Feed Your Brain Children’s Summer Reading Program is Back, with a Giveaway!

Ready…Set…Read! It’s time to FEED YOUR BRAIN with the HPB Kid’s Summer Reading Program! Children 14 & under can earn HPB Back-to-School Bucks by keeping an appetite for reading this summer. How does it work? Just head to your favorite neighborhood HPB store to pick up a reading log and start keeping track of how many minutes your children read during the summer months of June and July. Every child who reads 300 minutes or more each month is eligible receive $5 in HPB Back-to-School Bucks!

And why not start logging your minutes this Sunday at 2pm at your neighborhood HPB? All stores will be hosting a story time to kick off this year’s program.  Need some tips for fitting in 15 minutes of reading per day? Check out a few of our everyday ideas here – it’s easier than you think! Don’t forget, you can also count school summer reading towards the 300 minute goal (Psst…fill out our Reading Lists 101 form here and let us know your classroom’s required reading list so we can try and keep those titles in stock). Not sure where to begin? Julie’s post on 40 Books Every Child Should Read is a great place to start.

But kids shouldn’t have all the fun, right? Let’s kick off our children’s summer reading program with a little giveaway for our grownup readers.  Leave us a comment and let us know five books on your “must read” list for this summer. One lucky random commenter will win a $10 HPB gift card!

Happy (Summer) Reading!

— Kate (and BW)

Local Store Events Round-Up: June

It’s already getting pretty toasty here in Texas so if you’re looking for a way to beat the heat, stop by your nearest Half Price Books for some fun activities this month!

All Stores

Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program

Research shows that children who do not continue reading through the summer can lose a month or more of progress made during the school year. To help keep appetites up for reading, Half Price Books is hosting the Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program Friday, June 1 through Tuesday, July 31, 2012. Kids ages 14 and under can earn a $5 HPB Back-to-School Bucks reward in both June and July for reading at least 300 minutes each month.  The TOP READER in each age group at each store will also win a $20 HPB gift card! Pick up a reading log at your local HPB today or visit the Feed Your Brain website for more information.

Biggest Story Time of the Summer!
Join us at ANY Half Price Books store on Sunday, June 3 at 2 p.m. as we kick off our Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program. Bring kids of all ages for the Biggest Story Time of the Summer, as we celebrate reading and family literacy with this nationwide read-in event.

Storytime – Multiple Locations

Many of our stores have weekly or monthly story times.  Check out this month’s listings:

Country Club Corner – Oklahoma CityThe Biggest Story Time Gone to the Dogs! 

Bow WOW! Join us at our Country Club Corner HPB where we will celebrate the Biggest Story Time of the Summer with wagging tales… or rather tails. Sunday, June 3 from 2 to 3:30 p.m., kids are invited to read to a furry buddy. Refreshments will be provided. All dogs are Therapy Dog International or AKC Canine Good Citizen certified.

Appleton, WI — Our Appleton HPB wants to help you “Catch the Reading Bug” during the Biggest Story Time of the Summer. Flutter over on Sunday, June 3 and catch butterfly crafts and picture book prizes. See store for details.

If you can’t make it then, join us every Wednesday for Storytime! Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us each Wednesday from 11am to noon, throughout the summer. 

Monroeville, PA – June Story Time Sundays – Pack up your half pint readers and come to our Monroeville HPB for Story Time Sundays in June. Our fabulous reading team, the Half Pint Players, will start with the Biggest Story Time of the Summer June 3 at 2 p.m. and continue each Sunday in June. Refreshments will be provided along with the fun and love of reading. See store for details.

Lincoln Square – Arlington, TXBiggest Story Time Activities and Prizes – We are celebrating the Biggest Story Time of the Summer at our Lincoln Square HPB with fun for all ages. On Sunday, June 3 starting at 2 p.m. we will have a visit from BW, the HPB bookworm! Plus, we will have treats and activities for the kids and a drawing for door prizes and $20 HPB Gift Card cards for the adults. See store for details.  The Lincoln Square HPB will continue to hold its regular story time at 2 p.m. each Sunday.

San Marcos, Texas – The San Marcos HPB will have a special story time and activity each Saturday at 1:30 p.m.  Refreshments will be provided. 

South Lamar, Austin, TXLooking for a free, cool activity during the hot summer? Pack up your half-pint readers and come to our Austin South Lamar HPB for Storytime and crafts. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us from 3-4pm each Wednesday throughout the summer (except on July 4th). Recommended for ages 3 to 9.

