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Zane Grey: Father of the Western Genre

By Adrienne Rivera. Jan 31, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, History

Throughout his extremely prolific career, Zane Grey wrote nearly 100 booksincluding over 50 Westernsbaseball stories, books on hunting, young adult books, autobiographies, books on fishing, and a handful of books set in Australia. Grey is widely acknowledged as one of the fathers of the Western genre. His seminal work, Riders of the Purple Sage, is considered the best example of what the Western genre has to offer: a sweeping plot and detailed descriptions of the character of both the people and landscape of the American frontier. In effect, Zane Grey created the vision of pop culture's American West.


Richard Brautigan and a One-Man Counter Culture

By Matt Reimann. Jan 30, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Modern First Editions

Counter culture is an interesting phenomenon. Many may be dissatisfied with the current state of things, but this doesn’t mean they agree in their response. In the 1960s, some executed their discontent by protesting on campuses, while others departed from society at large to join communes. We tend to remember the groups that emerged during this formative era. But, writer Richard Brautigan created a counter cultural presence all his own.


Draw! Three Famous Literary Duels

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 29, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

Picture this: two feuding men standing back-to-back, pistols at the ready, taking ten paces and then whipping around in the hopes of being the first to unload a bullet into his opponent. Sound familiar? Something straight out of a Western, right? You’ve read about duels in the novels of Zane Grey and Larry McMurtry. You’ve seen them on the big screen in films starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson. You've watched them help define a man's honor and legacy on television in Gunsmoke and Maverick. But what about authors who've actually participated in duels? They are our focus today.


10 Timeless Quotes from Pride and Prejudice (And Why They Still Matter)

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 28, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Today, we celebrate Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, on the anniversary of its publication. How does one do such a book justice? It is nearly impossible. So, we thought we’d let Ms. Austen’s own words do most of the talking. After all, Pride and Prejudice is timeless, and the following quotes—and the lessons they teach us—will continue to inspire, chastise, encourage, and humor readers for generations to come.


Five Important Canadian Writers You Should Know

By Adrienne Rivera. Jan 27, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

Canadian writers have made significant contributions to the landscape of North American letters. Without them, we'd have missed out on some of the most beloved characters of the last century, not to mention on important ideas and perspectives. We think rather highly of our literary neighbors to the north, and today, we spotlight five important Canadian writers you should know.      

A Brief History of Satire

By Matt Reimann. Jan 26, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Mark Twain

Satire is as old as folly. There have always been abuses of power, mad societies, blundering citizens, and flawed customs. And not far behind them, there has often been a clever observer with a pen. Satirists, as these people are called, use the palliative of humor to address the ills and errors of their time. It’s an impulse that’s as old as time, but just what is it for?


Remaining Relevant: Top Ten Victorian Novels

By Connie Diamond. Jan 25, 2016. 11:24 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

The Victorian Era, which corresponds to the reign of Queen Victoria beginning in 1837, gave birth to some of the best loved novels in literary history.  Like most eras, it produced works that both reflected and rebelled against the social mores of the time. Their characters and themes, however, seem to transcend time and place, and present us with stories worth revisiting years, decades, and even centuries later. Here is our list of the top ten Victorian novels.


I'll Have the Haggis: A History of Burns Night

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 25, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

Scots take their celebrations seriously. Food, drink, music, and dance are staples in almost all Scottish shindigs, and these elements of Scottish festivities are on no greater display than in the annual Burns Night gatherings to celebrate the life and work of famed Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

Also referred to as Burns Suppers, Burns Night celebrations have been common across Scotland and Northern Ireland since the first Burns Night commemoration in the early 1800s, not long after Burns' death in 1796. Burns Nights also became increasingly popular in the U.K. and New Zealand during the 19th Century in large part because Burns’ nephew, Thomas Burns, is considered one of New Zealand’s founding fathers.


