A Book from Shakespeare and Company

GiShakespeare and Company Stampft the readers on your list with a page-turner straight from Paris. The famous Left Bank bookshop Shakespeare and Company prepares every order by hand, packing purchases in a signature shipping box and offering a variety of custom options. Have the tome’s title page stamped with the Shakespeare and Company logo or a drawing of resident feline Kitty. They’ll even tuck a pocket-sized poem into the book’s pages.

As for which book to choose, how about Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast? The memoir, a colorful retelling of his days as a young journalist and fledgling novelist in Paris in the 1920s, has become a bestseller in France since the attacks on November 13. Parisians are finding the book to be a source of inspiration and comfort, embracing it, according to the New York Times, “as a celebration of the cultured, bohemian life the city has long stood for.” No doubt Hemingway would approve.


Jane Austen Replica Turquoise Ring

Janeite and mJane Austen Turquoise Ringusician Kelly Clarkson acquired the novelist’s turquoise and gold ring at auction for £152,450 (about $250,000) but returned it after an outcry ensued that the literary heirloom was going to be taken out of the country. Lovely (and more affordable) replica rings are available from Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, where the original piece of jewelry is on display. Recipients will need an IOU. The individually crafted rings, available in either gold (£365) or silver (£115), take up to six weeks for production and delivery. We’re betting that true Janeites will find it worth the wait.


My Ántonia Solid Perfume

My Antonia Solid PerfumePerfect for literary travelers, this solid perfume ($5) was inspired by the classic My Ántonia. The perfume’s creator was so taken with Willa Cather’s descriptions of the Nebraska prairie that she was inspired to create this scent, a rich blend of “darkly sweet cactus flower, cilantro, and an element of prairie sunset during Indian summer.”



Pride and Prejudice Throw

Pride and Prejudice ThrowArmchair travelers can curl up with this cozy throw adorned with illustrations and text from perennial favorite Pride and Prejudice ($75). Pair it with a copy of Novel Destinations for journeying on the page to Jane Austen’s Bath, Ernest Hemingway’s Key West, Harper Lee’s Alabama, and lots of other literary locales.




Library of Congress Main Reading Room Coaster

Main Reading Room Coaster LOCThe main reading room in the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building is a visual extravaganza with gold marble columns, paintings, oversize statues, and a Renaissance-style dome. These stone coasters ($11.95 each) feature detailing from paintings adorning the dome—twelve seated figures, each from a different country that contributed to American civilization. Find out more about the library in our post The Library of Congress: Fun and Fascinating Facts.




NovelTeasLove a great pun along with a cup of tea? NovelTeas’ three book-shaped, tea-filled tins can be purchased separately or as a set. Don QuixoTea: The Man of La ManChai is an “adventurous brew” of traditional chai spices (red cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and ginger root). War and Peach is a “purposeful and ponderous” tea blended with organic peaches, pineapple, chamomile, and sunflower. The Picture of Earl Grey combines organic jasmine green tea with rose-blended Calabrian bergamot to “radiate hedonism and reflect beauty.” The reusable tins are $29/each or $59/set.


The Great Gatsby NovelPoster

Great Gatsby NovelPosterThe entire text from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is artfully arranged around a silhouette of Daisy Buchanan, the title character’s love interest, in this elegant poster ($39.41). And if you’re looking for yet more gift ideas, TheLiteraryGiftCompany.com has a plethora of bookish items in categories ranging from Homeware and Bags & Accessories to Fun & Games and Gifts for Writers. They even have literary-themed wrapping paper to present your gift in style.


The Gift of Choice

Strand eGift Card CatThere is always more room on a book lover’s shelves. If you’re not sure what to get the bibliophiles on your holiday shopping list, you can’t go wrong with a gift card so they can have the giddy pleasure of selecting their own reads. Purchase a gift card from your recipient’s local bookshop so they can peruse in person. We also recommend the Strand, a New York City bricks-and-mortar shop (home to 18 miles of books!) that also offers electronic gift cards redeemable on its website. Six different templates are available for e-gift cards, or you can personalize it by uploading your own photo.


