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The Loneliness of T.H. White, the Man Who Wrote of Kings

By Abigail Wheetley. May 29, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Literature

T.H. White is the man best known for writing the King Arthur books; the ones about the young boy who pulls a sword from a stone and creates Camelot with his wizard mentor Merlin. These stories are beloved, retold, and have been reinvented as animated films and full scale musicals, even defining the time in America before the assassination of President Kennedy.

Camelot, it seems, is a perfect place, one where there is no trouble, life is easy, and love is pure. White’s life, however, bore no resemblance to such a place, and his battle with alcohol, emotion, and his own natural tendencies influenced his work and led him to live a truly lonely yet remarkable life.

     
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Rachel Carson: Mother of the Environmental Movement

By Brian Hoey. May 27, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science

For those of you who believe that climate change is the most significant threat facing the world right now, Rachel Carson should be your patron saint. A noted nature writer and a marine biologist by trade, Carson helped to usher in the modern environmentalist movement with her 1962 book Silent Spring, an indictment of pesticide overuse that is at once scathing and deeply unsettling to read. More than 50 years after her death, the deeply-held concern over the fate of the planet that she so scorchingly exemplified is a more powerful (and arguably much more urgent) force than ever.

     
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Alexander Pushkin & the Beginning of Russian Literature

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

Topics: Poetry

Russia holds a distinguished place in the vast world of modern literature. Insulated from the larger cultural trends of mainland Europe, it exploded onto the scene in the nineteenth century. It has produced some titanic names—Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov—and a string of others that will endure through the ages. What caused this impressive boom is unclear, but its origin is far easier to trace. Russia, that powerhouse of modern literature, begins with the poet Alexander Pushkin.

     
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Six Surprising Facts About Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry

Ralph Waldo Emerson is a figure that speaks of New Hampshire, poetry, and a deep understanding of the world and nature. A man of great thought, deep contemplation, and vivid humor, Emerson has lived and existed within the canon of great literature for generations. Though he is an iconic figure, there a few interesting facts that might surprise you about the great poet.      
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The Persistent Voice of Mikhail Sholokhov

By Andrea Diamond. May 24, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

“Good things take time” is an old adage that has been issued to almost everyone at one point or another in their lifetime. It flows from the mouths of professors as they warn their students not to wait until the night before to start their 15-page research paper, from coaches of disgruntled beginner athletes, and from parents attempting to convince their child to be more diligent in practicing their piano notes. With the boom of technology and the drive for convenience, it seems being patient grows more difficult with each passing day. Waiting for the Wi-Fi connection at a local coffee shop feels like eternity, and we suffer extreme indignation when the pizza delivery man takes more than 30 minutes to arrive. While the art of efficiency and the drive for productivity is not without its benefits in the world today, it is often best ignored by the creative mind. Good bookslike many things in lifetake time. In the case of Nobel Prize winner Mikhail Sholokhov, it took fourteen years.

     
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Arnold Lobel: The Anatomy of a Fable

By Connie Diamond. May 22, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Literature

The genesis of the fable is unclear, but its legacy is far-reaching. The name "Aesop" is synonymous with fables, although the stories themselves and their corresponding lessons had been handed down for generations before he recorded them several hundred years B.C. They made their first appearance in printed English in 1484. It is safe to say, then, that fables are an integral part of our collective literary and cultural history. Their lessons are universal and timeless. Who among us has not been exhorted to heed the lesson of the Hare and the Tortoise and remember that “slow and steady wins the race,” or to mistrust appearances and beware of “the wolf in sheep’s clothing.” These morals were just one component of the fable formula, and they happened to be the component that Arnold Lobel disliked.

     
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Home On the Range: Five Writers from the American Southwest

By Nick Ostdick. May 21, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literary travel

Deserts. The Mojave. The Sonoran. The Chihuahuan. Vast, barren, dusty landscapes with skies that seem to stretch forever, and towering, jagged rock formations cut from the scorched earth. Cacti. Heat. Sun. In other words, tough country, both in terms of its topography and culture and politics.

Conflict between American settlers and Native American Indians looms large in the history of this place, as does the often tortured relationship its inhabitants experience between calling this region home and striving to get out. But as we’ve seen time and time again with this series, great conflict often breeds great beauty, and writers from the American Southwest are no stranger to conflictboth in terms of the region’s geography and politicsand, as it turns out, the wealth of artistic expression born from it, particularly in the literary arts.

     
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Collecting Books with Woodcuts

Since the eighth century in Japan, woodcuts have been used for printing textiles and paper, and later for creating illustrations in books. According to an article* from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website, “woodcuts are produced by inking a raised surface against which a piece of paper is pressed, either manually or by running it through a press, to create an image on the paper.”

