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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.
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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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Monday
Mar022015

The Truth Behind Dr. Seuss

In his book Happy Birthday to You, Dr. Seuss wrote the lines “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  How relevant do those words seem when you relate them to the man himself? No other writer has been able to express his own individuality as well as Dr. Seuss, and on his birthday today, what better way to celebrate than exposing some of the You-ness behind his books. Here are some interesting facts about Dr. Seuss.

  • And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, the first children’s book Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated was rejected 27 times before finally being published by a friend in 1937.  
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go was Dr. Seuss’ final book, published in 1990.
  • Dr. Seuss never had children and didn’t interact well with them.  His wife Audrey once said he was afraid of them.  Seuss told people, “You have children. I’ll entertain them.”  
  • Dr. Seuss admitted that the character of The Grinch was based on himself.
  • Although Boris Karloff provided the voice of The Grinch in the Seuss-sanctioned cartoon, Thurl Ravenscroft, AKA Tony the Tiger, was the one who sang the song You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. When Seuss learned that Ravenscroft did not receive credit on screen, he wrote to several newspaper columnists to tell them who had sung the song.
  • Dr. Seuss was one of the first children’s writers to insert political and social themes into his works.  The Lorax was about how humans are destroying nature, Yertle the Turtle was a representation of Hitler and The Butter Battle Book was a reference to the Cold War.
  • The Lorax used to contain the line “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie,” but 14 years after the book was published, Seuss was contacted by the Ohio Sea Grant Program, who told him how the conditions had improved and implored him to take the line out.  Seuss agreed and the line has not appeared in any editions since then.
  • Despite the political nature of Yertle the Turtle, the only thing the publisher disputed was Mack’s burp, for no one had ever burped in a children’s book before, and they weren’t sure how the public would receive it.  In the end, Mack kept his burp.
  • After reading a 1954 report published in Life magazine about illiteracy among school children, a textbook editor commissioned Seuss to write a book which would appeal to children learning to read.  Acknowledging that the Dick and Jane primers were “insanely boring,” Seuss took the challenge, and using only the 250 word vocabulary provided to him by the editor, wrote The Cat in the Hat.
  • Seuss was never one to back down from a challenge.  One time his editor bet him that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 individual words.  So Seuss picked up his pen and wrote Green Eggs and Ham, which has 50 individual words exactly.
  • Anyone who has ever read Dr. Seuss knows that he invented many different words, but did you know that he invented the word “nerd?”  It appeared in his book If I Ran a Zoo, published in 1950.  A “nerd” was one of the more interesting animals the main character would bring to the zoo if he were in charge.  The accompanying illustration showed a grumpy Seussean creature with unruly hair, sideburns and a black T-shirt.
  • Dr. Seuss wrote more than 48 books, delighting young and old alike by combining the ridiculous with the logical, and he won a special Pulitzer citation for “his contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.”

Yes, it is true, Dr. Seuss. No one is Youer than You!

Dr. Seuss’ You-ness hasn’t come to an end either.  Dr. Seuss’ books are still making a difference in the lives of children today, plus, four new Dr. Seuss stories are set to be released in the fall. A study revealed the rhyming and alliterative properties of Dr. Seuss books did improve certain aspects of phonemic awareness in children 3-7 years old, as well as initial sound fluency.  In older children oral reading fluency and nonsense word fluency were increased.  Perhaps that is why for the past 18 years, the National Education Association (NEA) has chosen Dr. Seuss’ birthday as Read Across America Day.  This year, the NEA has chosen the Seuss classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go as the book to read.   

Share the love of reading by donating your favorite Dr. Seuss book, or any other new or gently-used children’s book to the Half Pint Library Book Drive.

As Dr. Seuss said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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

Thursday
Feb262015

Meeting some of my favorite authors at American Booksellers Association Winter Institute conference!

