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Where Eternity Clips Time: The Transcendentalism of Annie Dillard

By Brian Hoey. Apr 30, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

When one reads Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854)which finds Thoreau hosting frequent visitors in a cabin beside a tourist-infested lakeit’s easy to imagine that the author might not be well-suited to real, honest-to-goodness solitude. When one reads Annie Dillard, by contrast, it’s hard to imagine her enjoying anything but solitude. While Dillardwho gained significant acclaim as a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction pursuant to the publication of such works as The Writing Life (1989) and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)essentially reprises Thoreau’s mission of transcendent solitude in nature with the latter book of nonfiction, her unique and fiery prose imbues all that she sees with fleeting snatches of the divine. This ability has gained her a surprising epithet (‘One of the foremost horror writers of the 20th century’) and, less surprisingly, a devoted readership.


5 Contemporary Poets You Should Be Reading Right Now

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

Topics: Poetry, Pulitzer Prize, Literature

“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry...Is there any other way?”

That’s Emily Dickinson in the late 1870s talking about how she defines that inexplicable moment when a poem moves youwhen a piece of poetry elicits an emotional, non-rational, sometimes transcendent response as you subconsciously identify with an image, a moment, a phrase, a scene. It’s an experience that’s often difficult to intellectualize and describe, and sadly, one that many casual readers can’t easily access as poetry is pushed more and more to the fringes of contemporary publishing, relegating it to near niche status.


Revisiting the Good (and Bad) Aspects of Go Set a Watchman's Release

In February, the New York Post discovered Harper Lee had been keeping a Manhattan apartment for ten years. She renewed the lease on the enviable, $900-per-month Upper East Side dwelling just a few months prior to her death. Her neighbors remembered her fondly, noting her love of Sunday crosswords. The local butcher too recalled her kind requests for select cuts of meat. Lee had not visited the apartment since her stroke in 2007, but it is remarkable how this secret had been preserved until the very end. Especially when one considers the public appetite for all things Harper Lee.


The Legacy of Ludwig Bemelmans

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

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Children's Books

For many small children outside of Europe, their first ideas of Paris come from a children's book, and for them, the heart of the city is a vine-covered old house full of little girls in yellow dresses, the smallest and most important being Madeline. The man behind the first seven Madeline books (the series has since been picked up by his grandson) was Ludwig Bemelmans. Though he published over forty-six books in his lifetime and posthumously, it is for Madeline that he is most fondly remembered.


The Bond Dossier: Casino Royale

By Nick Ostdick. Apr 26, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond

When Ian Fleming retreated to his Jamaican home nicknamed Goldeneye to decompress just prior to his wedding, nobodyincluding Fleming himselfhad any idea this brief holiday in the sun would be the beginning of one of the most beloved spy novel and movie franchises the world over.

While not quite a larkFleming had discussed with friends his desire to someday write a spy novel based in some sense on his own experiences as an intelligence officer during World War IIFleming’s ascension from unknown, aspiring author to the heights of the spy novel genre seems almost as fanciful and outlandish as the exploits of his protagonist, British spy James Bond.


Top Five Poets Who Wrote for Children

By Abigail Wheetley. Apr 25, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Children's Books

Writing poetry and writing for children have something very important in common: both endeavors are much more difficult than they look. The brief form, the broad appeal, and the creation of language that is as pleasing to the ear of a child as it is to the ear of a publisher: these are the challenges of the poet who writes for the young and the young at heart. This is a list of those who have made the effort and come forth triumphant and, perhaps, who also inspired future poets and writers.


Six Cool Facts About the Library of Congress

By Abigail Wheetley. Apr 24, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections, History

We all know that it’s big, important, and crucial to our culture. After that, the details get vague. The truth is that the Library of Congress has a fascinating history, as well as a pretty cool present, and we’d like you to be as informed about the library as those that use it are about the world we live in. Read on to find out how the Library of Congress became the library of the people, and how it literally rose from the ashes and became an institutional gem in our nation’s history.


Could William Shakespeare Have Been Catholic?

