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Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama: Spiritual Brothers

By Brian Hoey. Jan 31, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Modern First Editions

In an era where people all over the world are feeling increasingly divided by matters like race and religion, we can take solace in the knowledge that, recently, Pope Francis rated Thomas Merton alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Dorothy Day as his most admired Americans. This after years of certain Catholics in the United States tried to downplay the importance of Merton’s work as a champion of interfaith understanding. Of course, the Pope is not the only Thomas Merton fan who holds a high religious office today. Merton also boasts the regard of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

     
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Read More Poetry: The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Edition

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 28, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, American Literature

As we continue to encourage the world to read more poetry, today, we’d like to highlight one American poet in particular whose work did much to shape the landscape of U.S. thought and history. Indeed, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is remembered for the sincerity with which he wrote. He was firmly entrenched in the American story he was living, and his poetry helped to preserve it for the future.

     
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Reimagining Detroit: The Fiction of Jeffrey Eugenides

By Audrey Golden. Jan 27, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Literature, Literary travel

Since when has Detroit been an important setting for works of fiction? Sure, if you look to cinema, you might be able to name a number of movies set in Detroit that emphasize characteristics of the city, such as Alex Proyas’s The Crow (1994) or Curtis Hanson’s 8 Mile (2002). But in all honesty, Detroit really wasn’t seen by most readers as a productive literary space until Jeffrey Eugenides depicted the city in new and interesting ways for readers. Detroit, it turns out, is more than just Motown when it comes to artistic production. In both The Virgin Suicides (1993) and Middlesex (2002), Eugenides portrays sides of Detroit that are at once full of nostalgia while also being sites of sadness and great change.

     
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Thomas Bewick's Most Noteworthy Engravings

By Brian Hoey. Jan 26, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Book Making

Thomas Bewick, an English naturalist and woodcut engraver working during the 18th and 19th centuries, was by all accounts at the top of his field during his lifetime. He combined tools originally developed for metal engraving and innovative techniques that introduced the gray scale into what was previously a black-and-white medium with tremendous wit and artistic talent. In doing so, he created engravings that still delight audiences today. His devotion to the natural world (birds in particular) as well as his interest in fairy tales led to the creation of images so intricate and detailed that they often had to be examined with a magnifying glass in order for the full effect to be realized. Here’s an overview of some of his most noteworthy engravings.

     
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South African Literature in the Early Days of Apartheid

By Audrey Golden. Jan 25, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

After World War II ended in 1945, the de facto racism that had plagued Black South Africans for decades became institutionalized when the National Party came to power in 1948. The all-white Afrikaner government instituted the system of apartheid, which produced laws that required racial segregation and imposed severe penalties for those who opposed the regime. Through the 1960s, Black South Africans were forced into segregated townships outside the major cities of South Africa, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. For fiction writers and authors of creative nonfiction who sought to speak out against the policies of apartheid, publication possibilities became very limited. In many instances, writers were severely censored, and numerous authors saw their work banned in their home country of South Africa. Yet works of both nonfiction and fiction survive to help depict for us the early years of apartheid and the ways in which the government perpetrated irreparable harms upon many citizens of South Africa.

     
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Edith Wharton's Bygone New York

By Adrienne Rivera. Jan 24, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Awarded Books

Novelist, short story writer, poet, and non-fiction writer Edith Wharton is well known for being the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize. She is also well know for bucking the traditional lifestyle expected of women of her status during her day and age, and for her incredible efforts to help women and children in France during World War I. Amazingly, her prolific literary career did not gain momentum until she was forty years old. However, the wide variety of her publicationsincluding nonfiction relating to travel and interior designinstilled in readers and critics of numerous genres a lasting sense of respect for the writer. For her literary and cultural impact, Wharton was given an honorary degree from Yale University (the only reason she ever bothered to briefly visit after moving to France), and a street in Paris, the Rue Edith Wharton, is named in her honor.

     
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Politics & the Nobel Prize: The Works of Naguib Mahfouz

By Audrey Golden. Jan 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

Who is Naguib Mahfouz, and why should you read his works of fiction? Mahfouz was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1911, and he wrote ten novels within a span of just over a decade. However, the reason that most of us know Mahfouz’s work has to do with a series of works he wrote in the late 1950s which ultimately led to him winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988. In 1957, the “Cairo Trilogy” appeared, which included three texts: Between-the-Palaces, Palace of Longing, and Sugarhouse. According to the Nobel Prize committee, these narratives “made him famous throughout the Arab world as a depictor of traditional urban life.” In the years that followed, Mahfouz’s writing became more political, critiquing systems of governance in Egypt and intimating a deep-rooted need for freedom of expression. By the time he was awarded the Nobel Prize, he had written thirty novels and over one hundred short stories. When we think about Mahfouz today, what should we remember?

