Now I Know My ABCs: Best Alphabet Books for Kids

In addition to the extra  20% off sale at Half Price Books, we’re also hosting a special storytime this weekend! National Literacy Month starts September 1, so we’re going back to the basics of reading by focusing on the ABCs all month long. Join us in-store at 2pm CST (so 12pm for you PSTers and 3pm for the EST crowd) as we hold a huge chain-wide ABC storytime!

In addition, here’s a round-up of some of our bibliomaniacs’ favorite alphabet books:

1) Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet by David McLimans, 2) Into the A, B, Sea: An Ocean Alphabet by Deborah Lee Rose, 3) Charley Harper ABCs by Carley Harper (Illustrator), 4) Alphabeasties: And Other Amazing Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Nelson, 5) Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert (Illustrator), 6) Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray, 7) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., 8) Dr. Seuss’s ABC by Dr. Seuss, 9) Agent A to Agent Z by Andy Rash, 10) The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst (Illustrator), 11) Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson, 12) Museum ABC by the Metropolitain Museum of Art

Click here to download this book list (PDF).

I would be remiss to not include my favorite ABC book: Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies, described as “an alphabetical phantasmagoria in which a succession of infants meet dreadful ends” — which places it far from the kids’ section of your local HPB (but if you have a soft spot for beautifully illustrated macabre nonsense, this is the ABC book for you.)

Which ABC book is your favorite? – Kristen D.

Kristen is Public Relations Specialist at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kristendickson.

Young Adult Library Services Association 2012 Teen Choice Nominees

It’s that time again! Time to vote for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Teen’s Top Ten list, nominated by teen book discussion groups in libraries and schools across the country. Last year’s winners included Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and one of my favorites, Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver. Here are a few of the nominees for this year.
Divergent by Veronica Roth
This book has been getting a lot of attention this year and has even been reviewed by our own Kristen B. in her “Countdown to Summer: 4 Dystopian Young Adult Series” blog post.  This book is one of my top picks for the YALSA Teen’s Top Ten list.  In a world where you are forced to make a choice between five factions that will end up determining your friends, your family, and your beliefs for the rest of your life, sixteen-year-old Tris discovers that she is divergent, a word that is spoken in hushed tones, if it is spoken at all.  But what does it mean to be divergent?  Are there others like her? Will being divergent help her save her family and friends when the unity between factions is broken?  A definite must read for teens and adults alike. The movie rights to Divergent have been picked up by Summit Studios and Evan Daughtery will be writing the screenplay. Currently, the movie is scheduled to come out in 2015.
Scarlett by A.C. Gaughen
If you love the story of Robin Hood, you will love A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlett.  Will Scarlett is one of the most well known of Robin Hood’s legendary merry men. However, what most people don’t know, is that Will Scarlett is actually a girl disguised as a boy in order to escape the guilt of her past, and the man who gave her the scar that mars her face.  But when her past catches up with her, will she face what she has dreaded for so long, or will she run, leaving Robin to pay for her past with his life?  This book is nonstop action, moving from one fight to the next in true Robin Hood fashion.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
This book is a trip!  Interspersed with very peculiar (for lack of a better word) photographs, this book tells the story of sixteen-year-old Jacob who embarks on a journey to a remote island off of Wales, after witnessing his grandfather being murdered by a strange creature who seemed to step right out of Jacob’s nightmares. Once on the island, Jacob steps through a time loop to find a home of children who can fly, turn invisible, and make fire in the palms of their hands, At this home, Jacob finds out that not only was his grandfather “peculiar,” but he is as well, and that the “peculiars” are being hunted by the same creatures he has been seeing in his nightmares.  What Jacob doesn’t know is that those creatures have followed him to Wales and in his dogged pursuit of the truth about his grandfather, he may have just put them all in grave danger.
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
For all of you who have been dying for a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the wait is over. Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Fankenstein follows sixteen-year-old Victor as he searches for a way to save his brother’s life.  Though there is a lot of sibling rivalry between Victor and his twin brother, Konrad, the two boys love each other very much. So, when Konrad becomes ill and the doctors don’t seem to be helping, Victor turns to alchemy, a mysterious science whose practice has been outlawed.  As Victor secretly searches for the elixir of life, he discovers secrets that his family has been hiding from him, and a passion that may put his brother’s life at greater risk.  Though an interesting premise and a good read, I didn’t find anything in Victor that made me want to cheer for him.  Then again, maybe that was the point.