Cedar Park, TX— Looking for a free, cool activity during the hot summer? Pack up your half-pint readers and come to our Cedar Park HPB for Storytime and Crafts Thursdays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us each Thursday from 2-3pm, throughout the summer. Kids of all ages welcome.

Huebner Road – San AntonioVisit Huebner Road the first Sunday of every month for Storytime Sunday at 2 p.m. Join our staff for a reading of one of our favorite children’s books, geared toward booklovers ages 2-8.  See you June 3!

Broadway — San Antonio— Biggest Story Time Ventriloquist! We are celebrating the Biggest Story Time of the Summer at our Broadway HPB in San Antonio. Bring in your half pint readers on Sunday, June 3, at 2pm and see ventriloquist/magician Joe Libby along with his puppet Sagebrush! Plus, treats and prizes. See store for details.

Hulen/Remington Park, Fort Worth, TX— Looking for a free, cool activity during the hot summer? Pack up your half-pint readers and come to our Hulen HPB for Storytime Sundays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us each Sunday at 2 pm, throughout the summer.

Ridgmar, Fort Worth, TX—  Pack up your half-pint readers and come to our Ridgmar HPB for Storytime Thursdays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us each Thursday from 11am to noon, throughout the summer. Recommended for ages 10 and younger.

Mesquite, TX Pack up your kiddos and visit our store in Mesquite every Sunday for Story Time and Crafts. Sit down and enjoy a good tale and free activity with us from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Readers and arts-and-crafts lovers of all ages are welcome. PLEASE NOTE – June 3 story time will take place at 2 p.m. for the Biggest Story Time of the Summer.

Rockwall, TX Visit us in Rockwall each Sunday at 3 p.m. for a fun story.  Stick around and get crafty with us with a new activity for kids each week. Story time recommended for kids ranging from pre-schoolers to 5th graders. PLEASE NOTE – June 3 story time will take place at 2 p.m. for THE Biggest Story Time of the Summer.


South Arlington, TXPack up your little readers and come to South Arlington HPB for a fun story time. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us at 3 p.m. every Sunday afternoon. Recommended for kids ranging from 2 to 8 years of age.  PLEASE NOTE – June 3 story time will take place at 2 p.m. for the Biggest Story Time of the Summer.

Join us also on Saturday, June 16 from 12-2pm. Author A.E. Smith will be signing and selling her current book, Free To Be Me. Smith writes about being of free mind, body and spirit through the Christian faith.


Humble, TX – Bring the kids for a children’s story time every Wednesday from 10:30 to 11 a.m.  Snacks will be provided.  Recommended for kids ages 1 to 6. 

Corpus Christi, TX Pack up your half-pint readers and come to Moore Plaza for Story Time Sundays. We’ll share a tale from 2 to 3 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month.  Recommended for kids ranging from pre-school to 4th grade.  See you June 10!

Mason, OH — Looking for a free, fun summer activity for the kids? Pack up your half-pint readers and come to our Mason HPB for Storytime Tuesdays. Sit down and enjoy a good tale with us each Tuesday from 11am to noon, throughout the summer.

Hurstbourne – Louisville, KY Bring the kids the third Saturday of every month from 2 to 4 p.m. for story time. Join us for sing-alongs, coloring contests, story-telling and more.  See you June 16!

Dog Days at Half Price Books

Hurstbourne – Louisville, KYJoin us also for Dog Days and take a bite out of reading. Load up the kids and bring them to Half Price Books where they can read a book  to Nico the Great Pyrenees, from 11am to noon every Tuesday this summer. Presented in partnership with the Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati

Hamilton, OHJoin us at our Fairfield Township HPB in Hamilton, OH to take a bite out of reading. Load up the kids and bring them to Half Price Books where they can read a book to Potter, the Bearded Collie, from 1 to 2pm each first and third Thursday of the month. Dates include June 7 & 21, July 5 & 19, August 2 & 16. Presented in partnership with Therapy Dogs International.

Kenwood Galleria, Cincinnati, OH — Join us at our Kenwood Galleria HPB to take a bite out of reading. Load up the kids and bring them to Half Price Books where they can read a book to Rudi, the Shih Tzu, from 11am to noon each Monday this summer. Presented in partnership with the Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati.