Coming soon…. We’ll have information about a bracelet for Poe fans, inspired by “The Raven” and available exclusively from the Poe House in Baltimore.

Twain Boyhood Hometwain-house-2

This Monday, November 30, is the 180th anniversary of the day Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) arrived in the world, and the occasion is being celebrated at two literary sites associated with the writer.

Mark TwainTwain’s distinctive facial feature is being touted during a birthday bash at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum (above left) in Hannibal, Missouri. Part of the festivities include a Mustache Contest with categories such as the “Mark Twain” for the one that bears the greatest resemblance to the writer’s own (dubbed the Walrus) and the “Dapper Stache,” the one most full of character and originality (styling aids are encouraged). November 28, 1 p.m. There is a $5 fee to enter the contest, and prizes will be awarded to the winners.

The Mark Twain House & Museum (above right) in Hartford, Connecticut, is hosting a reading of “Colonel Sellers: Reanimated,” based on one of the writer’s forgotten pieces—with a twist. Steampunk and zombie stories like The Walking Dead are currently in vogue, but Twain was well ahead of the trend. In 1883, he and a friend penned a play, Colonel Sellers as a Scientist, that contained elements of both but was panned by critics. In “Colonel Sellers: Reanimated,” playwright and Mark Twain House staffer Jacques Lamarre has refashioned the original into a Steampunk-zombie mash-up comedy. November 30, 7 p.m. Tickets are $10; $5 for members.

At both events, revelers will be served birthday cake and given a sneak peek at the designs of Mark Twain commemorative coins in gold and silver to be released by the U.S. Mint in early 2016. A portion of the purchase price of the coins will benefit four sites: The Center for Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, New York; the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley; the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal. We’ll share more details about the coins soon.

Daniel%20Craig%20steps%20out%20of%20DB10-largeCars from the latest James Bond film join the popular Bond in Motion exhibition at the London Film Museum.

While Ian Fleming may have died over 20 years ago, his Bond franchise continues to thrill cinema-goers well beyond the shelf-life of his original fourteen novels . From today onwards, fans of SPECTRE can head to the London Film Museum to check out the props, costumes and cars used in the making of the latest film including the Aston Martin DB10 driven by Daniel Craig as well as the Jaguar C-X75 and Rolls-Royce Wraith driven by the villains Mr. Hinx and Franz Oberhauser.

“The Cars of SPECTRE” is part of the ongoing Bond in Motion exhibition, which features artefacts and cars from all 24 Bond films.

House of the Seven Gables

The House of the Seven Gables, Salem, MA

Celebrations of the printed word are taking place this month at literary extravaganzas in Salem, Massachusetts, and Miami, Florida.

November 12-14 and 18

WitchesMap of True Places

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff is slated to deliver the Lit Fest’s keynote address on November 13. She’ll discuss her new book, The Witches, Salem 1692, which delves into the dark history of this picturesque seaside town. The talk will take place in a storied locale, the East India Marine Hall, constructed in 1825 to showcase objects local sailors brought back from their global journeys. Salem native Nathaniel Hawthorne once showed the Hall (now part of the Peabody Essex Museum) to his writer friends Emerson, Thoreau, and Longfellow. Visit pem.org for information about admission costs and reservations.

Other events include a lecture by Salem resident and novelist Brunonia Barry on November 18 at the House of the Seven Gables, the dwelling featured in Hawthorne’s fictional tale and now a museum. Barry is the author of the contemporary novels The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places, her latest, both of which feature “an involving, intricately woven story and vivid descriptions of historic Salem” (Booklist). Visit 7gables.org for more information.

