Did you know?  Check our Rare Books Page

The Politics of Mark Twain

By Brian Hoey. Nov 30, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Mark Twain

Mark Twain’s politics can be slippery to pin down, in large part because the modern popular conception of Twain is of a man who loathes and disrespects politics. By all accounts Twain himself did everything in his power to foster that conception. He may not have given the quote about politicians and diapers which is often erroneously attributed to him (that they “should be changed often, and for the same reason”), but he did assert that “often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's,” and that “In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” In spite of his expressed aversion to the political, however, Twain’s true political leanings shone through in both his work and his public persona.

     
Read more...


The Schomburg Center Purchases James Baldwin Archive

Are you familiar with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture? If not, you should be. It’s a division of the New York Public Library (NYPL) system, located on Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem. The Schomburg Center has a Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division that is open to researchers, in addition to divisions devoted to art and artifacts, moving images, recorded sound, and photographs, among others. There are a lot of good reasons to visit the Schomburg, but today we want to tell you about a recent addition: James Baldwin’s archive.

     
Read more...


Twelve of Leo Tolstoy's Most Brilliant Quotes

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

Topics: Literature

Few authors are as widely revered as Leo Tolstoy. Many regard him as the quintessential novelist, if not the best writer to ever work with the form. His reputation remains bolstered by an abundance of superlatives, often from most accomplished peers: James Joyce called “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” “the greatest story that the literature of the world knows,” while Virginia Woolf declared him “the greatest of all novelists.” It is settled, then—Tolstoy writes incredible stories. But how does his work stand up to quotation?

     
Read more...


Give the Gift of Books: Your 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

By Leah Dobrinska. Nov 25, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Book Gift Ideas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And why not give the most wonderful gift of books this holiday season? Perfect for the avid reader on your list and for collectors of all kinds, books make for timeless, treasured, and meaningful gifts. Whether you’re in the market for collectible editions or a good reading copy, follow the links below to learn more about each title. We’ve broken down our selection into categories for ease of browsing, so grab a mug of coffee (or hot cocoa, or peppermint tea), sit back, and take a look at our holiday gift guide for books that will make perfect gifts.      
Read more...


How Thanksgiving Became a Holiday

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

Topics: American History

We’re all familiar with the old Thanksgiving narrative in the United States. The Mayflower came rolling into Plymouth Harbor in 1620, the Pilgrims tried to build a life for themselves (and weren’t doing a great job), and the Wampanoag tribe came to the pilgrims’ aid and taught them how to plant corn, fish, and hunt. This ultimately led to a beautiful friendship, which was celebrated with a community feast of gratitudea tradition continued to this day. Right?

Wrong.

     
Read more...


Happy Thanksgiving: The Books We’re Most Thankful For

By Nick Ostdick. Nov 22, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, American Literature

It’s that time of year when we stop, take a moment, and reflect on the things in our lives for which we are the most thankful. Family. Friends. Health. A good job. A nice home. These are usually the things that top the list. But as we discuss quite often on this blog, the books, poems, and stories that populate our lives can be just as important, meaningful, and influential to how we live our lives and our overall worldview. As Rob Gordon said in the novel High Fidelity, the pieces of art you like and identify with matter, and during this Thanksgiving season, perhaps it’s the most appropriate time to look inward and examine the pieces of writing for which we are most thankful.

     
Read more...


A Brief Guide to Great Writers from India

By Brian Hoey. Nov 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Nobel Prize Winners

India’s literature is just as vast and complex as the diverse, densely populated nation that produced it. Even if we limit ourselves to Indian literature written in English, we are still presented with a multicultural tapestry stretching back more than a century, from Rabindranath Tagore, who won India’s first Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for his “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful” poems and songs (eat your heart out Bob Dylan) to modern writers like Aravind Adiga (author of 2008’s Man Booker-winning debut The White Tiger). While one article can never encapsulate the entirety of an ever-growing canon, it can present a few names of writers from India that are indisputably worth knowing.

     
Read more...


Ten Quotes From Margaret Atwood, an Oracle of Our Time

By Matt Reimann. Nov 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Readers have adored Margaret Atwood since her debut novel, The Edible Woman, animated the anxieties and torments of contemporary female life. Ever since, Atwood has continued to write first-rate fiction, exploring themes of feminism, oppression, dystopia, and environmental disaster, earning her a dedicated and enthusiastic readership. The times have only caught up with her, vindicating those concerns and speculative scenarios that seemed excessively alarmist forty, thirty, or even five years ago. It is no wonder that in her long career, Atwood is probably more famous than she has ever been, now with a smash adaptation of her 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, on Hulu. As not only a storyteller but an oracle, she was the subject of a profile in The New Yorker this spring, which called her “the prophet of dystopia,” while those at Vox have lauded her as “the voice of 2017.”