Check out the complete list of the 25 nominees for YALSA Teen’s Top Ten list (PDF) and let me know which books you think will make it. Voting open for readers ages 12-18 now through September 15, 2012. Winners to be announced during Teen Read Week, October 14-20.

— Julie

Buy Guy Files: 40 Years of Buying V

Our buyers across the country continue to come across really special books that they are proud to examine, research, price and display in their stores.  Here are just a few treasures from our stores’ buy areas.

1. The Great Wartime Leader

We love to see books signed by the great men and women of our time.  In the month of the London Olympics, it seems appropriate to note our acquisition of a book signed by the great English statesman Winston Churchill.  It was a copy, signed by Churchill, of a 1948 edition of his memoir My Early Life. Inside the book was a fancy printed card that read, “With the Compliments of Sir Winston Churchill’s Private Secretary.”  A nice little bonus!

2. Merry Pranksters

Our Westport store in Kansas City recently acquired an uncorrected proof of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe’s milestone countercultural classic about Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters.  Wolfe’s second book was called by The New York Times “not simply the best book on the hippies” but “the essential book.”

3. A Play by Hemingway

The Dallas Flagship store just bought a beautiful copy, in the dust jacket, of Ernest Hemingway’s The Fifth Column: A Play in Three Acts, one of only 1174 copies of this first separate edition, published in 1940.

4. Philosopher-Scientist

I was reading a review of a recent book about Einstein, Einstein’s Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion, and was reminded of a fine signed and numbered edition of Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist that was bought in our store in Maplewood, Minnesota.

The book includes essays by 25 leading scientists such as Max Born and Niels Bohr, Einstein’s reply to their essays, a bibliography of Einstein’s works, and a 47-page revealing autobiography by Einstein printed in both German and English on facing pages.  The book was published in a limited edition in 1949 by the Library of Living Philosophers.  The copy we bought was number 107 of 750 signed by Einstein.

5. “Old & Interesting”

There’s a shelf-heading we sometimes use in our Collectibles section, “Old and Interesting,” which in some cases may be only half-correct.  The volumes on the shelves may be old indeed, but sometimes, alas, not so interesting. 

A regular customer brought in a small stack of nondescript old and uninteresting-looking books one day.  There was one book in the stack that, at first glance, seemed to fit right in with the common, musty readers and popular classics, but upon further inspection it proved to be quite a bit more than just old.  It was a copy of a surrealistic classic, Mr. Knife, Miss Fork, written by Rene Crevel and published in 1931 by Black Sun in Paris.  A little research showed that it was a very small printing, about 250 copies.  Then the buyer saw that it was one of only fifty copies signed by artist Max Ernst, who had designed nineteen photograms for the edition.  A true rarity, found among the schoolbooks in a relative’s attic!

This was in the pre-Internet era, but, thanks to the auspicious visit of a Town & Country magazine photographer doing a story on anniversary gifts, our copy of the book became the centerpiece of the story, as an example of a 1st anniversary paper gift, and was bought by a Town & Country reader in New Jersey, far from a Half Price Books location.

In case you missed it from the last blog post, we’ve also put together a series of videos to help answer customers’ Frequently Asked Questions about selling to Half Price Books. Would you like to know what kinds of books we’re looking for? Or how to judge the condition of your books? Do you suspect you might have a first edition? Here’s how to spot a first edition, and how to figure out if it’s valuable.

Here’s our latest, on selling LPs:

Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments.

Steve is Training Coordinator (aka the “Buy Guy”) at Half Price Books Corporate.

100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels to Geek Out Over

If your answer to every question is 42.  If you can quote the three laws of Robotics.  If you want to say “my precious” every time you see a gold band. Then this list is for you.  We asked our 3,000 bibliomaniacs what their favorite SciFi/Fantasy novels were, and here are their top 100 answers.

