Half Price Books presents the Half Price Blog featuring book reviews, music and movie reviews, trivia and randomness about things we love. That means a whole lot of fiction, nonfiction, music, movies, games, and collectibles… including rare and out-of-print literary treasures.
 
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Authors
Becky
Potluck-genius, insomniac-procrastinator and crafting-whiz. Inventor of the “Hey that’s my Boots!” CEO Paper Doll, the HPB Snuggie, braille t-shirt and Tacky BW Holiday Sweater.
Emily
PR maven, news junkie, baseball fanatic, late-night talk show watcher, frequent restaurant diner and former VH-1 reality show addict.
Jim
Film buff and wanna-be chef. Who's up for dinner and a movie?! Crouching Tiger stir-fry or Godfather spaghetti and a bottle of vino. Please, no talking or texting during the movie.
JD
Music enthusiast and all around acceptable person. Take it or leave it, JD will say things about music that you'll either love, hate, or feel indifferent about.
Meredith
Donned in an apron, baking pies and other tempting treats – there's nothing desperate about this housewife. Loves travel, the great outdoors, classic films, indie music and non-fiction.
Steve
The Buy Guy is a quarter-century-plus employee expert on all things books & music; his favorite buy involved hundreds of old theology books from the Mount St. Michael Convent hilltop library in Spokane, Washington.
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Tuesday
Jul222014

The Best of 1972: Books, Music & Movies

Back in 1972, Half Price Books embarked on its mission to provide people things to read and to listen to, at prices they could afford.  (And a few years later, with the emergence of the VHS tape, we offered them things to watch, too.)  Those early customers liked what they saw on the shelves, and the many customers who have come along since have kept us at it, four decades later. 

So what were our customers looking for all those years ago?

What We Read in ‘72

Even in the earliest days, our Fiction section was always well-stocked.  Some of the current titles then were:

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a parable about a seagull seeking perfection, was an unlikely bestseller from Richard Bach, who said it came along at just the right time.  It had been rejected by numerous publishers before Macmillan took a gamble on it and won
  • Other popular books of that year included Watership Down, by Richard Adams; Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, which was made into two movies, three decades apart; The Exorcist (published in ’71 and filmed in ’73) by William Peter Blatty; and The Winds of War, a hefty WWII tome written by Herman Wouk and turned into a popular miniseries, starring Robert Mitchum, in 1983

We were reading some more literary stuff, too:

  • Eudora Welty’s last novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, was published in 1972 and won the following year’s Pulitzer Prize for Literature.    
  • The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, written between the ‘40s and her death in 1964, won the 1972 National Book Award.
  • John Irving, who is still actively writing, published his second book, The Water-Method Man.     
  • The second of the four books in John Updike’s 30-year-spanning Rabbit series, Rabbit Redux, was a commercial and critical success.     

On the shelves of our Mystery, Science Fiction, and Romance shelves, customers were pleased to find some favorites:

  • P.D. James introduced detective Cordelia Gray in An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.     
  • Frederick Forsyth’s spy novel The Day of the Jackal won the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel.  His book The Odessa File was also popular at the time.     
  • Sci-fi fans were reading Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama and Isaac Asimov’s The Gods Themselves in ’72.     
  • Victoria Holt was a decade into her long career as a historical romance author.     

Several non-fiction titles were notable:

  • I’m OK, You’re OK, by Thomas Harris, was written in 1969 but became a bestseller in 1972.  It explained transactional analysis to the masses.
  • English veterinarian James Herriot recounted some of his experiences with animals in All Creatures Great and Small, which combined his first two books into one and kicked off a run of bestsellers.
  • The Boys of Summer, Roger Kahn’s loving history of the Brooklyn Dodgers, placed second on a 2002 Sports Illustrated list of “The Top 100 Sports Books of All Time.”

Several classics that remain popular in our Children’s sections were published:

  • Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day became an ALA Notable Book, a Reading Rainbow book, and a multi-million seller. 
  • Perennial favorite Judy Blume gave us Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great.     
  • Freaky Friday, by Mary Rodgers, was made into three movies (1976, 1995, 2003).
  • Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves won a Newbery Award, and just this year was involved in a digital rights lawsuit over its e-book publication.     

What We Listened to in ‘72

In pop music, there were some standouts available on LP, cassette, or 8-track, but not yet CD:

  • Roberta Flack first hit the Billboard charts—and stayed at #1 for six weeks—with “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” which had been used in the creepy 1971 flick Play Misty for Me.     
  • Nilsson, who wrote nearly all of his own songs, had his second hit-written-by-others, the pop-operatic “Without You,” composed by two members of Badfinger, who also had their own ’72 hit, “Day After Day.”     
  • Don McLean’s “American Pie”—sliced into two pieces—was the magnum opus of the year, a Cliff’s Notes history of American Pop in the ‘60s.     

