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The Best of 2015: Our 10 Most Popular Blog Posts

By Andrea Koczela. Dec 31, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature

It is hard to believe that 2015 is drawing to a close. What a great year! The staff at Books Tell You Why would like to take a moment to thank all of you: the loyal readers who followed our work throughout the year. Your interest and enthusiasm are a constant reminder of why we do what we do.

Before beginning festivities tonight and moving on to 2016 tomorrow, we thought we'd take a moment to revisit our ten most popular blog posts from 2015. Care to join us?


Five Rare Rudyard Kipling Editions

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

Topics: Rare Books, Nobel Prize Winners

With dozens of major works to his name, Rudyard Kipling was one of the most prolific writers of his time and a stalwart in the British literary landscape. Kipling was a master storyteller whose books transcended genre and audience, and his impact on the modern short story, children’s books, poetry, and long-form narratives like the novel still resonates with writers today.


Five Beautiful Books by Nawakum Press

By Matt Reimann. Dec 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Fine Press, Book Making

Despite what critics and pundits have been warning for years, people like paper. Ebook sales have become stagnant. Everybody, even the college-aged, prefer to read tangible books. Print culture, for the moment, seems to be doing quite well. This environment has been of a particular benefit to one section of the publishing industry, one which has flourished in recent years. In a world of screens and immediate gratification, people are growing more and more attracted to books made by hand. One of the most impressive successes to emerge from this fine press revolution is the Santa Rosa-based Nawakum Press.


Borges, Puig, Cortazar: Where to Start with Argentine Literature

By Brian Hoey. Dec 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read. - Jorge Luis Borges

Argentina is country so literary that its name is said to be derived from a Latin poem, and it has had a vibrant literary culture since the first co-mingling of Spanish culture with native oral traditions more than four hundred years ago. So, where is a person to start on the task of unraveling a complex literary culture?


Politics and Children's Literature

By Audrey Golden. Dec 27, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Awarded Books, Literature

How might we introduce children to important issues of politics in literature? While such a premise might seem unlikely, a number of children's books have depicted geopolitical violence at various moments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, suggesting that illustrated books perhaps contain more power within their pages than many of us would anticipate. From Linda Sue Park’s historical book about 12th-century Korea to Thanhha Lai’s illustrated poems of exile from Vietnam, children’s books have a lot to teach us and the children in each of our lives. 


A Brief History of Banned Books in America

By Matt Reimann. Dec 26, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, History, Modern First Editions

Books encourage people to ask questions. They equip people to understand lives different from their own. They encourage people to seek the truth, to reject what is false and convenient. It is no surprise reading is a powerful thing. For this reason, paranoid governments have always been suspicious of what people might be learning from between the covers of a book. Men might become corrupted. Women might become unchaste. So censors have defamed and condemned them, burned them and banned them—but there will always be people who believe books to be worth fighting for.


Five Little-Known Facts About Queen of Suspense, Mary Higgins Clark

By Adrienne Rivera. Dec 24, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Mystery, Suspense & Crime

Mary Higgins Clark's name is now synonymous with the suspense genre. She's penned 35 suspense novels on her own, and she's worked in collaboration with friends and family on several more. Her books, including favorites like Before I Say Goodbye and He Sees You When You're Sleeping, are bestsellers. In fact, her first suspense novel,  Where Are The Children? (1975) which was also made into a feature film is in its 75th edition. So, we know her by her work, but what are some little-known facts about the reigning Queen of Suspense?      

Welcome to Beantown: A Literary Tour of Boston

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

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Literary travel

The City on a Hill. The Cradle of Liberty. Beantown.

No matter how you refer to it, there’s no doubting Boston’s place in the landscape of American culture and history. A city defined by its revolutionary spirit, ferocious attachment to its sports teams, and stock of hearty, stiff-lipped citizens, Boston has also served as a launching pad and home for some of the world’s finest literary minds.