     
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Collecting Famous Inaugural Addresses

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 20, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Book Collecting

The presidential inaugural address is the speech that sets the stage for the presidency. It tells the nation what one person thinks he can do to change the course of history. It goes on to be dissected and discussed in an effort to determine presidential plans and motives. With the advent of broadcast media and more recently social media, presidential inaugural addresses are viewed and shared now more than ever. But for the political collector or history buff, a written copy of certain inaugural addresses makes for a fantastic addition to one’s collection. What are some of the most famous inaugural addresses in print? What should you consider when beginning or adding to your collection?

     
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Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature

By Audrey Golden. Jan 19, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Literary travel

Did you know that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has a “Creative Cities Network,” and did you know that only one city in the United States has been honored as a “City of Literature”? In short, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network has seven different fields through which it honors sites and cities across the globe, including for crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, music, and media arts. The only place in the United States that has been recognized for its literary significance is Iowa City, IA, home to the University of Iowa and the famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Want to know more about Iowa City’s literary status? Keep reading, and we’ll discuss the reasons that this place was selected as the sole UNESCO City of Literature in the states. 

     
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Beyond Winnie-the-Pooh: A. A. Milne's Lesser Known Work

By Connie Diamond. Jan 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Children's Books

Those of us who grew up in the shade of the Hundred Acre Wood, or who raised our children there, owe a debt of gratitude to A. A. Milne. That name, or more accurately those initials, are as famous as the charming stories he penned. The four classic books that comprise the original Winnie-The-Pooh set are, of course Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) along with The House at Pooh Corner (1928), When We Were Very Young (1924), and Now We are Six (1927). The same voice that animated the stuffed toys in his son’s nursery room and brought them into most every nursery for generations to come also wrote other works for different audiences and spanning different genres. Here are some of the lesser known, yet wonderful books by A. A. Milne.

     
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Anne's Accent: Imagining the Voice of Anne Brontë

By Adrienne Rivera. Jan 17, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

In today's technological age, if you have an author you enjoy, learning more about him or her is as easy as doing a quick internet search. This search often leads to social media sites where fans can gain insider knowledge of their favorite authors and books. Beyond this direct access, the same simple search can yield dozens of articles and reviews as well as interviews given by the author in text, podcast, and even video form. Today, authors are more accessible than ever, and readers are easily able to satisfy their curiosity about the face and voice behind their favorite books. But what about writers and famous figures who lived before such forms of technology?

     
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Learning More About New Zealand Literary Journals

By Audrey Golden. Jan 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

What kinds of literary journals have been most popular in New Zealand in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? This isn’t a question that most American readers have an answer to, given that many New Zealand literary journals simply are not readily available in the United States (or on the internet, for that matter). Yet New Zealand journals like Cave, Edge, and Landfall have been publishing scholarship, fiction, and poetry for decades, featuring works by famous New Zealand authors as well as award-winning poets and writers from other parts of the world. If you’re interested in learning more about these New Zealand journals, allow us to provide you with an introduction!

     
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A Twentieth Century Literary "It" Couple: Charles and Kathleen Norris

By Andrea Diamond. Jan 13, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

The 1900s was a golden era for literature. Hemmingway, Cummings, and Fitzgerald are just a few of the household names that might have found themselves socializing at the same bar on any given weekend (geographical inconvenience aside). It was a time of artistic exploration and social transitions that would change the course of history and produce works that would be well-loved for years to come. While many of these 20th century writers are easily recalled by anyone who has graced a middle-school English classroom, there are others who softly faded out of memory. Though their names may not be as popular, their works are no less brilliant. Two such writers are husband and wife Kathleen Thompson Norris and Charles Gilman Norris.

     
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Legendary Book Editors: Maxwell Perkins, Gordon Lish, Robert Gottlieb

By Brian Hoey. Jan 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Robert Gottlieb, who famously edited the works of Joseph Heller, John Le Carré, John Cheever, and Toni Morrison (who was herself a literary editor before beginning her career as a novelist at age 39), said of editing books that the often-mysterious task "is simply the application of the common sense of any good reader." In the same Paris Review interview, he cautions against the "glorification of editors,” and says that "the editor's relationship to a book should be an invisible one."

