“I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” by Nora Ephron

I received I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron as a gift from one of my girlfriends. She knew how much I enjoyed Nora Ephron’s work as a screenwriter, film director and playwright. So it was a natural assumption that I’d be tickled by her non-fiction work. And indeed, I was.

I like Nora. She’s real. And she’s smart. An excellent combination. Add in the fact that she shares her witty and candid insights without hesitation or apology, it makes the whole tenor of the book simply delightful! Simply hilarious. Can’t recall ever laughing aloud while reading quite like this! With Nora’s writing, no topic is off-limits.

Much like her screenplays for When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998), these autobiographical essays laud the Upper West Side. And I love the way she describes New York City almost as though it’s a living, breathing creature that keeps on growing new limbs, changing at each turn. Through her words, I believe it must be.

Nora Ephron has a way with words that any reader or fellow wordsmith will appreciate. In fact, she shares her own celebration of reading in this book. There’s no sense in paraphrasing; you must read it for yourself:

“Reading is everything…

Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”

I Feel Bad About My Neck is also packed with other bite-sized wisdom from Nora’s life as a journalist, career-woman, wife and mother. For instance, “There’s no point in making pie crust from scratch.”

But one of my favorite parts of this book, which also appeared in Oprah magazine’s Aha Moment series, is one little sentence. Nora reveals her Aha Moment… “We can’t do everything.”

That’s a good piece of advice to remember as you gallop through life. As Nora says, “You would be amazed at how often things sort themselves out without any help from me whatsoever.”

Now that I’ve read and LOL’d my way through this book, I must journey backwards and read Nora Ephron’s previous books – Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (1975), about a generation of women (and men) who helped shape the way we live, covering a series of events ranging from Watergate to the Pillsbury Bake-Off; Scribble Scribble: Notes on the Media (1978), an early collection of essays on life and work in the 60s and 70s; Heartburn (1996), a tale about marriage and break-ups; and Wallflower at the Orgy (2007), in which Ephron chronicles her own beauty makeover.

And lastly, I’ll catch up with her latest publication, I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections (2010), which I’ve heard is another batch of succinct essays, covering her amusing observations, reflections back on her career-rise from a New York Post writer in the 60s, and the fascinating people she met along the way.

I look forward to many more laughs from Nora Ephron’s work, both films and books! And if I find myself back in NYC again soon, perhaps a touch of theater. Who’s with me? – Meredith

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

Staff Picks: Top 5 Underrated Movie Makeovers

Our Apple Valley, MN store is undergoing a renovation this week and will reopen this coming Saturday (so thanks, Apple Valley customers, for your patience!) This remodel reminded us of one of our favorite motifs in all of entertainment: THE MOVIE MAKEOVER (which usually features the equally beloved MOVIE MONTAGE). You know it– rags to riches, misfit to most popular, ugly duckling to beautiful swan, often complimented by compelling musical orchestrations or oversynthesized 80s tunes.

As we were brainstorming, we realized that most lists feature the same movies in different orders (Grease, Clueless, She’s All That, Miss Congeniality, Never Been Kissed, My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Devil Wears Prada, The Princess Diaries). These are all quality nominees, but we here at Half Price Books are about the unsung heroes, the underdogs, the hidden treasures —

So here are our Top FIVE UNDERRATED Movie Makeovers:

1. Cinderella (1950)–The original makeover; 2. Encino Man (1992)– caveman to 90s teenager makeover;  3. Jawbreaker (1999)– hush makeover; 4. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)– role reversal makeover; 5. House Bunny (2008)– nerdy Zeta to Playboy Bunny makeover.

Thanks to Randall Wesley, Store Manager at Apple Valley, and his team for brainstorming Movie Makeover ideas. Good luck with your Reopening on Saturday!

What do you think? Did they miss one? What’s your favorite pick for Movie Makeovers? Or Best Movie Montage? (Bonus points for links to YouTube for our viewing pleasure.)

— Becky

 

Happy 39th Birthday, HPB!

Today is HPB’s 39th Birthday! On July 27, 1972, we opened our first store in a converted laundromat in Dallas, Texas. Co-founders Ken Gjemre and Pat Anderson stocked the shelves with more than 2,000 books from their personal libraries. Half Price Books was created with the idea of offering a great product at a great price. And it worked! Today, Half Price Books is America’s favorite family-owned new and used bookstore chain with 113 stores in 16 states.