Famous Manuscripts and the History of Handwriting

By Matt Reimann. Jan 23, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Learn About Books

Although it feels like nearly everything has its own holiday now, it might help to reflect on the subject of January 23, or National Handwriting Day. In the digital age, it is no secret that calligraphy is a dying art. Why work laboriously and imperfectly on something that takes days to cross the country, when the computer will set it in flawless text that can be transmitted instantly?


The Mystery of Mummy Paper

By Abigail Wheetley. Jan 21, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book History, Book Making

Paper. We grab a scrap to jot down a phone number, we see movie posters, exchange greeting cards, hold paper books in our hands. We come in contact with so much paper, it’s hard to keep track, and this is during a so-called “digital age” when we should be immersed in a nearly paperless world. And yet, it continues to be necessary, wanted, and part of the fabric of our routines and desires.

Imagine now, a world in which we need paper even more, for nearly everything. From communication to profit, paper is necessary. It’s basically the internet of the day, and the civilized world finds itself in desperate need and facing a real shortage. Enter: Mummy Paper!


Eight Short Story Writers You Should Be Reading Right Now

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 20, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Literature

Nobody cares about literature anymore. That’s the death-cry heard time and time again about the state of 21st Century reading. Sure, studies and surveys continually show the ways in which today’s average reader experiences literature are changing, from e-readers, smart phones, and tablets, to podcasts and other subscription-based audio book websites and services. 

These advancements are designed to help readers immerse themselves into fictional characters and worlds with more ease and expediency as the pace and rigors of everyday life in today’s society make it more and more difficult to pull-back from reality and allow our imaginations to explore and expand. But even with these time-saving gizmos, a large percentage of the population still cannot dedicate the time and energy to a 200 page novel at the end of a 9 to 5 workday that includes commuting, chores, and family time. The solution? The short story.


Edwidge Danticat's "Other Haiti"

By Andrea Diamond. Jan 19, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Free of heavy snow and sharp winter winds, Haiti is a tropical nation that rests in the Caribbean Sea. Despite it’s picturesque location, life in Haiti in the 1900s was far from a vacation for its inhabitants. Political unrest, poverty, and loss were ever-present themes of daily life, laying a heavy burden on families across the country. Despite the harsh oppressions that taint Haiti’s past, the voice of one woman emerges through the despair and weaves poetry out of a broken history.


Quiz: Which Winnie-the-Pooh Character Are You?

By Andrea Koczela. Jan 18, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Quizzes

Who doesn't love Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood? Whether you're an A. A. Milne purist or a fan of later Disney iterations, the charm of Pooh, Christopher Robin, Piglet, et al. is undeniable. Why not take a moment to enter into their world of honey, heffalumps, and hums? Answer six brief questions to determine which Winnie-the-Pooh character you would be. 


The Story Behind Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography

By Stephen Pappas. Jan 17, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Benjamin Franklin is undoubtedly one of the largest looming figures in American history. His shadow rests on everything from politics to spirituality. And his biography is just as important to American literature as he was to American politics. However, the road to publication was not easy. Fittingly of such an unconventional figure, the story behind Franklin’s autobiography is filled with many twists and turns.


I Love L.A.: Five Writers Who Call Los Angeles Home

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 16, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literary travel

It’s a town well-known for the Silver Screena place where dreamers flock in search of stardom, celebrity, fame, and fortune. But beyond the glitz and glam of Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, and movie studio backlots, the City of Angels possesses a rich, complex literary history that transcends genres, styles, and aesthetics. While perhaps not quite the powerhouse of arts and letters as some of the city’s East Coast rivals, L.A. has been home to some of the most creative, interesting, and influential writers of the last century.


Creative Expression, Controversy, and Classic French Literature

By Abigail Wheetley. Jan 15, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

“It is a stupidity second to none, to busy oneself with the correction of the world.” 
Le Misanthrope, I:1, 1666

Many of the minds and pens of those who have shaped society, discourse, and art hail from France, the birthplace of diplomacy. However, as Molière, born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, and many of his kind discovered, those who take readers outside the status quo with their expression may find themselves paying pipers of all kinds. We celebrate Molière this week, the week of his birth, and observe his contribution and the company he kept in the spirit and tradition of French creativity.