(1) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (2) A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (3) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (4) The Two Towers, (5) The Return of the King, (6) The Fellowship of the Ring and (7) The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (8) Neuromancer by William Gibson (9) Hyperion by Dan Simmons (10) Dune by Frank Herbert (11) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (12) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (13) 1984 by George Orwell (14) Ubik by Phillip K. Dick (15) A Storm of Swords by George R. R.Martin (16) The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (17) Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. (18) Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (19) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (20) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (21) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (22) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (23) The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (24) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (25) Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

(26) Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (27) The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick (28) The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov (29) Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (30) I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein (31) Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind (32) A Princess of Mars by E. R. Burroughs (33) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (34) Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey (35) The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (36) The Once and Future King by T.H. White (37) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (38) Foundation by Isaac Asimov (39) Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman (40) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick (41) Anathem by Neal Stephenson (42) The Black Company by Glen Cook (43) The Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn (44) Magic of Recluse by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (45) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (46) The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven, Stever Barnes and Jerry Pournelle (47) Dark is the Sun by Philip Jose Farmer (48) Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber (49) Dying Inside by Robert Siverberg (50) A Watch on the Rhine by John Ringo

(51) The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (52) Dies the Fire by S. M. Strilling (53) Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (54) The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers (55) The Eye of the Pyramid by Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson (56) The Electric Church by Jeff Sommers (57) Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (58) Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake (59) Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner (60) Mort by Terry Pratchett (61) Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susana Clarke (62) Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (63) Ladyhawke by Joan D. Vinge (64) I, Robot by Isaac Asimov (65) Armor by John Steakly (66) Lathe of Heaven, (67) Earthsea Chronicles and (68) Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (69) The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey (70) The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (71) War With the Newts by Karel Capek (72) Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (73) To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (74) Stardust by Neil Gaiman (75) Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

(76) The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (77) Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (78) Mockingbird by Walter Tevis (79) This is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow (80) Battle Cry by Jack McKinney (81) Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marrillier (82) Resurrection by Arwen Elys Dayton (83) Parable of the Sower and (84) Kindred by Octavia Butler (85) The Subtle Knife and (86) The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman (87) Grass by Sheri Tepper (88) Three Days to Never by Tim Powers (89) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany (90) The Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (91) Logan’s Run by William Nolan & George Clayton Johnson (92) White Mountains by John Christopher (93) Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov (94) Mister Monday by Garth Nix (95) Ringworld by Larry Niven (96) The Misenchanted Sword by Lawrence Watt-Evans (97) Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson(98) The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (99) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (100) The Giver by Lois Lowry

Now, Dune has been on my reading list for a while, but I am definitely going to have to read Ender’s Game.  The Hyperion series and The Looking Glass Wars just made it onto my reading list as well.  What about you?  See anything to add to your reading list?  

You can find these books and more at your local Half Price Books. Stop in today, and our Sci-Fi-Lovin’ Bibliomaniacs will help you find your book.

— Julie

The Day I Met Don King

Editor’s Note: Today is Don King‘s 81st birthday. Thus, a questionably relevant blog post about how one of our District Managers rectified a missed photo opportunity by snapping this epic shot, below.

About ten years ago I was a Timberwolves season ticket holder, and one of the world’s biggest Kevin Garnett fans.  The Big Ticket was the same age as me, and I loved his passion and youthful enthusiasm for the game.  His interviews were relatable and humorous and his game was dominating.  He brought in the first (well, only, really) era of T-Wolves basketball being any good. 

One night I was with my then girlfriend (now wife) and a friend at a TGIFriday’s in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  Why I was at a TGIFriday’s is something that I can’t possibly wrap my head around now.  Why KG was there was something that I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around then.  But sure enough, on a random, slow, weekday night in an inner ring suburb of Minneapolis, there, sitting at a table in the back, was my favorite athlete in all of sports at the time.[1] 

I couldn’t believe my eyes. 

His table was on the way to the bathroom, so I only had to have a couple of my favorite beverages to have an excuse to get near him.  Twenty minutes later, my time was up. 

I made my move. 

As I got closer to the table, I saw that he was sitting there with a girl and two children.  He was wrapped up in his table and conversation. 

He had diamonds earrings the size of dimes. 