We received a few unexpected birthday gifts this year. First, we’re excited to announce that our Dallas/Fort Worth area shoppers voted us D Magazine‘s “Best Bookstore” in its upcoming August “Best Of Big D” issue. We won both the Editors’ Choice and the Readers’ Choice — no small feat, judging from the competition. Thank you to everyone who voted in Dallas-Fort Worth, but most of all THANK YOU to our customers nationwide! You’re the reason we’ve been able to do what we do for the last 39 years.

Our other unexpected birthday surprise was this ADORABLE video from one of our pint-sized customers we met recently in San Antonio. He attended our San Antonio Grand Opening and definitely wins our Enthusiasm Award. This guy’s invited to the party, for sure 🙂

Isn’t he great? If you can’t get enough of him, here’s a second edition, entitled “Reading is like time-travel, except pocket-sized.”

Thanks again to everyone for your love and loyalty these last 39 years. We’re looking forward to celebrating many more — including BIG PLANS for our 40th birthday next year!

How many of our 39 years have you been shopping at HPB? We’d love to know which location is your favorite!

— Emily (and the entire HPB family)

Fiction Friday: “A Visit From the Goon Squad” and other Pulitzer Prize Winners

While I had heard a million great things about “THE HELP,” I have heard very mixed reviews about “A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD” by Jennifer Egan. Which, I have to admit, really intrigued me as to why most people seem to either absolutely love or absolutely hate this book.

I can’t quite say that I loved this book, but I did enjoy it once I got the hang of it. It is quite hard to understand and get into at the beginning. Each of the 13 chapters is narrated by a different character, who is generally a minor character from the previous chapter. If you don’t know this ahead of time (like I didn’t) it takes a few chapters to learn that and to really understand. It makes for a frustrating read at the beginning – especially since Egan usually doesn’t reveal the character’s name until a page or two into the chapter. But, once you understand that’s what’s going on, it can almost become a game to figure out who the next character is going to be.

Which brings me to a couple of my main issues with this book. Barring one or two exceptions, the characters are not likeable. I was actually almost glad when chapters were ending and I got to meet a different character. I also did not enjoy chapter 10, which was the only chapter written in second person. In a book where enough different things are going on, I felt it was a little extreme. If you can get past the unlikeability of the characters and the odd Chapter 10, it does make for an interesting read.

Image courtesy of Savidge ReadThere’s been lots of chatter about the chapter done in Power Point and whether or not people like it. I’ve even read some speculation that the Power Point is the only reason that this book won the Pulitzer Prize. I was intrigued. But the presentation, within context of the book, actually makes sense. It is actually part of the narrator, Ally’s, life. I enjoyed the chapter, and it once again reminded me that sometimes simple words and phrases can have a much deeper meaning and resonate further than long, drawn-out sentences.

In all, I did find this book to be an interesting and overall enjoyable read. I did want to read to the very last page, which is sometimes a difficult thing for me. That said, I can definitely understand how this is not a book for everyone. It’s a book that the reader must concentrate on, figure out how to navigate, and read with an open mind.

Here are some other Pulitzer Prize winners worth a read:

2010 “TINKERS” by Paul Harding

2009 “OLIVE KITTERIDGEby Elizabeth Strout

2008 “THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAOby Junot Diaz

2007 “THE ROADby Cormac McCarthy

2006 “MARCH by Geraldine Brooks

2005 “GILEADby Marilynne Robinson

2004 “THE KNOWN WORLDby Edward P. Jones

2003 “MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides

2002 “EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo

2001 THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAYby Michael Chabon

2000 “INTERPRETER OF MALADIESby Jhumpa Lahiri

Click here for a more complete list of the winners since it all began in 1948.  

What did you think? Did you love or hate “A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD?” Can you think of any similar books in style and taste? Better yet, what’s your favorite Pulitzer Prize-winning novel? Make a comment below to enter for a chance to win a free book! Just enter your name and email address and tell me which is your favorite Pulitzer Prize winning book. Winner will be randomly selected.

— Kristen B.

Treasure Hunt Thursday: What’s your #HPBhaul look like?

