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.
 
Meet all our Blog Authors & Contributors »

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.
Search the Blog
Subscribe

Follow HPB

Monday
Sep082014

Books Authors Read with Matt Bondurant

We’re in the midst of celebrating Literacy Month here at Half Price Books. One of the great literacy organizations we support is right here in our hometown of Dallas – Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT). LIFT will hold their annual fundraiser, A Toast to Literacy, next Thursday, Sept. 18, which will feature a keynote speech from author Matt Bondurant, so we thought there was no better time to hear about some of the books Matt loves. Take it away, Matt!

----

This sort of question is a difficult one for a serious reader, not just a writer. I’m going to try and focus on books that made an indelible impression on me as a writer, from different periods of my life. I’m also trying to avoid the standard or canonical great books that of course shaped me as a writer and human.   

The Journals of John Cheever, by John Cheever

I was getting a master’s degree in literature when I decided to take a fiction workshop.  At this point I had no real intention of being a writer. The instructor recommended Cheever to me, and I immediately read all the short stories and fell in love with Cheever’s writing. But the journals were a revelation; such personal, elegant, trenchant, and heartbreaking writing, done on a daily basis, revealing the state of mind of one of the great American prose stylists. I carried it with me everywhere for several years, nearly every page dog-eared and marked up. My last novel, The Night Swimmer, is in essence an homage to Cheever. In terms of style, tone, and general depiction, Cheever is always my pole star, my guide, my champion.  

London Fields, by Martin Amis

I also found Martin Amis at an early stage when I was beginning to pivot from a scholarly career in literature to fiction writing. I still find Amis’ writing to be mesmerizing, from the catalogues of grit and filth, the hilarity of human greed, gluttony, and hubris, to the intellectual puzzles and narrative tricks. He was my introduction to the postmodernism of contemporary English novelists and still ranks among the best. My first novel, The Third Translation, was basically an attempt to conjoin my love of London, Egyptology, and the writing of Martin Amis. I unapologetically emulated his work – with dubious success.

Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson

Anderson is one of the great unacknowledged prose masters of the 20th century, who probably did more than anyone to develop what is known as the 20th century American style.  In Winesburg, Ohio Anderson probed the dark spaces of small lives in a small town. The ardent desires, thwarted dreams, and how these things expressed themselves outwardly, physically, creating “grotesques,” is something I’ve always worked with in my writing. The structure of the book was also revelatory; having a series of connected characters working through the “hub” character of George Willard gives the book balance and an organic architecture. My second novel, The Wettest County in the World, follows this model, and Sherwood Anderson is actually a principal character in the book. It was like a dream to inhabit him in this way, one of my heroes, and its fair to say that everything I do is influenced by Winesburg, Ohio.   

The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers

This is another book in which the structure and arrangement had an effect on my writing.  The way McCullers worked with the various perspectives, getting into the interior lives of these very different people, still astonishes me. She handles her characters with such sincerity and sensitivity that for me this is a profoundly emotional book. Since then I have searched for the same kind of attachment in my own work. I want to touch people in the way McCullers touched me, deeply and with lasting effect. I can just think about Singer and his loneliness, Mick and her clumsy coming of age, the quiet desperation of Brannon, and I am moved to tears. It may be my most re-read book.   

Journey to the End of the Night, by Louis-Ferdinand Celine

I was living in Paris in my mid-twenties when I came across Celine. A French Literature scholar remarked than anyone doing scholarly work on Celine must be completely insane. Of course then I had to read it. I found a paperback copy of Journey to the End of the Night at the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore and read it while sitting in various parks. I had no idea you could do the sorts of things Celine did, so vicious, dirty, crude, depraved, but intellectual and hilarious. I’ve always strived for that kind of spirit and momentum in my work. I’ve never been as depraved or funny as Celine, but I’m trying. 

----

Matt Bondurant is an American novelist known for his historical fiction, Wettest County in the World, adapted into a film in 2012 entitled Lawless. His latest novel is The Night Swimmer. Follow him on Twitter @mbondurant.

 

Monday
Sep082014

Celebrating National Literacy Month, One Pledge at a Time.

Happy International Literacy Day!

We at Half Price Books believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a book or share a story with their family. During National Literacy Month, we encourage people to incorporate reading into their everyday lives by pledging to read more throughout the month of September with our LitFitness Reading Challenge. With every pledge Half Price Books donates $1 to literacy organizations throughout the country.

Join us by visiting www.hpb.com/litfit to take the pledge and help make an impact on literacy in your community.

Monday
Sep012014

Local Store Events Round-Up: September 2014

Looking for something to do at your favorite book store? Check out these fun happenings at Half Price Books stores across the country during the month of September! 

All Stores

Storewide 20% Off Everything Sale
This Labor Day Weekend, we're having a Storewide 20% Off Everything Sale. Shop your neighborhood Half Price Books from Thursday, Aug. 28 through Monday, Sept. 1 and stock up on great new and used books, music, movies and games for the whole family. Discount valid in stores only. Not valid online or on any gift card purchase or at Half Price Books Outlet.