I looked at the table and thought, you know, he’s sitting down trying to have a nice meal with some family and/or friends, and probably doesn’t want some long haired, heavily bearded half drunk super fan coming up and bothering him with some “I’m a huuuuuuge fan will you sign this napkin for me” nonsense. 

So I simply walked by and took the memory with me of my brush with greatness.

You’re probably wondering, what on Earth does this have to do with a photo of Don King?  That’s because these two celebrity sightings probably couldn’t be more different. 


It’s now 2007.

I lived in Chicago, married to the then-girlfriend, no longer had long hair, and my favorite athlete was Adrian “All Day” Peterson[2]

Our Marketing Director, Allyson Bradley, came up to Chicago to visit some of our stores.  When people come from out of town to visit (business or pleasure), I always make sure and take them out to eat.  I’ve moved beyond my TGIFriday’s stage and like to go to places that are 1) good 2) not a chain and 3) an experience they cannot get in their home town. 

I settled on one of my favorite restaurants in the city, La Scarola. 

I also invited some other store managers to round out the group and to have a little fun.  I’ll spare you the minute details of La Scarola, but let’s just say that it’s a classic Chicago Italian restaurant –photos of famous people who have been to the restaurant on the wall; bad, dated wall paintings of some generic Italian countryside; and absolute deliciousness. 

We got seated, and in full disclosure, I can’t tell you one thing about any of our conversations[3]

However, we enjoyed our meal, paid the bill, and got up to leave/smoke[4]

As we were leaving, there was a large table with a whole gang of people there.  I briefly look over and saw someone who I thought was Don King.  We went outside and I mentioned that I thought I just saw Don King to Allyson.  Allyson reacted like I just asked her if we walked by my first grade teacher.[5]  (Meaning, she had no clue whatsoever who Don King was).  Greg Lamer, who was a store manager in Chicago but is now the trainer in Kentucky, stated that he, too, thought it was Don King.  I was looking through the window trying to make it out, when out came a man to smoke[6] who was sitting at the table with Don King. 

Me: “Excuse me, were you just sitting at the table with Don King?”

Him: “I sure was.”

Me: “Do you think he would be offended if I went up and asked to have my picture taken with him?”

Him: “I think he be offended if you didn’t!”

With that, I was off. 

Greg was not only a good manager; he was also a great photographer and always had a camera in tow.  He followed me inside and I went up to the table and asked Don if I could get a picture with him.  As the man outside suggested, he was more than accommodating.  He asked me to pull up a chair, and I’m now sitting at a table with frickin’ Don King.  Greg took the photo[7], and I proceeded to sit in on King and Co.’s dinner conversation.  Evidently, he was in town promoting a championship fight.   This also happened to be right around the time of Michael Vick’s dog fighting trial.  As you can probably guess, Don was pontificating on the subject as only he can.  I will spare you the gory details of his position on the topic, but let’s just say that Don doesn’t hold dogs in very high regard.  Which wasn’t surprising for a man who once managed Mike Tyson and has killed someone.  But it was highly entertaining.  I sat around long enough to get a great story, but not too long to overstay my welcome.  I thanked Mr. King again for the photo and talk, and went on my way back into the night.

Only in America indeed.

[1] I now no longer really like KG.  Which pains me to write.  But, frankly, the dude dumped the Wolves and signed with the Celtics to get his ring.  Which I don’t really blame him for.  What I can blame him for is that he has become the complete opposite of what he used to be.  He used to be the kind of player that you felt played the game because he loved basketball.  He was fun and energetic.  Now he’s like that rich old grampa who’s the meanest SOB that you’ve ever met.  What happened?

[2] Side note- I got to go on the field before the game when the Vikings played the Bears at Soldier Field in 2011.  I yelled out “All Day, baby!” to Peterson, and he smiled and pointed at me.  Got that on video.  Made. My. Day.

[3] No offense to Allyson or anyone else there.

[4] Kids, don’t smoke, it’s terrible for you and I’m glad I quit.  

[5] Mrs. Stender.  Meanest. Lady. Ever.

[6] I know, a lot of smoking references.  I get it, I’m a bad person.  But the experiences you get hanging outside smoking are priceless.  Well, that, or whatever the cost is for a tracheotomy and some oxygen tanks.

