of the 21st century — its influence can be hard to comprehend. It was, after all, bad science. Part of its appeal was that it promised so much. Not only did it solve the alchemist’s problem of transmuting base metals into gold, it also provided the elixir of life, even immortality. Numerous civilizations, through a variety of centuries, set out on a quest for the imaginary stone. Was the pursuit a failure? Absolutely. But was it worthless? Far from it.


Hardboiled Fiction and Hollywood

By Audrey Golden. Oct 26, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

For decades, the Los Angeles area has captivated writers of hardboiled detective fiction. In the last 100 years, we’ve read about the exploits of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, and we’ve watched a variety of actors play these detectives on the silver screen. Indeed, as an epicenter of film production, Hollywood has brought cinematic narratives of the quintessentially American hardboiled detective to viewers across the globe. Let’s take a look at the novels that introduced gritty Southern California to readers and the film adaptations that followed them.


Taking Stock of Bonds: The Top Five James Bond Films

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

Topics: James Bond, Movie Tie-Ins

It was easy, back in 2012, to think of the just-released Skyfall as an elegant capstone to the long running James Bond film series. It dealt with Bond’s past in a way that showed a certain self-consciousness about the fifty year film legacy of the beloved super spy. It let us bid a teary farewell to Dame Judi Dench as ‘M.’ And, it presented us with a tightly crafted and emotionally gripping story. Now that Spectre, due in theatres this fall, is on the horizon, that feeling seems slightly misguided. More than a farewell, Skyfall may prove to mark a new beginning for a franchise that has captivated audiences for more than half a century. By continuing to dig into the history, not just of the films but of the Ian Fleming-penned novels and short stories, Spectre promises to bring the series full circle — giving the world a James Bond who is at once in the filmic and literary past and future. In honor of its impending release, here is a ranking of the top five James Bond films.


Jorge Luis Borges at the Keats-Shelley House in Rome

By Audrey Golden. Oct 24, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature

For hundreds of years, Rome has been a city of wonder and inspiration for writers from various parts of the world. From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to John Keats, the Italian capital became a part-time home. If you’re in Rome and you’re facing the Spanish Steps, look just to the right: you’ll see the Keats-Shelley House. It was in this very apartment that John Keats spent his final days. The property is now a museum that holds significant works and materials related to the Romantic poets. But instead of focusing entirely on the materials of the Romantics, we’d like to turn to a recent acquisition of the Keats-Shelley House: a Jorge Luis Borges manuscript on John Keats’s “Ode to a Nightingale.”


Four Lesser-Known Poets You Should Know

By Nick Ostdick. Oct 23, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry

The dream version of Babe Ruth that appears to Benny in the 1993 film The Sandlot said it best: “There’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die...” While such a reference might not seem entirely applicable to a discussion of American poetics, there’s a profound truth to the sentiment that rings clear throughout the annals of poetry. The truth of the matter is, it’s impossible to identify which poets will leave an indelible mark on their craft and which will merely be but a footnote in discussions of poetic tradition. 

That said, if we take a cue from The Babe, we can put a finger to a number of lesser-known-yet-still-influential poets who played major — albeit less heralded  roles in the evolution of the poetic arts. Here are just a few examples of notable poets who flew slightly beneath the radar during their heyday but found latter day success and prominence as true practitioners of their craft. 


Henry Wade's Halcyon: Past Fly Fishing With an Eye to the Future

By David Eddy. Oct 22, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Fishing

“There are but few which it has fallen to our lot to read that we could recommend to our readers so sincerely or with so much pleasure.”
Spectator, February 8, 1861.

On that welcoming note, Halcyon; Or Rod-fishing with Fly, Minnow and Worm to which is added a Short and Easy Method of Dressing Flies, with a Description of the Materials Used by Henry Wade, entered the literary world.  


Poor Authors: Great Works Written in Times of Financial Scarcity

By Matt Reimann. Oct 21, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

“No one in this world,” wrote H.L. Mencken in 1926, “has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses.”  This dictum may reek of an under-appreciated artist’s elitist disappointment, but there is perhaps some truth to it. Surely today, if you would like to make money, you are better off making a superhero movie than writing the next Mrs. Dalloway. It is risky, in the end, to be a genius. It is much safer to cater to the general tastes of a people than to be original, which can be alienating and inaccessible to the audience of one’s own time. In the world of creativity, the maverick risks being a true starving artist: although praised in death, she is spurned in life.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of poor authors who were able to write great work in times of financial scarcity. 


Best Books on Italy

By Audrey Golden. Oct 20, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Umberto Eco, Literature

For many English-language readers, a mention of Italy conjures vivid images of culinary landscapes and Renaissance art. While Italian literature hasn’t been translated as widely as works from certain other regions of Western and Central Europe, many books from the country capture it in vastly different periods of time, bringing readers murder mysteries, film histories, and wartime memories. Today, we'd like to explore a sample of the best books on Italy.