     
Read more...


Learning About the Baghdad Book Market

By Audrey Golden. Nov 17, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

If you’re interested in rare book collecting or Arabic literature, we cannot emphasize enough the significance of the Iraqi literary and cultural traditions, and the importance of reimagining Baghdad outside the Western context of war, violence, and dictatorship. In 2015, the Los Angeles Times published an article entitled, “Iraq Book Market Comes Back to Life Seven Years After Bombing.” A number of other western and Arab media sites posted similar pieces, recalling a destructive bombing and signs of recovery in the nation’s capital city. Those stories were referring to Al Mutanabbi, or Mutanabbi Street, in Baghdad. For years, the street, which almost reaches the Tigris River, was known for its weekly book market. A car bomb devastated it in 2007, but it has again become a location for buying used and rare books in Iraq.

     
Read more...


A Reading Guide to Kazuo Ishiguro

By Andrea Diamond. Nov 16, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Nobel Prize Winners

“There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.” ~ Kazuo Ishiguro

It is not uncommon, late at night, to be struck with that taunting “what if” question. We wonder how things might have been different had we chosen a different school, taken a different job, or married a different person? What if we lived in the future, or had existed in the past? These thoughts don’t necessarily come out of discontent, even the happiest person on earth must poses some curiosity toward how their life might have been different. While many of us eventually shake off our alternate reality musings and drift off to sleep, the authors in the world cling to those possibilities, and create a new character with a unique life between the covers of a book. One author who has honed this incredible gift is the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature winner, Kazio Ishiguro.

     
Read more...


A Snapshot of Great Eighteenth Century Poets

By Leah Dobrinska. Nov 15, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, History

The written word has a long history of conveying our greatest passions. And poetry, in particular, has often been the chosen vehicle to express such feelings as love, hate, disillusionment, and snark. Poetry has looked different in different times, but no matter its form, it never ceases to convey a striking snapshot of the world surrounding it. Perhaps it is poetry’s economy of letters—that which requires the great poetic masters to pack more punch in, typically, less space—that makes it such an enduring form. It does, after all, hold immense power. Today, we’d like to explore a particular moment in history—the eighteenth century—and the poets who populated it.

     
Read more...


Ten Memorable Quotes From Pippi Longstocking Author Astrid Lindgren

By Matt Reimann. Nov 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

When Astrid Lindgren wrote Pippi Longstocking in 1945, she created a character that would captivate children the world over. Ever since, young readers of all generations have been charmed by the preternaturally strong, independent, and daring young redhead. The supervision-less, irreverent character scandalized a few readers in Lindgren’s day, who determined the anarchic protagonist a poor role model, but Pippi’s charm won out. Lindgren’s work has since been translated into dozens of languages and sold over 80 million copies.

     
Read more...


Seven Interesting Facts About Fyodor Dostoyevsky

By Brian Hoey. Nov 11, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

In spite of extremely stiff competition, Fyodor Dostoyevsky remains one of the most widely read and highly regarded Russian novelists of all time. His acclaimed novels, from The Brothers Karamazov (1880) to Crime and Punishment (1866) to Notes from Underground (1864), carved out a unique niche at the corner of psychological realism and existential philosophy. With the patina of great literature draped over these great works, however, we sometimes forget that these books were often strange, darkly funny, and oddly joyousbefitting, perhaps, the life of the man who penned them.

     
Read more...


New Translations from the Margellos World Republic of Letters

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

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

Have you been hoping that an exciting book written in a language other than English will find an English-language translator? Or were you recently thinking that a work of “classic” literature could use a new and updated English-language translation? The Cecile and Theodore Margellos World Republic of Letters series, published by Yale University Press, might be exactly what you’ve been seeking. The series describes itself as one that “identifies works of cultural and artistic significance previously overlooked by translators and publishers, canonical works of literature and philosophy needing new translations, as well as important contemporary authors whose work has not yet been translated into English.” The Margellos series ultimately is “designed to bring to the English-speaking world leading poets, novelists, essayists, philosophers, and playwrights from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, to stimulate international discourse and creative exchange.”

