Beyond Kind of Blue: Dig deeper into Miles Davis

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Miles Ahead, the long-awaited biographical film about Miles Davis, opens in New York and LA on April 1 and nationwide later in the month. Don Cheadle directed and stars as the influential jazz trumpeter.

Regardless of whether the movie is a critical or commercial success, its release is already bringing fresh attention to an artist who clearly still has the ability to fascinate and frustrate us 25 years after his death.

Miles’ music still sells, especially the 1959 album Kind of Blue, often called “the one jazz record everyone must own.” The sound of his muted trumpet is embedded in our collective consciousness as epitomizing a certain mid-century brand of cool.

Davis’ best music is accessible because, above all, it is reflective of his humanity. He doesn’t care about showing off his technique; he shows you himself. It’s his personality, not his virtuosity, that comes through in every note.

Miles is also inspiring to artists of all kinds because of his refusal to rest on his laurels. He reinvented himself and his music every few years, even at the risk of alienating fans. Consider that one guy did all of this: Continue reading

Local Store Events Round-Up: April 2016

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2016 HPB Tournament of Fictional Places!
Where’s your happy place? From magical kingdoms to far-off planets, fictional places in story and song have always captured our imagination. They’re the places where our heroes act heroic, our dreams come true and where we long to go—if only just for a visit. We’ve chosen 64 of our favorite fictional spots from books, myth, movies, music and TV and we’re down to the final two! Your votes decide. Cast your vote now through April 4.

Half Pint Library Book Drive
Donate a new or gently used children’s book at any Half Price Books location April 1 – 30. The books you and your family have already enjoyed will go directly to local nonprofit organizations, libraries and teacher’s classrooms in your community. For each book you donate during the Half Pint Library book drive, Half Price Books will match it.

 National Drop Everything & Read Day
Pick up a book, wherever you are, on Tuesday, April 12, for National Drop Everything & Read Day! This year marks the 100th birthday of Children’s author Beverly Cleary, who popularized the D.E.A.R. Day tradition. So, if you need something new to read, stop in your Half Price Books store and our Bibliomaniacs can offer you reading suggestions. Read in a quiet, cozy nook on your own, or gather your family and read a story together. Whatever free time you have this day, we hope you spend it with a book. Let’s drop everything and read together!

Vinyl Weekend
We’re celebrating Vinyl Weekend on Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 17! And, there’s no better way to discover vinyl gold than perusing the record bins at your local HPB. From new releases to old oddities and everything in between, you’ll find the grooviest vinyl at the grooviest prices. Be sure to talk to our resident music experts to discover new treasures to add to your collection.

Sell to Us
When you’re finished enjoying your used books, music, movies and games, bring them to Half Price Books. We buy any time we’re open. No appointment necessary. We’ll make you a cash offer. Learn more about selling to us.

1 Bring all your stuff to our buy counter any time the store is open. You don’t need an appointment. Ask for assistance, and we’ll help you bring it inside.
2 Our expert buyers will make you an offer for the entire lot of your items based on the condition, supply and demand.
3 If you accept our offer, we’ll give you cash on the spot. Feel free to take it and run, or use it to buy yourself something cool in the store.
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Eating Books: How To and Why

April Fool’s Day is the biggest day of the year for caution, what with all the pranks your friends are surely concocting to surprise you. One steps lightly, takes their email with a grain of salt and checks toilets for plastic wrap on the First of April. But there’s more to this day than being exploited for your (really, my) gullible nature (I’ve fallen for a few pranks in my time). Do you know what else happens on this glorious day? A Texas tradition, that’s what! The Austin Edible Book Festival, you goose!


Here’s How it Works:

Festival entrants participate by constructing a dish that is representative of a book title through puns or wordplay. These concoctions-often sculptural, sometimes literal, always engaging, are laid out to be admired and then voted on in a variety of categories, including Funniest, Most Appetizing, Least Appetizing, Best Construction and Best in Show. The winners get prizes, and then we eat everything. Or, at least in my experience, everything that didn’t win Least Appetizing. Some of my favorites from the last couple of years include “Gone Girl-ic Bread,” a loaf of garlic bread stabbed with a knife and drizzled with marinara sauce; “20,000 Big League Chews Under the Sea,” an aquarium filled with Swedish Fish and Big League Chew gum; “The Holy Bivalve,” a biblically-decorated cake shaped like a clam; and “Game of Scones,” a cookie chess board with mini scones for pieces. Perfection.

