A Story of Book Serendipity in Irving, Texas

Back in December, I had the pleasure of visiting Kinkeade Early Childhood School, when Half Price Books formed a special “Partnership in Education” with them.  As part of the partnership, HPB donated several hundred books to the school library, and will continue to support them throughout the year.

While there, Kristi Betts, the school librarian, told us a fascinating story that really shows the longevity of a paper book.

First, a little history. The school was named after Dr. Henry Kinkeade, one of the founders of Dallas Baptist University, and a longtime minister at First Baptist Church in Irving. Kristi’s parents were married by Dr. Kinkeade, and she attended the church while growing up.  Dr. Kinkeade also married Kristi and her husband.  (She clearly has a long connection to the Kinkeade name!)

While looking through the books donated from our Irving store, Kristi discovered a book of poetry that had been a favorite while she was a child.  Much to her surprise, she noticed a First Baptist Church of Irving stamp on the side.  And when she looked in the back, it still had the library card – she had checked the book out from the library as a child!

Who knows where the book had traveled since Kristi checked out the book back in the early 80s.  Lucky for us, it made its way back to Kristi’s hands and she can share it with the children of Kinkeade for years to come!

Do you have any similar stories about books that have made their way back to you? — Emily

Emily is PR Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.

You can follow her on Twitter at emilytbruce.

The Tell-Tale Man

Photo credit: LA Pop ArtOne hundred sixty-eight years ago yesterday, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was published in New York’s “Evening Mirror” newspaper.  Four years later, Poe died at the age of 40.  Poe’s works influenced writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and the award given out by the Mystery Writers of America is known as “The Edgar” in his honor.  This influential author (whose birth anniversary was ten days ago), was not only a brilliant man, but also led an interesting life, and his death is as shrouded in mystery as the stories he wrote.

Here are a few facts about this influential author.

  •  As a recognized literary critic, he was called the “Tomahawk Man,” and frequently targeted Bostonian poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson and James Lowell.  He even sued Longfellow for plagiarism and gave lectures to Bostonian audiences, claiming they were too stupid to understand his genius (even though Poe was born in Boston and his first published collection of poems was credited to “a Bostonian.”) The book was a flop.
  • For most of Poe’s life, he was clean-shaven, and only grew his iconic mustache during the final years of his life.
  • Poe never signed his name Edgar Allan Poe, only Edgar A. Poe or E. A. Poe. Allan was the last name of his foster parents.  Poe fell out of favor with his foster father, after Poe gambled away his tuition money.  Of course, it probably didn’t help that Poe also confronted his foster father about his numerous affairs.
  • When Poe decided to leave West Point Military Academy, he purposefully got himself court-martialed for gross negligence of duty and disobedience of orders.  He pled not guilty, knowing he would not win.
  • He was the first well-known American writer who tried to live by writing alone, but the lack of an international copyright law kept him in the poor house most of his career.
  • Poe married his first cousin, Virginia Clemm, when she was 13 years old. Fewer than 10 years later, Virginia died of consumption.  The first signs that she had the disease came while she was singing and playing the piano one evening, and she began to bleed from her mouth.
  • Though “The Raven” brought Poe fame, he was only paid $9 for the piece.
  • Poe was nicknamed “The Raven,” and children would follow behind him as he walked down the street, flapping their arms and cawing. Eventually, Poe would turn around and playfully say, “Nevermore,” causing the children to run away in delight.
  • Though Poe seemed to have a problem with alcohol when he was younger (reportedly showing up drunk to his classes at the University of Virginia), toward the end of his life he joined the Sons of Temperance, the 19th century version of Alcoholics Anonymous.  However, he died one month after he joined.
  • Poe’s death is one of the most mysterious deaths in literary history. There are more than 26 theories on how Edgar Allan Poe died.  Two of the most common are rabies and cooping, which was the practice of plying people with liquor and forcing them to vote multiple times for a certain candidate during elections.  Poe was found delirious in a Baltimore tavern, which doubled as a polling site, wearing clothes that were not his—which would support the cooping theory. However, according to his doctor there was no evidence of alcohol use when he was admitted and his medical records indicate that Poe had abstained from alcohol for six months before his death.  Poe also had trouble drinking water while at the hospital.  He was confused, and slipped in and out of a coma—which would support the rabies theory.  Even doctors say that the definitive cause of Poe’s death will likely remain a mystery.