Beginning in the fifteenth century, woodcuts served as illustrations in printed books, and many scholars attribute the first successful black-and-white woodcuts as book illustrations to Albrecht Dürer. By the mid-sixteenth century, woodcuts were replaced largely by engravings as a method for illustrating books. Still, numerous artists and writers have revived this method. If you’re thinking about collecting books with woodcuts, where should you start?

     
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The Bond Dossier: Live and Let Die

By Nick Ostdick. May 18, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book History, James Bond, Dust Jackets

The saying goes that an artist has his or her entire life to create their first major work, but only a few years to finish their second. It’s an adage often used to rationalize a drop-off in quality or ambition between an artist’s first two major pieces, which is an all too common occurrence. But Ian Fleming is perhaps the shining exception to this rule.

Fleming’s second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die, was published April 5, 1954 and was completed just a few months before the release of the debut Bond novel, Casino Royale—in fact, some Bond scholars contend portions of Live and Let Die were actually composed before Casino Royale was written. Live and Let Die defied the expectations of diminishing returns in following up such a massive success with great critical acclaim in both the U.K. and U.S., coupled with brisk sales in Great Britain and throughout Europe.

     
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John Patrick: Workaholic of the Stage and Screen

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

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, American Literature, Drama

One evening, John Patrick revved his chainsaw on the president of a power company’s lawn. The playwright wanted to run an extra power line to his new farm in New York state. Having received nothing but a string of empty promises, Patrick decided to take matters into his own hands. So he threatened to cut down the executive’s elm tree unless his concerns were properly addressed. The playwright knew a little about getting what he wanted—he had a Pulitzer Prize, after all.

     
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Collecting the Legendary L. Frank Baum

By Leah Dobrinska. May 15, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Book Collecting

L. Frank Baum created one of the most enduring settings in all of literature—Oz—not to mention some of our most beloved characters. What’s more, his collected works established a brand of American fairy tale that had never before been seen and has since been the inspiration and influence for countless other writers as well as for children of all ages who are looking to find their place and purpose in the world. L. Frank Baum was a master, and it’s not surprising that his works are some of the most sought-after by book collectors. What follows is a brief discussion of collecting points and ideas for the L. Frank Baum collector.

     
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The Magic of Artemis Fowl and Eoin Colfer

By Adrienne Rivera. May 14, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins, Science Fiction

Author Eoin Colfer, best known for his Artemis Fowl series, was born in Wexford, Ireland in 1965. His parents instilled in him a love of reading at a young age. He developed an interest in writing in elementary school. Inspired by a history lesson, he began writing adventure stories featuring vikings. Colfer studied education at the University of Dublin and followed in his parents' footsteps to become a school teacher. He spent several years teaching abroad. His first book, Benny and Omar, was inspired by his time in Tunisia and published in 1998.

     
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Happy Limerick Day: A Brief History of the Limerick

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

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry, Literature

On May 12 each year, the international poetry community stops to recognize a quirky, off-kilter poetic form: the limerick. Celebrated on the birthday of English artist, illustrator, and poet Edward Lear (1812-1888), the holiday pays tribute to the five-line, rhyming form and to Lear himself, who helped popularize the form throughout his career.

     
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The Triumphant Artistic Vision of Camilo José Cela

By Abigail Wheetley. May 11, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

There are writers who write for the masses, those who write for fame, and those who write for the sake of art. There are others, like Camilo José Cela, who write with a voice to inform, excite, and evoke true response from others, all while still remaining true to himself. It is this virtue, this quest, that allowed the award-winning author to shape his nation’s literary heritage and earned him a spot in the canon of great writers.

     
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When Rivalry Begets Tragedy: The Astor Place Riot

By Brian Hoey. May 10, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: History, Drama

In the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine a theatrical performance sparking a riot. Even the early twentieth century riots surrounding Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913) seem far-fetched to modern sensibilities. And the rowdiest of modern entertainments (like concerts or football matches) are only likely to produce mosh pits or individual exchanges of fisticuffs at worst. Perhaps that’s why the Shakespearean kerfuffle that sparked the Astor Place Riot stands out so noticeably in the historical record.

     
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Watership Down: An Improvised Classic and Bestseller

By Matt Reimann. May 9, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

Like many great successes, Watership Down began as a sort of accident. Richard Adams was driving his family to a production of Twelfth Night when his daughter asked him to tell a story. Put on the spot, he began with a humble sentence: “Once upon a time there were two rabbits, called eh, let me see, Hazel and Fiver, and I'm going to tell you about some of their adventures.” Soon enough, the invention of an entire world would follow.

     
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Great Books for Mother's Day

By Matt Reimann. May 8, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Book Gift Ideas

On Mother’s Day, we pay a most humble tribute to our moms. For many of us, the love and care we receive from our mothers has no equal. If it were treated as a debt, we know a lifespan, let alone a day, would not provide nearly enough time to settle it. Luckily, it is no bill to be paid off. It is a ceremony of appreciation and tribute. And what better way to enrich this day than with some books?