Several artists had multiple hits in 1972:

  • Al Green not only topped the charts with “Let’s Stay Together,” but reached #2 with “You Ought to Be with Me” and “I’m Still in Love with You.”     
  • Bill Withers gave listeners the advice to “Lean on Me” but also to “Use Me.”     
  • UK singer Gilbert O’Sullivan appeared in the US out of nowhere with “Alone Again (Naturally),” followed it up with “Clair,” and then fizzled out, at least stateside.    

On the lighter side, we listened to Sammy Davis, Jr., croon about Willy Wonka, the “Candy Man,” and we heard Melanie sing about her “brand new pair of roller skates” and your “Brand New Key.”  Chuck Berry’s one-and-only number one single (incredibly) was 1972’s “My Ding-A-Ling.”

Some artists that were in our bins then are still active today:

  • Neil Young (“Heart of Gold” was his biggest hit) is still touring, releasing albums, and even writing books—another memoir is due this fall.     
  • Elton John (“Rocket Man” and “Honky Cat”) still seems to be everywhere.     
  • Aretha Franklin (“Day Dreaming”) has become the idol of millions of vocalists who’ve followed.     

All three also had top albums in 1972.  Other classic albums included the Stones’ Exile on Main Street, Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly soundtrack, the soundtrack to The Harder They Come, and Steely Dan’s first album, Can’t Buy a Thrill.

Two late pop icons entertained us in ’72.  Michael Jackson went on to bigger and better things after his love song to a rat, “Ben.”  Elvis Presley was “just a hunk-a, hunk-a burnin’ love.”  Smokey Robinson, after 18 years with the Miracles, went solo.  And in 1972, for the first time, the top eight slots on Billboard’s Hot 100 were held by black artists.

What We Watched in ‘72

Francis Ford Coppola’s treatment of Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather was the movie of 1972.  It was top box-office, won three Oscars, including Best Picture, featured a very popular Nino Rota theme song, and was critically acclaimed.  That appreciation has stood the test of time: The Godfather is in the #2 spot on the American Film Institute’s list of all-time best American films, behind Citizen Kane.

Of course, there were other movies of note that year: 

  • Movie Musical Cabaret, based on the musical by Joe Masteroff (which was based on the play I Am a Camera by John Van Druten, which was based on Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood), was also a critical and popular success.     
  • Alfred Hitchcock made his penultimate movie, Frenzy, in 1972, still, at 73, the master of suspense.     

There were also the aforementioned Superfly and The Harder They Come, as well as Deliverance, from the James Dickey novel, Dirty Harry, and Lady Sings the Blues.

Foreign films also did pretty well in ’72, including Luis Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers, and Fellini’s Roma.

So those are some of the things we were reading, listening to, and watching back in ’72, and our customers are still enjoying them all these years later—and we’re still stocking them, along with everything that’s come along since!

--

Steve is Staffing & Development Manager (aka the "Buy Guy") at Half Price Books Corporate.

Thursday
Jul172014

Books Authors Read with Lindsay Cummings

YA author Lindsay Cummings will stop by our Dallas Flagship store on Saturday, July 19 at 7 p.m. as part of the Mighty Mississippi Book Blast YA panel, joining authors Philip Siegel, Paula Stokes, Ryan Graudin and Julie Murphy. (What fun!) Hope to see you there. Lindsay’s new book, The Murder Complex, is “an action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate.” Sounds like a page turner to me!

In honor of her stop by HPB, we asked Lindsay to share some of her favorite books with you in our “Books Authors Read” series. (Look for posts from the other Mighty Mississippi Book Blast authors soon!) Thanks for the recommendations, Lindsay! – Emily

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Growing up, I was always fascinated with survival stories. My dad, a double amputee who survived Meningitis, loved to read books about humans defying the worst of odds. When I got sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I turned to survival stories, too. They helped me feel a little stronger by the time I closed the book. Here are a few of the ones that have really stuck with me through the years:

1. LEGEND by Marie Lu 

This entire trilogy blew my mind. I was so drawn in from page one to the incredible dystopian world that Marie Lu created. Told in split POVs between a military prodigy girl and a criminal street boy, LEGEND is the perfect survival story that crosses genres. Adults and teens alike will devour all three books.

2. ILLUSIVE by Emily Lloyd Jones

This YA debut is one of the coolest books I’ve ever read. It’s Ocean’s 11 meets X-Men, and every page reads like a movie. Fans of science fiction and heist stories will be dying for the next book in the series. I know I am!

3. MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin

This retelling of Poe’s classic story is so lyrically written, but at times, the scenes are so creepy that it gives you chills. I loved this dying, diseased world, and one girl whose willpower is Katniss Everdeen-esque. Book two in the series really lays on the action. I loved it!

