Books Can Take You Places: Rome

EDITOR’S NOTE: Half Price Books encourages you to travel more in 2016. Not the kind of travel that involves airplanes, passports and hotels, but the easier, more affordable kind — where you open a great book and let it take you somewhere. Throughout 2016 we’ll share about the world’s Romegreat destinations, along with our recommendations for the books, movies and music that will help you get there.

Already this year, we’ve taken a trip to Paris, France, San Francisco, California, with a detour to New Orleans, Louisiana.  This month’s stop is Rome, Italy.

When I was a very young child, I would browse through postcards from my mother’s many travels. My favorite postcard was of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. I spent hours daydreaming of Rome and would later immerse myself in books and movies that featured Rome. Now I am a mother and recently had the thrill of traveling with my college-age daughter in Rome. The last stop on our trip was the Tivoli Fountain. It was more grand and romantic than I could possibly have imagined. Saying ciao, ciao a Roma, we tossed coins into the fountain with hopes of returning to the Eternal City.

With its bevy of fountains, sculptures and architectural ruins, Rome may be best known for visual splendor. But it also has a rich literary pedigree dating to its ancient past, when thinkers with one name like Ovid and Cicero wrote epic poems and invented satire. In later centuries, expatriate writers fell under the city’s charms. All roads—and lots of books, music and movies—lead to Rome.


book Angels & Demons, Dan Brown • book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert • slate_film-512 Gladiatorbook I, Claudius, Robert Graves • music-note-21 Italian Love Songs, Dean Martin • music-note-21 An Italian Songbook, Cecilia Bartoli • music-note-21 Music of Ancient Rome, Vol. 1, Synaulia • slate_film-512 Roma slate_film-512 Roman Holidaybook The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, Tennessee Williams • music-note-21 Rome, Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi • slate_film-512 The Talented Mr. Ripleyslate_film-512 Three Coins in the Fountain music-note-21 Viaggio Italiano, Andrea Bocelli • book The Woman of Rome, Alberto Moravia


  • Literary legends including Goethe, John Keats, Stendhal, Lord Byron and Charles Dickens have been served at Antico Caffé Greco, one of the oldest cafes in Italy.
  • Keats, his friend Percy Shelley and many other expatriate writers and artists are interred at Rome’s Protestant Cemetery.
  • The house in Rome where Keats spent his last months has been preserved as Keats-Shelley House, a museum dedicated to him and other English Romantic poets who were spellbound by the city.
  • So many American movies were shot at Rome’s Cinecittá film studios in the 1950s and 60s that the city was nicknamed Hollywood on the Tiber.
  • The area surrounding Piazza di Spagna became known as the English Quarter in the 1800s due to its large population of expatriate artists.

If you don’t want to miss a stop on HPB’s journey to the world’s great destinations, join the Half Price Books Booklovers Survey Club and we’ll send you an email each month with a new city alongside a quick survey. Plus, you’ll receive coupons to save throughout the year when you travel to your favorite Half Price Books.

Susan is Creative Coordinator at HPB Corporate in Dallas TX.

Leap Into a Book on Leap Day

For complicated reasons involving the Sun, the Earth, Julius Caesar and I’m pretty sure, the calendar industry, the concept of leap year was invented way back in 46 B.C. Ever since, we’ve been adding an extra day every four years in order to keep our calendars synced up with nature.

2016 is one of those years, so something special is happening after February 28: February 29. A whole day we didn’t have last year and won’t have next year. Think about it: everything you do on February 29 is something you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do in 2016. (Actually, don’t think about it too hard. Just play along.)

