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Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

By Adrienne Rivera. Sep 30, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Movie Tie-Ins, Civil War

Louisa May Alcott was born in New England in 1832 to transcendentalist parents. Her early education was comprised of lessons from a host of impressive family friends including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. A love of education and writing was instilled in her at an early age but due to financial struggles, Alcott was forced to pursue a variety of jobs. It was while working to help support her family that she first turned to writing as an escape. She began writing for the Atlantic Monthly, and letters she wrote while working as a nurse during the Civil War were collected and published as Hospital Sketches. She wrote several novels under a pseudonym before penning her most well-known novel, the enduring classic Little Women. But in spite of the success of the novel which brought her acclaim and financial security, the story of the March sisters was not as close to Alcott's heart as one might think.

     
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A Reading Guide to Cervantes

By Leah Dobrinska. Sep 29, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

The first title that comes to mind at the mention of esteemed author Miguel de Cervantes is undoubtedly Don Quixote, and for good reason. But Cervantes is an esteemed author for many reasons, or rather, thanks in large part to the entire body of work he produced. So, if you’ve read Don Quixote, or plan to start your purvey into this legendary author’s canon with that great novel, what should you read of Cervantes’ work next? Let us help.

     
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An Interview with Gary Ackerman, President of the Book Club of Washington

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

Topics: Book Collecting, Interviews

Gary Ackerman is the current President of the Book Club of Washington. A self-proclaimed fan of used bookstores, Gary's collecting interests are varied: his personal collections range from art and architecture to golf to Ludwig Bemelmans. With the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair right around the corner (October 14-15), Gary generously shared his collecting insight and gave us a great look at the Book Club of Washington in the following interview.

     
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Boris Pasternak and the Lost Story of Lara

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

Topics: Literature, Book History, Nobel Prize Winners

Maybe you’ve read Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago or you’ve seen the film of the same name from 1965, directed by David Lean and starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. Or perhaps you’re familiar with “Lara’s Theme,” the song from the movie. At any rate, we bet you’re at least a little bit familiar with the love affair between the fictional characters of Yuri and Lara. A new book by Anna Pasternak, the granddaughter of Boris’s sister Josephine, reveals details of the love affair between Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya, which served as the inspiration for the novel. The book is entitled Lara: the Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago. It was released in January 2017.

     
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Five Interesting Facts About T.S. Eliot

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

Topics: Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners

To call T.S. Eliot the most important English-language poet of the 20th century doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch. His 1948 Nobel Prize is just one indicator of the lasting impact that poems like ‘The Waste Land’ (1922) and ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ (1915) have to this day, and will no doubt continue to have as long as there are English professors and recreational readers of poetry in the world. In spite, or perhaps because, of the influence of Eliot’s poetry on the Anglophone poetic landscape, the man himself has remained something of an enigma since his death in 1965. Here are five things you may not know about T.S. Eliot.

     
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Catalog of Rare & Early Dust Jackets Available & Highlights from the Collection

By Andrea Koczela. Sep 25, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Dust Jackets

Throughout the nineteenth centuryand even beyonddust jackets were intended to be disposable. As such, they were often discarded after purchase. Given their frail construction and the likelihood of them being thrown away, it can be quite rare to find nineteenth books that retain their original dust jackets. Books Tell You Why is pleased to offer a remarkable selection of such titles. Many of the books represent the earliest known examples of classic works in dust jackets. You may view our catalog for the collection here or browse a sampling of ten notable titles below:

     
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Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald: Behind the Scenes

By Andrea Diamond. Sep 23, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Lean back, close your eyes, and imagine an evening in Paris in the 1920s. Jazz music curls around every street corner, streetlights glimmer, and champagne flows like a river. The sound of laughter and dancing fill the air as parties grow more gregarious, and the socialite scene comes to life. Among the throngs of people immersed in the frivolity, you are likely to find a brash southern woman, and her charming husband, regaling those around them with details of their latest creative endeavors.

     
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Famous Literature Written from Prison

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

Topics: Literature, Book History, History

We don’t often think about where a particular novelist or poet was when she or he wrote a well-known work. When we do, most of us are unlikely to imagine the confines of a prison cell. However, many canonical works of fiction, as well as significant twentieth-century political texts, were drafted while their writers were incarcerated. In some cases, the texts directly address the writer’s imprisonment, while in others, the claustrophobic walls of a prison cell appear to have enabled the imaginative capacities of the novelist.