The First Day of Winter: Five Frosty Reads for a Celebration of Snow

By Connie Diamond. Dec 22, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Literature

Snow. Day.  Are there two words in the English language that, when strung together, elicit more joy in the heart of a child? Back in the day, news of a snow day was carried over a staticky radio. Hopeful kids listened for their school’s name in the cancellation list while tucked in bed or sitting in a warm kitchen that smelled of toast and freshly brewed coffee. When it made its alphabetical appearance, a typically quiet and sleepy morning house would be transformed into a household filled with excitement as children threw off their blankets and threw on their winter coats and mittens. Here are a few books that capture the miracle of snow and the magic of a day spent celebrating it.


Three Victorian Ghost Stories for a Spooky Christmas

By Nick Ostdick. Dec 21, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Christmas Books

Imagine Christmas Eve: Snow sifts down from the night sky, the fireplace glows red and crackles with warmth, and a stately looking family gathers in the living room with food and drink to regale each other with tales of the undead coming to life and psychologically taunting characters until they are driven to madness from fear. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night? Yes indeed. Sweet dreams, little ones.

For as odd as this scene might sound, the telling of ghost stories on the night before Christmas was and is a common tradition in England and throughout much of Europe.


How Do Famous Authors Get Their Start?

By Matt Reimann. Dec 20, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens

There’s no clear-cut way to become a writer. A writer’s start, however, is almost always a small one. It takes a considerable amount of time to cultivate the talent that will amass attention, better pay, praise and prestige. That is, if those are the kind of things you’re into. But the road to artistic glory is necessarily a humble one. Few blossoming writers are in a position to turn down opportunities that pay and reach readers. And many times, a writer will settle for just the latter. In the end, these less glamorous ventures and gigs can prove essential to both the professional and artistic growth of the author. Let's explore how the following famous authors got their start.


Announcing a New Scholarship for Rare Book School

By Andrea Koczela. Dec 19, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections, Book News

Here at Books Tell You Why, we're excited to announce a new scholarship for Rare Book School! Beginning in 2016, we will send one winner per year to a RBS course of his or her choosing. 


Hector Hugh Munro: The Strange Ideology of Saki

By Matt Reimann. Dec 18, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Modern First Editions

Saki was the pseudonym of short story writer Hector Hugh Munro. He adopted the name in 1900, and it's believed to have been taken from a character from the works of the Persian poet, Omar Khayyam. Most famous for his short stories, Saki also wrote novels and many articles of journalism. He remains an important figure in the tradition of modern English writers, although his politics and ideas may seem somewhat distant to us today.


More Than Just A Beer in the Glass: An Interview with Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver

By Nick Ostdick. Dec 17, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Interviews

When you think of a brewer, you don’t normally associate him or her with a sparkling literary career. But when you think of a brewer, you may not think of Brooklyn Brewery's brewmaster and author Garrett Oliver either.

For Oliver, beer is something more than a fizzy, alcoholic beverage we pull from the back of the fridge after a hard day at the office, or something we guzzle on Sunday afternoons while watching our team battle it out against a rival opponent. Beer is his life’s work and the subject of numerous essays, articles, and two highly-regarded books on the history and styles of beer, The Brewmaster’s Table, in 2003, as well as the uber-comprehensive, encyclopedic The Oxford Companion to Beer in 2011.


Beatrix Potter: A Pioneer in Self-Publishing

By Adrienne Rivera. Dec 16, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book Making

When one thinks of Beatrix Potter and her literary legacyher delicate illustrations and charming stories that have delighted children and parents alike for over one hundred yearsone does not necessarily think also of writers like E.L. James, John Grisham, or Edgar Allen Poe. But these writers, though they differ greatly in genre and in time, all have something in common with the celebrated naturalist and storyteller. Each of these writers, like Potter herself, began their literary careers by self-publishing. From her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, to Wag-by-Wall, the last of her stories published in her lifetime, Potter owes her considerable success to her own self-publishing efforts.