November 15-22

MuralistCircling the SunAt the Waters Edge

Among the week-long happenings at the Miami Book Fair are panels, readings, the Ibero-American Authors program in Spanish, a street fair showcasing hundreds of exhibiting publishers and booksellers, cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and even poets turning out impromptu verse.

If we were attending this year’s Fair, we would be sure to show up for “Tales of the 20th Century: New Fiction,” a panel on November 21 featuring four historical fiction authors: B. A. Shapiro (The Muralist), Sara Gruen (At the Water’s Edge), Mary Morris (The Jazz Palace), and Paula McLain, whose latest novel, Circling the Sun, centers on Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen penned the memoir Out of Africa.

Visit miamibookfair.com for ticketing details and other information. The street fair is free on Friday, November 20. On Saturday and Sunday, November 21 and 22, admission to the street fair is $8; ages 13-18 and over 62: $5.

Walt Whitman PortraitWhen 42-year-old poet Walt Whitman arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1862, as the Civil War engulfed the country, he had already penned the collection Leaves of Grass, along with war-themed works like the poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” in support of the North. Whitman made haste to the city to search hospitals for his brother, George, a Union solider, after seeing his sibling’s name listed in a New York newspaper as being among the wounded during a battle in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was later reunited with his brother at an army hospital outside the city.

Whitman’s unexpected journey to the nation’s capital began his decade-long stint residing there. On October 31, bibliophiles can explore the poet’s stomping grounds and hear inside stories during “Walt Whitman in D.C.: A Walking Tour,” hosted by Politics and Prose bookstore and lead by Garrett Peck. The tour begins in the courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery, where Whitman once worked when the building was the Old Patent Office, and stops include the Clara Barton Missing Soldiers Office. Peck is a historian and the author of Walt Whitman in Washington, D.C.: The Civil War and America’s Great Poet.

The tour, which takes place rain or shine, begins at noon and costs $45 per person. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. The Whitman walk covers about two miles of ground, capped off with a cocktail and a view at the POV bar atop the W Hotel, which is situated on a site where the poet once lived.


Ready for a literary trip? Industrious bibliophiles have created some maps to make trip planning easier for the rest of us. Follow John Steinbeck’s lead and drive across the U.S. (canine companion optional), head to Paris to walk in the footsteps of the literati, or even plot a round-the-world sojourn using books as your guide.

The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips

Obsessively Detailed Map of American Road Trip Lit

This labor of literary love is the result of a “painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature.” The interactive map includes every place name reference in a dozen books about U.S. travel–from Mark Twain’s classic Roughing It to Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road to Cheryl Strayed’s contemporary memoir Wild–and maps each author’s route.

The Literary Left Bank, Paris

Literary Left Bank

The San Francisco Chronicle article “Two bookstores with Bay Area roots help literary life thrive in Paris” includes a map pinpointing literary locales on the French city’s Left Bank–like the residence where Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas held their famous salons; Cafe Tournon, frequented by James Baldwin and other writers in the postwar years; and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, a library with an ornate reading room used by James Joyce and Simone de Beauvoir.

LoveReading.co.uk’s Google Maps Book Mash-up

LoveReading Map

Whether you’d like to travel by the book in person or via an armchair, this handy map highlights literary works associated with places around the world. A quick look showed what page-turners Joni and I can read to get ready for upcoming trips we’ll be taking: Mexico City for me (The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano) and Cape Town for her (Summertime by J.M. Coetzee).

Flannery OConnor Forever Stamp

© 2015 USPS

A portrait of Southern fiction writer Flannery O’Connor is shown on the latest stamp in the U.S. Postal Service’s Literary Arts series. Along with her visage, the stamp—which is being issued tomorrow—features a background design of brightly-hued peacock feathers, a nod to a personal interest of the author.

Andalusia, Milledgeville. GA

The Georgia farmhouse where Flannery O’Connor spent her last years. Photo © Flannery O’Connor Andalusia Foundation.