Every year the American Booksellers Association puts on a conference in February called Winter Institute. This year, it was my complete pleasure to be able to attend. Many different things happen at these conference, like seminars and advanced learning sessions, but one of my favorite parts was meeting authors! The second night we were there, Scholastic put on a reception for some of its authors, including Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of my favorite book of this year and in my top 10 list of favorite books of all time, Echo. I was able to give her a giant hug and thank her for signing over a thousand bookplates for Echo which will be for sale in our stores – get yours at your local Half Price Books today before they run out! Seriously, Echo is one of the best books I have ever read. And I read a lot of books!

Photo Source: Publisher's Weekly

John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, made a surprise appearance at the reception. I had met John at a previous event for The Fault in Our Stars movie in Dallas, but it was a crazy night and I never thought he would remember me. To my complete and utter surprise, he did! He even went so far as to recall the night we met in great detail! We reminisced for a few minutes and then he had to be on his way.

A little while later, I was back at the hotel bar, and I heard someone say, “Kristen, I’d like to introduce you to Erik.” I turned around and to my second great surprise of the night, it was Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City, In the Garden of Beasts, and the upcoming Dead Wake. We sat for a while in the bar and talked about his books and some of his most memorable signing tours.

It was definitely a remarkable night for me – one that I’ll never forget!

Yeah, I have the best job in the world.

Read more about the highlights from Winter Institute 10 in the Publisher's Weekly article.

Kristen B. is Assistant Buyer at Half Price Books Distribution Center.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kbev302.

Wednesday
Feb252015

Books Authors Read with Matt Kepnes

There’s nothing more inspirational than a well-written travel book. It can fill you with awe, wonder, and wanderlust. Books make those 10-hour bus rides through Laos more bearable. They get us excited for new destinations and can change our world view. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but my goal this year is to read one book a week (if not more). I go through fits and starts with reading. I’ll read a book or two a week and then won’t pick up another for months. This year I want to be more consistent.

As we make our way through the new year (where did January?), I wanted to share some of my favorite recent reads. These books will inspire, teach, and maybe change your habits so without further ado, the books:

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden

 Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest JailRecommended to me by a reader of this blog, Marching Powder tells the true story of Thomas McFadden and his time in San Pedro prison in Bolivia. McFadden was an English drug trafficker who ended up in jail after an official he was bribing double-crossed him. While it wasn’t the best-written book I read last year, the storyline is what makes this one of my favorite recent reads. In the book, you learn about life in a prison where inmates bought their own cells (which created a huge class system), made their own drugs (to be sold on the streets), bribed cops, and developed an economy filled with shops, elected officials, and neighborhoods. Rich prisoners were even allowed to leave with a prison escort. McFadden also started leading tours through the prison during his incarceration (they even ended up in Lonely Planet) to backpackers (who for the right price could also stay the night). This is not a story of redemption. It’s one about life in one of the most corrupt prisons in the world. The book is now being made into a movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor from 12 Years a Slave.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

 Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S. )Before Anthony Bourdain roamed the world without reservations or to places unknown, he was a chef clawing his way through the kitchens of New York City. This book (his first one) is a very well written insider’s account of the restaurant industry. True to form, Bourdain is crass, vulgar, and doesn’t hold anything back. You learn about the drug use in kitchens, the fast pace and dog-eat-dog world of the restaurant business, staff loyalty to chefs (kitchen staff follow the chefs they like), and why there are some foods you should just never order. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. I always enjoy his work, so it was nice to read about his rise to fame. This book was a very fun and interesting read. You’ll never look at restaurants the same way again.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessWhile this book has nothing to do with travel, it is a wonderfully researched account of how we form habits. Why do we do what we do? Are we hard wired to repeat habits, even when they are bad? How do we break bad habits and form good ones? I read this towards the end of 2014 and it really impacted my life, which is why it is making this book list. We should strive to be better people than we were yesterday. What makes great people so great? They work at it. I believe in self-improvement because being better people makes us better travelers. This bestselling book discusses how we form habits and gives specific strategies about how to break bad habits and start good ones. This book definitely made me rethink many of my habits and is part of the reason why I decided to read more. (For example, I replaced my before-bed TV catch-up time with reading time!)