What’s the best way to make the most of leap day? We recommend reading a book. A whole extra book for a whole extra day. Finishing a book in one day, or even one sitting, is a satisfying experience that everyone should try, and we figure leap day is a perfect day to try it. Fortunately, there are lots of great short books, including many classics, that you can knock out in a few hours or less. Here are some ideas.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (29,160 words)
As a kid, I always enjoyed reading, but the day I read this book straight through may be the day I truly fell in love with literature. Steinbeck’s taut 1937 novella about friendship, compassion and tragedy is immensely moving—and it moves quickly, too.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (26,601 words)
This fish tale, published in 1952, won the Pulitzer Prize and marked a comeback of sorts for Hemingway, who was pretty quiet during the 40s. Critics are divided about this novel; take a couple of hours and then decide for yourself.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (21,080 words)
If novellas aren’t your thing, how about an ancient Chinese treatise on military tactics and strategy? This work on warfare, which dates to the 5th century B.C., has seen its principles applied to business, education, law and sports, in addition to military matters. It’s required reading in the CIA and has been championed by the likes of General Douglas MacArthur and NFL coach Bill Belichick.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (39,680 words)
Published in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights era, this book—actually two long essays—takes a searing look at race relations in the United States. It resonates just as strongly today and served as the inspiration for Between the World and Me, the 2015 bestseller by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (37,653 words)
This entertaining long essay is based on a series of the author’s university lectures and was published in 1929. In this slim volume, Woolf skewers sexism in the arts as she famously asserts that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” A feminist classic.

What are some of your favorite quick reads?

Mark is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow him online here.

And the Oscar goes to, Kevin Bacon!

Hooray for Hollywood! The 88th Academy Awards will be giving out their most coveted statue, the Oscar, in less than two weeks. Of course, many predictors have the Best Actor Oscar going to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant, but we want to make a case for, you guessed it Kevin Bacon. Here is a fun graphic taking all the lead actors and actresses and connecting them to Kevin Bacon. Maybe you can do one using all Oscar winners! Leonardo DiCaprio was in Catch Me If You Can with Tom Hanks (a two-time Oscar winner), who was in Apollo 13 with… Kevin Bacon. Who are you predicting to win? The safe bet is DiCaprio and Brie Larson in the Lead categories. Enjoy the Oscars on Sunday, February 28 at 7e/4p on ABC.

Half Price Books 2016 Oscar Nod Kevin Bacon Connection

Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.

Enjoy an LP, and Thank Mr. Edison!

We’ve come a long way since Thomas Alva Edison recited “Mary Had a Little Lamb” into the mouthpiece of his newly invented phonograph machine in late 1877. On February 19, 1878, his phonograph was patented, and, after many twists and turns (uh, revolutions), the vinyl record, pretty much as we know it today, became the most popular format from the late 1940s until the CD came along in the 1980s. And now vinyl is back! Our stores around the country never got out of the record business, and our LP inventory is better than ever.

If you’re a record-lover LP collector or just an enthusiastic neophyte, we’d love to hear from you! Share with us on social using #halfpricebooks and post a photo of your favorite LP with a brief note about why you just have to have this particular album on vinyl.

I’ll start it off. I’m a longtime LP-lover—if not a hardcore collector. It’s hard to pick one favorite among the LPs I own, but a contender would be Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (1959).

This is my treasured replacement copy of the first album I ever owned. My brother and I wore it out.

We’d also like to mark the phonograph patent anniversary by featuring a couple of special LPs our stores have just added to their stock.

This box set with 14 LPs is the Japanese release located at the Firewheel store in Garland, TX. It’s in beautiful condition with its certificate of authenticity. You won’t find a better set to commemorate The Beatles’ work. Only one set available. To purchase, contact the Buy Guy. $1,000 plus tax.


Our Fort Wayne, Indiana, store is offering a high-end recording of Abbey Road. It’s the 1979 pressing on Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab/Capitol, a remastered edition of the 1969 album, taken from the original master recording. It was Mobile Fidelity’s first Beatles release. Their copy is in Near Mint condition and is priced $55.


And if you want a treasure by a different Fab Four, our Flagship store has a copy of The Ramones’ Rocket to Russiasigned by the original band members—for $300.

ramones signed

If you’re interested in finding out more about either of these LPs, contact the Buy Guy.

And let us hear from you: Show us on social using #halfpricebooks, the LP you most prize and tell us why it’s essential to your collection!


10 Movies to NOT Celebrate Valentine’s Day With

I’ve got nothing against Valentine’s Day, but most of us have had a February 14th where the last thing we wanted to do is celebrate this holiday. Hollywood knows this and offers some counter-programming each year for people who need anything but a romantic comedy or family drama or cute talking animals.

With that in mind, here are ten movies designed to help you avoid Valentine’s Day. We’re talking action, horror and camp films. The movies on this list were all playing in theaters on Valentine’s Day in the years listed. They most likely helped someone enjoy that year’s holiday a little more. I hope you enjoy them as well. Oh, and keep in mind that some of these films are for mature audiences only!

