Remembering JFK: 50 Years after the Assassination

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Those are among the most famous words spoken by John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address as our nation’s 35th president.

On this 50th anniversary of his assassination, we take time to reflect on his life, his presidency, his tragic death and his legacy. In addition to the more than 40,000 books already published about JFK, there’s a shelf full of new titles which were released this year. Here’s a quick guide to help you discover some of the best-selling and most-talked-about nonfiction this season.

(Row 1) Five Days in November by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin, The Kennedy Assassination by Professor Matthew Smith and David Southwell, End of Days by James Swanson, The Day Kennedy Was Shot by Jim Bishop; (Row 2) Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly, Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House by Robert Dallek, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews, TIME JFK: His Enduring Legacy by David Von Drehle with Chris Matthews; (Row 3) Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Caroline Kennedy, Photographic History of JFK: His Life, His Legacy by Tim Hill; and Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio. 

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

Top 66 Books About Families, Dysfunctional or Otherwise

Ah, the holidays. That magical time of year when we’re surrounded by good cheer, delicious food, and those nearest and dearest — our families. Definition of family certainly varies from person to person; some folks have brothers and sisters, moms and dads, and aunts, uncles and cousins, while other families look a little different. I personally love stories about families (the more dysfunctional the better) — my favorites are This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (included below), Circle of Friends, by Maeve Binchy, and Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, along with movies; I love classics like E.T., Annie, Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, and The Sound of Music, plus newer films like The Family Stone, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Royal Tenenbaums. We asked our 3,000 bibliomaniacs for books that define “blood is thicker than water” in every way imaginable, and here’s what they reported back.

(1) Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn (2) Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (3) Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi  (4) Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (5) A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket  (6) Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews  (7) East of Eden, by John Steinbeck  (8)Why be Happy When You Could be Normal, by Jeanette Winterson (9) Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple (10) Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon (11) Queen’s Own, by Mercedes Lackey (12) The Thornbirds, by Colleen McCullough (13) The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice (14) The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr (15) Tilt, by Elizabeth Burns (16) Ten Kids No Pets, by Ann M. Martin (17) The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall (18) Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech (19) Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (20) Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George (21) Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery (22) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (23) Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn (24)Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen  (25) Ordinary People, by Judith Guest (26The Yearling, by Marjorie Rawlings (27) Random Family, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (28) Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward (29)One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (30) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (31) Beezus & Ramona, by Beverly Cleary (32) The Other, by Thomas Tryon (33) The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

(34) Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (35) Franny & Zooey, by J.D. Salinger (36) All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor (37) The Watsons Go to Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis (38) Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl (39) The Believers, by Zoe Heller (40) This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper (41) Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, by Alexandra Fuller (42) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (43) Lookaway, Lookaway, by Wilton Barnhardt (44) The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner (45) Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling (46) Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton (47) The Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (48) Awkward Family Photos, by Mike Bender (49) Bee Season, by Myla Goldberg (50) To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (51) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (52) Betsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace (53) Family: The Ties that Bind…And Gag!, by Erma Bombeck (54) The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg (55) The Enchanted Book, by Jan Brett (56) Long Day’s Journey Into Night, by Eugene O’Neill (57) The Borrowers, by Mary Norton (58) Life Among the Savages, by Shirley Jackson (59) We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson (60) Sounder, by William H. Armstrong (61) Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut (62) Light Years, by James Salter (63) Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev (64) Barney’s Version, by Mordecai Richler (65)One For the Money, by Stephanie Evanovich (66) The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

Any notable familes we left out? Let us know in the comments! — Kristen 

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

Best Short Story Writers & Why They (Just Might) Change Your Reading Life

The short story often gets short shrift. Years ago, when I was a newbie at Half Price Books back in the 70s, the woman training me to shelve Literature held aside all short-story collections. “We don’t put those on the shelves,” she told me. “They aren’t real literature.”  (I should clarify that her stance most definitely went against company guidelines.) I’ve always loved to read short stories, and the best of them have a place among the best literature.

In honor of the great Canadian short-story author Alice Munro receiving this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, here’s a salute to Ms. Munro and some of her peers and predecessors who mastered the art of the short story. It’s a very personal list of writers who’ve had a big effect on me, so no complaints, please, about all of the great writers I’ve left out—Chekhov, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kafka, Salinger, Updike, and others.

Edgar Allan Poe

Like many readers, I devoured Poe’s stories when I was a kid, and many of Poe’s images have stuck with me to this day.

For example:

“The Cask of Amontillado”

“The Masque of the Red Death”

“The Pit and the Pendulum”

(all from Tales of Mystery and Imagination)

Ray Bradbury

Right after Poe, Ray Bradbury came into my reading life, and I recall several mornings pedaling my bike to the bookstore to use my allowance on a Bradbury paperback.  Decades later, I still respond to the vivid, deep-red cover of my copy of The Illustrated Man.

For example:

“The Scythe” (from Dark Carnival)

“The Long Rain” (from The Illustrated Man)

“Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed” (from A Medicine for Melancholy)

Flannery O’Connor

When I was in college, it was cool to read Flannery O’Connor.  Her dark, Southern-gothic tales dealt with mysticism, superstition, and racism, and featured a memorable cast of Southern misfits trying to make sense of their changing world.  All these years later, she still seems pretty cool.

For example:

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” (from A Good Man is Hard to Find)

“The Displaced Person” (from A Good Man is Hard to Find)

“Everything That Rises Must Converge” (from Everything That Rises Must Converge)

Eudora Welty

Like Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty was a Southerner who set her tales in The South, but her stories tended to be much gentler, even when they dealt with racial tension.   

For example:

“A Worn Path” (from A Curtain of Green)

“Powerhouse” (from A Curtain of Green)

“The Wide Net” (from The Wide Net)

John Cheever

Cheever was a New Yorker.  Most of his stories were set in New York or nearby, and many of his stories first appeared in The New Yorker, but they still appealed to this Texas boy.  Cheever caught the idiosyncrasies and failings of the “Mad Men” set while it was happening.     

For example:

“The Sorrows of Gin” (from The Housebreaker of Shady Hill)

“The Swimmer” (from The Brigadier and the Golf Widow)

“Chimera” (from The World of Apples)

Raymond Carver

Carver pioneered the minimalist, slice-of-blue-collar-life story.  Many featured people living at the margins: “men behaving badly,” and women trying to understand them. 

For Example:

“Neighbors” (from Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?)

“Tell the Women We’re Going” (from What We Talk About When We Talk About Love)

“A Small, Good Thing” (from Cathedral)

George Saunders

I discovered the dark, inventive stories of George Saunders when many other readers did—early this year when his book Tenth of December received glowing reviews and made the bestseller lists.  Saunders has three previous short-story collections, and I hear they’re all great but haven’t located them yet.  I’ll keep checking the shelves at HPB.  Some favorites from Tenth of December:

“Puppy”

“Victory Lap”

“Home”

Alice Munro

Munro said, “For years and years I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel.  Then I found that they were all I could do, and so I faced that. I suppose that my trying to get so much into stories has been a compensation.”  She announced at the time of the publication of her 14th collection, Dear Life, that it would be her last.  We’ll see whether it really is, but either way, she has created a consistently fascinating body of work.

Check out:

“Tell Me Yes or No” (from Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You)

“The Bear Came Over the Mountain” (from Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage)

“Chance” (from Runaway)

My honorable-mentions include Katharine Mansfield, Jorge Luis Borges, T.C. Boyle, William Trevor, and Tobias Wolff, and I’m leaving out many others.  Who are your favorite short-story writers?