     
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Three Interesting Facts About H.G. Wells

By Matt Reimann. Sep 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science Fiction

Herbert George "H.G." Wells, writer of The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Island of Doctor Moreau, is the most durable of the so-called fathers of science fiction. His stories influenced voices as diverse as Nabokov and Borges. He anticipated, in some form or another, developments such as lasers, genetic engineering, and email. His political and scientific writing influenced the following generation of thinkers, leading George Orwell to conclude that “thinking people who were born about the beginning of this century are in some sense Wells’s own creation. . . . The minds of all of us, and therefore the physical world, would be perceptibly different if Wells had never existed.”

     
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Great Authors Who Were Also Great Teachers

By Matt Reimann. Sep 20, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote,” said Samuel Johnson, “except for money.” Even this humorous thought ignores the central reality of literary economics: that writing for money is very hard. At least, that is, if you want to live comfortably. This bare reality is in part why authors have for thousands of years supplemented their income and professional life with the profession of teaching.

     
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The Raucous, Old-Fashioned Friendship of Ian Fleming and Noël Coward

By Matt Reimann. Sep 19, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, James Bond

For being men of letters, is was not literature that brought together the friendship of Noël Coward and Ian Fleming as much as class and location. Both men were embroiled in the life of leisure and excess characteristic of their upper class when the pair met in Jamaica in the 1940s. There, they could bask in the tropical sun, drink, smoke, swim, dine, pursue lovers, and above all, talk. A taste for fun, debauchery, ego-boosting, and wit mattered most; any overlap of vocation was considered but a welcome accident.

     
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The War that Inspired A Separate Peace

By Adrienne Rivera. Sep 16, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, American Literature

Author John Knowles was born in West Virginia in 1926 to a well-off family. His family's comfortable living allowed him to go the private preparatory school, Phillips Exeter Academy. Upon graduation, he served for two years in the United States Army Air Force during World War II. He attended Yale University after his service ended and while there, wrote humor stories for The Yale Record. He also worked on the Yale Daily News. He continued his journalism after school with a job at the Hartford Courant and eventually as assistant editor at Holiday. It wasn't until prompted by friend and Pulitzer Prize winning author and playwright Thornton Wilder that he turned his attention seriously toward novels.

     
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Seven Interesting Facts About Agatha Christie

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

Topics: Mystery, Suspense & Crime

Agatha Christie, going by sheer number of copies in print, ranks behind only Shakespeare and God (or, at any rate, The Bible). That in itself should be enough to suggest the tremendous literary stature of the woman who created Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, but it bears mentioning that she was also a recipient of the Mystery Writers of America’s Grand Master Award, and had her book The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) voted the best crime novel ever by the Crime Writers' Association, all in addition to her success as a playwright (The Mousetrap’s West End theatrical run began in 1952 and continues to the present day). Here are some interesting facts about her.

     
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The Incendiary Politics of Michel Houellebecq

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

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

Like many other readers, we’re not quite sure what to make of Michel Houellebecq. And if we enjoy reading one of his works of fiction, or if we find his work inspiring, do those sentiments reflect somehow upon our own politics? These are complicated questions, of course, and if you’re not familiar with Houellebecq, you might be wondering why we’re even asking them in the first place. To give you a quick primer: a recent headline in The Guardian* read: “Michel Houellebecq: ‘Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes.’” The writer has been described as “the ageing enfant terrible of French literature,” and The Guardian tells us that he “has been under 24-hour police protection since the Charlie Hebdo attack.” At the same time, Iggy Pop has found musical inspiration in Houellebecq’s work and, well, we think Iggy Pop is cool. Want to decide for yourself? We’ll tell you a little bit more about Houellebecq first.

     
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An Introduction to Sherwood Anderson, Creator of Winesburg, Ohio

By Adrienne Rivera. Sep 13, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Midwest writer Sherwood Anderson was born in 1876 and raised in Ohio. Like the characters in his most enduring work, Winesburg, Ohio, he lived most of his life in small towns. Much of his writing was inspired by the places he lived and the people he met during a somewhat transient childhood. Anderson was one of seven children born to his mother and father. His father, Irwin McLain Anderson, was a former Union soldier with considerable debts and a habit for drinking, forcing the family to move frequently. To compensate for his father's difficulties keeping a steady job, Anderson worked a variety of part-time jobs. The family eventually settled in Clyde, Ohio, where Anderson worked at different times as a newsboy, stable hand, printer's devil, and occasionally as his father's assistant when he found work as a sign painter. Anderson ended up leaving school in the ninth grade in order to support his family.

