2018 Mad Dash Reading List

You were prepped and ready pre-New Year’s Eve 2017. Your HPB Gift Cards were locked and loaded and you had a slightly uninterested, yet supportive group of friends waiting in the wings to hold you accountable. The resolution? Read more in 2018. The result? HA!

We get it. Work got in the way, sports happened, your cousin’s wedding, tricks and treats, Thanksgiving eats and before you could crack the cover on your first New York Times Bestseller, it was December. No worries, you’ve still got plenty of time…not War And Peace time, mind you. But you can do this, and we can help.

Books are kind of our thing, so we’ve curated a list for slackers, not unlike yourself, who’ve found themselves worse for wear with that whole bibliophile resolution thing. Read on (see what we did there?) to check out our top 5 picks to help you make it to the end of the year without becoming a repeat resolution maker.

what it means
1.What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky: Stories – Lesley Nneka Arimah
Author Lesley Nneka Arimah tasks readers with tapping into the root of their familial dysfunction in her debut collection of short stories. The majority of the pieces are set in post-apocalyptic times, often causing the characters to grapple with the very foundation of their being as their behavior plays out in desperate circumstances. As each story unfolds, Arimah touches on the taboo topics woven into the fabric of both Nigerian and American households. Against a weary, yet at times fanciful backdrop, she brings much-needed attention to the ways we deal with class, gender and death. Continue reading

Behind the Book The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

Editor’s Note: Popular minimalist blogger and author Joshua Becker provides methodical instruction on how to turn your home from a storage unit into a place of peace, contentment and purposeful living. His new book, The Minimalist Home, helps you to declutter your home and learn how to address the underlying issues that contribute to over-accumulation in the first place. We are delighted he provided us with more insight below! Minimalist Home Book Jacket

Why did you write The Minimalist Home?
I’ve been writing my blog (Becoming Minimalist), teaching minimalism, and speaking about the joys of owning less at conferences around the world for a decade now. And I’ve seen repeatedly, more times than I can recall, that there is an almost magical effect when people right-size the quantity of their possessions—in the process, the people themselves are changed in positive ways. Owning less creates opportunity to live more. I wrote The Minimalist Home to give people a practical guide to help them experience that. At its best, minimalism is about transforming your home so you can transform your life. Continue reading

Behind the Book- Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Editor’s Note: Having started her first novel for a bet in 1996, Lisa Jewell has grown into one of the UK’s most beloved and popular fiction authors. Jewell’s writing is addictive, her characters fleshed out and her storylines original. We were thrilled she agreed to write this piece about the inspiration behind her latest novel, Watching You. Read on to discover how this book came to be! Lisa Jewell- Watching You cover

The first glimmer of the genesis of Watching You was a feeling that there seemed to be an awful lot of news stories about very suburban people in very suburban love triangles committing murder. Either the mistress would kill the wife, or the husband would kill the wife, or the wife would kill the mistress or some other combination of the three.

So, if I was to write about suburban love triangles then I needed a suburb, and that was when the book really started to take form in my head; there is a suburb of Bristol in the UK called Clifton which is famous for its high set rows of brightly painted houses. It used to be a rough area, but has become increasingly gentrified over recent years and is now so “chi chi” that it has its own branch of the Ivy (an upscale restaurant chain in the UK). Continue reading

The Christmas Song: A Deep Dive into a Holiday Chestnut

This year our holiday theme at Half Price Books is “Make the Season Bright.” Those four words appear in one of the most ubiquitous and aptly-named Christmas songs ever written, “The Christmas Song.” You might know it better by its opening lyrics: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

Our line comes in the second section of the song: “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright.” We’d argue that books, music and movies also do the trick.

Here’s a closer look at the history of this holiday classic. Continue reading

Here Comes Santa Claus: A Kid’s Christmas Reading List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…time to entertain the kids during Christmas break. How about a little light holiday reading? Here at Half Price Books, we know a thing or two about children’s books and we’ve got just the list to help keep your little ones in the know about what to expect while they’re waiting on that magical visit from St. Nick.