After O’Connor moved to Andalusia Farm, her mother’s ancestral home in central Georgia, she devoted herself to two pastimes: writing and raising peacocks, swans, chickens, and other birds. She spent the last of her 39 years, before dying of complications from lupus, amid the property’s pastoral beauty, which inspired the settings for such stories as “A Circle in the Fire,” “Good Country People,” and “The Displaced Person.” Today visitors can tour the white farmhouse that was the hub of O’Connor’s world and which has been preserved exactly as it was in the 1960s when she was in residence.

© 2011 USPS

© 2011 USPS

The Literary Arts series began in 1979 with John Steinbeck on a 15 cent stamp. A new stamp has been issued nearly every year since then, ranging from literary giants like Mark Twain to lesser-known writers like Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos. Along with the stamp featuring Flannery O’Connor, the 2014 version with Ralph Ellison is still available for purchase.


Statue of Juliet, Utah Shakespeare Festival


Get thee to a playhouse. Shakespeare’s spirited romantic comedies and riveting tragedies are as popular today as they were 400 years ago when he entertained London theatergoers, proving the prediction of his friend and fellow playwright Ben Johnson: “He was not of an age, but for all time.”

Here are six atmospheric places across the U.S. to take in a Shakespeare production this summer. If none of them are in your neighborhood, check out the Shakespeare Resource Center’s extensive listing of Bard-related festivals and theater companies from Hawaii to New York’s Hudson Valley.

The Old Globe, San Diego, California
This regional theater company located in Balboa Park has three theaters, including one modeled on the famed, circular-shaped Old Globe in London. Like the original, it was destroyed by a fire and subsequently rebuilt. Staging of the Bard’s works, though, take place in the larger, open air Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. For those who want more information and insight, there is a lecture series on topics related to the featured plays.

The line-up: Twelfth Night (June 21-July 26), The Comedy of Errors (August 16-September 20)

Shakespeare in the Park, New York City
Watching the Bard’s dramas on sultry summer evenings in an open-air theater in Central Park is a ritual for New Yorkers. Scoring free tickets requires patience, but the payoff is worth the effort. Tickets are given out each performance day at 1 p.m., with some staking a spot in line as early as 6 a.m. when the park opens. Big spenders can obtain tickets in advance by making a donation to the Public Theatre ($200 per ticket).

The line-up: The Tempest (through July 5), Cymbeline (July 23-August23)

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, Oregon
Surrounded by towering peaks and lush pine forests, this Pacific Northwest town boasts one of the oldest and largest professional nonprofit theaters in the United States. Founded in 1935, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival stages an eight-and- a-half-month season of Shakespearean and other classic plays in three local venues, including an outdoor Elizabethan-style amphitheater.

The line-up:  Antony and Cleopatra (June 2-October 9), Much Ado About Nothing (through November 1), Pericles (through November 1)

American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, Virginia
Situated in the historic Shenandoah Valley is the American Shakespeare Center’s 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only full-sized re-creation of the indoor theater Shakespeare and his comrades built on part of London’s Blackfriars Monastery. Even more impressive? Performances are staged in the Elizabethan tradition with natural lighting, simple stage sets, and recycled costumes.

The line-up: Hamlet (through June 13), Much Ado About Nothing (through June 14), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (June 16-November 29), Antony and Cleopatra (June 17-November 27), The Winter’s Tale (July 8-November 28)

Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC
The world’s largest collection of printed works by William Shakespeare is housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library just a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol. In addition to putting on regular exhibitions, the Library is also home to the Folger Theatre, an intimate, Elizabethan-style venue where the current production is a twist on a popular Shakespeare work. Playwright Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead expands upon on the exploits of the two courtiers from Hamlet. The play runs through June 28.

Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, Utah
At this Shakespeare shrine in southern Utah, playgoers can experience some additional insights about the production they have come to see. This “surround experience” includes an opportunity for Bard enthusiasts to ask questions about the play at an Orientation before the curtain goes up. The next day they can take part in a Literary Seminar, joining scholars and other fans to discuss the featured play. Additional events and activities include Backstage Tours for a peek at props, costumes, and more.