Early Versions of Six Classic Novels

By Matt Reimann. Oct 19, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

Every literary composition is the result of a grand evolution — from hesitant, early beginnings to a ready and publishable book. Even great masterpieces have started out as underwhelming first drafts. Many scholars speculate that Shakespeare wrote Ur-Hamlet a decade before the world was graced with the masterwork we know today. Indeed, variations between Hamlet’s quartos and the Folio suggest Shakespeare was constantly revisiting his famous tragedy. Yet the example of Shakespeare and Hamlet is but one instance in a long tradition of re-invention and meticulous revision that will exist as long as literature does. Below, we look at this tradition, and explore early versions of books that led to the classic novels we read and love today.


Town Named in Honor of Nobel Prize Winner Ivo Andrić

By Audrey Golden. Oct 18, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

Ivo Andrić was a novelist from the former Yugoslavia who gained international acclaim for his novel The Bridge on the Drina (1945), which takes place over four centuries in the northern Bosnian town of Višegrad. For his literary contributions, Andrić won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961. Recently, Emir Kusturica, a Serbian filmmaker, became involved in a project to commemorate the novelist. Along the Drina in Višegrad, Kusturica has been central in the creation of Andrićgrad — a town named in honor of Ivo Andrić.


A Reading Guide to Cormac McCarthy

For several years now, Cormac McCarthy has received his due as one of the best living writers around. However, he has never had the reputation of being a particularly accessible writer. If you’ve had trouble reading McCarthy’s work, you’re not alone. Even Harold Bloom, one of today’s most eminent readers, confessed to two false starts reading Blood Meridian. The evocative power of the novel’s violence, Bloom said, was difficult to bear. And indeed, as a distinct writer, McCarthy’s work can require a certain sensitivity and attentiveness to behold. Yet despite its difficulties, legions of Cormac McCarthy’s fans will assure you the extra effort the work requires is well worth it.


Six Interesting Facts About Günter Grass

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

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners, Modern First Editions

Günter Grass, who won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature, died earlier this year, at the age of 87. He maintained a complicated attitude toward the country of Germany for all his life. Grass was a true agitator; he was almost always political, polemical, and provocative. Consequently, upon his death many obituaries concerned themselves with his political controversies, of which there were certainly a good deal. But of course, Grass was a multifaceted person and artist. On the 88th anniversary of his birth, we peel back the divisive persona, and take a look at the legacy of Günter Grass.


The Origins and Legacy of Winnie-the-Pooh

By Matt Reimann. Oct 14, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

Winnie-the-Pooh was formally introduced to the world on October 14, 1926. And in nearly ninety years since Winnie-the-Pooh was published, this beloved bear has gone from a mere character in a bedtime story to the engine of a $5.5 billion per year franchise. A.A. Milne’s ursine creation is known internationally from TV and film adaptations, plush toys, and about every item of merchandise one can imagine. In April of this year, plans for a live-action Winnie-the-Pooh film were announced, proving that the appeal of this honey-loving bear isn't slowing down anytime soon.


Visiting the Homes of Pablo Neruda

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

Topics: Poetry, Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

If you’re interested in traveling to Chile and visiting the homes of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, you’ll need to plan to make your way to three different properties in three different cities. Indeed, Neruda had a home in Santiago, the capital of Chile, as well as two other properties in Valparaiso and Isla Negra. Each is now maintained by the Fundación Pablo Neruda. If you decide to make the treks, we promise it’s worth it.


Quiz: Which Famous Library Should You Visit?

By Andrea Koczela. Oct 12, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections, Quizzes

For bibliophiles, there are few greater pleasures than visiting a well-curated library. Of course, as we've detailed on our blog, libraries exist in astonishing variety. How, then, does one determine which library to see next? Worry not. Book lovers may now breathe a collective sigh of relief for there can be no better way to answer this question than by taking our latest quiz: which famous library should you visit?


A Quick Look at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

By Matt Reimann. Oct 11, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting

At Books Tell You Why, we love hearing the stories of book collectors from all walks of life. For years now, one of our favorite celebrations of collectors has been the ABAA’s National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest (NCBCC). The contest chooses three finalists, all college students, who have composed an exemplary paper exhibiting their own collection. The collection can be composed of books of any kind, as long as they can be united under a sharp thematic focus. All three winners are invited to receive their scholarship and award at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., in a ceremony open to the public. The event is a celebration for bibliophiles of all ages, and is a pleasant reminder that behind every collection, there are countless stories to be told.


The New York Times Book Review By the Numbers

By Nick Ostdick. Oct 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book News

For a historic, revered publication concerned with the social and artistic footprint of arts and letters from across the globe, the mathematics behind The New York Times Book Review are fascinating.

Take the number 119, for example, which is how old the review turns this year. Publishing its first issue on Oct. 10, 1896, the literary supplement to The New York Times is the last free-standing, regularly published entity of literary criticism associated with a daily news publication. 