1) John Carpenter’s The Fog (1980)

The Fog is the cinematic equivalent of a ghost story being told around the campfire, and what a ghost story it is. While often viewed as a minor classic next to Halloween and The Thing, this is still John Carpenter working at the height of his powers – with atmospheric locations, great character actors, and a synthesizer film score that shouldn’t work but totally does.

It’s also notable for being the least misanthropic of Carpenter’s horror films, featuring a group of ordinary, small-town people who pull together once things start going bump in the night. If you like horror movies and haven’t seen The Fog, track it down immediately.

2) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Despite being released in the summer of 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark still came in 6th at the box office on Valentine’s Day weekend in 1982. In fact, it was playing in almost as many theaters as that weekend’s new releases.

What else is there to say about Raiders of the Lost Ark? It’s the best – possibly the greatest adventure movie ever made. Even though I enjoy all the Indiana Jones films (Crystal Skull isn’t that bad), there’s no denying Steven Spielberg captured lightning in a bottle with Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s thrilling, scary and subversive in a way its sequels never quite manage.

3) Over the Top (1987)

Creed is a reminder that Sylvester Stallone can be utterly fantastic in the right role. It’s no surprise that he’s up for so many acting awards. Stallone’s always been a great performer. He’s just, well, not always so hot at picking great movies to be in.

Take Over the Top, for example. It’s basically the Rocky formula with arm wrestling subbing in for boxing. And arm wrestling is just the tip of the crazy iceberg that is this movie. If you’re a fan of Stallone as the underdog getting in the ring to take on a cartoonish supervillain of an opponent, Over the Top may be for you.

4) Tango & Cash (1990)

Stallone again. What can I say? The guy entertains me.

Tango & Cash is ridiculous and ridiculously amazing. It’s a film where no one seemed to agree on what movie they were making, which led to Tango & Cash coming off more like a parody of action films and their tropes. It’s a movie that felt dated and out-of-touch even in 1990, but it’s terrific entertainment if you go into it with a “How did this get made?” attitude.

And Kurt Russell is in it. That man is a national treasure.

5) The Quick and the Dead (1995)

While nowhere near as ridiculous as Tango & Cash, The Quick and the Dead is still pretty out there. It’s a mostly forgotten film from a time when Hollywood wasn’t really making westerns. For those unfamiliar with the plot, Sharon Stone plays a mysterious stranger who rides into town to take part in a to-the-death quick-draw tournament run by Gene Hackman (who would be twirling a moustache if he had one).

It’s a film full of frantic action and crazy camerawork. While certainly a fun watch on its own terms, the most notable thing about the movie is all the before-they-were-famous talent involved – including director Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) plus actors Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.

6) Pulp Fiction (1995)

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another surprise hit that’s more surprising than Pulp Fiction. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, there’s little left to say about this one – except it’s a cultural landmark for a reason. While Quentin Tarantino has grown considerably as a writer and director, he’s never had more fun making a movie. It shows in every frame of this film.

And while we’re avoiding romantic movies for this article, Pulp Fiction technically does feature two characters going on a date. I think we can all agree it didn’t end well.

7) Galaxy Quest (2000)

Galaxy Quest is on a lot people’s minds at the moment due to the recent passing of Alan Rickman, who we lost far too soon. The above clip proves just how great he was. He’s one of the best things in a movie that gets as close to perfection as humanly possible.

Incredibly funny, clever and sweet, it’s a film way ahead of its time. I’m glad it now gets the respect it deserves. I don’t know how they did it – but Galaxy Quest somehow both sends up and extols Star Trek and its fans, proving that you can love something by poking fun at it.

8) Brotherhood of the Wolf (2002)

Please answer the following question: Brotherhood of the Wolf is a ____

  1. Foreign film
  2. Period drama
  3. Political thriller
  4. Love story
  5. Monster movie
  6. Martial arts movie
  7. All of the above

If you chose “7”, you are correct. Brotherhood is a crazy genre mash-up that never feels stitched together. I won’t say anymore in the interest of not spoiling its surprises. If you don’t mind subtitles, you are in for one heck of a movie.