Edna O'Brien and Her Country Girls

By Nick Ostdick. Dec 15, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Today she’s known as the “doyenne” of Irish literature and a respected elder stateswoman of arts and letters throughout the English speaking world. Her awards are numerous and accolades esteemed, but when Edna O'Brien broke onto the international literary stage in 1960 with the publication of her novel The Country Girls, she was a struggling devotee of James Joyce working as a reader for a London-based publishing house.


Black Sparrow Reissues Charles Reznikoff Works

By Audrey Golden. Dec 14, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature

Are you familiar with the works of Charles Reznikoff? If you haven’t already encountered Reznikoff’s books of poetry, including Testimony (1965) and Holocaust (1975), we’d recommend visiting a bookstore and seeking out these texts as soon as possible. And because Black Sparrow Press recently reissued a number of Reznikoff’s poetry books, it’s easier than ever to obtain one of these books for your personal collection. 


A History of Literary Fraud

By Matt Reimann. Dec 13, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Literature

It’s a writer’s job to play with the truth. We entrust the nonfiction writer with a little license: to render the real with a little flourish that the average eye doesn’t see. And, we trust the fiction writer to show us truth and beauty through a grand fabrication. Despite this understanding, we still hold our writers to delicate standards of integrity. We want engagement and artistry from memoirs and histories, but will not tolerate lies. Nor will we tolerate unoriginality or plagiarism from a writer of fiction. And, as a general rule, we like our books to be written by the person that we’re told they are. Literature, however, is rife with frauds and tricksters who have broken all of these rules—many, many times.


Collecting Nobel Laureates: Thomas Mann & Herta Müller

By Leah Dobrinska. Dec 12, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Collecting Nobel Prize in Literature winners makes sense: there’s a list to follow; a new author is chosen each year from all around the globe, allowing for an eclectic reach; and your collection will be filled with the best of the best. Today, we continue our efforts to spotlight Nobel laureates, and picking up where we left off last time, we’d like to feature two more German winners. Read on for tips and tricks for collecting the works of Thomas Mann and Herta Müller.


The Fantastic Imagination of William Joyce

By Stephen Pappas. Dec 11, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Children's Books

William Joyce is the multi-talented writer, illustrator, and genius behind some of the most beloved and well known children's stories, films, and characters of the past half century. Joyce's imagination has served him well, and his trademark style must be the fantastical ideas he portrays all while pushing boundaries and asking “what if?”.


Emily Dickinson and Three Types of Reclusive Writers

By Brian Hoey. Dec 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature

Henry David Thoreau would no doubt bristle at anyone questioning his credentials as the ultimate writerly recluse. His magnum opus, Walden (1854), presents a grand, philosophical vision of doing without and living a simple, self-reliant existence, far from the comforts of civilization. As Kathryn Schulz’s recent New Yorker article points out, however, the impression of seclusion the heralded poet tries to convey is not entirely accurate. Not only did Thoreau spend less than two years in his cabin on Walden Pond, said cabin could hardly be described as remote. Walden Pond itself was a popular spot for vacationers and picnickers and was thus crawling with people in the summer months. The cabin was a short walk to Thoreau’s mother’s house, which he visited as often as once a week for tea and home cooked snacks. To put it briefly, Emily Dickinson puts this man to shame.


Great Christmas Gift Ideas for Children

By Matt Reimann. Dec 9, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Christmas Books

Stories are to be found everywhere on this narrative-inclined Christmas holiday—in movies, songs, even in its decorations—but nothing endures quite like the stories that were read to us by family. As we age, it becomes our job to pass on that holiday cheer to the younger spirits in our lives. There is a rich selection of children’s literature to choose from, including classics like Eloise at Christmastime, and modern gems like Angela and the Baby Jesus. Here, we explore the many books available for parents and family members wishing to brighten a young child’s holiday.


