Behind the Book: The Dark Between Stars by Atticus

Editor’s Note: Atticus is the internationally bestselling author of Love Her Wild, his first collection of poetry. In The Dark Between Stars, Atticus delves into the dualities of life experiences and the connections between life’s highs and lows. In this poignant collection, he captures the need for both beauty and pain, for light-heartedness and deep revelations. This collection is a glimpse into the human soul, full of tragedy and promise. We had the opportunity to catch up with Atticus recently. Read on to discover his answers to our questions!

When did you first start writing poetry? What was your inspiration?
I began about 5 years ago. I was in Paris at the time and was moved by the way the city looked after it rained. I took out my phone and started writing. I decided to post what I had written on Instagram, but I knew that I wanted to do it anonymously so I could always remember to write what I feel and tell the truth.

Do you have any recommendations for people who are just starting to write poetry for the first time?
Bukowski said, “don’t try,” which, to me, means: don’t set out to write the best poem. Just write something, period, and the good will come. I believe that.

Do you have any rituals or anything special that you do while writing to get into the right mindset?
I have a little back-house/writing shack filled with things that inspire me: old books, typewriters, candles, photos, records, tobacco pipes, anything that gets me in the headspace to write.  Sometimes I go back there and don’t even write, I just sit and look at pictures and read. For me, half of writing is sitting, staring at a candle, watching the flame dance, and waiting for it to tell me something profound. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Literacy

September is National Literacy Month and a great time to think about the importance of reading in our lives.

Sadly, there are more than 36 million adults in this country that cannot read, write or do basic math above a third-grade level. And this affects almost every aspect of their lives – they can’t read to their children (which makes their kids more likely to have low literacy skills), job prospects are slim and they can’t read prescriptions or other healthcare information, which makes them more likely to have health problems. The list goes on and on.

Luckily, there are many wonderful organizations across the country working to make sure this won’t always be the case!

One of the organizations we support here in our hometown of Dallas is Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT). I’m a proud member of their board of directors – it’s wonderful to see the work they do with the community each day!

To support organizations like this, Half Price Books will host Literacy Benefit Day on Saturday, Sept. 8. We’ll donate 5% of our sales that day to literacy partners across the country – up to $20,000.

We’ve also designed some buttons with a purpose so you can show your support for literacy.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of these buttons will benefit our local literacy partners – available while supplies last.

So we hope you’ll stop by stores in September to help support these great organizations that are boosting the literacy skills of both kids and adults alike.

To find the literacy partner near you, check out our Literacy Month page.

All Things Printed & Recorded: Bam! Pow! The Heroic Rise of Comic Books

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For September, we’re getting our hands dirty with a look at the history of comic books, graphic novels and manga.

Two Comic Books

TIMELINE
1933  Famous Funnies: A Carnival of Comics, the first modern American comic book, is published.
1938  The superhero archetype is born with the debut of Superman in Action Comics #1.
1964  The first underground comic, Frank Stack’s The Adventures of Jesus, debuts.
1992  Art Spiegelman’s Maus becomes the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck (1837) featured art in sequential panels and corresponding text below, making it a precursor to the modern comic book.
  • The Comics Code Authority was formed in 1954 in response to public concern over graphic content in comics. Titles from major publishers bore the CCA seal until the early 2000s.
  • Japanese comics known as manga exploded in popularity after the Second World War.

Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabo
book The Origins of Comics: From William Hogarth to Winsor McCay by Thierry Smolderen
book The Great Comic Book Heroes by Jules Feiffer
book Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America, Bradford W. Wright
book The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen: Awesome Female Characters from Comic Book History by Hope Nicholson
book A History of Underground Comics by Mark James Estren
book Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know by Paul Gravett
book Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
book Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics by Paul Gravett
book Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics by Frederik L. Schodt
slate_film-512 American Splendor
slate_film-512 Crumb
slate_film-512 Comic Book Confidential
music-note-21 Comic Book Heroes, Rick Springfield

The Best and Worst of Agatha Christie

With more than 60 novels and 14 short story collections, is it any wonder that Agatha Christie is the bestselling novelist of all time? Her works are ranked third in the world’s most published books, behind Shakespeare and the Bible, and they have been translated into at least 103 languages. However, with 66 novels and numerous short stories, not all of Mrs. Christie’s works are going to be favorites. Then again, one person’s favorite is another person’s least favorite, and sometimes for the same reasons. For example, the first time I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I literally threw the book across the room, vowing to never read another Agatha Christie book again, all because of the twist ending that makes other people count this story as their favorite. So here are some of the best and the worst (in my opinion) of Agatha Christie.

