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Celebrating the (Literary) History of America's Presidents

Presidents are famously men of letters: educated, erudite, and charismatic. John Adams (whose birthday we celebrate today), Thomas Jefferson, and other founding fathers established their reputation by contributing to beautifully written documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.      
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Charles Darwin's Literary Inspirations

By Kristin Masters. Mar 30, 2018. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies, History, Science

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution revolutionized the scientific world. An avid reader, Darwin built a personal library that included over 1,500 volumes of science, philosophy, and literature. Just as Darwin was influenced by what he read, he has also influenced generations of scholars and authors. A significant number of his letters, books, and papers belong to the Cambridge University Library.

     
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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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Rethinking Form: Musician Lou Reed's Short Stories

By Audrey Golden. Mar 31, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

It has now been more than three years since Lou Reed’s death, yet fans across the globe continue to listen to his music, and musicians cover his songs in homage. We’re willing to bet that you’re at least somewhat acquainted with the Velvet Underground, the band fronted and formed by Reed in the 1960s that was once managed by Andy Warhol, and you might even be a fan of Reed’s later solo work. But what do you know about the connections between his music and the world of literature? There are more links between famous fiction and Reed’s songwriting process than you might guess.

     
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How the Founding Fathers Help Us Understand Ourselves

By Matt Reimann. Jul 4, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Biographies

The term “Founding Fathers” was coined by a speechwriter named Judson Welliver. He wrote under the administration of Warren G. Harding, who said the phrase nearly a century after the last of that group perishedthe fourth president James Madison, who died in the year 1836. Yet even before they had a collective name, the legacies of the founders were constantly being reinterpreted.

     
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The Rhythm of a Writer: The Unlikely Journey of Bill Martin Junior

By Abigail Wheetley. Mar 20, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Biographies

Most of us who have children, or have been children, can find ourselves murmuring, “A told B and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree” the way others absentmindedly hum a song from the radio. The knowledge that he once wanted his work to be compared to jazz music is no great surprise, as Bill Martin Jr. penned many books like Chicka Chicka Boom Booma story about an alphabet made up of naughty lowercase letters who climb up a coconut tree and are sent crashing down only to be rescued by their uppercase parentsall geared towards the inquisitive, rhythm-hungry minds of children.

     
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How Evelyn Waugh Tried to Save P.G. Wodehouse's Reputation

By Brian Hoey. Feb 26, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Writers are often the best champions of other writers. In the early days of the last century, it was Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw who helped cement Henrik Ibsen’s reputation in the English-speaking world. Years later, Pulitzer Prize winner Walker Percy would play a crucial role in arranging the posthumous publication of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) after a manuscript thereof was sent to him by Toole’s mother. That Bernard Shaw and Walker Percy were, by then, quite prominent in their own rights was of course a huge help to their causes, as seems so often to be the case.That’s why it’s rather lucky for P.G. Wodehouse that his mantle was taken up by none other than Evelyn Waugh. 

     
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The Story Behind Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography

By Stephen Pappas. Jan 17, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Benjamin Franklin is undoubtedly one of the largest looming figures in American history. His shadow rests on everything from politics to spirituality. And his biography is just as important to American literature as he was to American politics. However, the road to publication was not easy. Fittingly of such an unconventional figure, the story behind Franklin’s autobiography is filled with many twists and turns.

     
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Walking the Tightrope: Five Must-Read Biographies

By Nick Ostdick. Nov 14, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies

Memoir? Science fiction? Fantasy? Sure, these genres of writing present their own unique challenges. But ask any number of writers about the most troublesome and potentially problematic genre and you’ll hear the same response time and time again: biography.

Setting about the task of capturing the life and essence of an individual in a few hundred pages is daunting, especially the more complicated, convoluted, and complex the subject. Biographers are often faced with a number of difficult decisions in terms of what events and moments are crucial to the biography, and those that can be discarded in service of painting a compelling and accurate portrait.

     
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Five Interesting Facts About Elizabeth Gaskell

By Neely Simpson. Sep 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Biographies

Elizabeth Gaskell was a woman ahead of her time. Her writing won the admiration of people like Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Eliot Norton, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others. Like modern professionals, Gaskell and her husband often lived separate lives in order to accommodate their own vocations. However, both were supportive and involved in the other's career. At the time of her death in 1865, the literary magazine The Athenaeum described her as, "if not the most popular, with small question, the most powerful and finished novelist of an epoch singularly rich in female novelists." Here are five interesting facts about this Victorian career woman.

     
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