Christmas ABC – Jannie Ho
Perfect for the tiny one who’s just learning their alphabet, Christmas ABC is filled with whimsical, colorful illustrations that are sure to educate and entertain until Santa arrives.ChristmasABC

How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss
Ever the holiday classic, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is a must for your kiddos whether they’re naughty or nice. The infamous green grump takes to Whoville to wreak havoc on its residents by stealing Christmas gifts before the big day, only to find that the true meaning of the season doesn’t come wrapped underneath a tree. Dr. Seuss’ signature rhyme scheme is perfect for read-along story time and the heartwarming moral is made for winning over any tiny grinches you may find lurking around this season.How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg
The magic of the holiday season comes alive in Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express. A young boy is awakened with an invitation to take an exhilarating trip to the North Pole.  Upon his arrival, he is welcomed by Christmas elves and a chance to be the recipient of the coveted first Christmas gift, given by Santa himself.The Polar Express

Curious George Christmas Countdown – Tish Rabe
It’s Christmas time and Curious George is getting ready! The beloved children’s character celebrates the season with his friends by picking out holiday decorations, baking festive treats and even singing in the Christmas play.Curious George Christmas Countdown

The Night Before Christmas – Clement Clarke Moore and David Ercolini
The perfect Christmas Eve read, The Night Before Christmas was practically made for milk and cookies before bed. Grab your cutest matching pajamas and let the little ones in on the classic account of what happens when Santa visits. From dreams of sugar plums to an epic reindeer shout out, this story is sure to keep the magic of the season burning bright.the night before christmas

There you have it! Here’s to a holiday full of reading that’s guaranteed to calm all the stirring creatures in the house. Yes, even that mouse.  What’s your favorite Christmas children’s story?

A Bestseller Flashback- 2018 in Books

Editor’s Note: Throughout the year, our buyers curate a selection of new, bestselling books to offer in our stores at 20% off the cover price. Here’s a closer look at some of 2018’s standouts!

melmoth
Melmoth (Sarah Perry)
Melmoth is a full-on gothic horror novel from the author of The Essex Serpent. The story crosses many different time periods and focuses on people who are in the midst of difficult situations. It is primarily centered on Helen Franklin, an English translator working in Prague, who disregards an obscure local monster legend before a friend’s disappearance reveals that Helen is being watched. This particular book asks the question, “What’s the difference between someone who orders a horrific act be done and the person who turns a blind eye towards it?” It’s a very chilling, and at times horrific, book that stays with you. Continue reading

Behind the Book- Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Editor’s Note: Diane Setterfield is a magical storyteller. The way she weaves her stories makes readers demand more, more, more! We are delighted to be able to present an in-depth review of the inspiration behind her latest novel, Once Upon a River.

once upon a river cover

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I wrote a novel called The Thirteenth Tale.  People took this book to their hearts in an extraordinary way and I spent over a year travelling to meet readers all over the world. It was a very special time, and when the last trip was done I came home buzzing: so many readers and bookshops, so many cities, countries, continents. What I needed now was to get my feet back on the ground, recalibrate myself for normal life lived at a normal pace. I needed to slow down. I needed a holiday. Continue reading

Behind the Book- Queen of Air & Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Editor’s Note: From the master of young adult fiction comes the final novel in the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling The Dark Artifices trilogy, Queen of Air and Darkness. This magnificent conclusion to a spellbinding series involves dark secrets and forbidden love, which threaten the very survival of the Shadowhunters. We had the opportunity to catch up with Cassandra Clare and ask her some questions about the series and Shadowhunters.

QueenofAirandDarknessbyCassandraClareCoverHiRes

What first inspired you to write about Shadowhunters?
The idea came to me one afternoon in the East Village. A good friend of mine was taking me to see the tattoo shop where she used to work. She wanted to show me that her footprints were on the ceiling in black paint — in fact the footprints of everyone who’d worked there were on the ceiling, crisscrossing each other and making patterns. To me it looked like some fabulous supernatural battle had been fought there by beings who’d left their footprints behind. I started thinking about a magical battle in a New York tattoo shop and the idea of a secret society of demon hunters whose magic was based on an elaborate system of tattooed runes just sprang into my mind. When I sat down to sketch out the book, I wanted to write something that would combine elements of traditional high fantasy — an epic battle between good and evil, terrible monsters, brave heroes, enchanted swords — and recast it through a modern, urban lens. So you have the Shadowhunters, who are these very classic warriors following their millennia-old traditions, but in these urban, modern spaces: skyscrapers, warehouses, abandoned hotels, rock concerts, thrift stores. In fairy tales, it was the dark and mysterious forest outside the town that held the magic and danger. I wanted to create a world where the city has become the forest — where these urban spaces hold their own enchantments, danger, mysteries and strange beauty. It’s just that only Shadowhunters and Downworlders can see them as they really are. Continue reading