Poe once wrote, “It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than analytic.”  Poe lived these words out in his life and even in his death, giving fodder to our imaginations and allowing us to dream. So, we celebrate Edgar Allan Poe and the publication of his masterpiece “The Raven.”

What is your favorite Poe story? — Julie

Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Top Trivia Books That Aren’t Really Trivia Books

Question: When was National Trivia Day?  Answer: January 4!

The Internet has spoiled trivia contests forever.  No more participating in bar trivia nights, where contestants surreptitiously look at the iPhones they hold under the table.  But the many editions of Trivial Pursuits are still lots of fun, and trivia books are still a nice diversion—and they make resources for impromptu, make-your-own home trivia games.  Half Price Books gets many, many trivia books in (Question: How many trivia books does HPB buy each year?), but I wanted to look at some other books I’ve found to be fonts of trivial information.    

1.  Maphead, Ken Jennings—You know that a book by the greatest trivia contest winner of all, Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings, has gotta be full of useless factoids that amuse and amaze.
Question:  In what state is the only town that borders two other different states on opposite sides?
Answer: West Virginia—the town is Weirton

2.  The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz and Popular Singers, Will Friedwald— In this treasure trove of musical marginalia is my favorite factoid of all time.
Who dubbed Lauren Bacall’s voice on the song “How Little We Know” in the movie To Have and Have Not?
Andy Williams (Bacall denies it.  Still a great question.)

3.  Names, Paul Dickson—This book, a companion to the author’s book Words, gathers odd and fun names in many categoriesIt lists 365 apple names—an apple name a day. 
Question:  What are Arkies, Bennies, Bessies and Daphnes?
Answer: Awards—for arcade games, printing, dancing and furniture design, respectively.

4.  About the Author, Alfred Glossbrenner—I  felt I needed a book about books in the list, and this great resource includes interesting tidbits in each author entry.
What author, a father of seven children, said, “I abhor their company because I can only regard children as defective adults…”?
Answer: Evelyn Waugh, author of Brideshead Revisited

5.  A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson—Bryson’s non-travel books, including this one, At Home, and The Mother Tongue, are jam-packed with amazing and amusing factoids.  (So are his travel books, come to think of it.)
Question: How many bed mites may be in your pillow?
Answer: 40 million  (Bryson says that “to them your head is just one large oily bon-bon”)  

Have you got a favorite source of useless but fun-to-know trivia?  Let us know, and drop us a trivia question! — Steve

Steve is Staffing & Development Manager (aka the “Buy Guy”) at Half Price Books Corporate.


Top 10 Mystery Sleuths to Kill For

The first mystery ever published was Edgar Allen Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, in which the brilliant sleuth Auguste Dupin solved a crime that had everyone else baffled.  And thus, our fascination with mystery novels and their brilliant (or just plain lucky) sleuths began.  Today, the mystery genre is the top-selling fiction genre, with more than 1,000 new mystery novels being published each year. With so many books available, how is anyone to know which brilliant sleuths to follow?  Well, I asked our 3,000 Bibliomaniacs to give me 10 mystery sleuths worth killing for, and they solved the mystery (Okay, that was hokey.)

  1. Sherlock Holmes (created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
  2. Nero Wolfe (created by Rex Stout)
  3. Stephanie Plum (created by Janet Evanovich)
  4. Nancy Drew (created by the Startemeyer Syndicate under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene)
  5. Hercule Poirot (created by Agatha Christie)
  6. Encyclopedia Brown (created by Donald Sobel)
  7. Miss Marple (created by Agatha Christie)
  8. Harry Hole (created by Jo Nesbo)
  9. Martin Beck (created by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo)
  10. Kurt Wallander (created by Henning Mankell)

The fact that Sherlock Holmes was at the top of this list may have been no mystery, but some of the others are new to me, which means another trip to Half Price is in my future.