ARIZONA

Mesa 

Storytime Sundays

Pack up your half-pint readers and come to your Mesa HPB for Storytime Sundays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. See you Sept. 7!

Phoenix – Camelback 

First Sunday Storytime

Pack up your half-pint readers and come to your Camelback HPB for Storytime Sundays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us at 1 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month. All young readers and listeners are welcome!  See you Sept. 7!

Phoenix – Paradise Valley 

Second Saturday Storytime

Bring your half-pint readers in for a good tale with us from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. See you Sept. 13!

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Aug272014

If you Liked This is Where I Leave You, then you might also like…

If you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading or perhaps just finished, This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper. Before reading this book for the HPB Book Club, I had never read any books by Jonathan Tropper, but now I can’t wait to look up his other books. Tropper has a fun way of looking at difficult situations that makes you laugh in spite of yourself. This is Where I Leave You is about a man whose life is falling apart and who is forced to reconnect with his estranged family, burying old hurts and finding out surprising secrets.  Ultimately, the main character must decide what he truly wants out of life and what kind of man he wants to be. Of course, the serious side of the book is buried behind Shiva chairs, fire alarms, baby monitors, and flaming testicles. And, if you like to read about serious topics surrounded by humor, here are a few other books you may like:

 

Truth in Advertising, by John Kenney; Domestic Violets, by Matthew Norman; The Financial Lives of Poets, by Jess Walter; If Jack’s in Love, by Stephen Wetta; Someone Could Get Hurt, by Drew Magary

 

And of course, some other books by Jonathan Tropper:

One Last Thing Before I Go;  How To Talk to a Widower;  Plan B;  The Book of Joe;  Everything Changes

The movie version of This is Where I Leave You, starring Jason Bateman and Tina Faye will be in theaters September 19.  And if you want to chat with fellow HPB Book Clubbers, visit hpb.com/bookclub/fb and join the conversation about This is Where I Leave You between now and the end of September.

So, what book are you going to read next?

--

Julie is Traffic Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Monday
Aug252014

75th Anniversary of The Wizard of Oz

On August 25, 1939, the movie The Wizard of Oz, arguably one of the most watched movies of all time, first graced the silver screen. This movie gave us lines like “There’s no place like home,” “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” and “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” as well as  wonderful songs like “If I Only Had a Brain” and “Over the Rainbow.”  Almost everyone you meet will have seen this movie at least once in his or her life, but as much as we enjoy this classic film, it wasn’t  easy to make. In the words of the Tin Man, Jack Haley: “It was work!”

Here are a few facts about The Wizard of Oz that prove Haley’s point and show the dedication of the artists and staff who made this piece of movie history possible.

  • When filming first started, actress Judy Garland’s Dorothy wore a blonde wig and heavy, “baby-doll” makeup, but when George Cukor was hired as director, he got rid of the wig and most of the makeup and told her to be herself.  However, she still had to wear a painful, corset-style device around her torso to make her appear flat-chested and much younger.
  • During one take, as the Wicked Witch was leaving Munchkinland, a burst of fire appeared on the platform where the witch was to disappear in a cloud of smoke.  The witch’s makeup heated up, causing actress Margaret Hamilton to suffer from second- and third-degree burns on her hands and face.
  • The woven pattern on the rubber prosthetic that made up part of the Scarecrow’s face makeup left lines on actor Ray Bolger’s face.  Those lines remained on his face for more than a year after the movie was completed.
  • The Tin Man suit was so stiff that actor Jack Haley had to lean against a board to rest because he couldn’t sit down.
  • The Cowardly Lion’s costume was made from a real lion skin and weighed 90 pounds.  Combined with the arc lights that lighted the set, actor Bert Lahr would sweat so much that the costume would be soaked by the end of the day, and two people would spend all night drying out the costume so it could be used the next day.
  • Even poor Toto, whose name was actually Terry, suffered during shooting when one of the witch’s guards stepped on him.  He had to have a double play his part for two weeks while he recovered.

Other interesting facts about the movie:

  • In the song “If I Only Had a Heart,” the voice of the girl who says “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” is the voice of Adriana Caselotti, who voiced Snow White in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  • The song “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the movie because the Kansas scene seemed too long.
  • The Horses of a Different Color were colored with Jell-O crystals, and their scenes had to be shot quickly, before the horses started licking the Jell-O off their bodies.
  • Looking for a coat for Professor Marvel, the wardrobe department bought an entire rack of coats from a second-hand store. One day actor Frank Morgan was on set and stuck his hand into one of the pockets of the coat they had chosen and found a label indicating the coat had been made for L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz.  After filming, the coat was presented to Mrs. Baum who had verified that the coat had been her late husband’s.

If you would like to learn more about the movie The Wizard of Oz, stop by your local Half Price Books and look for books like The Making of the Wizard of Oz, by Aljean Harmetz, The Wizardry of Oz, by Jay Scarfone and Down the Yellow Brick Road, by Doug McClelland.  Also, look for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum to read the original story, which has a much spunkier Dorothy, and many more adventures than what you see on the screen.

And, as always, Happy Reading!

--

Julie is Traffic Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.