[7] Just look at that photo.  It was a full on denim suit with matching patriotic tie.  He had on enough chains to embarrass Mr. T or your favorite rapper.  Do you think they used a Bedazzler to make that jacket???

Kent is the District Manager for the Half Price Books Chicago District.

Framed Art in Honor of a Famed Chef

This American pioneer of French cooking taught us that anyone can cook, to savor each flavor and butter makes every dish sing. Today, we celebrate what would be Julia Child’s 100th birthday! In honor of her centennial celebration, we created three art prints of her witty words that capture her delicious “joie de vie” in the kitchen. Julia will always remind us to have fun in the kitchen, enjoy every bite and always to have a “Bon appétit!”

Have you ever baked any of her famous french recipes?

– Stephanie

BFFs of Literature and Film

Happy Best Friend’s Day! What better way to celebrate than to round up some of the best friendships in film and literature?







Who are your favorite best friendships in entertainment? Anyone you love that we missed? Be sure to give YOUR best friend a shout-out in the comments!  

— KD 

Larry McMurtry’s Last Book Sale

Archer City.  I was thinking I ought to go, but then I kept thinking it was a bad time: too much coming up that I had to prepare for.  But “The Last Book Sale” was happening and then it would be over, and I would regret having missed it.  Larry McMurtry’s auction of hundreds-of-thousands of books from three of his four buildings of books situated in the heart of tiny Archer City, Texas, was certainly going to be an event, and we felt like somebody from Half Price Books really had to be there, whether we bought any books or not.

It got down to the wire before I started moving things around, making arrangements to go.  I made sure that Joe Madden, the Flagship store’s longtime collectibles expert, was able to accompany me.  We had worked together since the early nineties and I knew he wouldn’t want to miss the auction, and I valued his book opinions and experience.  Turns out, we didn’t get a chance to draw on our book experience after all.

The two-day auction began at 10 a.m. on Friday, August 10, in Building No. 4 of the Booked Up conglomerate.  Joe and I had set out at 6:30 in the morning to drive up from Dallas in time to register as bidders.  We hoped to spend the hour before the bidding, and as much time during the bidding as possible, looking over the lots of books.  There were lots and lots of lots, most consisting of one shelf-column of books.  Well, it seems that the week-long preview period had ended the day before, so we would have no opportunity to scope out the good stuff; we would be going into the auction blind.  If we wanted to bid on any books, it would have to be the luck of the draw.  We figured that the auctioneer would at least note the subject category of each grouping that came up for bidding, but he had so many lots of books to sell that he plowed through, providing only the lot number.

Joe and I had gotten good seats in the overflowing space that had been carved out between bookshelves.  (The planners hadn’t anticipated that more than 150 people would register to bid, and most bidders had guests; there was also the constant presence of newsfolks with cameras and microphones.)  As the auctioneer launched into things and we fully grasped the idea that, if we were to bid it would be a shot in the dark, I leaned over to Joe and asked, “How shall we choose which lot to bid on?”  Joe asked, “How old are you?”  I replied and immediately understood that we would be making a bid on lot 58.  We got it, for $150.  I figured we could get two lots’ worth of books into my minivan, so I decided that we could bid on one additional lot, the one whose number corresponded with Joe’s age.  We got that one, too, for $250.  No idea what kinds of books HPB now owned, but we hoped for the best, and now we could say we’d been involved in a true book event!  At lunch-break time, we went over to check it out, and we’d done all right: mostly oversized books on ships and sailing, military gear and fancy cars.  We paid and loaded up and just absorbed the atmosphere for a while. 

Photo by Michael PaulsenWe ran into JT, whose blog celebrates “pretty books wherever they are.”  She successfully bid on some of the “Books on Books” books.  We talked to various dealers who had traveled in from out of state — Mississippi, Pennsylvania and beyond — to bid on books.  A few had attended just to get one specific book or another from the “McMurtry 100” — a selection of special titles McMurtry picked out to be auctioned individually. 