Seattle Warehouse

Seattle Kids’ Book Warehouse Sale

Looking for good, yet cheap, summer entertainment for the kids? Then come to our 1-Day Only Kids’ Book Warehouse Sale where all items are just 25¢ each. Stock up on children’s and young adult fiction, videos, comics and more. Don’t miss this one day of ridiculous savings at our Washington Warehouse in Seattle on Saturday, June 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.! Lots of activities and fun for the whole family, too.


Participating Austin, TX locations

1/2 of 1/2 Paperback Sale
They’re half the publisher’s price or less all the time. But on Thursday, June 21 and Friday, June 22, get an additional 50% off all pocket-size paperbacks at participating Austin area HPB locations. See store for details.
Lewisville, TX — Friday, June 22 to Sunday, June 24, join us for the “LEAVE NO BOOK BEHIND” Kid’s Chapter Book Sale!  Thousands of titles, 3 for $1.00. Stock up, don’t miss out!

Indiana Clearance Sale
Big location, big selection, big savings! Everything will be $3 or less at the Indiana Clearance Sale at the State Fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Agriculture Building. All stores in the Midwest are contributing merchandise to create our biggest Clearance Sale event yet!

More shopping carts, better organization and even lower prices than last year! Come early for door busters! The first 200 customers each day will get a FREE reusable tote bag.*

So come to the Half Price Price Books Indiana Clearance Sale and fill your shelves with great books, movies and music at great prices! And remember, starting at 4 p.m. on Sunday, we will donate unsold merchandise to any person or organization with a 501(c)(3)status.

*Limit one tote bag per person, 16 years of age and up. Offer valid Friday, June 22 through Sunday, June 24 at the Indiana Clearance Sale only.
Accepted Tender: Cash, Check, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover. We are sorry, but we are unable to accept coupons, other discounts or gift cards at the Clearance Sale. All sales are final.

Houston – Clear Lake

Pet Adoption Cat-urdays

Looking for a cuddly kitty? A fancy feline? A companion cat? On the first Saturday of each month from noon to 4 p.m., Bay Area Pet Adoptions will bring lovable cats available for adoption to our Clear Lake HPB store. Come see the kitties looking for a good, forever home.  See you June 2!

Bedford, TX —  TAO Dog Adoption Drive: The Abandoned Ones Animal Rescue, a Fort Worth-based non-profit group, will be on-location at Harwood Village HPB in Bedford, TX on Sunday, June 24 from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Come meet the adorable dogs of all ages who are in need of a good home!

 Humble, TX

Celtic Steel Book Signing

Join us at our HPB Humble store and meet historical romance/fantasy author Delaney Rhodes. Ms. Rhodes will sell and sign the latest book in her Celtic Steel series on Saturday, June 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. The first 30 attendees will receive free books.  See store for details.

June Wedding Raffle

Are you trying to picture the perfect wedding day? Starting Monday, June 4, buy any wedding preparation item at our HPB Humble store and get a chance to win a photo session with Sweet Southern Style Photography. Winner will be announced Saturday, June 9 at 7pm. See store for details.

Brain Trivia Night

Does your brain bulge from a profusion of facts? Does your family call you a “Know-it-all”?  Well, come on down to our HPB Humble store for Brain Trivia Night on Thursday, June 14 from 7 to 9pm. First Prize winner receives a $50 HPB Gift Card, Second Prize is a $25 HPB Gift Card, and Third Prize is a $10 HPB Gift Card. It pays to be a “Know-it-all.” See store for details.

Librarian on the Roof!  Book Signing

Learn about the true, fun story of librarian RoseAleta Laurell and what she does to attract children to thetown library. Author M.G. King will be selling and signing, Librarian on the Roof!, a children’s book recommended for 6-8 year olds. Join us at our HPB Humble store on Wednesday, June 20, at 10:30 to 11:30am. See store for details.

The Pointe at North Fayette – Pittsburgh

Celebrate National VCR Day!

Yep, we’re going old school at our North Fayette HPB. Dust off your VCR and join us on National VCR Day, Thursday, June 7. All our VHS cassettes will be buy one, get one free. Remember, be kind and rewind! See store for details.

Burleson, Texas

Tuesday Night Specials
Stop by our Burleson location each Tuesday night from 7 to 9 p.m. for discount specials. Great savings may include 20% off DVDs or 30% off fiction hardcovers. You won’t know what’s on sale until you visit. Tuesday Night Specials valid at this location only. Ask in store for details.