The first iteration of the festival came about in 2000, pioneered by art librarian and curator Judith A. Hoffberg and artist Béatrice Coron as way to celebrate the power of literature as a means to ingest culture and ideas. April 1st was chosen to honor the birthdate of French author and gourmet Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, whose La Physiologie du Goût was written as a witty meditation on the edible arts. The tradition was adopted in Austin by the University of Texas School of Information in 2003, and since 2014 has been hosted at Half Price Books on North Lamar.


It’s so much fun. People get really creative with their entries, and some of the puns at play are even more delicious than their edible manifestations. And if the joys of wordplay aren’t enough to get you pumped about this, the festival also kicks off a food drive to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas that runs throughout the entire month of April at HPB on North Lamar. You can eat weird stuff AND feel good about helping our community. Win-win!

So if you’re in the Austin area or are looking for a reason to visit, come be a part of this scrumptiously absurd event. You don’t have to sign up, just show up with your entry. We’ll know exactly why you’ve come into a book store with a fish in a kilt “Troutlander”, a temporarily-intelligent bowl of curry and bread “Cauliflowers for Algernaan”, or a seemingly ageless jar of Dijon mustard “The Picture of Dorian Grey Poupon”. We’ll save you a spot at the table during the first day of the best month you could hope to have. Welcome!

Zach Nash is the Community Outreach Specialist at Half Price Book North Lamar.

Get Absorbed in Middle-Earth on Tolkien Reading Day

The Tolkien Society chose March 25 for Tolkien Reading Day because it marks the fall of Sauron, The Lord of the Rings’ main antagonist. Grab your favorite J.R.R. book, find a nice nook or cranny, and get absorbed in Middle-earth. Or, better yet, find other Tolkien fans (they’re everywhere) for a little group-reading activity. Some HPB stores even have Tolkien Reading Day events that can help you make that happen.

If you don’t own any Tolkien books, you can probably find some at your local HPB—hardback, paperback and in-between. And if you’re looking for something that can be a “Tolkien of appreciation,” you could consider these treasures:

The Hobbit
Our Appleton, Wisconsin, store recently acquired an eighth impression of this classic. It’s in Very Good Plus condition. $600.

Hobbit1 (2)

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So Human: Remembering Leonard Nimoy

Most people who get to know me – and all of my nerdy obsessions – are surprised to hear that I’ve never been to a sci-fi convention. One of the reasons why is because I’ve never had an interest in meeting the people who gave life to my childhood heroes. I avoid following celebrities on social media or reading behind-the-scenes gossip for the same reason: to keep art separate from the artist, to avoid knowing that these people are just as flawed and human as the rest of us.


I regret, though, never meeting Leonard Nimoy, despite having several opportunities to see him in person. If I had met him, I would’ve only taken a few seconds of his time. No autographs, no pictures, no questions – just an opportunity to say “Thanks for everything” and be on my way.

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How’d That Get in There?: Oddities & Wonders We’ve Come Across in Our Buy Areas

Over the years, we’ve bought countless James Patterson novels, innumerable accounting textbooks and a myriad of Herb Alpert albums. But along the way a lot of unusual items—often wonderful, sometimes one-of-a-kind, occasionally just-plain-weird—have found their way into our stores’ buying areas, from the sublime to the considerably-less-than-sublime.

One of my all-time favorites: Years ago, the Kenwood store in Cincinnati, Ohio, bought an unassuming black binder labeled “Psychiatric and Psychological Examination of Jack Ruby.” It came from the estate of a Cincinnati doctor who was consulted by the team who prosecuted Lee Harvey Oswald assassin Ruby and included a carbon copy of the transcripts from a Dictaphone stating the findings of an evaluation given to Jack Ruby prior to death. We donated that item to the Sixth Floor JFK Museum in Dallas.

Ruby Binder_HPB Continue reading

10 Things We Can Learn From Fred Rogers to Celebrate Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day

In honor of Fred Rogers’ birth, March 20 is Be My Neighbor Day.

Generations of children – anyone growing up in the 70s, 80s or 90s – likely watched the public television children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood or was influenced by Fred Rogers work. Through his soft-spoken words, delightful songs and whimsical puppets, he imparted countless life lessons.

Here’s my simple roundup of 10 things we can all learn from Mister Rogers, regardless of our age.

