NYE on TV: How our Favorite Shows Ring in the New Year

Well, folks, 2017 is finally about to draw to a close. As we prepare for what lies ahead in 2018, we first must celebrate New Year’s Eve. For some, it’s a time to kiss someone special at the stroke of midnight with blissful hope for the future. For others, it’s a time to turn in early and remind oneself that “well, there’s always next year.”

Regardless of how you’ll be ringing in 2018, take a moment with us to look back at some of our favorite New Year’s moments from TV, like we have done for Thanksgiving and Christmas. So let’s get started!

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Friends: The One With the Routine (1999: Season 6, Episode 10)

No NYE celebration is complete without “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” In this classic Friends episode, Ross and Monica go all out to ensure that they’ll be featured on the big broadcast, bringing back…“the routine,” a dance they did in school.

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An Adventure in Time and the Holidays

Doctor Who is all about change, about comings and goings. And few things mark the passage of time more than the holidays. Each year since the show relaunched in 2005, Who has done a Christmas special. These episodes tend to be big, dramatic and more than a little silly. They’ve also become the time each actor playing the Doctor bows out from the role. This year’s upcoming special is no different, with Peter Capaldi saying his farewells.

Now seems like a good time to look back and offer up my choices for the five best holiday specials. There were some difficult decisions here, but the five episodes selected highlight the many wonderful (and weird) aspects of Doctor Who.

The Time of the Doctor (2013)

An imperfect episode that gives Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor a fitting sendoff, The Time of the Doctor attempts to end a three-season story arc, tell a charming Christmas story and say goodbye to Smith in 60 minutes. It’s far too much for a single episode.

The premise, while confusing, is a good one. The Doctor is trapped on an alien world in a town called Christmas (a bit on the nose, yeah), which holds a secret that all of Who’s classic baddies want. Thanks to some sci-fi nonsense, a force field (mostly) keeps the monsters out, but it means the Doctor can never leave or tell a lie. The Doctor is forced to live out his own personal hell of putting down roots and living an honest life.

The Doctor resigns himself to fighting the last battle of what he believes is his last life. Of course, that doesn’t happen, but there are some surprises – and Matt Smith is particularly good throughout. Time works best when viewed immediately after the far better 50th anniversary special. Together, the two episodes celebrate the show’s history while setting up its future.

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Holiday Albums You Love—And Others You Should

Now that it’s December, it’s time to dust off those records that live in the back of your collection, the ones that only get played one month out of the year: Christmas albums. In this post, I’m taking a look at some of the albums on Billboard’s list of the ten top-selling holiday albums of all time. Chances are you own some of them, and maybe you can’t imagine Christmas without them. But the thing about traditions is, you have to add new ones from time to time. In that spirit, I’m offering some alternative holiday albums that might be less familiar and a little fresher to your ears.

Gigantic Bestseller:
ElvisElvis’ Christmas Album – Elvis Presley
Released in 1957, Presley’s first Christmas album—the top-selling record on Billboard’s list— features secular tunes on side one and sacred fare on side two, including a few non-Christmas gospel songs that had been previously released. The King is solemn on the religious tunes but loosens up for the secular stuff, including originals like “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me).” Personally, I can’t stand Elvis’ version of “Blue Christmas,” but it’s here, too.

Alternate Choice:
James Brown’s Funky Christmas – James Brown
Let the King rest in heavenly peace this year and invite the Godfather of Soul over for Christmas instead. This compilation features tracks from the three holiday albums Brown recorded at the height of his funky powers between 1966 and 1970, including “Go Power at Christmas Time,” “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and “Soulful Christmas.” Brown shows his socially-conscious side on tracks like “Let’s Unite the World at Christmas.”

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Holiday Reads for the Not-So-Holiday Minded

Every Christmas, there are certain books that my family pulls off the bookshelf. They are absolute must-reads for Christmastime, like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, occasionally between stealing the last can of Who Hash and God blessing everyone, I need to read something that will take me out of the holiday while still capturing the holiday spirit, if only for a moment. Here is a list of classic novels that includes the holidays, but are about so much more.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
This classic novel begins with a heartwarming Christmas scene, but it takes you through several seasons in the March girls’ lives as they face each blessing and trial together. The love and support the March girls give each other through the years illustrates the importance of family.
little women

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Totally Random Lists: Auld Lang Syne

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year at HPB, we celebrated the random. Actually, we’ve been doing that every year since our founding in 1972. And we mean random in a totally good way, as in the random treasures you come across when you’re browsing our stores or website—and the wonderfully random stuff we buy from the public every day. In this series of posts, you’ve found books, movies and music collected in some very random ways. So here’s our final random list for December 2017!

Dec titleAs we bid adieu to another year, HPB would like to remind you that old acquaintances shouldn’t be forgot—unless they’re always posting offensive stuff on Facebook: Then forget ‘em! Did we mention we’re terrible at goodbyes? Here’s a list of titles related to endings & farewells.

BOOKSDec visual
Farewell, My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
The Garden of Happy Endings, Barbara O’Neal
This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper
Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, C.J. Box

MOVIES & TV
Bye Bye Birdie
The Day After Tomorrow
The Long Goodbye
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

MUSIC
The End, Nico
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John
Leaving, Pet Shop Boys

Not ready to say goodbye just yet? Keep the story going at HPB.com/auld.

Fictional Feasts

Last autumn, I had the pleasure of visiting family in England and staying with my cousin and her husband in their cozy 16th century home in a tiny East Sussex village not far from the town of Lewes.