Mansfield, Texas

20% Off “Hump Day” Sale
Join us in Mansfield every Wednesday from 7-10 p.m. for a special 20% Off “Hump Day” Sale. Each week, we’ll feature a 20% discount on different categories of merchandise. Stop by today or call 682-518-7302 to find out what’s on sale this week! Hump Day Sale at Mansfield, Texas location only.

Appleton, WI

Vinyl Fridays: Join us for an LP shopping spree! Get 20% off all vinyl on Fridays from 7pm to 10pm at our Appleton HPB. Like what you hear? Records playing in the store are 50% off. Come back each week for new discoveries and savings! Discount at this location only.

Avon, Indiana


Retro Thursdays

Think it’s still cool to be old school? Stop by the HPB in Avon every Thursday from 5-9 p.m. and get 20% off all vinyl, cassettes, comics, graphic novels and manga. Offer good at this location only.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Comic Books Sale
Whamo! That’s right! Stop by the Fort Wayne location every Thursday and save an additional 20% off all comic books in store. Sale at the Fort Wayne HPB location only. 

LP Day – Fridays
Join us each Friday for LP Day. All LPs will be 20% off, with some of your favorite songs being played on the turn-table. 

Castleton Commons – Indianapolis, Indiana

Vinyl Fridays
Join us for a LP shopping spree! Get 20% off all vinyl on Fridays at our Castleton Commons HPB.  Come back each week for new discoveries and savings! No exclusions. All LPs discounted each Friday at this location until further notice.

South Arlington – Arlington, Texas 

Retro Media Fridays

Get ready for a throwback! Join us at the Four Corners HPB in South Arlington every Friday night from 7-10 p.m. All retro media is 20% off – including LPs, cassette tapes, 8 tracks, VHS tapes and LaserDiscs.

Lincoln Square – Arlington, Texas

Midnight Media Madness Sale

Join us at our Lincoln Square HPB on Friday, June 22 from 8 p.m. until midnight. We will have a huge sale on select media including DVDs, VHS, CDs, cassettes, LPs, 45s, and…(wait for it)…8-tracks! All priced from 25¢ to $1. Shop early for best selection! See store for details.The Pointe at North Fayette – Pittsburgh


National Log Cabin Day

Remember when life was rustic and simple? No? Well then, you need to pack up your little pioneers and head on down to our North Fayette HPB on Sunday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to high noon. We’ll help you to think beyond your daddy’s Lincoln Logs with interesting log cabin history and facts. Young’uns 5 to 10 years old are invited to build their own cabin with pretzels and icing. See store for details.


As always, be sure to check your local store’s webpage to see if anything has been added throughout the month.

Happy reading!


Traveling in Pairs — Top Ten Travel Books

It’s spring—wanderlust time! Time to travel—or at least to read about travel. When I started thinking about my favorite travel books, they came to me two-by-two, for some reason. So, that’s the way my list of travel top-ten picks rolled out.

Notes from a Small Island (1997) and In a Sunburned Country (2001) by Bill Bryson. A slight edge goes to Small Island, if only because I read it while visiting the “small island,” England. As a British resident raised in Iowa, Bryson has the perfect vantage point for examining the peculiar differences between us and our neighbors across the ocean. Sunburned Country is about Australia and, despite Bryson’s unceasing references to peril and discomfort from flora, fauna and weather, the book still made me want to visit. Bill Bryson is not only my favorite travel writer—I find him to be the most consistently entertaining of all writers.

Blue Highways: A Journey into America (1982) by William Least Heat-Moon, and Names on the Land (1945) by George R. Stewart. My favorite book about traveling America is Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, a true classic about the author’s peripatetic journey down the roads less-traveled, the “blue highways” on the map, in search of inner peace, which he seems to find in every encounter along the way. And what better book to take along on your “blue highways” tour than Names on the Land, a classic look at how different American places got their names?  One of our states’ names, for example, comes from the Siouxs’ name for the St. Peter River.  It meant “muddy water,” and was variously anglicized as Menesotor, Menisote, Minnay Sotor or Menesota.

Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages (2003) by Mark Abley and Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (2008) by Daniel Everett.  I read about places I can’t visit, but I’m also a linguist wannabe, so when I find a book that combines treks to far-off lands with explorations of vanishing languages, I’m in word-nerd heaven.  In Spoken Here, the author visits with speakers of vanishing languages around the globe, from the Mohawk, Huron and Inuktitut speakers of Canada to the Boro speakers of India.  Daniel Everett spends decades among the Piraha people, whose language relies so much more on pitch than  on consonant and vowel sounds that it may be whistled or hummed, rather than spoken.

The Longest Walk (1988) by George Meegan and Road Fever (1992) by Tim Cahill. Two guys make the same journey–from the southern tip of South America to the uppermost reachable point in Alaska.  One drives it in 23 days; the other walks it in seven years. In The Longest Walk, author Meegan describes his arduous endeavor, during which his wife gave birth to two children, as almost a spiritual journey, full of trials and rewards.  Cahill, on the other hand, is hell-bent for a speed record, and encounters lots of corruption, calamity and car trouble along the way.  Both authors spend most of their words on wild and unpredictable South America.

Desert Solitaire (1968) by Edward Abbey and To the Foot of the Rainbow (1927) by Clyde Kluckhohn. Two worshipful accounts, four decades apart, of the Southwest desert and canyons.  Anthropologist Kluckhohn visited the Rainbow Bridge area when it was still pristine wilderness; Abbey spent time as a park ranger in the area when civilization had begun encroaching.

It also couldn’t hurt to check out Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers (2010) by indefatigable book recommender Nancy Pearl.  She not only breaks her picks down geographically, but includes sections on train travel, hiking, “Travel to Imaginary Places,” and other non-place-specific categories.

Countdown to Summer: 4 Dystopian Young Adult Series

The Hunger Games trilogy has made way for a whole host of new dystopian teen fiction series to be published, much in the same way that Twilight did for paranormal romance. The dystopian series generally don’t have as much romance, but a lot more action and therefore tend to be more appealing to both boys and girls of all ages (yes, adults too!). Next time you’re in HPB, be on the lookout for some of these series for either you or your kids.
In the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, 16-year-old Beatrice, a.k.a. Tris, discovers that she is not like the rest of the people in dystopian Chicago. Instead of being chosen for one of five factions – Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), and Abnegation (the selfless) – like the rest of the population, she is worthy of three: Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation. At the choosing ceremony, she chooses to be part of the Dauntless faction, while her brother chooses a rival. Tris then has to go through the Dauntless initiation process, where she discovers that her world isn’t as perfect as she once thought. Divergent makes way for the next book in the series, Insurgent, which was just published in May.
The beginning of The Maze Runner series, by James Dashner, starts with a boy named Thomas awakening in an elevator, remembering absolutely nothing but his first name. Once the doors open, he discovers that he is not alone. He is surrounded by other boys who were also dumped in an elevator with no memory. The very next day, something even more peculiar happens and a girl arrives. Every day they run through the maze, hoping to find the end so that they can escape this unknown place and discover who they really are and where they came from. if you didn’t get enough of your questions answered by the last novel The Death Cure, a prequel to the trilogy, The Kill Order, is scheduled for release in August. It is expected to shed some light on to how the world became such a dark and terrible place. Check out a sneak peek at the cover art and an excerpt from the book courtesy of USA Today.
Delirium by Lauren Oliver starts out in a dystopia U.S. where love has been banned. The government claims that love is a disease, or a “deliria” for which a surgical cure has been discovered. It is required that everyone receives this cure once they turn 18. Shortly before she is scheduled to have the operation, Lena falls in love with a man who has not had the cure. Because of this change in Lena, she decides not to have the procedure and to escape instead. Lena goes to live in “The Wilds,” where she encounters a whole new set of challenges. The next book in the trilogy, Pandemonium, was recently published, and the third book, Requiem is expected to be published in February 2013. There are also whispers of a “Delirium” movie adaptation.
The Legend series by Marie Lu, is the quintessential dystopian thriller for teens. Also set in a dystopian America,  a.k.a. The Republic, Legend features a rich and beautiful 15 year old girl named June, who is destined for the military, and Day, the country’s most wanted criminal. Day becomes a prime suspect for the murder of June’s brother, and they meet only to discover that they are not each other’s true enemies. The Republic is hiding secrets The next book in the series, Prodigy is expected to be published in January 2013.

Want some more adventure? Stay tuned for the next “Countdown to Summer” reading recommendations — 4 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Teen Fiction Series. And if you missed the last one, jump back to see 4 Vampire Romance Teen Fiction Series to try this summer.