Sounds great, right? There are currently more than seven dozen books in the series, with more forthcoming. We have some recommendations of our favorites for you to browse.

     
Read more...


History of Horror: Five Early Horror Writers

By Adrienne Rivera. Nov 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Horror, American Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

Grown organically from the Gothic genre, horror fiction has terrified and captivated readers since its beginnings in the late nineteenth century. It has its roots in novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho, which was itself famously referenced in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. Often dismissed as “penny dreadful”, the horror genre has grown to encompass books, television, and film in the modern age and is one of the most popular genres in each of those mediums. Authors like Anne Rice and Stephen King would not be so popular today without early horror writers paving the way before them. Here are five important early horror writers.

     
Read more...


Books Tell You Why News: Introducing Your Rare Books Page

By Leah Dobrinska. Nov 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Rare Books, Book Collecting

As book collectors and rare book enthusiasts, we understand your need for clear content and simplified resources. In an effort to continue to provide you, our fabulous readership, with the best possible book buying, collecting, and reading experience, we thought we’d take some time to update you on the latest happenings here at Books Tell You Why.

     
Read more...


Five Facts About Albert Camus, the Coolest of Philosophers

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

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

Few thinkers have managed to make philosophy look cool. But within this rare breed, the photogenic, soccer-loving, provocative, and concise Albert Camus may be most eminent. With short and mystifying novels like The Stranger, and profound explorations like The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus’s philosophy was like a rallying cry for a generation of writers confused and traumatized by the Second World War. It was an elevated position that would win Camus the Nobel Prize in 1957, just two and a half years before his untimely death in a car accident at the age of 46.

     
Read more...


Happy Anniversary to Freud's Interpretation of Dreams!

By Brian Hoey. Nov 4, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science

In his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1917) which would prove to be one of his most popular works in translation, Sigmund Freud says, “I can promise you this: that by listening to [these lectures] you will not have learned how to set about a psycho-analytic investigation or how to carry a treatment through.” 500 pages later, it turns out that he has kept his promise, but not before warning his listeners that they should not attend a second lecture of his and that they should avoid studying psychoanalysis, lest they risk meeting with “distrust and hostility” from members of the scholarly, medical, and scientific communities. At the risk of playing armchair psychologist, the man may have had a persecution complex.

     
Read more...


Collecting Vladimir Mayakovsky in Translation

By Audrey Golden. Nov 3, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Book Collecting, Literature

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930) has long been a poet of interest not only in Russia, but in many different regions of the world. Mayakovsky was born in what is now Georgia and moved to Moscow during his childhood. He quickly joined the Bolsheviks and the Russian Social Democratic Party, which ultimately resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. Upon his release, he began studying art and writing poetry at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and he published his first poems in 1912. He soon became tied to the Futurists and, ultimately, to the Russian Revolution. Mayakovsky’s poetry and later his works of drama made him famous in the Soviet Union, and following his death, Triumphal Square in Moscow was renamed in his honor. First editions of his books in the original Russian language are highly collectible, but so are a number of interesting translations.

     
Read more...


Ten of the Most Scandalous Books in Literature

By Adrienne Rivera. Nov 2, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Throughout the history of literature there have been books that were challenged and even banned due to their depiction of incendiary topics. From race to religion to sexuality to violence, all manner of morally suspect topics have forced books to the forefront of philosophical debate. Whether challenged by protective parents or forbidden by an outraged government, the following books scandalized enough people that the debate surrounding them grew to epic proportions. In fact, many of these so-called scandalous books are still challenged today.

     
Read more...


Six Interesting Facts About Stephen Crane

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

Topics: American Literature

Stephen Crane accomplished much in his short life. Dead from tuberculosis at 28, the author left behind a body of work that captivated readers and significantly influenced writers like Ernest Hemingway. His first novel, Maggie, narrated the titular character’s fall from grace with a frank moral ambiguity that is now ubiquitous in contemporary fiction, film, and TV, but at the time was essentially unseen. Yet not only did Crane help pioneer modern narrative style, of course his most famous book, The Red Badge of Courage, remains well-read and enjoyed to this very day.

     
Read more...


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.

Get blog notifications per email:

Download the James Bond Dossier

Recent Posts

Book Glossary
Get your free Guide to Book Care

Blog Archive

> see older posts
A Guide to Historic Libraries Part I