Hi folks,

When Half Price Books told me that they were starting a blog for customers like you and me, I thought I’d keep an eye out for any great “Treasure Hunt” finds from the store floor. Last week Half Price Books had their Summer Mailer (are you on their mailing list? If not, you can sign up here to receive news and money-saving coupons.) Customers (like these nice folks below) photographed their finds and let Half Price Books know about it on Twitter, and I thought that was pretty cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does your Treasure Hunt “haul” look like? Tweet it to us at @halfpricebooks and use the hashtag #hpbhaul, and maybe the Half Price Books blog folks will feature you next time!

Reporting from the store floor,

Jim Swayze

8 Ways to Experience Comic-Con (If You Can’t Make Comic-Con)

Comic-Con is this weekend! Are you going? No? Perhaps this just wasn’t your year and you had to miss out on that road trip to San Diego once again? As a consolation, I have found that sometimes HPB can be the perfect place to get in the Comic-Con-ish spirit. So if you are stuck at home instead of going to California via Batmobile, here are my suggestions on how to shop our store with the Comic-Con spirit

Awesome “Walking Dead” employee at HPB in Louisville KYStep 1)  Dress up as your favorite sexy/tough/scary super-hero and/or villain and enter bookstore with unabashed fervor!

Note: If you want to shop around for longer than about 3 minutes, no weapons! And, please cover your offending parts so as not to be asked to leave — this is a bookstore after all.

Step 2) Bring a camera; you never know when you might see a celebrity in a bookstore. Trust us…we’ve seen them. You also never know when someone will want to take a picture with you!

Step 3) Take a leisurely stroll through the science fiction section. You may not be looking for anything in particular, but you may find a friend who knows who you are dressed as, and that might make you feel like a hero for the day.

Step 4) Walk briskly through the Romance section for these shoppers will be the most fearful.

Step 5) Spend most of your time in graphic novels and comics. You’ll be a conversation starter… you may even find the love of your life (perhaps she/he is reading this post and digging in the closet for a Hobbit outfit as well?) Check for some Charlie Huston or Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. Give us some time and eventually we’re sure to get Supergods. I personally can’t forget to grab an Ultimate X-Men or two for a little weekend reading.

Step 6) Make sure to peruse the DVDs… I was just in one of our Texas stores last week and saw Season 1 of Dexter for a great price. You never know what you will find! Maybe your ex-girlfriend took off with your entire TNG collection or you are gathering up The Big Bang Theory season by season– never fail to check for your favorite series or movie. If you are feeling really retro, check out the VHS section– they practically give those away and that little top-loader VCR in your garage is just aching for a hook-up.

Step 7) Ask someone, anyone, if they want your autograph. It’s just fun.

Step 8) Get a recommendation from your nearest bookseller. If you hate his/her recommendation, you can scoff heavily and storm off (or you could actually love it and check it out).

All right– I’m not fooling anyone; I know it’s no Comic-Con, but it beats the lines and the entry fee is FREE! If you are one of the lucky ones, have fun in San Diego, but if you aren’t… maybe I will see you in the Sci-Fi section this weekend. Now, where’d I put my Princess-Leia-buns headband?

What Comic-Con-type books or movies are you shopping for this weekend?

 — Becky

Staff Picks: Top 5 Storytime Picture Books

Hi, guys! We have another round of “Staff Picks” for you, this time from our South Dallas Assistant District Manager, Brecah Walsh-Helm. Brecah has three little ones (19 month old twin boys, and a brand new baby girl) so between work and home, she knows all about picture books and storytime! Says Brecah, “Here are some great picture books that are fun and silly, perfect for summer reading with your kids!” 

“DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS!” by Mo Willems

When the driver leaves the bus temporarily, he gives the reader just one instruction: “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus.” But that pigeon tries every trick in the book to get in the driving seat. He whines, wheedles, fibs and flatters. Will you let him drive?

HARRY THE DIRTY DOG” by Gene Zion

Harry, a white dog with black spots, hates baths so much that when he hears his bathwater running he buries his scrub brush and runs away. Harry has a great time getting filthy in the dirt but soon is tired and hungry, He returns home, only to find his family doesn’t recognize him, even after he performs all the tricks he knows. What will Harry do?  

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS” by Judi Barrett

In Chewandswallow, meals rain from the sky at appropriate times of the day, but a change in the weather blows in massive problems. “Prediction: Children dreaming up their own weather menus are sure to follow up on the fun.”–Booklist. A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year.  