THE BEST
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: This is Christie’s first published novel and introduces the world to retired Belgian police detective Hercule Poirot, Inspector Japp and Arthur Hastings, who becomes the Watson to Hercule’s Holmes. This book is a great one to start with if you have yet to dip your toe into the Christie canon.
The-Mysterious-Affair-at-Styles

And Then There Were None: One of my absolute favorite mystery books, which will keep you guessing until the end. Interesting Fact: First published in the U.K. in 1939, this book has had several different names, but since those were considered racially offensive (look them up if you dare!), the title was changed to And Then There Were None in January 1940.
And-Then-There-Were-None

The A.B.C. Murders (or the Alphabet Murders): The victims in this book seem to be completely unrelated as Hercule Poirot and his good friend Arthur Hastings begin to investigate. This book doesn’t really follow Christie’s usual style, and so it is a good read if you are looking for something a little different.
ABC MURDERS

The Mousetrap: Yes, this is a play. In fact, it’s the longest-running play in history. The play is actually based on a short story by Christie, who asked that the story not be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London. The play was first performed in 1952, and the story has still not been published in the U.K. However, it was first published in the United States in a short story collection in 1950 under its original title Three Blind Mice.themousetrap

THE WORST
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: In regards to this book, I have been asked to say that “this bloggers opinion does not reflect the opinion of Half Price Books”… or in fact anyone else on the planet apparently. I’ll just say, be prepared to feel cheated.the-murder-of-roger-ackroyd

The Big Four: This is Christie’s first stab at writing espionage. In my opinion, she should have stuck with police detectives and little old ladies and left the spy work to Le Carré.thebigfour

Destination Unknown: Originally called So Many Steps to Death, this is another one of Christie’s spy novels, and it just seems bland, which may be why it is one of only four Christie novels never to be adapted into another kind of medium.destination unknown

Postern of Fate: This is the last novel that Christie wrote, and it is reported that she suffered from dementia during that time, so it’s not surprising that this book would be on the bottom of the Christie spectrum.postern of fate

Now, this is just a sampling of some of the best and the worst of Agatha Christie, or at least this blogger’s opinion about the best and worst of Agatha Christie. Of course, Agatha Christie’s legacy continues through Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot novels, The Monogram Murders (2015), Closed Casket (2017) and The Mystery of Three Quarters (2018), not to mention the movie version of Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express that came out in 2017, starring  Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. Plus, And Then There Was None was voted best mystery by HPB customers in our Mystery Madness tournament this past March! So, I think it’s safe to say Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery and her books (even the worst ones) are worth the read. Check them out at your local HPB and HPB.com.

What’s your favorite (or least favorite) Agatha Christie novel?

Collectible Conversations: Albums That Should Be Seen and Not Heard

There are several reasons the LP format has endured for six decades, and is in fact back in ascendance. The warm, full sound of vinyl may be at the top of that list of reasons, but another big factor involves the visual aspect, not the aural. The square-foot LP cover is a nice, big canvas on which could be featured not only relevant info about the recording but beautiful, provocative or bizarre imagery.

Many LP covers are iconic: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was so recognizable that The Mothers of Invention and others parodied or imitated it. The Clash and other artists recreated the pink-and-green graphics over black-and-white photo of the 1956 Elvis Presley album. Miles Davis, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell and so many other popular artists’ works are memorably packaged.

But we want to talk about the other side of album art, the record covers that are so bad they’re good (or, often, are just…so bad.) Perhaps it’s inept or insane illustrations. Maybe it’s culture clash or has out-of-date kitsch appeal. Or our favorites: celebrities who are not singers but who couldn’t resist the opportunity to record an album to prove to the world that they are not singers.

Operations Director Jan Cornelius and I will be hosting a Collectible Conversations presentation Thursday evening, August 30, in which we’ll show some examples of the bad LP covers we’ve collected over the years. And, contrary to our presentation’s title, we will be so bold as to play a few snippets (snippets are all we can stand) of some of them.

Here are just a few “highlights” from the collection:

  • Sebastian Cabot, Actor – Bob Dylan, Poet
  • Mr. T’s Be Somebody or Be Somebody’s Fool
  • Heino
  • Music to Suffer By

We love to talk about bad LP covers, but we love inflicting them on others even more! Our Collectible Conversation featuring bad LP covers takes place on Thursday, August 30, at 6:00 p.m., in our Flagship store’s Collectibles section.

Meet the Artist: Louis Zoellar Bickett II

At HPB Hamburg Pavilion, we receive large amounts of paper history from Appalachia, books on local history, books signed by famous local authors and artists, and books that are just brimming with fascinating information about Kentucky. To showcase this wealth of knowledge, we’ve carved out a nook in our Collectibles section to display the many wonderful books we have for sale. Stop by our store to check it out.

Recently Kentucky lost a notable historian and artist, Louis Zoellar Bickett II. For a sense of the personality of the man I give you a short piece from the obituary he had written himself before he passed: “…went home to glory, crossed over, passed away, was carried to paradise, fell into the arms of Jesus, gave up the ghost, petered out, kicked the bucket, croaked, faced the music, bit the bullet, left the building, did not go gently into the night, and died Sunday, October 29, after engaging a long battle with ALS: ALS 1, LZB 0…” His most notable work is a collection that spans more than three decades that is simply known as The Archive. This collection indexes thousands of pieces of ephemera, which for Bickett was proof of concept that the people who owned them existed and acts as an eternal witness to the weight of a person’s life.