A Brief History of the Nobel Peace Prize

By Brian Hoey. Oct 9, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

Considered alongside its fellow awards, the Nobel Peace Prize can seem a little vague. While the Nobel Prize in Literature, for example, has often been the subject of controversy, it, like the awards for physics and chemistry, is fairly straightforward. As with those aimed at breakthroughs in the sciences, the award for literature is ostensibly awarded to those achieving the most impressive new heights in the field.

The Nobel Peace Prize, on the other hand, while not referring to a discreet discipline in and of itself, has long been considered a bit nebulous in its intent. Despite that, the Peace Prize has been the highest honor the world bestows upon its most luminary minds — from Dr. Martin Luther King and the Dalai Lama to Malala Yousafzai and Jimmy Carter — for more than a century.


Collecting Nobel Prize in Literature Winners

By Leah Dobrinska. Oct 8, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Awarded each year since 1901 (except in 1914, 1918, 1935, 1940, 1941, 1942, and 1943), the Nobel Prize in Literature is an obvious litmus test for exceptional writers. While there have, of course, been a fair share of “snubs” in the past 100+ years, many of the greatest authors in recent history bear the title "Nobel laureate." As a result, collecting Nobel Prize winners makes good sense: there’s a list to follow; a new author is chosen each year from all around the globe, allowing for an eclectic reach (many congratulations to the 2015 winner from Belarus, Svetlana Alexievich!); and your collection will be filled with the best of the best. We thought we’d offer some advice for fledgling collectors and seasoned collectors alike as you go about putting together your noble Nobel collection.


James Whitcomb Riley: The Children's Poet

By Connie Diamond. Oct 7, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry

James Whitcomb Riley entered the world carrying that rather weighty moniker along with him in 1849 in Greenfield, Indiana. He was a middle child of six born to Reuben and Elizabeth Riley, and was named after the then governor of the state. Despite the eighteen letters that his parents bestowed upon him at birth, James spent his young life trying to make a name for himself. After a failed attempt at law school, Riley worked as a house painter, Bible salesman, and sign painter. He later signed on with a traveling show where he entertained crowds with music and verse before selling them tonics. He once made the erroneous claim that he himself had been cured of blindness by using one of those same tonics. Traveling the Indiana countryside and selling his snake oil as the “Painter Poet” solidified his reputation as a Hoosier and a huckster.


Buying Antiquarian Books in Oslo, Norway

By Audrey Golden. Oct 6, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature

If you find yourself in Oslo and are thinking about looking for antiquarian books, we can point you in the right directions. Norway isn’t home to the largest remaining selection of antiquarian bookstores in Scandinavia (shops in Denmark and Sweden seem to have fared better than others), but there are still quite a few in which visitors can spend many hours scanning shelves and boxes.


Sixty Years of Eloise: A Child for All Ages

By Nick Ostdick. Oct 5, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

This year, Eloise turns 60, though to her adoring fans, she’s still not a day more than 6. And in today’s fast-paced social media filled world where youth seems as fleeting as a Snapchat, she is perhaps more relevant than ever.

Eloise, the titular character in a wildly successful series of children books, first appeared to readers in 1955 in Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-Ups. The book chronicles the antics of an eccentric 6-year-old Manhattanite who lives a lavish life atop the Plaza Hotel. With two pets in tow — a pug named Weenie and a turtle called Skiperdee — Eloise spends her days living out the innermost parts of her wild imagination to the constant consternation of her nanny. 


Searching for the Remains of Federico García Lorca

By Audrey Golden. Oct 4, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, History

There’s an ongoing campaign in Spain to locate mass graves of victims who were executed during the early days of the Spanish Civil War and through the decades of the fascist Francisco Franco’s dictatorship in the country. With 15,000 euro, archaeologists have identified regions in which bodies may have been buried. One of those bodies is likely the remains of the playwright and poet Federico García Lorca.


Strangely Familiar: The Invisible Influence of Thomas Wolfe

By Brian Hoey. Oct 3, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Thomas Clayton Wolfe’s writing is slightly obscure, and bad luck is at least somewhat to blame. While many writers drift in and out of the canon, only a few find themselves supplanted by more popular authors with the same name. Indeed, the Tom Wolfe who penned Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) may have, by dint of sheer SEO, made the resurgence of North Carolina native and early 20th century modernist maestro Thomas Wolfe a little slow in coming. But is it finally the original Thomas Wolfe's time?


Libraries and Special Collections: The Tolkien Archive at Marquette University

J. R. R. Tolkien was raised in South Africa, fought in World War I, lived most of his life in England, and taught for a long time at Oxford University. So it may surprise you to know that a great portion of his original manuscripts and papers can be found at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It seems an unlikely location for such precious documents – how on Earth did they find their way to Wisconsin?


Are You Ready for the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair?

By Andrea Koczela. Oct 1, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book News

If you are near Seattle next weekend (October 10th-11th), we would like to invite you to the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair! Sign up here for your complimentary tickets, and then join us to experience some remarkable books.


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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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