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Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

By Connie Diamond. Jul 31, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Children's Books

In Chapter Four of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (known to many American readers as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), the gentle giant, Hagrid—keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts—presents Harry with a “large, sticky chocolate cake” for his eleventh birthday. Twenty years have passed since that first book in the Harry Potter series was published. We’ve all celebrated lots of birthdays since then. We’ve all grown—some of us “up” and some of us “old.” And in that time, the beloved character, Harry, has grown as well. 

     
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Man Booker Prize Winners from India

By Audrey Golden. Jul 29, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Awarded Books, Literature

The Man Booker Prize, designed “to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom,” has been awarded annually since 1969. The prize isn’t awarded to an author, but rather to a specific work of fiction. Each year, a group of judges is selected from a wide range of professions and disciplines, and previous judges have included “poets, politicians, journalists, broadcasters, and actors,” according to the Man Booker Prize website. Since its inception, the prize has been awarded to numerous writers from India or of Indian descent.

     
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The Art and Scandal of the Shelleys' Romance

By Matt Reimann. Jul 28, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Horror, Legendary Authors

In 1814, a relationship that would one day produce immortal art was only producing a scandal. The journey to some of the 19th century’s best Romantic poetry and the gothic genius of Frankenstein was going to be, in hindsight, a bumpy one. It was a relationship so taboo that it began in secret, and had to be nurtured in exile.

     
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Light Verse and Strong Opinions: A Hilaire Belloc Reading Guide

By Brian Hoey. Jul 27, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Children's Books

“When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.” –Hilaire Belloc

Hilaire Belloc stands as one of the most controversial men in Anglophone letters. While the French-born poet, essayist, historian, and one-time Minister of Parliament boasted more fame and influence than almost any other Edwardian writers, he was, as George Bernard Shaw described him, a champion of lost causes (for what it’s worth, Shaw also referred to Belloc and his frequent collaborator G.K. Chesterton, collectively as “the Chesterbelloc”). As such, his critical and historical writings take the form of bellicose Catholic apologism and radical distributist political tracts. On the other hand, W.H Auden was a huge fan of his poetry, remarking, "as a writer of Light Verse, (Belloc) has few equals and no superiors." He is undoubtedly a writer who contains multitudes, and as such his corpus is huge and varied.

     
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Picture This: Illustrations in Rare Book Collecting

By Nick Ostdick. Jul 26, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” It’s a tired cliche, but when it comes to collecting rare or vintage books, there is perhaps no truer sentiment. Illustrations in rare book collecting, while not necessarily the first element that jumps to mind for a would-be collector, can be a significant driver in terms of the value and rarity of a given volume. Because illustrations have long been a part of literature in a variety of forms—everything from supplementing a narrative to depicting important scenes to enhancing the overall texture or theme of a story—illustrations are a critical element in helping experts place value on certain volumes within a given canon, but also making a determination regarding a book’s place in the rare book landscape.

     
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Authors Who Went to Jail

By Matt Reimann. Jul 25, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

As a whole, writers are no different from the rest of humanity. This applies as much to a propensity for crime. Traditionally, writers have been imprisoned for two vices popular to their casteespousing radical politics and not paying creditors. That’s not to say there haven’t been authors who went to jail for more prosaic crimes, like embezzling (O. Henry) and armed robbery (Chester Himes), for example. A few of them have also written their finest books in jail.

     
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Best Books from Iran

By Audrey Golden. Jul 22, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

During various periods of repression throughout the twentieth century, Iranian writers haven’t been read as widely as they should have been. Certainly, Iranian novelists and poets are not the first to be subjected to the heavy hand of censorship from a tyrannical government. However, since the Iranian Revolution, prejudices and other forms of sociocultural censorship have excluded, in various ways, significant works of Iranian literature. While we can’t list all of the best books from Iran, we have a handful for you to explore.

     
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The Bond Dossier: License Renewed

By Nick Ostdick. Jul 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond

More than a decade. That’s how much time elapsed between adventures of the world’s most famous superspy, James Bond. Following the publication of the first post-Ian Fleming 007 novel, Colonel Sun in 1968, the Bond series went into hiatus for roughly 13 years before Glidrose Publications (now named Ian Fleming Publications) approached noted British spy and literary thriller writer John Gardner to revive the series in the late 1970s.