4. THESE BROKEN STARS by Aime Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

A killer sci-fi about a debutante girl and a young military hero who crash-land on an alien planet. This book has incredible scenery, an amazing writing style, and a love story to last the ages.

5. THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin

Set to release in November 2014, this YA survival story is reminiscent of MOULIN ROUGE, and opens up readers’ eyes to the truth behind human trafficking, while giving readers a feel of exciting, action-driven scenes. I fell in love with all three points of view! Incredible story-telling.

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Lindsay Cummings in the author of The Murder Complex.

You may visit her online or follow her on Twitter @authorlindsayc.

Wednesday
Jul162014

Is it signed? How to spot an authentic autograph.

Fans of Half Price Books know there are always all sorts of treasures to be found in our stores, including books, music and movies, among other unique items. But one very unique treasure you might not have thought about is autographs. The first thing to know about collecting autographs is that there is only one way to be 100% sure that a signature is authentic, and that is to get the autograph in person. Be sure to keep an eye out at your neighborhood Half Price Books as we continually have author signings. Authors like Brad Thor, Robin Roberts and Maggie Stiefvater have made it to HPB in the past and we have many exciting announcements this fall.

Back to autographs. If you don’t actually get a signature in person, be aware that there are no regulations on anyone printing their own certificate of authentication. Do your research on what companies are reputable. The two largest authentication companies are PSA/DNA and JSA. Seeing their small sticker on an item helps you know something is authentic, but anyone can make mistakes.

If you are purchasing or selling an autograph, there are several things for you, as well as our buyers at the counter, to inspect. There are many different types of fake autographs:

STAMPED SIGNATURE: This sort of fake autograph is the easiest to spot. It usually has the appearance of a rubber stamp. Look for things like uneven ink distribution and no actual pen strokes. Also, the ink tends to pool up in some areas, or there are small sections where there is no ink at all.

PREPRINTED AUTOGRAPH: The next easiest to spot is the preprint. These are photos or printed items where the item was signed by someone, then taken and mass produced. You get these quite often with big name stars who receive a ton of fan mail. Here is an example of a celebrity preprint. 

AUTOPEN SIGNATURES: These are a little more difficult to spot. An autopen machine works by tracing over a pattern of a person’s signature. When autopens are made, they tend to have the same width of line throughout the signature and no variations in width as a real signature would. There also tends to be perfect dots at the beginning and the end of the signature, as the pen goes straight down and straight back up when finished. A dead giveaway on these is to just do a little research. It is not uncommon at all to find different signatures that all match perfectly. Someone that uses an autopen we all know is President Obama himself.

SECRETARIAL SIGNATURES: These are probably the toughest to spot as some of them can be quite good. These are handwritten signatures usually done by secretaries, other family members, or people at a company.  Do you research carefully on these. Compare signatures from legit in-person signings. It also helps when comparing if you turn the signatures upside down, that way your brain doesn’t fill in the gaps to form letters. Your mind is simply comparing images.

FORGED SIGNATURE: These signatures out on the market are simply being forged and sold as authentic. A lot of the same steps are taken when looking for a forgery as looking for a secretarial signature. Elvis Presley and The Beatles are always near the top of the list as the most-forged signatures.

Our buyers at Half Price Books check over each item that has a signature, doing their best research to determine if an autograph is authentic or not.

Now that you have a background on the different types of signatures, the best advice in autograph collecting is to have fun with the hobby.

Don’t get into it to get rich. Just collect what you love. 

 --

Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.

Monday
Jul142014

Books Authors Read with Earl Swift

Journalist and five time (wow!) Pulitzer Prize nominee Earl Swift will be at our Dallas Flagship HPB on Wednesday, July 16 at 7 p.m. to sign and discuss his new book, Auto Biography, a fascinating look at the life of a classic ’57 Chevy. We hope you’ll stop by to meet Earl! In the meantime, we asked Earl to put together some of his favorite books for our “Books Authors Read” series. Take it away, Earl! -- Emily

Books Authors Read with Earl Swift

1.  Bill Morris, Motor City

The first book by novelist, journalist and essayist Morris, this fictional 1993 yarn is set in the automotive design world of mid-fifties Detroit, and recreates the time and place down to the subtlest curve, the briefest wink of chrome, years before “Mad Men” trod similar ground. A fun, fast, smart read that’ll stay with you.

2. W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence

This is the story of one Charles Strickland, a button-down British stockbroker who abandons his wife and children and runs off the Paris to become a painter—and eventually, meets his fate in a squalid South Seas hut. But there’s far more to it than that: Told through Maugham’s loner-traveler narrator, the novel (generally recognized as a fictionalized spin on the life of Paul Gauguin) offers a lasting rumination on art, talent, obsession and destiny.