By Leah Dobrinska. Apr 23, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Book News

The answer to our title question today is, yes. He could have been. Do we know for certain? No, of course not. However, that will not stop us from using the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, as well as the celebration of the 400th anniversary of his death, to dive into some of the speculation surrounding the Bard’s religion. Numerous researches and scholars have put forth arguments for why they believe Shakespeare was Catholic. Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting evidence (with conclusions of our own as to why any of this matters).


Writing the PNW: A Literary Tour of the Pacific Northwest

By Nick Ostdick. Apr 22, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literary travel

You could argue the Pacific Northwest is a region with something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it can be tough country: vast expanses of high desert; rugged, mountainous terrain; rocky coastlines; and unpredictable weather. But then on the other hand, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is home to some of the most concentrated hipster and millennial-driven enclaves in the country. Cities like Portland and Seattle are famous for their artisanal coffee, farmers markets, fine food and beverage, and progressive attitudes toward culture and politics. If great writing is born out of conflict, of competing ideas or worldviews, then it makes perfect sense why the PNW boasts a vibrant and diverse literary tradition.


Visiting the Homes of Mark Twain

By Audrey Golden. Apr 21, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Mark Twain, Literary travel

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or Mark Twain as he’s more commonly known, has become one of the most quintessential nineteenth-century American authors. Given his longstanding popularity, visits to regions of the country that influenced his work have become popular destinations for readers and fans of such novels as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). While some might argue that the whole of the Mississippi River and the many towns surrounding it play an important historical role in Twain’s collected works, there are a handful of sites where the author actually lived (and in some cases wrote) that can be toured.


Edgar Allan Poe: Father of Detective Fiction

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 20, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

American author Edgar Allan Poe is commonly associated with the horror genre. Indeed, poems like “The Raven” and “Annabelle Lee” and stories like The Telltale Heart and The Black Cat lend credence and validity to this association. However, what most don't realize is that Poe is responsible for the modern version of one of the most popular and enduring literary genres: detective fiction. Fans of mysteries and detective stories will recognize the author as the namesake of the prestigious Edgar Award for outstanding mystery novels. 


42: A Literary Celebration of Jackie Robinson Day

By Nick Ostdick. Apr 19, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

It was just six days prior to the start of the 1947 season when baseballand the world and culture in which the sport existswould be forever changed. Jackie Robinson, baseball phenom and the first professional African American to play in the major leagues, was called up from a Brooklyn Dodgers minor league team to start at first base on Opening Day.


Thomas Middleton and British Playwrights

By Andrea Diamond. Apr 18, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Drama

“Let me feel how thy pulses beat.” ―Thomas Middleon, The Changeling

Entertainment is a word that can carry many different meanings. Before the days of Hollywood movies, Broadway musicals, and Netflix accounts, the world was enamored with the stage. Theatres in 16th century England brought tragedy, comedy, and romance to lifecultivated in the minds of brilliant writers, and brought into fruition by passionate actors.


Chaucer's Day Job in the Court of the King

By Matt Reimann. Apr 17, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, History

Even when they’re successful, some writers prefer to keep their day jobs. For example, Wallace Stevens was an executive at a Connecticut insurance company, and he believed that work kept the poetic spirit properly anchored. Goethe worked as an enthusiastic civil servant and administrator long after the smashing success of Young Werther. To this camp also belongs Geoffrey Chaucer, who stayed gainfully employed despite being a prolific poet. Chaucer’s day job, however, was far from the typical cubical-and-office grind. He worked in the court of the King.


The Significance of The Golden Notebook

By Abigail Wheetley. Apr 16, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

Rarely can a work be called “unique” and truly earn that qualifier. The Golden Notebook is that unicorn in literature that is recognized as one of a kind, or as the Oxford Companion to English Literature terms it, "inner space fiction." It's a novel in four parts, (or is it one?) that reflect the narrator’s feelings about communism, and include a novel within a novel, a personal diary, and then the final depiction wherein the previous three become one, glorious, Golden Notebook. Each part is revisited, overlapping with one another, and the whole thing is a reading experience like no other.


Happy Birthday to Nobel Prize Winner Tomas Tranströmer

By Audrey Golden. Apr 15, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

On April 15, 1931, Tomas Gösta Tranströmer was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Although he passed away in March of last year, this Nobel Prize-wining poet’s legacy lives on in the books and broadsides that reflect a style described in his New York Times obituary of “deceptively spare language, crystalline descriptions of natural beauty, and explorations of the mysteries of identity and creativity.” We’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate Tranströmer’s birthday by looking into some of his most famous (and most collectible) works.