After several years of negotiations, Gardner agreed to take up the 007 mantle and relaunched the 007 series with the 1981 publication of License Renewed, an aggressive reboot and branding of the series that thrust Bond into a new era. With new themes, tropes, villains, and geopolitical concerns, Gardner’s foray into the James Bond world beginning with License Renewed brought new life into the 007 series at a time when many fans believed the novelizations to be a relic of the past.

     
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Read More Poetry: The Richard Wilbur Edition

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

Topics: Poetry

If you’re interested in twentieth-century poetry, Richard Wilbur should be on your reading list. Born in New York City, Wilbur became the second United States Poet Laureate in 1987. His poems draw on a number of life experiences—including his time of service during World War II. When he took his post as Poet Laureate, Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin described him as “a poet for all of us, whose elegant words brim with wit and paradox.”

     
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Where Writing and Politics Collide: Authors as Activists

By Adrienne Rivera. Jul 19, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature

Writing has always existed as a means to explore the realities of the world, to illuminate both the good and the bad. As long as people have been writing, they have been writing about the world around them, and in many ways, the relationship between art and politicswriting and politics, to be specificis inexorable. Aristotle wrote his Politics in the 4th century. Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal, his satire on the Irish potato famine, in 1729. Anna Laetitia Barbauld wrote her critiques of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars not long after. There is a long history of writers using their voices to draw attention to the most important issues of their time. Here are some writers who meld writing with activism and advocacy to great and enduring effect.

     
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Nelson Mandela's Literary Influence

By Brian Hoey. Jul 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

The enormity of Nelson Mandela’s influence on the world is undeniable. He fought for years against apartheid in South Africa, suffering a long imprisonment and a constant stream of indignities en route to dismantling the South African National Party’s legally codified racism, becoming the first black president of South Africa, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Given the number of lives he touched in carrying out his work, it should come as little surprise that his influence has extended beyond politics and human rights to the world of literature.

     
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How MacGyver Can Help Us Understand Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction

By Brian Hoey. Jul 15, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Deconstructionism is one of the most significant intellectual movements of the 20th century, having helped to usher the post-structuralist era and having had wide implications for the study of history, literature, and philosophy. As a method for criticism, it has been practiced by Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller, but the term and technique were both originally coined by Jacques Derrida in his seminal work Of Grammatology (1967). For all of its influence on the intellectual landscape of the 20th and 21st centuries, however, it can be a difficult concept to describe or understand. For starters, however, Derrida’s version of what deconstruction means is simple: everyone is basically just MacGyver.   

     
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A Brief History of the Thriller Genre

Thrillers are characterized by suspensea feeling of pleasurable fascination and excitement over what is to come next, mixed in with apprehension, anticipation, and sometimes even, fear. These feelings develop throughout a narrative from unpredictable events that make the reader or viewer think about the consequences of certain characters’ actions. The suspenseful feelings build towards a climax that is sure to be memorable.

With suspense and crime, with conspiracies and revenge, the thriller genre has been keeping audiences on their toes with tension and excitement for centuries. When it comes to thrillers, many think of Alfred Hitchcock and his movies, like Psycho (1960) and Frenzy (1972), that contain storylines of embezzlement, murder, wrong accusations, and more. However, the thriller genre began much before these movies ever hit the big screen. Let's take a look at a brief history of the thriller genre.

     
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Visiting Czesław Miłosz’s Home in Kraków

By Audrey Golden. Jul 13, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners, Literary travel

Given that Kraków, Poland is a UNESCO City of Literature, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kraków is where the Nobel Prize-winning poet Czesław Miłosz (pronounced CHESS-wahf MEE-wosh) made his home until his death in 2004. Indeed, in addition to national presses, there are numerous independent book publishers located throughout Kraków, and there are nearly 80 bookstores throughout the city. Moreover, the city hosts international books fairs and literary festivals on an annual basis, including the Miłosz Festival, which honors the late poet and brings literary guests to the city every June. If you’re hoping to visit Miłosz’s home, you won’t find a museum space like those dedicated to many other writers in cities across the world. However, you can still stand outside the apartment building where the Nobel Prize winner lived, and you can experience the city of Kraków largely as Miłosz would have seen it in the final years of his life.