Mr. McMurtry was there, of course, and said a few words at the outset to thank everyone for coming to West Texas in August.  As he walked off, he said, “Buy some books.”  Half Price Books had bought large quantities of books from McMurtry several times, books that didn’t fit into his mix (or his space availability) but settled nicely into our inventory.  (In an interview long ago, McMurtry had referred to us as a “less judicious bookstore.” We took that as a compliment.)  We’d always found Larry McMurtry to be gracious, soft-spoken and friendly.  The auctioneer echoed our sentiments.

On our drive in, Joe had mentioned Larry McMurtry had married Ken Kesey’s widow, Faye.  She was there, too, staying around quite a bit longer than McMurtry himself, smiling upon the proceedings.  I stood behind her, wondering what it was like to have married two of the great men of American literature.  As an example of the kind of serendipity booklovers relish, I had just the day before bought a copy of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, after hearing that one of our stores had recently bought an uncorrected proof of this classic about Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters, and I had never read the paperback copy I had back in the 70s.  When I got home from our Archer City journey, I began reading the book, prompted by Joe’s comment.  Right there on page nine was a reference to correspondence between Ken Kesey and his friend Larry McMurtry, and then, on page 27, Wolfe introduces “Kesey’s wife Faye…one of the prettiest, most beatific-looking women I ever saw.”

What will happen to Booked Up, shrunk from four buildings to Building No.1?  What will happen to Archer City, a town that previously contained about 500 books per citizen?  I think Archer City and Booked Up will remain a mecca for booklovers.  The Last Book Sale is a testament to the lure and lore of the ink-on-paper, real book.  A little town full of books drew a great many folks from far and wide.  Some came because it was Larry McMurtry and some came to stock bookstores, but most, I’m sure, came for both reasons.  We love being around books and honor this author who is also a fellow book gatherer.  Let’s hope Larry McMurtry was satisfied with the sale and let’s hope things continue, in some way, shape or form, in Archer City.

Steve is Training Coordinator (aka the “Buy Guy”) at Half Price Books Corporate.

The Best of Alfred Hitchcock

English film director and producer Alfred Hitchcock was a pioneer of cinema, carving out a legacy for himself in the genres of suspense and psychological thrillers. His method of storytelling through withholding information from the audience makes his movies entertaining till the end. And these breakthrough techniques paved the way for generations of filmmakers to come.

His work ranges from the romantic comedy of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), to courtroom drama of The Paradine Case (1947), and dark film noir Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

Hitchcock directed more than 50 feature films in his career, and I’ve seen nearly all of them. So in honor of his birthday today, here’s my list of personal favorites — The Best of Alfred Hitchcock (and where to look to spot his trademark cameo appearance in each).

1. Rear Window (1954) – Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr, Rear Window is an exceptional, suspenseful film. The story is confined almost entirely to the four walls of a studio apartment and the scenes observed across the courtyard from the window.

Cameo: Hitchcock is seen winding the clock in the songwriter’s apartment (00:26:10).


2. North by Northwest (1959) – Starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, this mysterious story of mistaken identity features a memorable opening title sequence created by graphic designer Saul Bass. North by Northwest is often referred to as the first feature film to use kinectic typography. This film also features some of Hitchcock’s famous innuendos.

Cameo: Hitchcock can be seen missing a bus at the end of the opening credits (0:02:09).


3. Dial M for Murder (1954) – In this film – starring Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, John Williams and Ray Milland – Hitchcock experimented with 3D for a depth effect in one scene. However, it’s reported that the public had grown weary of 3D when the film released, so it was only shown in a few screenings.

Cameo: Hitchcock can be seen on the left side in the class-reunion photo on the wall (00:13:13).


4. Notorious (1946)Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, Hitchcock regulars, are caught in the middle of a plot about Nazis, uranium and South America. Working undercover, they risk it all to reveal the truth.

Cameo: At the big party in Claude Rains’s mansion, Hitchcock can be seen drinking champagne and then quickly departing (01:04:44).


5. The Birds (1963) – Bodega Bay, California sets the stage for a sudden, unexplained series of attacks by birds. Jessica Tandy stars as “Tippi” in this horror film, loosely based on the 1952 story “The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier.

Cameo: A man walking dogs out of the pet store at the beginning of the film. They were two of Hitchcock’s own Sealyham terriers, Geoffrey and Stanley (00:00:02).