Author Yukio Mishima's Life and Legacy

By Stephen Pappas. Jan 14, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Yukio Mishima holds a prominent place in Japan’s rich literary history. Nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Mishima's works explore ideas of sexuality, death, suicide, politics, Buddhism, Shintoism, atheism, innocence, corruption and aging to name a few. His Confessions of a Mask follows a young boy who realizes he is homosexual, and Mishima uses the boy’s internal monologue to explore what it’s like growing up gay in the conservative military society that was Japan before and during World War II.


Five Things To Know About the Horatio Alger Myth

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 13, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature

If you’re confused after reading the title of this article, odds are you’re not alone. Even the most savvy, in-tune reader might not be able to explain the Horatio Alger Myth or its significance in late 19th Century American literature. And that’s strange given how prevalent the Horatio Alger Myth is and how it managed to permeate modern American storytelling in ways that today ring as cliché, tired, and uninspired.


Finding Winnie and Market Street: The 2016 Caldecott & Newbery Winners

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 12, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Newbery Award, Book News

For their outstanding artistic contributions to children’s literature, authors Lindsay Mattick and Matt de la Peña received the honor of having their books named the 2016 Caldecott Medal and Newbery Medal award winners, respectively, yesterday. Mattick’s Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, and de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson, may on the surface appear diametrically opposed in their aim and ambition, but both books hit on a fundamental truth about why we read, write, tell, and consume stories: the quest for a truth greater than ourselves that gives us a sense of who we are and what we value in our lives.


Past Caldecott and Newbery Winners to Read and Collect Now

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 11, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Caldecott Medal, Children's Books, Newbery Award

Congratulations to the 2016 Caldecott Medal winner, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear illustrated by Sophie Blackall and written by Lindsay Mattick, and to the 2016 Newbery Medal winner, Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson. The Caldecott and Newbery Medals are awarded annually for the best American picture book for children and best contribution to American literature for children, respectively. They are widely considered the most esteemed awards for children's literature in the U.S.

This year’s award presentation got us thinking about the Caldecott and Newbery legacy which stretches back to the early part of the 20th century. With this rich history in mind, we’ve compiled a list of past Caldecott and Newbery winners you should read now and add to your collection—for their relevance, beauty, and the merits of the stories they tell, through words and pictures. Enjoy these oldies but goodies along with the 2016 picks.


Interesting Editions of The Wind in the Willows

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 10, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Children's Books

Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows has long been considered a classic; however, the author initially had a difficult time finding someone to publish the children's novel. Indeed, had it not been for Theodore Roosevelt—who wrote Grahame and said he had read it over and over again—encouraging the Scribner publishing house to give the book a chance, we may not have had the pleasure of acquainting ourselves with Mole, Toad, and company. Instead, The Wind in the Willows is a recognizable title to nearly everyone, and recently a first edition copy of the book owned by the daughter of the man thought to inspire Ratty sold for £32,400. That's over $48,500. Here’s a look at other interesting editions of The Wind and the Willows.


Karel Čapek and the Origin of the Word Robot

By Stephen Pappas. Jan 9, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Science Fiction

Karel Čapek’s Czech play RUR, (Rossum’s Universal Robots) is notable for numerous reasons. Written in 1920, the play's commentary on the politics of its day earned its author a spot on the Nazi most-wanted list. RUR details a robot revolution that would overthrow the dominant class, humans, and lead to their extinction. Above all, the play is most well known for introducing the world to the word, "robot." In fact, before Čapek’s play, what we think of as robots were mainly called "androids" or "automatons," with "automaton" meaning a self-operating machine. In Czech, "robota"translates to "forced labor." It’s associated with the type of work done by serfs during the feudal ages.