All Things Printed & Recorded: Ephemera, Etc.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For December, we’re looking at one of our smaller but most interesting product categories: ephemera—miscellaneous printed materials that have become collectible over time. Common examples found in HPB stores include sheet music, postcards and posters.

TIMELIMEsheet music singers
1457  The Mainz Psalter is the first printed book to include music, though the notation is added in by hand. 
1840  The world’s first picture postcard is sent when British writer Theodore Hook mails a self-made card to himself.
1891  Toulouse-Lautrec’s artful poster designs spark a poster craze in Paris.
1917-1918  During World War I, the US government prints 2,500 different posters to aid in the war effort, including the famous “I Want You” recruiting poster featuring Uncle Sam.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Cheret posterBefore the advent of recording, sheet music dominated the music industry. The late 1800s saw the zenith of “parlor music,” with people gathering around the piano to play and sing the popular songs of the day.
  • “Large letter” postcards, usually printed on linen-textured paper, were popular during the mid-20th century. The style was developed by Chicago-based Curt Teich and Company.
  • In the 1880s, French painter and lithographer Jules Chéret ushered in modern advertising with a new printing process that allowed for brighter colors and more economical mass production of large posters.
  • Psychedelic posters of the 1960s, like the ones produced by The Family Dog, were influenced by Art Nouveau and Surrealism.

Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book A History of Postcards: A Pictorial Record From the Turn of the Century to the Present Day, Martin Willoughby
book Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity, David Prochaska & Jordana Mendelson
book Toulouse Lautrec and La Vie Moderne: Paris 1880–1910, Phillip Dennis Cate, et al.
book Toulouse Lautrec: A Life, Julia Frey
slate_film-512 Discovery of Art: Toulouse Lautrec
book World War I Posters: 100th Anniversary Collectors Edition, Edward J. White
book World War II Posters In Color, Philip Martin McCaulay
book Jules Cheret: Artist of the Belle Epoque and Pioneer of Poster Art, Michael Buhrs, et al
book Posters of Jules Cheret: 46 Full Color Plates and Illustrated Catalogue Risonne, Lucy Broido
book High Art: A History of the Psychedelic Poster, Ted Owen, Denise Dickson & Walter Patrick Medeiros
book Off the Wall: Psychedelic Rock Posters From San Francisco, Amelie Gastaut & Jean-Pierre Criqui
slate_film-512 24 X 36: A Movie About Movie Posters
music-note-2 American Classics: Parlor Music Revisited, Daniel Kobialka

Behind the Book: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Editor’s Note: Kate Morton is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lake House. Her newest book The Clockmaker’s Daughter is the rich, spellbinding new novel that tells the story of a love affair and a mysterious murder that cast their shadows across generations, set in England from the 1860s until the present day. Special thanks to Sara Rattaro for this insight into what went in to the writing of Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

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 How did you manage to intertwine different narrative plans with such ease and without any flaws? How do you write and develop your novels?
I wrote The Clockmaker’s Daughter differently from my other novels. In the past, I have written each chapter in the same order that it appears in the published book; this time, however, I wanted the structure of the novel to support the thematic exploration of time. It was important to me from the start to show the way different layers of time had transpired within a single place. I knew up front that the novel would contain a number of short vignettes – snapshots into the lives of various residents of Birchwood Manor, the house at the novel’s heart – linked together by an over-arching first-person narrative. I wrote the historical vignettes first so that when it came time to write Birdie Bell’s story, I – like she – was privy to the experiences of all of the other characters across time. Because I wrote the past interludes simultaneously, I was better able to glimpse the silvery threads that tied them together.

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