On a chilly, clear evening after a full day of walking and exploring the area, my cousin prepared us a warm, delicious meal of daube and homemade bread accompanied by a glass of hearty red wine. Our dinner conversation started with “What is daube?” – a classic Provençal beef stew – and “Where did you get the recipe?” – from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David. By the way, Virginia Woolf (who had a weekend home in Lewes and sadly drowned in the nearby River Ouse) wrote about ‘Boeuf en Daube’ in her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse.

“… an exquisite scent of olives and oil and juice rose from the great brown dish as Marthe, with a little flourish, took the cover off. The cook had spent three days over that dish. And she must take great care, Mrs. Ramsay thought, diving into the soft mass, to choose a specially tender piece for William Bankes. And she peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats and its bay leaves and its wine …” Continue reading

Books and Beverages to Cozy Up With

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is from one of our special HPB contributors, Shelbi from The Nobby Life. Take it away, Shelbi! 


One of my favorite things about autumn (only one, mind you, because I have many favorite things about this season!) is the pairing of books and cozy beverages on crisp autumnal days. Whether the sun is out or it’s raining, I love finding a good spot by a big window and watching the vast sky meets the tops of the low Texas trees. With a warm beverage in one hand and a book in the other, I can’t think of anything that symbolizes autumn for me more than steaming cups and warming stories. I’ve paired a few of my favorites and I hope you will enjoy them!

Chai + a Good Mystery
Spicy & mellow, mysterious and engrossing, a steaming chai latte and Sherlock Holmes are a perfect pairing. In A Study in Scarlet, the first mystery in the detective series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes meets his faithful sidekick, Dr. Watson, and the two are called upon to investigate a mystery in a south London house revolving around a dead man whose contorted face is a twisted mask of horror. If you want some good, old-fashioned thrills relating to a tragic tale, this book is for you.

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Not Your Parents’ Monopoly: The New Generation of Board Games

When you think about board games, what comes to mind?  Games like Scrabble, Life, Clue, and if you had a hankering for games that take all day, maybe Risk?  Perhaps they were things you played as a kid on family nights, but today you would prefer to watch paint dry rather than sit through a three hour slog of Monopoly all while desperately hoping you’ll land on your greedy nephew’s Boardwalk hotel so you can declare bankruptcy and go do something – anything – else.

But what if I told you board game popularity is on the rise again?  In the last year alone sales grew by 28% in the US, and board games are a multi-billion dollar business worldwide.  What’s driving this growth?  Well, primarily a new, better generation of board games.  These new games drive enjoyment for all players throughout the entirety of the game.  Problems that make games less fun, such as the runaway winner problem in Monopoly, or the problem in Life that the game is mostly resolved by who gets more lucky spins, are generally problems of the past.  Imagine a game featuring even more depth of strategy and decision making than Risk but only taking an hour to play; the newer generation accomplishes this.

Not only are these games demonstrably better designed and more fun, but they also promote something our digital life just cannot duplicate: Real. Humans. Interacting.  This interaction promotes pro-social behavior.  Unlike online video games where particularly toxic behaviors can be hidden behind an anonymous username, board games require you to actually not be a jerk, unless you want to be confined to solitaire games forever.

At Half Price Books, we have embraced this new generation of games, and our selection features some of the most popular games available, all at 20% off their MSRP.  Here’s just a few of what we have to offer and why you must play them:

Catan
Catan is widely thought of as THE starting point for the revival of the board game industry.  Your role in the game is to build up settlements and cities on the newly discovered island of Catan and try to be the first to score ten points.   A relatively simple game that plays 2-4 players in about an hour, it features hallmarks of modern gaming like resource management, building structures and area map control, as well as a few classic mechanics like dice rolling and card trading.  If you want to see the roots of modern gaming and get a taste of what is out there, pick this one up. Or, if you have younger children, check out Catan Jr.
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10 Unforgettable, Quotable Lines from Casablanca

As Casablanca celebrates its 75th anniversary, there’s so much to acknowledge. Where shall I begin? The film score is among my favorites. Its dreadfully romantic – albeit a messy love triangle plot. It’s film noir cinematography style – the darkness and casting shadows – makes it both dramatic and iconic. And it’s among an enchanting collection of “movies within movies.” Yet, perhaps the best quality of the film is the screenplay.

Casablanca’s iconic moments and lines have become a part of our cultural vocabulary. Even people who have never seen the film might find themselves quoting it beccause its stellar writing has become woven into our contemporary vernacular. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at these 10 lines and watch the unforgettable scenes where they appear in the film.

Here’s looking at you kid.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

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Give the Gift of Reading this Booksgiving Day!

Booksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, as it involves many of my favorite hobbies – spending time with family, watching football and wearing stretchy pants while eating lots of delicious food. ☺️

But reading is another way I love to spend time and Half Price Books has its own special holiday to celebrate reading on Saturday, Nov. 18 – Booksgiving Day!

2017 is the fifth year we’ve celebrated Booksgiving Day at Half Price Books with a special storytime at 2 p.m. local time. Every child who attends will receive a FREE children’s book to take home with them, while supplies last.

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Booksgiving Day: Independence, MO

In addition to the books we give away in store, we’ll also donate a book for every book sold on HPB.com on November 18  to rebuild libraries in schools and non-profit organizations in Hurricane Harvey-affected areas of Texas. All books given away are part of our Million Book Donation Project.

So whether it’s in store or online, we hope you’ll celebrate Booksgiving Day with us on Saturday, Nov. 18!