— Kristen B.

P.S. Get rewarded for your extracurricular reading! Kids 14 and under can earn $5 HPB Back-to-School Bucks during the Feed Your Brain® Summer Reading Program. Pick up your reading log at your local HPB today to get started!

Elementary, my dear Conan Doyle!

Being an insatiable trivia hound and a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, I can think of no better way to celebrate the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the mastermind behind Sherlock Holmes – than to share a few interesting facts about the author and his most famous character.

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
About Conan Doyle:

  • Conan Doyle came from a very artistic, well-connected family. Both his grandfather and his Uncle Dicky were artists, and men like Walter Scott, William Thackeray and Charles Dickens were frequent dinner guests at the Doyle house.
  • Conan Doyle attended university with James Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • His first short story, “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley,” was influenced by the works of Edgar Allen Poe and Bret Hart, two of his favorite authors.
  • Conan Doyle was offered, and took the post of ship’s surgeon on the whaling boat Hope during his third year in medical school.
  • Conan Doyle’s first novel, A Study in Scarlet, in which we are introduced to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, was originally titled A Tangled Skein and the two main characters were named Sheridan Hope and Ormond Sacker.
  • The character of Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell, one of Conan Doyle’s teachers at university who was a master at observation, logic, deduction and diagnosis.
  • Much to his chagrin, Sherlock Holmes has remained Conan Doyle’s most famous and best loved character. Conan Doyle actually preferred writing historical novels over the Sherlock Holmes adventures.

“My dear fellow, life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”
About Sherlock Holmes:

  • One of Sherlock’s most famous sayings, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” was never used in Conan Doyle’s novels or short stories. It wasn’t until Sherlock’s first feature film with sound that Sherlock uttered those words.
  • Sherlock’s drug of choice was cocaine, but he would occasionally use morphine as well, both of which were legal drugs in the late 19th century England.
  •  All the techniques of forensic science advocated by Sherlock Holmes in his adventures later became a reality, but were generally in their infancy at the time Conan Doyle was writing.
  •  In 2002, the Royal Society of Chemistry bestowed an honorary fellowship on Sherlock Holmes for his use of forensic science and analytical chemistry in popular literature.  He is the only fictional character to have this honor.
  • Sherlock is also the only fictional character to have been given a real life Knighthood by the British Monarchy (along with his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

Well, happy birthday, Mr. Conan Doyle.  Thank you for the gift of Sherlock Holmes, who has captivated the world with his crass, antisocial behavior and astute deductive reasoning.
Want to read more about Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Look for the novels, short stories, and biographies at your local Half Price Books. — Julie

Dinner & A Movie: Memorial Day Weekend Edition

It’s that time of year again… grilling time! With Memorial Day quickly approaching, I thought this would be the perfect time for a summer edition of “Dinner and a Movie.” It would be so easy to just suggest BBQ or hamburgers and hot dogs for the holiday, but I am going to venture out and offer you something different.
The Dinner

There are chefs that just naturally know what to do. That is not me. I am one that believes if you can read, you can cook. So I am suggesting a few recipes from one of the grilling masters, Bobby Flay, from his cookbook Bobby Flay’s Grill It!
Fresh Pepper Sauce:
•   1 1/4 cups olive oil
•   1 grilled yellow bell pepper, peeled, seeded and finely diced
•   1 grilled poblano chile, peeled, seeded and finely diced
•   1 grilled serrano chile, peeled, seeded and finely diced, optional
•   1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
•   2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
•   1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
•   Freshly ground black pepper
•   Splash red wine vinegar, optional
•   2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Grilled Prawns:
•   24 prawns, in the shell, preferably with heads
•   1 tablespoon olive oil
•   1 teaspoon kosher salt
•   1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix together all of the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours before serving. Heat your grill to high. Toss the prawns with the oil in a bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Grill the prawns for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Remove to a platter and immediately spoon the sauce over shrimp with a slotted spoon. Serve hot.
Grilled Peaches with Prosciutto and Balsamic:
•   1 cup balsamic vinegar
•   1 tablespoon honey
•   Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
•   3 peaches, halved and pitted
•   Canola oil
•   12 thin slices proscuitto
•   8 basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
•   Extra-virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cook until thick and syrupy, stir in the honey and season with salt and pepper, if using. Let cool slightly.