The History and Significance of Dictionaries

By Connie Diamond. Apr 14, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Learn About Books

Language is fluid. In fact, the most recent edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary boasts seventeen hundred new entries including "photobomb," "meme," "emoji," and "jegging." Looking back at the history of language, it's interesting to note that Noah Webster, the “Father of the American Dictionary,” came of age during the American Revolution. At that time, words had the power to define our national identity. Later, they had the power to reflect that new identity as it evolved. Webster believed that “Great Britain, whose children we are, and whose language we speak, should no longer be our standard...” and so he set out to create a new standard.


Three Seamus Heaney Poems You Should Know

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

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

In the last 30 or 40 years, it’s become increasingly rare for a poet to achieve the same massive readerships as poets in the early part of the 20th Century. Yet the work of one 20th Century poet at the height of his popularity accounted for nearly 2/3 of all the book sales of living poets, according to the BBC.  

That poet was Seamus Heaney (1939-2013), Irish national treasure and 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature winner whose work has influenced countless poets, writers, critics, and intellectuals worldwide. Born in Northern Ireland, writer Robert Lowell called Heaney “the most important Irish poet since Yeats.” During his long, illustrious career, he received nearly every prestigious literary award or honor in the English speaking world and taught at some of the world’s finest colleges and universities, including Harvard, Oxford, and a host of others.  


Literature of the Civil War

By Matt Reimann. Apr 12, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, American Literature, History

Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Civil War. It began on April 12, 1861 after months of political tension and declarations of secession. It came to a head when the North and South were first brought to conflict at Fort Sumter, a Union base by Charleston, South Carolina. From these fires raged years of bloodshed and war—forming the most harrowing period in the nation’s history. But you probably knew this already.


Collecting Nobel Laureates: Luigi Pirandello and Salvatore Quasimodo

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

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Today, we’d like to continue our efforts to compile collector’s resources for those interested in acquiring the works of Nobel laureates. As we’ve argued before, collecting Nobel Prize in Literature winners makes sense: there is a list to follow; a different person is picked each year from around the world, allowing for an eclectic reach; and the books in your collection will be written by the best-of-the-best. In this case, we keep our focus on past Italian winners. For those who may be interested in collecting the works of Italian Nobel Prize in Literature winners—there have been six Italian authors awarded the prize—we spotlight and present book collecting information on Luigi Pirandello and Salvatore Quasimodo.


Three Writers Who Knew What Was So Great About Gatsby

By Adrienne Rivera. Apr 10, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby gives us one of the most illustrious characters in fiction, Jay Gatsby. Narrated by character Nick Carroway, the novel explores issues of class, decadence, and obsession in the jazz-soaked Roaring Twenties. Since its publication in 1925, The Great Gatsby has sold over twenty-five million copies. It has been adapted into plays, ballets, an opera, a radio show, and seven movies, most notably the 2013 Baz Lurhman film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey MacGuire, and Carey Mulligan. Francis Cugat's iconic blue cover art can be found on t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags. The novel is found on syllabi in high schools and colleges alike and is frequently explored by scholars and academics. The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be the author's greatest contribution to literature, and it is widely believed to be the quintessential Great American Novel.However, when it was first published, The Great Gatsby was a flop.


4 Hans Christian Andersen Stories That Are Way Stranger Than You Think

By Abigail Wheetley. Apr 9, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

Hans Christian Andersen is a strange and fascinating figure who wrote a great many stories for children. His name is synonymous with love, splendor, and the wonderment of childhood. His own childhood was less than perfect, existing in deep poverty as the child of an illiterate washerwoman. He left his first life at 14 to find a new one with a wealthy family. He spun this fortune into a career in the arts, finding his mark with children’s stories in 1835. From there he remained a servant to the child’s ear, and his work has spawned retellings, both comical and romantic, for generations since.