Choose Yourself! by James Altucher

Choose Yourself!I became friends with James a few years ago at a mastermind conference I was speaking at in Toronto. He’s an amazing, quirky guy who’s started dozens of finance and tech companies, consulted for the likes of Twitter, made millions, lost millions, and made millions again. His book is about how the new economy has made it easier for people to become their own bosses and put their happiness first. The old economy is rigged, he says. Companies treat workers like an expense, won’t rehire in the new post-financial crisis, and provide very little opportunity for financial independence. Unless you take it upon yourself to choose yourself (i.e. break out of the system and find ways to be independent), you’ll end up in a dead-end job or downsized into oblivion. From tips on starting your own business to advice on picking up a new skill or just figuring out what makes you happy and doing more of that, Choose Yourself is an uplifting book with practical resources on becoming your own boss and taking control of your life.

Turn right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a TimeThis book recounts Adams’ tale of roughing it through Peru in search of little-visited Inca ruins and ancient cities with a surly Indiana Jones-type Australian guide. While most tourists stick to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, Adams goes everywhere else, tracing the Incas’ flight into the Andes Mountains after the Spanish invaded their empire. He discovers just how much there is to see in Peru that tourists never visit. In a country filled with Inca ruins, many are still unexcavated and have few tourists. It’s one of best-written tales I read last year and opened me up to a whole new understanding of the Incas. There was a lot about Peru I didn’t know and now I’m even more excited to visit the country someday, follow Adams’ footsteps, and get off the beaten path! I highly recommend you pick this book up.

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald

Holy Cow: An Indian AdventureJournalist Sarah MacDonald writes about her experience moving to India to follow her boyfriend, despite vowing never to return after a visit a few years before (she hated India after her first visit). The book is well written and funny, and features amazing insights into Indian culture and its differences from the West – from family, marriage, and dating to class breakdowns, Sarah shares a lot about her time in the country. In a way, it’s the classic fish-out-of-water tale, but it reminded me of my own experience living in Thailand and having to adapt to Thai culture. I couldn’t put this book down and enjoyed her account of culture shock and how India broke down her preconceived notions of Western versus Indian values. It allowed her to appreciate the best of both worlds.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite RunnerI first read this book when it came out in 2003 but after recently rummaging through my book collection at my parents’ house, I picked it up again. The book follows the story of Amir, a wealthy Afghan kid who escapes with his family during the Soviet invasion, grows up in America, and eventually goes back to Afghanistan during Taliban rule to save his friend’s son. Though I read it many years ago, it remains one of my favorite books of all time. Re-reading it made me realize why it was such a phenomenon – it’s beautifully and vividly written with strong characters and a powerful story about grief, guilt, and redemption. Hosseini’s follow up, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is just as powerful. If you’ve never read his works, do so.

 

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World HistoryWhile dense, this book was surprisingly incredibly fascinating. It traces the history of salt and its importance to civilization, ancient empires, and how we were able to explore the world. It’s filled with quirky facts that make you realize how much of our world was influenced by salt. For example, to be “worth one’s salt” means to be worth one’s pay: the word “salary” comes from the Latin word for salt (sal). Ancient Romans and soldiers were often paid in salt since it was so valuable. Salt was recommended to me by a number of my friends and it was one of the most fascinating books I read last year. It’s important to know about the world – you can’t understand a place if you don’t understand its past, and this book will explain a lot of the past to you. I liked it so much, I picked up his follow-up book, Cod (about how cod changed the world).