     
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Getting to Know Tomas Tranströmer

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 11, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners

To call him Sweden’s most beloved Renaissance man would be something of an understatement. A world-renowned poet, translator, psychologist, and thinker, Tomas Tranströmer dedicated his life’s work in one way or another to the exploration of who we are and why we’re here. Whether through one of his major literary publications or his psychological work at the prestigious Roxtuna Center for juvenile offenders, Tranströmer strived for a deeper understanding of the human condition and the beauty of the routine, rote moments in everyday life.

     
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Best Books on Finland

By Audrey Golden. Jan 10, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Literary travel

Of the literature from all the Nordic countries, Finland may be the region that English-language readers tend to know the least about. To be sure, most readers in the U.S. have encountered (or at least have heard about) the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle series and Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Even Icelandic Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness gained popularity here in the 1950s and 1960s, with first editions of his 1934 novel Independent People now highly collectible. And don’t get us started on the global fame of Danish fiction writers such as Hans Christian Andersen and Isak Dinesen. But what about writers and novels from Finland? We have a couple of recommendations to get you started.

     
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VLOG: The Art of Etching

By Andrea Diamond. Jan 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators

A picture is worth a thousand words, and it seems there are a thousand ways to make a picture. Pencil drawings, charcoal sketches, digital creations, are just a few ways illustrations come to life in our favorite books. One of the oldest methods of illustration is etching. Etching is a complex art in which images are engraved on a soft metal, then transferred to paper. It is a labor-intensive process, and printmakers take a great deal of pride in their work. Rather than reading a step-by-step account of the process, you can watch these three videos to learn from the masters themselves.

     
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Four of the Best Books from Argentina

By Audrey Golden. Jan 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Literary travel

Are you thinking about traveling to Argentina in the near future? Or perhaps you’re considering a trip to Buenos Aires through literature? Argentina is a socially, culturally, and geographically varied country, with a world-famous wine region, the literary capital city of Buenos Aires, and part of the archipelago known as Tierra del Fuego. In addition to its scenic splendor, the city of Buenos Aires is well-known for the world-famous writers it produced in the twentieth century. From novelists and short-story writers associated with the journal Sur, such as Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jorge Luis Borges, and Silvina Ocampo to expatriate novelists and poets like Julio Cortázar, Argentina produced some of the most significant writers of the last one-hundred years. Here are a couple titles we highly recommend.

     
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Umberto Eco: A Retrospective

By Adrienne Rivera. Jan 5, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Umberto Eco, Movie Tie-Ins

In February of 2016, one of the greatest thinkers and writers of this era died. Indeed, Umberto Eco was a rare and notable writer. Not only did he publish over twenty books of academic nonfiction in the field of semioticsthe study of signs and symbolsbut he also wrote novels that achieved the type of blockbuster success many authors only dream of having. His fictive work married his interest in his academic pursuits with a love of mystery and pop culture that captivated readers, many of which had no clue what semiotics are and were simply drawn to the captivating plots and heroes populating his novels. Both Eco's nonfiction and popular work left an indelible mark, cementing him as one of the most important writers of our time.

     
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The Bond Dossier: The Spy Who Loved Me

By Nick Ostdick. Jan 4, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, James Bond

“The experiment has obviously gone very much awry.” Ian Fleming

This line, taken from a letter James Bond creator and novelist Ian Fleming wrote to his publisher upon the release of his ninth Bond novel, The Spy Who Loved Me, is the perfect encapsulation of when an artist attempts to reinvent his art and fails. Published in 1962, The Spy Who Loved Me is not only thought to be Fleming’s most drastic shift in his portrayal of both Bond and his titular spy’s adventures, but it’s also the most poorly received of Fleming’s Bond novels. So poor was the reception, in fact, that Fleming himself went to great legal lengths to prevent reprints and subsequent editions in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

     
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Collecting J.R.R. Tolkien: His Letters

By Leah Dobrinska. Jan 3, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, J. R. R. Tolkien

Nearly everyone can name titles written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Often considered the father of modern fantasy, it’s no surprise that his works are well-known and well-loved. Whether fans have read his books or watched the film adaptations, Tolkien’s Middle Earth and its inhabitants have infiltrated 20th and 21st century culture to an astounding degree. For collectors of the great British author, information and works about his own life may prove to be both satisfying and necessary additions to a Tolkien Library. Where should you begin if you’re looking to add to the books in your collection? It makes sense to start with his letters. Tolkien wrote a vast number of letters. Fortunately for collectors, a compilation was put together by biographer Humphrey Carpenter.

     
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About this blog

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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