The line-up: King Lear (June 27-September 4), The Taming of the Shrew (June 25-September 5), Henry IV Part Two (June 26-September 5), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (September 24-October 31)

[Photo: EverywhereOnce.com]


715_873_Hardy's+Cottage+-+front+exterior+view+-+NT+Jim+Tampin_thumb_460x0Dorset’s rustic landscapes form the backdrop for the latest cinematic adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, which hits theatres May 1.

Hardy set many of his tales of love and tragedy amidst the grassy hills and bucolic farms of Dorset, dubbing the area South Wessex. Much has remained unchanged into the present day and a new leaflet put together by the Hardy society links the places where the writer lived with the villages that he wrote about and other sites of interest, including the church where his heart is buried.

Start your journey at Hardy’s Cottage, the thatched-roof dwelling built by the writer’s great-grandfather. Hardy was born in the cottage and lived there for 34 years, penning portions of Far from the Madding Crowd in his second floor bedroom.

He later lived at Max Gate, a turreted Victorian villa which he designed himself. His first wife, Emma, found the house cold and uninviting, a state of affairs reflected in the gradual disintegration of their marriage and her retreat to the second story. 111_366_from+picnik_thumb_460x0,0

Other area visitor attractions include the Dorset County Museum, which boasts the largest Hardy collection in the world, and Athelhampton House and Gardens, which Hardy regularly visited.

Download the leaflet and follow the Hardy Trail.

Monroeville Courthouse Interior

Harper Lee has been making headlines with the news that a novel she wrote in the mid-1950s has been rediscovered and will be published this summer. In Go Set a Watchman, a grown-up Scout Finch returns to her southern hometown, Maycomb, twenty years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird unfold. What better place to celebrate this literary milestone than by visiting Monroeville, Alabama, Lee’s hometown and the model for Maycomb. Surrounded by cotton fields and red clay roads, this tiny town has been designated as the “Literary Capital of Alabama.”

– Monroeville residents weren’t impressed when To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, believing that the world would have little interest in their local happenings. Despite the book garnering a Pulitzer Prize, it took a visit from popular actor Gregory Peck—who starred as Atticus Finch in the film version—to convince them that Monroeville was officially on the map.

– Monroeville is home to one of the most famous courtrooms in the world. Time has stood still at the Old Monroe County Courthouse, where Lee used to watch her lawyer father practice his profession and later used it as the setting for one of the most important scenes in To Kill a Mockingbird. An exact replica of the courtroom was re-created on a Hollywood sound stage.

– Order in the court is restored annually. Every spring an all-local acting troupe known as the Mockingbird Players stages a two-act play based on Lee’s novel, with the second part taking place in the famed courtroom. Audience members are part of the play, acting as trial spectators by taking a seat in the courtroom’s main floor—or in the balcony like Dill, Scout, and her brother, Jem, do in the story. (Be sure to plan ahead. The play sells out fast.)

– Harper Lee isn’t the only famous writer from Monroeville. Truman Capote was the inspiration for Dill, Scout’s scrappy sidekick. Or so Capote liked to tell it. Now a museum, the Courthouse has an exhibit highlighting his childhood in Monroeville, where he spent much of his first ten years living with relatives, and how it influenced his fiction.

–  Fictional Atticus Finch is recognized by the Alabama Bar Association. As the first of its Legal Milestones monuments, the organization donated a bronze plaque, located on the courthouse’s south lawn, in tribute to the “Lawyer-Hero.”

– Jane Austen’s novels inspired Harper Lee. In an interview Lee gave soon after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, she revealed that her aim as a writer was to emulate Austen by chronicling the “rich social pattern” of small-town Southern life.

[Photo © Monroe County Heritage Museums]

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