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The AlchemistThis book is always on my Top Reads list. A story about following your dreams, this is one of the most widely read books in recent history. The story follows a young shepherd boy traveling from Spain to Egypt after he has a dream telling him he needs to get to Egypt. Along the way, he meets interesting people, learns to follow his heart, go with the flow, and love, and discovers the meaning of life. The book is filled with wonderful and inspirational quotes. My favorite is, “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man…Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.” A book about following your dreams is perfect for travelers because we certainly are dreamers. I’ve read this book multiple times – it always inspires me to enjoy life and dream more.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into ValuesOriginally published in 1974, this book has been a classic hit since its release and was a long overdue read for me. I’ve heard people talk about it for years, and it’s highly recommended by Tim Ferriss, another voracious reader I respect. The book follows a father and his young son during a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest. The tale addresses love, growth, discovery, and the meaning of existence. It is one of those deep books that uses travel as a backdrop to make us question why we do what we do, what makes us happy, and how we can be happier. Like The Alchemist, this is an uplifting and inspirational story that makes you want to turn your dreams into a reality. It makes you want to get out there and explore the world, and that’s a message I can always get behind!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the WildThis book (which inspired the excellent movie of the same name) follows Christopher McCandless after he graduates from college, donates his savings to charity, and sets off across the United States in search of a deeper meaning to life. Sadly, he was tragically found dead by hikers in Alaska after mistakenly eating the wrong type of berries. Not much is known is about his time on the road – McCandless used an alias while traveling (Alexander Supertramp). Krakauer tries to fill in the blanks by using McCandless’ diary and interviewing the few people he met on the road. Much of the book is pure speculation. Regardless, it’s an inspirational story about breaking the mold, following your dreams, and living a more meaningful life (notice a theme on this year’s best books list?!).

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

Almost French: Love and a New Life in ParisI like all books about people who fall in love with Paris, so when this came up in Amazon as a suggested read, I immediately bought it up and wasn’t disappointed. Sarah Turnbull’s visit to the City of Light was supposed to last a week, but she ends up staying permanently with the guy she had traveled to Paris to visit (Paris has that effect on people). This book follows Turnbull’s life in the city as she navigates the highs and lows of trying to fit into a foreign culture while slowly falling more and more in love with it. Its a fish-out-of-water tale and clichéd at many times, but it offers lessons on embracing life in a foreign culture that will never really accept you as one of its own. Funny and witty, I found it to be a fun pager turner. It’s light read so it won’t take long to finish.

As am I reading a lot more this year, I thought it would be fun to start a travel book club. Once a month, I’ll be featuring about five amazing books – some oldies, some recent reads – covering travel, history, fiction, and anything else I think you might enjoy! So, if you want reading suggestions, just click on the big yellow button below and come join the 1,000 people already reading more great books!

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This was originally published February 2, 2015 on Matt Kepnes’ travel blog Nomadic Matt.

You may visit him online or follow him on Twitter @nomadicmatt.

Matt Kepnes is the Ney York Times bestselling author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.

Thursday
Feb192015

Books: Read the Movie, Oscars Edition

 

It's time again for Books: Read the Movie. With the 87th Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, February 22, we have a special Oscars edition. There are so many Best Picture winners based on books, which makes it is very difficult to narrow them down, but here are my personal top five Best Picture winners based on books.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca

You would think Alfred Hitchcock would have a mantle full of Oscars, but sadly this is just not the case. Hitchcock’s Rebecca was a list of many firsts for him. This was his first film after leaving England for Hollywood, his only film to win the Best Picture Oscar, and his first film adapted from another source. This film was adapted from Rebecca, the outstanding novel by Daphne du Maurier. A very haunting film that still plays well to this day, this is Hitchcock at his best.

Ben Hur by Lew Wallace

Ben Hur (Young Readers Christian Library)

You can certainly make a case for this being one of the greatest films of all time, being tied with the most Oscar wins at 11. (The other two films with 11 wins being Titanic and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King). This was also the film that won Charlton Heston his only Oscar, in which he took home the Best Actor award. This film is just shy of 4 hours long, but every minute of the chariot race makes it one of the most memorable scenes in movie history.