Five Interesting Facts about Barbara Kingsolver

By Brian Hoey. Apr 8, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Bean Trees (1988) and Prodigal Summer (2000), has developed a reputation as one of the most compelling, politically-charged authors of the last 50 years. After a life of activism and travel that included a few childhood years living in the Congo, as well as a significant amount of scientific training, Kingsolver ultimately found much success (and a place on Oprah’s Book Club) with her 1998 novel The Poisonwood Bible, which depicts characters whose lives are impacted by the political strife of the Belgian Congo in the 1960s. Here are some interesting facts about her.  


Donald Barthelme: Postmodern Master

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

Topics: Literature

Donald Barthelme is best known for his surreal and postmodern short fiction and novels which he published from the 196os through the 1980s. His style has been described as concise and humorous and he as a master of irony and form. His father disapproved of the postmodern attitudes Barthelme's works embody to the extent that his novels, The King and The Dead Father, are inspired by their strained relationship. In his lifetime, he published four novels and over one hundred short stories.


3 Rare Editions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

By Nick Ostdick. Apr 6, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Mark Twain

When you hear the phrase ‘great American novel,’ a few titles immediately jump to mind. The Grapes of Wrath. The Great Gatsby. Catcher in the Rye. But long before these classic novels helped redefine what is meant by the ‘great American novel,’ Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn defined the term in such a way that the novel is still regarded today as perhaps one of the most seminal works in the American literary landscape.

First published in the United States in 1885the novel was actually released in December 1884 in the U.K.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn chronicles the title character’s fortunes and friendships in Missouri and neighboring states along the Mississippi River. 


Copper Canyon’s Release of “The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda”

By Audrey Golden. Apr 5, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

The Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda hasn’t been alive—at least in physical form—since September 1973. Yet his work continues to live on, and often in unexpected ways. In June 2014, archivists at the Fundación Pablo Neruda in Santiago, Chile discovered a series of boxes that contained poems written by Neruda and published only in Spanish by Seix Barral. However, in many ways these poems became “lost” to a global audience as they were never translated into English. Thus, the project became known as “The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda.” This month, the book is set to become available to English-language readers everywhere.


Announcing Our 2016 Rare Book School Scholarship Winner!

By Leah Dobrinska. Apr 4, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Libraries & Special Collections

We love rare books. We love librarians. We love Rare Book School. As a result, we’re excited to be able to send one deserving librarian to an RBS course for free. After reading through dozens of noteworthy applications, Books Tell You Why is delighted to announce the winner of our first annual Rare Book School Scholarship: Rosemary K. J. Davis. Read on for more information about Davis’s work, and please join us in congratulating her on her accomplishment.


Book Traces Interview with Professor Andrew Stauffer

There’s an exciting new project at the University of Virginia that highlights the significance of the book as a physical object and the individual histories of library books. At a moment in which the physicality of university libraries (and others across the country) are under threat of depletion due to the looming presence of the electronic text, we couldn’t imagine a more compelling project than Book Traces. It’s a crowd-sourced web project sponsored by NINES at the University of Virginia, and it’s led by Andrew Stauffer, a professor of 19th-century literature at UVA. We had a chance to catch up with Professor Stauffer to ask some questions about the origins, current uses, and futures of Book Traces.


Remembering Imre Kertész (1929-2016)

By Abigail Wheetley. Apr 2, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners, History

On March 31, 2016, author, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust concentration camp survivor Imre Kertész passed away. Today, we pay tribute to him and all that he taught us through his life and work.

To experience the Holocaust before the word was invented, before it had historical context, before it was what it has become in our cultural narrative, when it was just something that was occurring, when the larger questions of humanity were beyond reason and the truth of what was necessary boiled down to moment-to-moment survival...this is the story of the man who won the Noble Prize in Literature in  2002,  Imre Kertész.


Books Tell You Why Acquires Shakespeare-Signed First Folio

By Matt Reimann. Apr 1, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Drama

There is probably no English language book more significant than Shakespeare’s Complete Works. It's impossible to imagine our artistic heritage without this remarkable volume, printed in the first half of the seventeenth century. To this day, Shakespeare remains the most written-about author, and the hardest influence for today's writers to avoid. That is why it is with immense excitement that Books Tell You Why announces its own acquisition of an incredible Shakespeare-signed First Folio.


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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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