Illustrations and Woodcuts of Mary Azarian

By Stephen Pappas. Dec 8, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Children's Books

Renowned artist Mary Azarian has been working on woodcuts since the fourth grade. Now, she runs a one-woman woodcutting business, doing all of her own printing, painting, packaging, and distributing. Her woodcuts are inspired by the nature that surrounds her, and she says she's drawn much inspiration from her own life and experiences in the natural world. Azarian has illustrated over 50 books. Her most well known work is in the children's book Snowflake Bentley which won the 1999 Caldecott Medal.


Hanukkah Traditions in Literature

By Andrea Diamond. Dec 7, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

In the Jewish faith tradition, Hanukkah is a beautiful remembrance of the miraculous supply of oil for the rededication of the Jewish Temple, and a victory over the Seleucid Empire. For eight days and nights, the Jewish people celebrate and reflect together with gifts, prayer, and the lighting of the menorah. In Hebrew, the word “Hanukkah” means “dedication.” Through the reflections and perspectives of Jewish authors and characters, we have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what it truly means to be dedicated to one’s faith. Here are a few literary works that embody the spirit of Hanukkah.


The Night Before Christmas: A Pop Culture Rundown

By Nick Ostdick. Dec 6, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Christmas Books

For some, it may be years since they’ve heard it recited. Others, on the other hand, may have never had the chance to hear the classic Christmas tale from start to finish. But this doesn’t mean The Night Before Christmas is in any way a relic of Christmas past—a poetic ghost clinging to some kind of existence in this world rather than passing on to another.

In fact, as families gather together this Christmas season, the references and allusions to this 1823 work may be more prevalent than you think.


How New is New? Tom Wolfe and the New Journalism

By Brian Hoey. Dec 5, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature, Literature

In the 1880s, the term "new journalism" was sometimes used to refer to the new yellow print newspapers that were being popularized at the time. In 1923, Robert E. Park referred to the penny-newspaper trend of the 1830s as the advent of "new journalism." In 1973, Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) author Tom Wolfe edited an anthology containing works by Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and Joan Didion, fashioned as both a collection of admirable pieces of writing and as a sort of manifesto for what Wolfe saw as the a groundbreaking trend in American letters. Its title? The New Journalism. Third time’s the charm.


Best Books from Russia

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

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, History

Since the 19th century, Russian novelists have attained international fame and recognition. Indeed, Russia has produced some of the world's most legendary authors. If you’re traveling to Russia or are thinking about learning more about the country through works of fiction, what should you read? Beginning in the 19th century and moving through to the 21st century, we’ll discuss some of the best books from Russia that you should add to your reading lists.


Is Heart of Darkness Racist?

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

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

During Joseph Conrad’s lifetime, little fuss was made over his 1899 novella Heart of Darkness. Of the three pieces of writing all bound into the single volume in which Heart of Darkness was sold, what would come to be the author’s most famous work received the least critical attention. It was initially passed over in favor of works like Youth: A Narrative (1902) and The End of the Tether (1902) that history has largely left to fester. Over the course of the past century, however, Conrad’s once-obscure work about a young man, Marlow, taking a trip down the Congo River, has become one of the most-assigned and most-discussed pieces in the canon. It remains, today, one of the most ubiquitous items on college course syllabi around the United Sates. And with it comes a varying range of views, critiques, and feelings.


Christmas Gift Ideas for Friends and Family

By Matt Reimann. Dec 1, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Christmas Books, Rare Book Gift Ideas

Charles Dickens understood Christmas. No one knew better than him that this year-end holiday should do but one thing: lift our spirits. It's a celebration to keep us warm and merry in the short days and frigid winds of winter. We are to do this with good food and wine, lights, music, gifts, and company. A crucial element of this palliative recipe was stories, and Dickens both extended and innovated the cultural tradition of Christmas in his own novels and tales. It’s an age-old belief that no one should go through Christmas without a good book, and the gift ideas below will help you make that wish come true for your friends and family.


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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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