OLIVIA” by Ian Falconer 

Olivia is a feisty young piglet who’s got too much energy for her own good. Whether she’s singing Forty Very Loud Songs or building a skyscraper out of sand or trying on all her clothes or getting rid of her little brother or decorating the living room walls or asking for too many books at bedtime, she never gets worn out. Of course, it’s another story entirely for Olivia’s exhausted mother!
 

THE TRUE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS” by A. Wolf (and Jon Scieszka)

You may think you know the story of the “Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf” – but only one person knows the real story. And that person is A. Wolf. His tale starts with a birthday cake for his dear old granny, a bad head cold and a bad reputation. The rest (as they say) is history. This is a hilariously inventive retelling of the popular story which “Publishers Weekly” called the ‘Funniest book of the year.’

 (Honorable mentions go to “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak & “Miss Nelson Is Missing” by Harry Allard.)

 For more storytelling experiences in the Dallas area, join HPB at the following locations and times:

 Northwest Highway Flagship: Every Sunday at 1pm

 Mesquite:  Every Sunday at 2pm

 Rockwall: Every Wednesday at 2pm

  

Which other picture books would you recommend for storytime at your local HPB?

 — Becky

Top 10 Summertime Movie Classics

Whether it’s a vacay for the whole family, taking a long holiday overseas, enjoying the sunshine at the beach, or off to summer camp for the kids, summer is a time for new adventures and a break from the old routine. And in the spirit of summer, here’s a top ten list to consider for a fun movie night with friends and family, my Top 10 Summertime Movie Classics.

1. Roman Holiday (1953). One of my all-time favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, and the only one that earned her an Oscar. Hepburn is a princess who, on the Roman leg of her European capitals tour, rebelliously sneaks away from her entourage and sets off on her own. She is discovered by an American reporter (Gregory Peck), who is thrilled that he can get the inside scoop on the runaway princess. A charming romance, of course, ensues. Rome often looks beautiful in the movies, and this film is no exception. See the sights like a tourist through this classic film. Perhaps for a moment you’ll feel like you’re vacationing abroad, zipping through the streets of Rome on a Vespa.

2. Dirty Dancing (1987). A sensational summertime movie. Baby (Jennifer Grey) goes up to the Kellerma’s resort in the Catskills with her parents (Jerry Orbach, Kelly Bishop) and older sister (Jane Brucker) and falls in love with the dance instructor (Patrick Swayze). Well known not only for its music and choreography, but also for famous lines like, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” The big final dance scene sends an epic farewell to summer vacation at the end.

3. Jaws (1975). This movie put Steven Spielberg on the map, scared a whole generation out of the water, and changed the way the general public thinks about sharks. It spawned classic lines like, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” and “Shaark!” Incidentally, this movie also spawned sequel-itis. While the shark obviously looks fake now, the movie still holds up in terms of its look and feel, and may keep you off the beach for a while after viewing it.

4. The Parent Trap (1961). Hayley Mills plays twins who, unbeknownst to their divorced parents, meet at a summer camp. Products of single parent households, they switch places in order to meet the parent they never knew, and then conspire to reunite them (Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith). In its made-for-tv movie sequel Parent Trap 2 (1986), Mary and Nicki are best friends who want their unsuspecting single parents to marry. Nicki’s mother Sharon (Hayley Mills) wants to move to New York City. With the help of Sharon’s twin sister Susan (Hayley Mills), the girls try to get their parents together. The Parent Trap (1998, remake) updates the tale with identical twins Hallie Parker and Annie James (Lindsay Lohan), who were separated at birth when their parents divorced. After the two meet at summer camp, they begin plotting to reunite their estranged parents (Dennis Quaid, Natasha Richardson).

5. Grease (1978). Good girl Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and greaser Danny (John Travolta) fell in love over the summer. But when they unexpectedly discover they’re now in the same high school, will they be able to rekindle their romance? A musical melodrama ensues at Rydell High.

6. Summertime (1955). Jane (Katharine Hepburn), a lonely secretary on her dream vacation in Venice, Italy (filmed entirely on location), finds unexpected romance at an outdoor café, where she falls in love with an antique dealer Renato de Rossi (Rossano Brazzi). Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar for this leading role.

7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The tale of a boy (Matthew Broderick) who decides to take a day off. He first recruits his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck), and the two of them, along with Cameron’s father’s Ferrari, go to get the last member of the trio, Ferris’ girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara). To get her out of school, they have to fake a death in the family and stage a very convincing escape. The three of them proceed to have the best day off ever.

