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Brian Hoey
Writer and all around book nerd, Brian puts his English degree to good use turning words into magic. A great lover of beer, baseball, and books, he can write on Baltic Porter and Katherine Anne Porter with equal ease.

Recent Posts:

How Jesse James Became an American Myth

By Brian Hoey. Sep 5, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Movie Tie-Ins

This blog post is not the first place it’s been pointed out that the Wild West era lasted a scant few decades—compared to the century-plus of folk songs, dime novels, movies, TV shows, and other forms of myth-making that take up (and sometimes interrogate) the inherent romance and drama of the era. Given all that, it shouldn’t really surprise us that Wikipedia’s article on “Cultural depictions of Jesse James” is almost as long as the article on James himself. And yet, the piece leaves out what is arguably the first piece of popular culture that took up the life (and death) of the one of the West’s most notorious outlaws: the touring stage show put on by Robert Ford, James’ assassin, dramatizing the moment when Ford himself put a bullet in the back of James’ head.

     
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Happy Birthday, Sean Connery!

By Brian Hoey. Aug 25, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond, Movie Tie-Ins

Today, “The Greatest Living Scot” (according to The Sunday Herald), turns 89. Just as much as author Ian Fleming, Sir Sean Connery brought James Bond to life and forever defined him as a character—so much so that Fleming eventually began writing details from Connery’s life into Bond’s backstory. Those of us here at Books Tell You Why who appreciate a good literary adaptation (read: all of us), can’t help but recognize the role that Connery played not just in bringing Bond himself to life, but to bringing the whole world of past and future literary superspies into the greater public consciousness. Without him, it’s hard to imagine a world in which Tom Clancy and John le Carré entered the world of blockbuster films. Connery himself even starred in the 1991 film adaptation of The Hunt for Red October (1984).

     
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Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate and Song of Solomon Author, Has Died

By Brian Hoey. Aug 7, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language.
That may be the measure of our lives.”
-Toni Morrison, Nobel Lecture 1993

Toni Morrison, author of Beloved and Song of Solomon, died peacefully in her home on Monday, surrounded by her family. Morrison was the first African American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her books were commercially and critically acclaimed and rightly find their way onto many collectors' shelves. Today, we honor Ms. Morrison's life and work.

     
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What Were Americans Reading When We Landed on the Moon?

By Brian Hoey. Jul 19, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Movie Tie-Ins

Sometime around Thanksgiving 1862, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), met sitting-president Abraham Lincoln. Upon the initial introduction, Lincoln famously quipped, “So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!” Accounts of the exact wording vary, and in fact the whole story may be apocryphal, but it still speaks to the way that art and media help us make sense of history as it unfolds around us. Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or, if not Stowe’s novel, then perhaps works like Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1961) or 1845's The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass) gave 19th century readers new ways of understanding the “peculiar institution” over which the Civil War would be fought. As the war progressed, books like these continued to act as touchstones for anyone seeking to understand the conflict, the nation, and the world.

     
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Defining Science Fiction: Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov

By Brian Hoey. Jul 7, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Science Fiction

Defining science fiction has always been a tricky proposition. It has been suggested that "you know it when you see it," but that hardly seems a sufficient rule. Still less helpful is the notion that the science fiction moniker applies to any fiction dealing imaginatively with concepts borrowed from science. The fact of the matter remains that select staples of the literary cannon have displayed an interest in science from Shakespeare’s work through the likes of Thomas Pynchon. This does little to change the fact that when we speak of science fiction we hardly ever mean The Tempest (1610), and we usually don’t mean Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) either.

     
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Dan Brown’s Rules for Storytelling Are… Actually Pretty Sound?

By Brian Hoey. Jun 22, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins

Love him or hate him, Dan Brown has had an outsized impact on Anglophone pop culture since his breakout novel, The Da Vinci Code (2003) was released 16 years ago. Harvard Professor of Religious Symbology Robert Langdon burst onto the scene like an apres-garde Indiana Jones and gave a generation of readers and filmgoers a slightly dubious lesson in religious history. Since then, things like the Malthusian Tragic (Thomas Robert Malthus—the population growth alarmist who bears a striking philosophical resemblance to Marvel’s Thanos—figures prominently in Da Vinci’s 2013 follow-up, Inferno) and The Gnostic Gospels (a series of Coptic texts that present a portrait of Jesus Christ that diverges sometimes radically from the four canonical gospels) have become (comparatively) common nodes in the cultural consciousness.

     
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Why Pierce Brosnan Would be Borges’ Favorite Bond

By Brian Hoey. May 16, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond

Argentine literary giant Jorge Luis Borges died in 1986 at the age of 86 having left a behind a legacy that any writer would envy. His being snubbed for the Nobel Prize in Literature is, in its way, more memorable than the victories of other writers (how many of us remember Jaroslav Seifert’s 1984 win?), and even at the time of his death, it was pretty clear that his short stories had a much better shot at literary immortality than most of his contemporaries’ work. Still, his death came several years before the release of 1995’s Goldeneye, which means that for all of his tremendous importance to 20th century culture, he was denied the chance to see Pierce Brosnan’s portrayal of the iconic superspy, James Bond. This is a shame, because Borges would have loved him. 

     
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Netflix Announces New Tolkien Adaptation Slated for 2021

By Brian Hoey. Apr 1, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Movie Tie-Ins, J. R. R. Tolkien

For years now, film and television producers have been battling each other to create the one piece of fantasy media that will dominate all others. There was New Line’s Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) adaptions, HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011-2019) series, New Line’s subsequent Hobbit (2012-2014) trilogy, and now, as of a blockbuster 2017 deal, Amazon Studios will be producing at least five seasons worth of television based on Tolkien’s iconic mythos and characters—a show that they, like those that have gone before them, hope will be the one series to rule them all. In this regard, it sometimes feels like these studios missed the point of Tolkien’s story entirely.

     
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Mostly Harmless: How Eion Colfer Took Over The Hitchhiker’s “Trilogy”

By Brian Hoey. Mar 14, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Science Fiction

One of the best running gags in fiction (in this writer’s humble opinion) comes, unsurprisingly, from Douglas Adams’ beloved Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy series (1979-2008). On the cover of some editions of the series’ fourth book, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), readers are helpfully informed that they’ve picked up “the fourth in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy.” The original cover of the fifth book contained, mutatis mutandis, the same joke—Douglas Adams’ wry comment on the fact that, in terms of plotting out the series, he was just making it all up as he went along. Sadly, after Adams’ death in 2001, the joke itself had become inaccurate. The “trilogy” was inaccurately named, but no longer, with the literal death of the author, increasingly so. Or at least that’s the way it seemed until Eoin Colfer came along.

     
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Five Legendary Authors Who Wrote Through Their Experiences with Cancer

By Brian Hoey. Feb 4, 2019. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

“Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify as citizens of that other place.”

These are the opening lines of Susan Sontag’s seminal exploration of cancer’s mythology in modern life, Illness as Metaphor (1978). The book’s most enduring impact has been to shed light on the victim-blaming nature of many of the narratives that surround the disease, but her opening bout of lyricism reminds us of a much more obvious truth: that cancer and other illnesses don’t just touch, but envelope our lives, whether through our own experiences or the experiences of loved ones. For World Cancer Day, let’s take a look at some of the authors whose experiences with cancer have yielded important works of literature. 

     
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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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