     
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When Books Go to Broadway

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

Topics: Drama

Broadway has always welcomed the country’s best playwrights. Everyone from Arthur Miller to Tennessee Williams to Lillian Hellman to August Wilson to Eugene O’Neill has been supported and sustained by the theatrical capital of America. Yet what is also interesting is Broadway’s tendency to adapt and stage something that started on the page. There have been failures (like the recent American Psycho musical) and smash successes (Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton). It has also provided many prose writers the chance to work in the dramatic form.

     
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Past and Future in Han Kang's Fiction

By Audrey Golden. Sep 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, History

You might have heard of Han Kang, and maybe you’ve read the English translation of her novel The Vegetarian (the book was published in the original Korean in 2007 with the English translation by Deborah Smith following eight years later in 2015). We’re guessing you might have at least heard of The Vegetarian since it won the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction. The novel feels, in some ways, like a work of dystopian fiction in that it follows a woman who becomes a vegetarian after experiencing violent, bloody impulses all through a narration by her husband. Threads of futuristic writing may run through Han Kang’s fiction, but her work is also deeply permeated by the past. Her most recent novel, Human Acts, reflects upon the Gwanju massacre and its meaning for Korea in the present.

     
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A Brief Introduction to Frédéric Mistral

By Andrea Diamond. Sep 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

In 1830, in the small town of Maillane, France, Frédéric Mistral was born to François Mistral and Adelaide Poulinet. His parents were wealthy, which afforded Frédéric the opportunity to receive a great education (though he was known for playing hooky as a child). After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, Mistral went on to study law until 1851. While Mistral was passionate about this field, his true gift was more literary. Greatly inspired by one of his teachers, Joseph Roumanille, Mistral became a masterful poet. 

     
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Vain Tenderness: A (Mostly Futile) Sully Prudhomme Reading Guide

By Brian Hoey. Sep 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Nobel Prize Winners

Literary-historical karma, as ever, sides with Leo Tolstoy. When the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, the great Russian novelist was considered the frontrunner for the literary prize. When he failed to win, there was public outrage, leading a number of Swedish artists and critics to sign an apologetic letter to Tolstoy, for fear that the Nobel Committee’s decision to snub Tolstoy would reflect badly on the country’s literary tastes and worse, offend one of history’s greatest writers. Regardless of whether Tolstoy himself had any desire to win the award (he didn’t), history has largely sided with the outraged parties, continuing to venerate Tolstoy while letting cobwebs spread over the legacy of Sully Prudhomme, the first winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  

     
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How to Celebrate Read a Book Day

By Matt Reimann. Sep 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting

Read a Book Day comes to us every September 6. It may seem strange to celebrate an activity that plenty of us enjoy many, if not most, days of the year. But it never hurts to indulge in something extra to make a cherished activity more enjoyable. You can read outside, enjoy a snack, reflect on what a favorite book means to you, and more. Here are five ideas to celebrate Read a Book Day.

     
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Sixty Years On the Road: Kerouac's Masterpiece Then and Now

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

Topics: American Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

One of the most important players in the Beat movementa group of writers whose work focused on the human condition in a post-World War II America with an emphasis on exploration of the country, a rejection of materialism and commercialism, and the recreational and spiritual use of drugswas writer Jack Kerouac. Born to French Canadian parents in Lowell, Massachusetts, Kerouac did not learn to speak English until he was six years old. Kerouac briefly attended Columbia University to play football. When he broke his leg, his football career ended, and he dropped out. It was around this time that Kerouac first met members of the Beat movement: Lucien Carr, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg. In 1950, he began working on what would become his second published and indisputably famous novel, On the Road, which celebrates its sixtieth anniversary today.

     
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Collecting Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

By Leah Dobrinska. Sep 2, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Awarded Books, American Literature

Cited in the Prize motivation for Hemingway’s 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature and earning him his only Pulitzer, The Old Man and the Sea is one of the legendary author’s most beloved tales. A short story, merely 140 pages in length, The Old Man and the Sea details the excursion of Santiago, a Cuban fisherman. Today, we take a closer look at the publication history of this classic Ernest Hemingway story. Here’s what you should know if you’d like to add an edition of The Old Man and the Sea to your collection.

     
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What Edgar Rice Burroughs Means to Modern Readers

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

Topics: Legendary Authors

What are we to do with Edgar Rice Burroughs? A giant of science fiction and pulp writing in his time, modern readers find that not all of his work has aged well. Tarzan, adapted fifty times in Hollywood history, and most recently last year, seems more like a conspicuous colonial fantasy than an entertaining heroic tale. Can we dismiss it? The work Burroughs is most famous for, after all, was never meant for the college syllabus anyway, not in the way something comparable, like Heart of Darkness, was. Is it best to let this century-old book live in obscurity?

     
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