Brush the peach halves with oil and season with salt and pepper, if using. Place on the grill, cut side down and grill until golden brown. Turn over and grill for 1 minute longer. Remove the peaches from the grill and drizzle with the balsamic. Wrap or stuff each half with a slice of the prosciutto. Sprinkle the basil over the top and drizzle with olive oil.
The Movie

In honor of Memorial Day it is a good idea to stick to a movie that remembers those who fought for our freedom. I recommend the film Platoon (1986). This Best Picture Academy Award-winner from writer/director Oliver Stone is one powerful movie. It explores the chaos of war, especially the Vietnam War. Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger are polar opposites that clash to the brutal end. Both give top-notch performances, especially Berenger with his scared face is terrifying as Sgt. Barnes. Be sure to look for a very young Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen — they’re in there too!
Well, from the wanna-be chef and film junkie to you… enjoy the dinner. Enjoy the movie. And most of all, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

— Jim

Meet the Bibliomaniac: Jesse Palek-Zahn

It seems like there is a special “holiday” every day of the week and today is no different.  Today, we can celebrate National Bike to Work Day!  There are many HPBers that bike to work so in honor of this special day, we are featuring one of them in today’s “Meet the Bibliomaniac” entry.  So without further ado, meet Jesse!

Name: Jesse Palek-Zahn

Job Title: Store Manager, University District, Seattle

When did you join the HPB team? 2005

What is your favorite part about working at HPB? I feel so lucky that every day I get paid to talk to people about books.

What is your all-time favorite book? The Giver, by Lois Lowry

What are you reading right now? Things Invisible to See, by Nancy Willard; Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler; 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, by The Oatmeal

When did you start biking to work? Two years ago.

Why did you start? I wanted drive less and exercise more.  Right now, I bike about 12 miles round trip each day.

What is your favorite benefit of biking to work? Biking is cheap, and it’s great to get some exercise every day.  But the best thing about biking to work is that there is something meditative about not having a radio, iPod or any other distraction other than just trying to get where I’m going. It has been really nice to bookend my work day with a meditative space.

Today is National Bike to Work Day – what would you say to people who are considering biking to work?

Google Maps does a pretty good job of planning a bike friendly route.  I highly recommend checking them out to keep out of the worst traffic, and off of the worst hills.


What about you, readers?  Let us know if you bike to work in the comments section!

Buy Guy Files: 40 Years of Buying III

Here are another five tales from our buy areas, slices of the buying life at Half Price Books during the past forty years.  You never know what you’re gonna come across, in between the Danielle Steel book clubs and the Jane Fonda workout tapes!

1. Charles Whitman, the UT Sniper

Back in early 2005, a fellow walked in to one of our stores in Austin with some boxes of files he wanted to sell.  The buyer on duty that morning was taken aback by what he discovered in the boxes.  The files were those of former University of Texas at Austin Security Chief Allen Hamilton, covering the period of time he was there at UT, mostly the sixties.  Right in the middle of that period, on August 1, 1966, student Charles Whitman killed his mother and his wife, then ascended to the observation deck of the UT Tower and opened fire on students and others below, killing a total of 15 and wounding 31 more, before being shot dead by Austin police officers.  It was the worst mass killing up to that time, and it immediately monopolized Americans’ attention for weeks afterward.   

The files sold to HPB contained dozens of original documents related to UT officers’ involvement in the tragedy and its aftermath, including several handwritten accounts and drawings recorded that day.  There were also copies made in 1966 of the key documents related to the case: Whitman’s “suicide note,” his psychiatric evaluation at UT, his diary, and others.

We knew when we had the opportunity to purchase this historic material that we should pay enough to get it, but then turn it back over to UT, where it belongs.  And that’s what happened on August 1, 2006—forty years to the day after the murders.  A team from our corporate offices went down to Austin and together with our Austin store staff, they welcomed representatives from the UT American History Center, the organization determined to be the most appropriate recipient of the papers, along with reporters and cameras from many TV and radio stations, newspapers, and the Associated Press.  In a low-key event, the files were presented to the History Center, where they remain.

2. Museum Piece

Not all of the treasures to cross our buy areas are old: a 1988 publication bought recently in California is described by California District Manager Matt Dalton as possibly “the coolest book I have ever bought.  It should be in a museum!”  The book is The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne, with art by John Baldessari.  Baldessari, who signed the limited edition, one of 400 issued, created 39 photo-collage illustrations for the three-volume edition.