William Morris and the Kelmscott Press

By Andrea Diamond. Jan 8, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Fine Press, Book Making

“Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization.” – William Morris

In the late 1700s, the industrial revolution took root and quickly propelled society toward a future of consumerism and commoditization. Although this period in history brought about many positive changes in the lives of working class citizens, the era was not without its shortcomings. Beauty was exchanged for practicality, time was equated to money, and the jobs that once needed the skill of human hands could be replicated by machinery. One example of modernization was the printing industry. Books were being produced more mechanically than ever before, which left the pages filled with words but void of soul. A man named William Morris recognized the loss of an art in modern society, and aimed to counter it.


Renaissance Women: Five Harlem Writers You Should Know

By Adrienne Rivera. Jan 7, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

In the time between the First and Second World Wars there came a great outpouring of art, music, writing, and culture from Harlem. Works of art explored themes such as the cruel realities of institutionalized racism, race riots happening all over the country, the impact of slavery on African culture, Christianity, and the burgeoning urban culture brought on by industrialization in the North. Out of the Harlem Renaissance came artists like Langston Hughes, Rudolph Fisher, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald. The following five women are just some of the writers that made up this amazing time in literary history.


The Big Business of Winnie-the-Pooh

By Matt Reimann. Jan 6, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Modern First Editions

When writers began fighting for copyright protection around two hundred years ago, they were mostly trying to avoid getting ripped off by renegade printers. Sage as they were, not even the best of them could have predicted just how much money could be on the line. It’s unlikely that even A.A. Milne could have fathomed just how valuable his own intellectual property would become, in the forms of Winnie, Eeyore, Piglet, and the gang. Beginning as a children’s poem in the 1920s, Winnie-the-Pooh is now at the center of a merchandising and media empire that totals upwards of $5 billion a year.


Lunatic Science: Umberto Eco's Library

By Brian Hoey. Jan 5, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Umberto Eco, Book Collecting

If the 30,000 volume book collection housed in Umberto Eco’s Milan apartment can be said to inspire one response, it might well be awe. Lila Azam Zanganeh, who interviewed Eco for The Paris Review described Eco’s abode as “a labyrinth of corridors lined with bookcases that reach all the way up to extraordinarily high ceilings," and makes mention of the library as “a legend in and of itself.” Most commonly, when a visitor is first shown the veritable universe of books that expands throughout the author’s home, they can think of only one question: “have you read all of these?”


Notable Speeches: The State of the Union and Nobel Lectures

By Stephen Pappas. Jan 4, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Nobel Prize Winners

As the first president of the United States, George Washington established many precedents for the office. Indeed, he began one of the country's most enduring traditions: the delivery of a State of the Union address. The Constitution required the president to update Congress on the nation’s progress, but didn’t specify how or when. It was Washington who decided those particulars. The State of the Union remains one of the major speeches of the year, both nationally and internationally. The annual Nobel lectures are also notable on a global scale. Today, we present a sample of noteworthy public speaking moments ranging from United States presidents to Nobel laureates.      

Six Spot-On Predictions About the Future From Isaac Asimov

By Adrienne Rivera. Jan 2, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins, Science Fiction

The name Isaac Asimov is practically synonymous with science fiction. Throughout the course of his extraordinarily prolific career, the Boston University-based biochemist wrote and edited hundreds of novels and short story collections as well as an innumerable amount of letters. With such a background as hisand his finger on the pulse of so many scientific ideas in his dayit makes sense that Asimov would be a thought-leader. But how close did he come to predicting some of our modern day staples? It's almost unbelievable.


Collecting Nobel Laureates: Hermann Hesse and Nelly Sachs

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 1, 2016. 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 (again, congratulations to the 2015 winner from Belarus, Svetlana Alexievich!); and your collection will be filled with the best of the best. We’ve recently been spotlighting Nobel laureates from Germany, and today, we’d like to continue by providing some collecting tips for Hermann Hesse and Nelly Sachs.


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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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