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers  by Maria Augusta Trapp (filmed as The Sound of Music)

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

Based on the book by Maria Augusta von Trapp, this is the most memorable musical of all time. Who can forget Julie Andrews with her arms held out, twirling on the mountaintop? Winner of 5 Academy Awards – don’t be confused, none of the awards went to Julie Andrews, but she later won for another singing role, Mary Poppins this true story of the Von Trapp children is definitely a classic.

Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally (filmed as Schindler’s List)

Schindler's Ark

This is the film that won Steven Spielberg his first Oscar, and deservedly so. Ralph Fiennes also gave the performance of a lifetime and is one of the biggest snubs of all time. The Academy did not give him the Best Supporting Actor Award, instead giving it to Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive. To me, this film may have the most powerful movie ending of all time. But, no spoilers here! You need to see this film at least once in your life. 

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

 The Godfather

A great book that has been turned into an incredible movie, how can we forget the mostpopular crime family in movie history, the Corleones? You just can’t go wrong with Marlon Brando (Best Actor Oscar), Al Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall! Make yourself a plate of pasta, grab a bottle of Chianti and enjoy…this is the best movie of all time!

 

There are so many more great films adapted from literature, some honorable mentions are Forrest Gump, In the Heat of the Night and The French Connection. What are your Oscar-winning favorites which are based on books? 

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Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.

Wednesday
Feb112015

Books Authors Read with Katy Evans

As a writer of contemporary romance, I will read anything – anything – with romance in it. From classics to modern day romances, these are some of my most favorite reads which have stayed with me for decades.

Tryst by Elswyth Thane

This book is haunting in the best way. It is beautiful, unexpected, the love story between a young girl and a boy who may, or may not, be coming back to the house her family is renting. Between its lovely descriptions, the young couples’ love bound by the supernatural, this is the sweetest, loveliest ghost story I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë 

Like any romance writer, I like my heroes hot and preferably brooding, and that’s exactly what Heathcliff is. The ultimate brooding hero—borderline villain, Heathcliff stole my heart twenty years ago when I first read this book and to this day, Wuthering Heights continues to be one of my favorite love stories. Once again, there’s a supernatural element here that turns what could have been a regular star-crossed-lovers romance into something beyond everlasting. A must, must read classic.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you haven’t lived well if you haven’t met Mr. Darcy! The sometimes infuriating, sometimes charming, always impossibly attractive Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice has been stealing readers’ hearts for ages, and the same can be said for his lady, one of my most beloved heroines, Elizabeth Bennett. This book will not only amuse you, but it will tug at every romantic bone in your body and pull your heartstrings too. If you haven’t done so already, I do think it’s time you met Mr. Darcy!

Remembrance by Jude Deveraux

Jude Deveraux is one of my favorite authors and among the very first I ever read. Although I loved A Knight In Shining Armor and all of her historicals, this book stands out as my favorite. It touches upon the subject of reincarnation, and we find ourselves reading about a pair of star-crossed lovers during different lifetimes. It is a captivating, imaginative, original, beautiful read that just thinking about makes me want to read again.

Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught

I have loved every single Judith McNaught book I have ever read. From Perfect to her historicals, she’s an amazing writer and one who has given me countless hours of enjoyment ever since I was a voracious little reader at fifteen. But there is something extra special about this book—I love the sassy, strong heroine, the strong alpha hero, the circumstances that both keep them apart and pull them together, and the lingering feeling of hope that it left me with. This is the sort of read you close with a deep, delicious sigh and then open back up to page one, because you want to experience it all over again, it’s just that wonderful.

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Katy Evans is the New York Times bestselling author of the REAL series. Her latest novel, Manwhore is set to hit a bookshelf near you, March 24, 2015.

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