So what mystery sleuth is your favorite? — Julie

Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

12 Happiness-Seeking Books for Hunt Happiness Week

Everyone wants to be happy, but finding or maintaining happiness on life’s rollercoaster can be tricky sometimes. One study outlined an excellent and simpler way to get happier – simply by reading books. According to a study by the UK’s National Literacy Trust, reading not only gives you an insight into different aspects of human nature or makes you smarter, it also makes you happier and more successful in life and relationships.ˆ

Reading books is not only a good pasttime, but it’s also a great way to learn and can improve a person’s skill at reading books faster. It improves your vocabulary and your imagination. But if happiness is what you seek, here are 12 happiness-seeking books I recommend. And just in time for the 12th annual Hunt for Happiness Week (courtesy of the Secret Society of Happy People) which encourages everyone to create their own happiness and spread a little around too.

ˆSource: MedGuru

What book recommendations would you add to this list?

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

Happy Birthday, Paula Deen!

Happy Birthday Paula Deen! Thank you for your delicious, inventive, and downright addictive baked goods. Most of all, thank you for loving butter as much as I do. I can’t seem to leave my house without butter, sugar or flour covering my iPhone. Today we celebrate your birthday with a recipe you would be fond of: fried butter balls!

Tweet or tag us on Instagram with pictures and recipes of your favorite butter recipes. Also, make sure to check out these books for more creamy creations. — Stephanie

Stephanie is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate
You can follow her on Twitter at @saltpepperpress

Top Ten Things Ben Franklin Gave the World

307 years ago, a man by the name of Benjamin Franklin was born.  Of all the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin has always been my favorite.  Don’t get me wrong – the majority of them were all educated, some inventors, some with wisdom beyond their time that would last through centuries.  But, Benjamin Franklin, the son of a soap maker, he continues to affect our lives in ways that many of us don’t even realize.  Here are just a few ways:

Bifocals: Yes.  Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, after becoming tired of having to change glasses for up close and far away.

“Remember that time is money” — Words said by Ben, that are still repeated today. Perhaps your boss has used those words today?

Electricity:  I didn’t put this at number one, only because of course electricity “existed” before Benjamin Franklin.  So he didn’t invent it, but it’s because of him that we began to understand it A LOT more. He also coined many new terms in relation to electricity including: Charge, Conductor, Positively, Negatively, and Battery (more on batteries in a moment)

Odometers: We may not look at them everyday,  but they are definitely in all of our automobiles.  As PostMaster, Franklin wanted to keep track of routes delivering the mail.

Batteries: The battery might have many incarnations today, but Ben is the one who first developed the name and experimented with his “Franklin Battery.”

“A penny saved is a penny earned” — It’s a little bit of a misquote from what was originally said by Franklin – but I certainly cannot count the number of times this was said to me by my parents and grandparents.

Public Libraries: Franklin created the first U.S. public library so the less fortunate could expand their minds.

Swim Fins:  Ok, so maybe we don’t use swimfins everyday.  But, he did invent them at the age of 11. (His were just used on the hands instead of the feet)

“Benjamins” — The Pennsylvania Gazette was a printing press owned by Benjamin Franklin that began printing the first paper money in Philadelphia and Delaware.  (Even with misspellings thought to ward off counterfeits.) Over a century later, an image of Franklin was used on the $100 bill, and many of us call them Benjamins to this day.

Freedom:  Yes, we have him to thank for this.  He was one of the 5 men to draft the Declaration of Independence. He was also one of only 4 men to sign the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War and acknowledged the United States to be a free, sovereign and independent nation. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from Ben Franklin?


Crystal is Store Manager at Half Price Books Flagship in Dallas, Texas.

Top 10 Chuck Berry Songs

Chuck Berry is one of the pillars and pioneers of rock and roll, and had a huge influence on The Beatles, Buddy Holly, and most everyone in rock music who followed him.  He had a lot of hits that are now part of the pop canon, covered by many, heard by millions.  Here’s a very subjective list of my favorites.

Johnny B. Goode (1957)—Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat.  It’s probably his most well-known song, and ranks #2 on Dave Marsh’s 1,001 Singles list.  It has been covered by every garage band and prom combo since it came out.  For me, it’s a “quota song”: I have heard it (and played it) often enough that I never need to hear it again.  But it must be honored!