     
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A Guide to the Eloise Books

By Matt Reimann. Jul 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Children's Books

In 1955, writer Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight published Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown-ups. Interestingly, as the original title suggests, the Eloise books were first marketed to adultsperhaps it was an early sign that they would be a hit with children, as well.  In 1969, the title changed simply to Eloise, leaving out the “grown-ups” part, but the spirit of Eloise as a both mature and juvenile girl was already set. Ever since, she has been the rare sort of character that grows with the reader, coming to mean different things in all stages of life.

     
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Mixed Reviews of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

By Andrea Diamond. Jul 11, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

Maycomb County is a small, unassuming town, nestled in the state of Alabama. Many of us have been there (I myself have visited several times throughout the years) to check in on the beloved Finch family. When Harper Lee’s fictional southern story, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, the reception was quite positive. Readers and critics alike praised Lee’s eclectic characters and important life lessons. Let's take a look at some of these positive reviews while also addressing the later change in tune regarding this seminal work.

     
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Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Poland

By Audrey Golden. Jul 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literary travel

Will you be traveling to Poland anytime soon? There’s no better country in Eastern Europe to seek out rare and antiquarian books, and in fact, we’re pretty well convinced that Kraków and Warsaw contain some of our favorite rare bookshops in the world.

     
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Politics Aside: Robert Heinlein's Long Transformation

By Matt Reimann. Jul 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science Fiction

Robert Heinlein left behind a body of work with a bewildering diversity of imaginings and ideas. It would be difficult to reconcile the free love, communal interests of the novel Stranger in a Strange Land, with say, the martial authoritarianism of Starship Troopers, or the anarchic libertarianism of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Indeed, doing so would be impossible. And there is little doubt this has much to do with why his readers appreciate his writing so much.

     
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Getting to Know Nobel Laureate Verner von Heidenstam

By Leah Dobrinska. Jul 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

The Nobel committee is known for its “prize motivation” citations when it awards its coveted Prizes each year. We hear these short snippets in articles and press releases about each winner, and they serve their purpose well: they are brief snapshots of why the winner won. While Nobel Prize in Literature winners are chosen based on the entire body of their work, in some cases, the committee cites a specific example. For example, in 1954 when Ernest Hemingway won, the committee said it was “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea…” On the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes the prize motivation is much, much more over-arching. Case in point: when Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1916, the Nobel committee said he was awarded “in recognition of his significance as the leading representative of a new era in our literature.” This is certainly high praise, but also quite general. Who was Verner von Heidenstam? What did he write, and how did he lead us into a new era of literature?

     
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Five All-American Reads for Independence Day

Happy 4th of July! Today marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the event that triggered the American Revolution, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. In honor of the festivities, here’s a look at five all-American reads to get you in the mood for some fireworks.

     
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Happy Birthday, Wisława Szymborska!

By Audrey Golden. Jul 2, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

If Wisława Szymborska (pronounced vees-WAH-vah shim-BOR-ska) were still alive today, she would celebrate her 94th birthday on July 2. Symborska passed away in February 2012, but she remains a remarkably prominent poet both in her native Poland as well as in various translations throughout the world. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996, and her work has been translated into dozens of languages. To celebrate her birthday this summer, we thought we’d tell you a little bit more about the poet and introduce you to some of our favorite works.

     
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The Magnetic Charm of George Sand

By Matt Reimann. Jul 1, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies

George Sand knew how to make people talk. Ever since she strutted onto the French literary scene, everyone in Paris turned their eyes toward this charming, strangely dressed woman of veritable artistic talent. She had a two-pronged approach: her conduct would gain the immediate attention of her peers, and her talent would sustain it. Her strategy, buoyed by her robust and wise talent, has been successful to this very day.

     
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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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