3. One Good Turn…

Brian Millican in Austin let us know about one that got away a couple of years ago.  Brian was sorting through some history books bound for his store’s Clearance section when he noticed a Robert McNamara book called In Retrospect, about the Vietnam War.  He knew he didn’t have a copy in the History section, so he decided to send it to the section rather than to Clearance.  He happened to open the book and, lo and behold, he saw that it was inscribed from Robert McNamara to Ladybird Johnson.  

They managed to track down the seller, who said he had worked for Ladybird but had no idea he had that book with the inscription.  Brian says, “They decided to keep the book rather than have us make an offer on it.  Too bad, because I really would have liked to see what that inscription could have brought.”

We lost the book, but Brian did a good deed by letting the seller know the book had something special about it.

4. “A lion to a lion.”

Employee Philip Lefebvre in Irving, TX, was involved in a buy brought in by a regular seller. The book, An Apologie Or Declaration Of The Power And Providence Of God In The Government Of The World …, had been re-bound in maroon leather. It was printed by William Turner, “Printer to the famous University, Anno Dom. 1630.”

Sometimes we get items that require a little bit of research, which is what Philip did.  Here’s what he learned:

“The book’s author, George Hakewill, was appointed in 1612 to preserve Prince Charles ‘from the inroads of popery,’ a task at which he seemingly failed because Charles I married a Catholic wife.  (He, the king, was also then executed in 1649 for treason, paving the way for Oliver Cromwell.)  So Hakewill was more than a historical footnote, having been at court and a player with big people.  This work is described as a rebuttal to the idea that all creation, including mankind, is decaying.  Which makes it a rare work for a theologian 400 years ago, or even now.  It is also credited with heavily influencing Samuel Johnson, which makes Hakewill a lion to a lion.  So this book is a historical artifact, written by a genuine historical figure.”

5. Judging Books by Their Covers

Sometimes we get books in that are just a pleasure to look at—regardless what the contents may be.  Our main store, for example, bought about twenty excellent bookbinding projects from a student in an upper-level bookbinding course. 

The books in this buy were beautiful, oversize art and calligraphy books.  The materials used included multiple types of wood, handmade paper, silk, and many varieties of cloth, board, and paper.

— Steve, aka The Buy Guy

Reading Lists 101

Summer is almost here, and that means traveling, pool parties, lazy days of lounging, and… required school reading?! We know that finding those assigned books can be tricky, and HPB wants to do our best to make the search easier. So tell us, educators…

Let us know which books and authors your classrooms will be reading this summer (Dickens? Dostoyevsky? du Maurier?) by filling out our Reading Lists 101 form and bringing it to your favorite HPB store. Our stores will do their best to build summer and required reading displays most relevant to what local schools are reading. While we can’t guarantee that we’ll have the titles in stock, knowing classrooms’ required reading lists will help us to select and group together the most sought-after books, and our Bibliomaniacs will be better equipped to assist students in their search.
Is there a book that you were required to read for school that turned out to be an all-time favorite? How about one that you can’t believe isn’t on required reading lists? Let us know in the comments! 

— Kate

Isaacson’s Steve Jobs Biography Screen Adaption

Late yesterday, news broke that Aaron Sorkin is adapting Walter Isaacson‘s Steve Jobs biography into a screenplay for Sony Pictures. Now that has some potential!

His talent as a screenwriter won him an Oscar for The Social Network (2010). Given his style of storytelling, it’s bound to contain intrigue and dramatic dialogue. Before his acclaim for The Social Network, Sorkin was known for his work on Emmy-winning political drama TV series The West Wing (1999-2006) and the (unfortunately) short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006).

This film about Apple’s visionary co-founder won’t be the first time a best-selling biography turned into an award-winning major motion picture. One recent example: The Blind Side (2009), based on the book by Michael Lewis.

Incidently, today is National Biographer’s Day! So, we at Half Price Books want to take a moment to tip our hats to the brilliant and bold writers who have documented some of the most inspirational life stories throughout history. And let’s not forget the the brave authors of memoirs and autobiographies for sharing their own (sometimes candid and heartbreaking) stories with the world.

Biographies are such a magnificent source of education, edification and perspective. We all have a story to tell. A life to record. If you were to write a biography, whose would it be? Perhaps your own. What would the title be?

To biographers and writers everywhere: Keep on writing! – Meredith

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