Best line: “But he could play a guitar just like a-ringing a bell”

Memphis, Tennessee (1958)—This brilliant vignette wins the award for most conflicted pop song.  Its music is bouncy and rockin’; its message is poignant.  But it works, and I don’t get tired of it.  I prefer Chuck’s version to Johnny Rivers’ bigger hit of it.

Best line: “She did not leave a number but I know who placed the call/ ‘cause my uncle took a message and he wrote it on the wall”

Nadine (1964)—The song stays on one-chord 7/8 of the time but is spectacular. 

Best line:  “I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat”

You Never Can Tell (1964)—This nifty, much-covered number is a classic tale of newlyweds.

Best line: “They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale/The coolerator was crammed with TV dinners and ginger ale”

Brown-Eyed Handsome Man (1956)—It’s a racial pride song covered by a white guy (Buddy Holly).  Brilliant!

Best line:  “Arrested on charges of unemployment, he was sittin’ in the witness stand/The judge’s wife called up the district attorney, said ‘You free that brown-eyed man’”

School Days (1957)—Chuck used the exact same melody seven years later for “No Particular Place to Go.”  It’s OK to steal from yourself—both songs are classics!

Best line: “American history and practical math/You study’ em hard and hopin’ to pass/Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone/And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone”

You Can’t Catch Me (1955)—This is the song avowed Berry disciple John Lennon got caught grabbing lyrics from (for “Come Together).

Best line (John liked it): “Here come old flat-top, he was movin’ up with me”

Carol (1958)—Not much to say about this one, except that it’s yet another gem.

Best line (the chorus): “Oh Carol, don’t let him steal your heart away/ I’m gonna learn to dance if it takes me all night and day”

Almost Grown (1959)—This was included in the American Graffiti soundtrack and could’ve been the movie’s theme song.  Great intro!

Best line: “Yeah, ‘n’ I’m doin’ all right in school/They ain’t said I broke no rule”

Around and Around (1958)—An inventive rhythmic interplay makes this one special.

Best line: “Front doors was locked/Well, the place was packed/When the police knocked/Both doors flew back/Well, they kept on rockin’…”

And I should be ashamed of myself for leaving out “Roll Over, Beethoven,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Back in the USA” and so many others. 

What are your favorites? — Steve

Steve is Staffing & Development Manager (aka the “Buy Guy”) at Half Price Books Corporate.

The Kick in the Pants You’ve Been Looking For: 7 Career Advice Books

Need a kick in the pants? Feel stuck? Desperate for motivation on the job? Well, I’ve got some reading suggestions for you! Granted, there are many business advice or job-seeking books out there, but these books don’t talk about making millions or climbing corporate ladders. This collection of nonfiction will stir you. And perhaps that’s just the energy you need to get your career in gear. 

In addition to these titles, I’d highly recommend reading just about anything written by Sally Hogshead or Seth Godin – both brilliant and passionate minds.

What career advice books do you suggest?

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

8 Things I Learned From My Dog

It is a new year and the holidays are in the past. It is time to be open to some new ideas. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am a dog owner, and our English Springer Spaniel, Kelsey, is just as much a part of the family as anyone. I know, pets require training and are completely dependent on our care, but if you let them, they can give back just as much. Here are 8 things I learned from my dog!

  1. When you want something, go after it! Dogs are relentless. They bark, chase and search until they get what they want. Don’t give up on something you want until you have exhausted all your effort.
  2. Adventure is all around you! You don’t always have to travel to find an adventure. There are many things in your “backyard” that are worth exploring. Appreciate everything around you.
  3. Be curious! Don’t be afraid to try new things. You may come across something you absolutely love.
  4. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. When has a dog ever pretended to be anything other than a dog? Be genuine and honest.
  5. Greet people like you haven’t seen them in a million years! It really makes a difference being greeted in a pleasant manner.
  6. Enjoy the simple things. Try to enjoy and savor the simple things in life. There are lots of things to be thankful for and enjoy each day if you just look around.
  7. Play! Be open to spontaneous fun. Take time to get away from the grind at work. Give yourself time to relax and get away from the stress.
  8. (And last but not least…) Be forgetful! Don’t hold a grudge.

These are just a few things that I have received back from my dog Kelsey. There are lots of great dog training books out there and believe it or not, cookbooks to spoil your dog. Just remember to be open to what they are offering back.

Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.