6. Strangers on a Train (1951) – Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, Hitchcock directed this suspenseful tale starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker. The premise: Two men meet casually on a train, and one speculates on a foolproof murder plot.

Cameo: Look for Hitchcock boarding a train with a double bass instrament case, just as Farley Granger’s character gets off in his hometown (00:10:34).


7. Vertigo (1958)Kim Novak plays the blonde lead opposite James Stewart in this entertaining thriller. Hitchcock used the camera technique dubbed as the “Vertigo Effect” where the camera moves in the opposite direction as the zoom to create a sense of the image stretching.

Cameo: Hitchcock can be spotted in a grey suit walking in the street with a trumpet case (00:11:40).


8. Psycho (1960) – This horror film is based on a novel of the same name by author Robert Bloch. There are many icons of the genre within Psycho, including the infamous shower scene. However, the depiction of violence and sexuality brought controversy to this film during its release.

Cameo: Through the window as Janet Leigh’s character returns to her office, you can see Hitchcock wearing a cowboy hat (00:06:35).


9. Suspicion (1941) – This film was the first time actor Cary Grant worked with Hitchcock. Joan Fontaine won Best Actress Oscar for her outstanding, anxiety-ridden performance in Suspicion.

Cameo: Spot Hitchcock from a distance, mailing a letter at the village post office (00:46:54) and walking a horse across the screen at the hunt meet (00:00:04).


10. To Catch a Thief (1955)Grace Kelly‘s third and final appearance in a Hitchcock film, alongside co-star Cary Grant, To Catch a Thief is set in the French Riveria. It’s more lighthearted and witty than many of Hitchcock’s other films, but loaded with double-entendres.

Cameo: The not-so-subtle appearance of Hitchcock… sitting to the left of Cary Grant’s character on the bus (00:00:10), as shown in the picture at the beginning of this post.


11. Spellbound (1945) – Exploring the realms of pscyhoanalysis, Spellbound features a dream sequence (pictured above) which was designed by surrealist painter Salvador Dali. This film, starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, also entangles romance with suspense in the way that Hitchcock does so well.

Cameo: Look for Hitchcock exiting an elevator at the Empire Hotel, carrying a violin case and smoking a cigarette (00:43:15).


12. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – This remake of Hitchcock’s own 1934 film of the same name, starred Doris Day and James Stewart. It won an Academy Award for Best Song for “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” performed by Doris Day

Cameo: Hitchcock is watching acrobats in the opening scene at the Moroccan marketplace. His back is facing the camera (00:00:33).


If you’re a fan like me, stay tuned for the upcoming (Sept. 25) release of the “Masterpiece Collection” of Hitchcock on Blu-Ray, 15 movies of digitally remastered suspense — I can hardly wait! Which is your favorite Hitchcock film? If you’ve seen them all, let me know which one you think I should watch next.

Enjoy the plot-twisting thrill – Meredith

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

Meet the Bibliomaniac: Grady Dickinson

Vinyl Record Day is this Sunday, August 12, so in this month’s Meet the Bibliomaniac post, we wanted to talk to one of our bibliomaniacs (or vinylmaniac?) to learn about his love of vinyl.  Meet Grady!

Name: Grady Dickinson

Job Title:   Shift Leader at Country Club Corner in Oklahoma City

When did you join the HPB team? April 2009

When and how did you first develop a love of vinyl? I probably started getting into records when I was around 16. Most of the bands I was into were underground, independent bands that only put their music out on vinyl format. Good ole 7″.

How big is your vinyl collection? I’d guess several hundred. I have them in crates in my room along one wall. I’m still buying them and don’t plan to get rid of any.

What is your favorite record in your collection? Probably a promo copy of Kill ‘Em All by Metallica which was actually the first album I bought from Half Price Books. The first album I ever bought – and I still have it – was a 7″ of Corrosion of Conformity.

What is the most interesting LP that has come through HPB? We did see a cool Bunny Wailer Japanese import come across the counter.  

Anything else to add? I’m happy that records are making a comeback. Did you know you can buy record players at Target now? (And at HPB too!)


What about you guys – do you have a record player?  Own any vinyl?  Tell us in the comments section!