1. We should feel all the feelings.
Our feelings – happiness, sadness, anger and frustration – are all part of who we are. By acknowledging our feelings, it’s easier “…to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.” Be honest with yourself and how you feel about a situation or problem. Mister Rogers also said, “It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”

2. We should surround ourselves with people who appreciate us just as we are.
Mister Rogers’ uplifting song lyrics said it so simply, “It’s not the things you wear. It’s not the way you do your hair. But it’s you I like, the way you are right now, the way down deep inside you […] I hope you’ll remember even when you’re feeling blue that it’s you I like…”

 3. We should not let any person demean us or those around us.
Part of the reason Fred Rogers chose to get into television was to change what was on the air for the greater good. He said, “I saw people throwing pies in each other’s faces, and that’s such demeaning behavior. And if there’s anything that bothers me, it’s one person demeaning another.”

 4. We find success through kindness.
It’s a simple philosophy for life that Fred Rogers shared with all of us. He believed, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”

5. We find success by doing what we love.
Find the work that you love, in a place that brings you joy, and then do that work to the best of your abilities. In a commencement address, Mister Rogers once said, “The thing I remember best about the truly successful people I’ve met is their obvious delight in what they do. Such honest, enthusiastic living of their lives.”

 6. We possess such power with imagination.
Have you ever grown anything in the garden of your mind? Enjoy this brilliant Mister Rogers remix of “Garden of Your Mind” – video courtesy of PBS Digital Studios.

7. We can always find help.
Mister Rogers firmly believed that we should reach out to others when we needed help. He reassured us that we were not alone and there was someone there to talk to about our feelings. He once shared, “When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

 8. We are all a product of those who have loved us.
The nurturing encouragement and support of those around us shapes our view of the world and our view of ourselves. Those people “loved us into being.” As Fred Rogers said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”

 9. We all may have regrets, but you just have to move forward.
Even Fred Rogers had regrets. When talking about his show, he said, “I awoke one morning around 1981 and was struct with the sudden realization that it had been a terrible idea to name the mailman ‘Mr. McFeely.’ By then, though, it was far too late. Far too late.”

 10. We should make the most of the present.
In Fred’s own way, he espoused Carpe Diem. From the familiar theme song of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” come these lyrics – “…Let’s make the most of this beautiful day…”

The legacy of Fred Rogers lives on for another generation to enjoy with the PBS show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood which is geared towards preschoolers. Just as Fred Rogers did, the new animated cast of Daniel Tiger in his land of make believe are teaching young children life lessons through catchy tunes and catch phrases. The engaging episodes teach great early lessons for toddlers about safety, emotions, sharing and more. Just watch a few episodes and before long you and your tots will be able to sing along – “stop and listen to stay safe,” “grown ups come back,” “try new foods ‘cause they might taste good,” and “keep trying, you’ll get better.”

Have a beautiful day, neighbors!

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

2016 Tournament of Fictional Places

From magical kingdoms to far-off planets, fictional places in story and song have always captured our imagination. They’re the places where our heroes act heroic, our dreams come true and where we long to go—if only just for a visit. Here are 64 of our favorite fictional spots from books, myth, movies, music and TV. Pick a winner in each matchup, and keep coming back to vote in all six rounds. Only one place can finish in first place in the Tournament of Fictional Places.

Start voting now and download a bracket!


Barbie ‘n’ Beverly

Barbie was born March 9, 1959, brought into the world by Ruth Handler, the wife of a Mattel Toys co-founder. Male toy company execs scoffed, but Barbie caught on quickly and soon dominated the doll market. Now Barbie is iconic. Mattel claims that, worldwide, nine out of ten people recognize her. Time magazine says that 92% of girls between the ages of three and twelve have owned a Barbie doll.

Barbie’s turning 57, so we’d like to spotlight her. Barbies are collected by quite a few folks, including Beverly, the longtime receptionist at HPB Corporate and the glue that holds our office together. Bev has amassed quite the extensive collection of this timeless icon. Continue reading

If you like The Magicians, you might also like…

If you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading or perhaps just finished The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. This smart fantasy novel pays homage to several fantasy classics while working under the premise that magic is hard and to practice magic, you must have an emotional instability. The main character, Quentin Coldwater, is a genius, who likes to perform card tricks, but is depressed. Then, he is “invited” to take the entrance exam into Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. Grossman gives a literary nod to Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia (through the magical land of Fillory) in this book. So, if you like any of these books, you might want to give The Magicians a try. Here are a few other books, you may like as well:

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
So You Want to be a Wizard, by Diane Duane
Storm Front, by Jim Butcher
The Coldest War, by Ian Tregillis

So, what is your next read?

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