3. John Fowles, The Magus

The world seems pretty evenly split between those who love and hate The Magus, Fowles’ first novel (though third published); I’m firmly and enthusiastically in the first camp. Like Fowles’ later, A Maggot, it so muddies distinctions between the real and imagined that readers might find themselves wondering, while in its grip, whether they really know that they know what they know.

4. Donna Tartt, The Secret History

It’s no surprise that Tartt won last year’s National Book Award; it seemed foreordained from the opening pages of this, her first novel, published back in 1992—a murder mystery set on a tony New England college campus, and fueled by the need to know neither who did the deed, nor to whom, but why it happened. By its end, it’s plain that Tartt is a storyteller for the ages, and a stone-cold genius, to boot.

5. David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

You’ll need two bookmarks while exploring this story of tennis, addiction and boarding school, suicide and disabled Quebecois terrorists—one to mark your place in the narrative, and the other your place in the endnotes, which in some instances are chapter-length and impart information vital to the main story (the meaning of the title, for instance, is revealed in agate type at the back). The book’s reputation as labor-intensive isn’t helped by its cinderblock size. But trust me: Its structure is part of what makes it amazing, and Wallace was just so damn smart in so many ways that this crazy story quickly becomes your entire, happy focus for the weeks it takes to tackle it.

6. John Hersey, Hiroshima

Where any discussion of literary journalism begins. This slim volume, originally published in The New Yorker, follows a handful of men and women through the events of August 6, 1945, as their city is obliterated by atomic bomb. Hersey’s reporting is peerless. His language is understated and respectful, and more the powerful for it. If you finish this afternoon’s read without being deeply moved, call 911 immediately.

7. Christopher Cokinos, Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

This 2000 collection of essays about extinct and threatened birds—and, by extension, man’s heavy hand on all that surrounds him—is expertly reported and utterly heartbreaking. It includes some of my favorite pieces of narrative nonfiction.

8. John Lewis and Michael D’Orso, Walking With the Wind

The Georgia congressman’s memoir of the Civil Rights movement ranks among the best first-person accounts of important history that I’ve read—we’re talking right up there with Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. The introduction alone is worth the cover price.

9. Rory Stewart, The Places In Between

Stewart, a Scotsman, hiked across Afghanistan in 2002. He emerged with a portrait of place that defies the definition of “country” in any modern sense—it’s a harsh, barren wilderness of warring tribes and shifting loyalties, and always has been. An illuminating companion to The Kite Runner.

10.  John Stilgoe, Lifeboat

Harvard professor and sharp-eyed observer Stilgoe has a number of intriguing books under his belt, the best known being 1998’s Outside Lies Magic. This is one of his (unjustly) lesser-known titles: Released in 2007, it’s built around the development, design and use of a seemingly straightforward object—but along the way offers a pile of insights into the industrial age and the cost of “progress”. A smart, quirky, and mighty enjoyable read.

11.  Joe Jackson, The Thief at the End of the World

Longtime journalist Jackson offers a thrilling story of international theft and espionage in the adventures of Henry Wickham, who in the 1870s snuck thousands of rubber tree seeds out of Brazil (at insane personal risk) and into the hands of British botanists—who then planted them throughout the Empire, thereby changing the face of industry worldwide. Read it with David Grann’s The Lost City of Z.   

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Earl Swift is the author of Auto Biography, As They Lay and Journey on the James.

You may visit him online or follow him on Twitter at @EarlSwift1

Friday
Jul042014

Summer Anthems: 6 Songs With The Spirit of Summer

There’s nothing like a great song to put in you the mood for summer. Whether you're road-tripping with Mom & Dad or at a backyard barbecue with your BFFs, here are some classic songs that let you know summer has arrived! Enjoy! 

1. Summertime, by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

 "Summer, summer, summertime
Time to sit back and unwind"


2. Summer Love, by Justin Timberlake

"I can't wait to fall in love with you
You can't wait to fall in love with me
This just can't be summer love, you'll see"


3. Summer Breeze, by Seals and Crofts

"Sweet days of summer, the jasmine's in bloom
July is dressed up and playing her tune"


4. In The Summertime, by Mungo Jerry

 "We're always happy
Life's for livin' yeah, that's our philosophy"


5. All Summer Long, by Kid Rock

"Singing a 'Sweet Home Alabama' yeah
Singing all summer long"


 6. Summer Girls, by LFO

"I like girls that wear Abercrombie and Fitch,
I'd take her if I had one wish,
But she's been gone since that summer..."


Remember, your local HPB has a huge selection of vinyl and CD that are perfect for summer fun. What's on your summertime playlist?

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Sam is Public Relations Coordinator at Half Price Books Corporate.