Perhaps you’re looking for a last-minute Mother’s Day gift. Perhaps you are a mother yourself looking for a timely read. Whatever the case, see the book ideas below for inspiration.

     
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Five Little Known Facts About Robert Browning

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

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry

Renowned English poet Robert Browning was born in 1812 in the London suburb of Camberwell. Finding school irritating and uninteresting, Browning left formal institutional learning behind and was educated at home by a tutor. He also utilized his father's six thousand volume personal library. By the time he was twelve, he had written his first volume of poetry, though the manuscript does not survive.

The course of Browning's writing career is an interesting one. Initially, his poems and dramatic monologues were well received; Charles Dickens even offered him praise for his monologue, Paracelsus. But, as he continued writing and honing his style, many readers and critics believed his poems were too obscure in reference and illusion. It was not until his collection Men and Women (1855) that he began to see a more positive response to his work. In 1868, he published his long poem comprised of dramatic monologues, The Ring and the Book. This book was critically acclaimed and ushered in a new era of respect and commercial success for Browning. He died in 1889 and is buried in Westminster Abbey in Poet's Corner, near Alfred Lord Tennyson. Here are five interesting facts you might now know about this influential poet.

     
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The Enduring Relevance of The Grapes of Wrath

By Brian Hoey. May 6, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Pulitzer Prize, Nobel Prize Winners

Since its publication in 1939, John Steinbeck’s magnum opus The Grapes of Wrath has been one of the most read, most studied, and most talked about works of American literature. The novel earned Steinbeck a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize in addition to being cited by the committee that awarded him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Indeed, Steinbeck’s depiction of the Joad family’s journey across Dust Bowl era America has been adapted for both stage and screen, in addition to being marked indelibly into the American imagination, finding new relevance with each passing generation.

     
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Five Mexican Authors You Should Read on Cinco de Mayo

By Adrienne Rivera. May 5, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Contrary to common American belief, Cinco de Mayo is not, in fact, Mexican Independence Day, which is actually September 16. Rather, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating the Mexican Army's victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla. The battle was fought in 1862 in response to Napoleon III invading Mexico in an effort to claim debts owed and establish an empire in Latin America. While this victory itself did not win the war, it boosted the army's morale and proved to Mexican citizens that their country stood a chance against the greatest army in the world.

Today it has come to be a celebration of Mexican culture all around the world, with events held in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and more. This year, try celebrating by reading a few of these Mexican authors. They bring an important perspective to the landscape of both Mexican literature and world literature as a whole.

     
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Quo Vadis & Beyond: Henryk Sienkiewicz's Notable Works

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

Topics: Book Collecting, Nobel Prize Winners

Polish-born author Henryk Sienkiewicz made a name for himself in his homeland as a journalist and novelist. His influence was great, and his writing was highly esteemed, and in 1905, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Sienkiewicz was the major literary figure in turn-of-the-century Poland. Still, having peaked in popularity and winning the Prize over a century ago, one may assume that much of Sienkiewicz’s work has faded into history, but the contrary remains true. Thanks to numerous quality translations, movie adaptations, and Sienkiewicz’s own ability to write compelling pieces, a number of his works are still quite popular. For those interested in reading or collecting Sienkiewicz, here’s a look at a few of his most notable publications.

     
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Collecting the Complicated Classics of Caribbean Literature

By Audrey Golden. May 3, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Book Collecting, Literature

Maybe you visited the Bahamas on a recent vacation. Or perhaps you’ve enrolled in a postcolonial literature course. Whatever the reason, we’re excited anytime readers want to begin collecting the complicated classics of Caribbean literature. Why are the classics complicated, you ask? In short, the Caribbean is a fluid region that has been shaped by many different cultural practices from various regions of the globe. Given that the islands in this part of the world have been subject to colonization by numerous European nations while also playing a key geographic role in the transatlantic slave trade, the layers of Caribbean literary history are deeply entwined in histories of imperialism and violence. Where should you begin if you want to start a collection of literature from this region? We’ll suggest a couple writers and titles to get you started.

     
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Władysław Reymont's Unlikely Journey to the Nobel Prize

By Matt Reimann. May 2, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

Before he won the Nobel Prize in 1924, Władysław Reymont lived like a vagabond. Trained to be a tailor, Reymont never worked a day in his trade. Instead, he preferred the company of traveling performers and dreamed of making it in show business. Life on stage took its toll, however, and Reymont returned home penniless and took up jobs he little enjoyed. He kept at his doomed theatrical dreams for a bit longer, that is, before he left them behind to become one of the greatest writers Poland has ever known.

     
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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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