8. The Seven Year Itch (1955). A professional book reader for a publishing company, Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell), must endure the dog days of a New York summer alone while his wife and son are away in the country for the summer. To pass the lonely hours, the overly-imaginative book reader fantasizes about a young model (Marilyn Monroe) who is lodging temporarily in the apartment upstairs.

9. Forrest Gump (1994). The story follows the life of Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) and the love of his life, Jenny (Robin Wright). The film chronicles his accidental experiences with some of the most important people and events in America from the late 1950s through the 1970s, including a meeting with Elvis Presley, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, John Lennon and many more famous faces. It carries a feeling of summer love that suits the season.

10. Rear Window (1954). The scorching summer heat plays a catalyst for the story that unfolds. Thanks to a broken leg, wheelchair-bound photographer (Jimmy Stewart) spies on his neighbors from his apartment window to pass the time, and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. Eventually, he ropes his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) into snooping with him. It’s an essential must-see Hitchcock film and among my personal favorites.

So let’s have it… What’s your favorite flick to watch during the summer?

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

Good Mourning: A No-Spoiler “Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows” Review

I am indeed in mourning, whilst I choke down the first of several large lattes with a glassy stare at my computer screen. I knew last night would be difficult, but I didn’t know it would evoke such emotion. I realized I was not alone when only a few minutes into the midnight premiere, I heard my fellow movie-goers choking back the tears as we ended our journeys together. I wonder if they were still teary-eyed on their commutes to work today?

I could quibble over details about changes between the book and the movie, but I am sure there are better Potter-ologists than me in the world. I am consoled by the fact that all Deathly Hallows book-to-movie changes were met with J.K. Rowling’s stamp of approval, and, as a reader and movie-watcher, the story wraps up quite well: Hope prevails. Most importantly, love, friendship and loyalty are the most important things in life– which is what that lonely tousle-headed boy with a scar sought from the beginning, and that is what the boy-turned-man is surrounded with in the end.  

On a scale of one to legendary, the book and movie series scores a big, bold EPIC. Who knows if in 10 or 20 years the cinematic world will find the technology dated, but the story continues in the hearts of young readers for generations.

The midnight premiere atmosphere: It is redundant to say it was magical, but it was. There were ample laughter, giggles and many tears as well as plenty of cheers, fist pumps, and colorful exclamations.

Last impressions from the supporting cast: Neville is a rock star, I’d put Molly Weasly up against any hockey mom with or without lipstick, Professor McGonagall is my home girl and Snape…oh, Snape.

Happy Tears, Wizards and Witches– Becky

The Magic of Reading

Two big premieres are happening this week: The Great Opening of our new San Antonio store (hurray!), and the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (sob). To celebrate the two, yesterday we began our Great Opening festivities with “Share the Magic of Reading!” a Harry Potter-inspired reading event that benefitted SA Reads, a collaborative community initiative designed to make grade-level reading a reality for all students.

Yesterday was very eventful at our new Stone Ridge Market store! Shaun Stevens, FOX 29’s fantastic meteorologist, broadcasted live from 7-9 a.m. (his forecast: HOT. With a chance of EVEN HOTTER.) Shaun donned his Harry Potter-style spectacles made from black pipe cleaners, and he was joined by several very enthusiastic Harry Potter fans.

Fox van

Shaun Stevens

Adorable Rex with his Harry Potter glasses

Joseph I-Leach and his sock monkey Scout, who dressed as a wizard just for today. Joseph dressed as a Wizard dressing as a Muggle.

Scout the Sock Monkey.

Wizards of all ages were invited to grab their wands and follow their very own Magician’s Map to reading adventures throughout the store. For every magical minute spent reading, Half Price Books pledged to donate $1 to SA Reads. We’re happy to announce that we met and exceeded our Grand Magical Reading Total goal of 2,000 Minutes!

BW: left to right: Kaden Fulbright, Kaia Fulbright, BW, Allison Evans, Faith Fulbright

Costume Contest: 5 Hermiones & a Harry — Joseph I-Leach and Scout the Sock Monkey also participated, but are not pictured.

Costume Contest Winner: Kaylin Maxwell!

Check out the piece FOX 29 did on the event! »

 

For your own adventure, download this fun Magic Word Search.

Happy Reading (and watching, for all you Harry Potter midnight movie-goers!) — Emily