9) Coraline (2009)

I wanted to include at least one family movie on this list. While not suitable for very young viewers, Coraline is an absolute delight for anyone else. Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s young adult novel, the story follows a young girl who moves to a new town and finds a secret doorway that leads to a macabre world that mirrors her own. Needless to say, the inhabitants of said macabre world do not have Coraline’s best interests at heart.

Like last year’s Inside Out, it taps into the alienation any child/teen goes through when moving to a new place just as they were finding themselves. Coraline features an excellent protagonist and supporting characters – and while not too scary, it’s just scary enough for kids and adults to enjoy together.

10) The Book of Eli (2010)

A lot of critics accused The Book of Eli, an apocalyptic action movie, of having nothing new to say. Whether that’s true or not, it’s made so well that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Everyone’s working at 100% here – especially Denzel Washington, who is fantastic as always.

The Book of Eli doesn’t land with the same impact as, say, Mad Max: Fury Road – but it’s a welcome addition to a genre that’s currently having a resurgence at the moment. The two films together make an excellent double-feature.

So, what movies will you be watching this weekend?

Jeremy is Customer Service Specialist at HPB Corporate


Charles Darwin—A Natural Selection for Today (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809, in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England. His works continue to be among the most influential and important scientific works, from his popular account of The Voyage of the Beagle in 1839, through the seminal scientific work On the Origin of Species (1859), to the 1871 continuation of his exploration of evolution, The Descent of Man.

To celebrate Darwin’s 207th birthday, we’re proud to offer a Very Good copy of the first edition/ first issue of The Descent of Man.

darwin 2 vols

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin
London, John Murray, 1871.

First edition, first issue, of the Darwin classic. Two volumes. The first issue, in the original publisher’s green cloth binding, is scarce. Advertisements in both volumes dated January 1871. Bookplate and owner signature. Light foxing. (price on request)

This very special treasure was brought to our Flagship store in Dallas. Buyer Rachel, one of the lucky people who got to evaluate the book, was thrilled. “It was very exciting. We checked our resources to see whether it had all the first-issue points. It did!”

Darwin Fun Facts

EvolutionThe Descent of Man contains, on page two of the first volume, the first appearance of the word “evolution” in any of Darwin’s works.

The first edition was published in two volumes, despite the fact that Darwin saw the book’s two parts as one continuous work.

The HMS Beagle’s expedition, during which Darwin began developing his ideas about evolution, lasted nearly five years, but Darwin spent over three years of that time on land, conducting research.

darwin title page

And, for another science classic, we also offer:

The DNA Story: A Documentary History of Gene Cloning (W.H. Freeman, 1983, First Edition), signed by co-author (with John Tooze) and DNA co-discoverer James D. Watson. In Very Good condition: $350. Also available at our Flagship store in Dallas.

dna story 1

If you’re interested in either of these books, let the Buy Guy know!

Books Can Take You Places (Off the Beaten Path) : New Orleans


In 2016, Half Price Books encourages you to travel the world through books, music and movies. This year’s HPB Calendar is full of recommendations for every booklover, audiophile and movie buff. Unfortunately, we could only feature 12 different cities in our calendar, and there are so many more places with rich literary and musical heritages available for you to visit.


With Mardi Gras on the horizon, the Big Easy seems to be the most logical travel destination. Known as the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans has inspired several writers and playwrights, from William Faulkner to Tennessee Williams, and its wide avenues and stately architecture creates a rich backdrop to mystery, romance and horror stories alike. In fact, the Bourbon Orleans Hotel appears in many of Anne Rice’s vampire novels, as well as books by Isabel Allende and George Washington Cable.

HOW TO GET THERE Continue reading

Books Can Take You Places: San Francisco

Half Price Books encourages you to travel more in 2016. Not the kind of travel that involves airplanes, passports and hotels, but the easier, more affordable kind — where you open a great book and let it take you somewhere.

SFThroughout 2016 we’ll share about the world’s great destinations, along with our recommendations for the books, movies and music that will help you get there.

Last month, we took a trip to Paris, France. This month’s stop is San Francisco, California.

Freedom of expression has always been celebrated in the City by the Bay. Even before the midcentury flowering of the Beat Generation, the counterculture movement and Haight-Ashbury, the area was known for attracting literary non-conformists like Mark Twain. Residents like Amy Tan and Michael Chabon keep San Francisco’s creative spirit alive today.

San Fran Continue reading