At the beginning of March, Aaron Skolnick got into contact with our store to inquire, like most folks, whether or not we’d be interested in buying a vast part of the more personal collection of his late husband, Louis Zoellar Bickett II. Over the course of the next three months, we received hundreds of signed and inscribed books that began to tell a piece of the story of this voluminous curator. Many of these inscriptions speak with great warmth of this human who infiltrated their lives in some way or another. Some of the more notable authors include Maya Angelou, Wendell Berry, Allen Ginsberg and Luke Smalley.

You can find a sample of the collection for sale listed on our store page in the Amazing Finds in section. Simply put: This is a mere fraction of the enormous collection of items sold to us, and if you’d like to see them all, swing by or give us a call and we would be more than happy to talk about it and even ship the books to you. I am humbled by the resonant impression of vibrant “here-ness” that the man known as Louis Zoellar Bickett II left on reality in my own Kentucky home.

Mirry Childs, Shift Leader, HPB Hamburg Pavilion in Lexington. KY

Bust the Myth: Saving Big Money on Textbooks Can Be a Reality

It seems like finding the best deals on textbooks is like chasing a unicorn. You’ve heard there are good deals in some bedtime story your grandparents told you long ago, yet every back-to-school season, you’re left with the real story: a busted budget. We know that textbook shopping can be stressful and expensive. A study from the National Association of College Stores reports that students spent an average of $579 on required course materials during the 2016-2017 academic year. Fairy tale?! More like SCARY TALE, am I right?

We’re here to tell a different story, one with a little more happily-ever-after and a lot less I-can’t-even-afford-ramen!

Here are HPB.com‘s top tips to make any student’s book buying experience a better one this semester:

Shop early or beware. Procrastinate and you’ll just get eaten by the troll under the bridge, so they say. Demand is higher right before the semester starts and everyone is looking for the same book, which makes prices higher. Nab yours early to take advantage of some of the lowest prices — and beat that troll to the punch! Troll

Buy used if it’s within your power. Sometimes you can’t avoid it if your potions professor picked a brand new textbook or newer edition, but a used book will always be cheaper and sometimes filled with some other studious wizard’s helpful notes!
wizard.gifShop HPB Online

Look for older editions. Rip Van Winkle was purported to say, “Old is the new-new!” He was probably talking about your textbooks. If the updates to newer editions are minimal from year-to-year, an older edition will likely save you some cash.
rip van winkle Continue reading

The Legacy of Ray Bradbury

“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” – Ray Bradbury

The American author and Sci-Fi legend Ray Bradbury would have been 98 on August 22 of this year, and his absence is keenly felt. His career spanned seven decades and included subjects ranging from Martians to time-travelers to robots to dystopian futures. Bradbury’s contributions to literature have been far-reaching. Most notably, Bradbury’s mark on literature wasn’t the superficial glib of the pulp science fiction era but rather the focal point that helped transition science fiction from a trashy sidelined genre to the full-blown modern titan that it is today.  (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!)

Fahrenheit-451I first read Ray Bradbury’s work in school, as most younger folk have these days. I began, as most begin, with Fahrenheit 451. The internationally acclaimed novel is a true masterpiece, and it sparked my love for the genre in my early teens. The dystopic novel addresses a world threatened by censorship and detachment, where the obsession with technology and political correctness has become so absolute that books are banned. And what’s worse… no one seems to care. And thus the genius of Bradbury is revealed. Whereas previous science fiction novels (of the Pulp era) dealt with battling robots or extra-terrestrial life, Bradbury focuses on human foibles set in a futuristic world. His works prove, time and again, that human error will remain despite technological advances.

the-martian-chroniclesSimilarly, The Martian Chronicles is a melancholy series of overlapping stories about the colonization of Mars.  Humans are fleeing a troubled and devastated Earth, but like Bradbury’s other works, it’s about so much more than that. The Martian Chronicles are more than a superficial story of humans leaving Earth to colonize Mars, which perhaps would have been appropriate during the pulp era of Science Fiction. Instead, the series addresses issues with exploration, ambition, ownership and human desire. Many view it as an allegory of the colonization of the Americas. There is something simplistic in his approach, something wildly entertaining about his writing, that doesn’t alert you to the emotional impact until it’s far too late. Continue reading

This Husband and Wife Teacher Duo Spent Their Summer Vacation Touring HPB Stores and It’s the Cutest Thing EVER!

On Monday, July 2, 7th grade reading teacher Adriana Sifford and her husband 12th grade English teacher Jeff of Houston, TX set out to complete the ultimate booklover’s challenge…to visit every Half Price Books location in their area!

The idea was born when the couple decided to stop by HPB Rice Village after attending a summer workshop at a nearby university. Both had never been to the location and were eager to check it out.

“While there, Jeff turned to me and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do all nine locations in one day?’ And I said, ‘Challenge accepted!'” Adriana explained.

Challenge Accepted

The couple went home that night, laid out a list of requirements for each store visit, planned their route and set off for a day of bookish adventure. #TeachersOnSummerVacation

The first stop was HPB Clearlake.

Continue reading

Books Read the Movie: Your Fall Guide to Movies Based on Books

Fall movies kick off awards season, leading up to the Oscars in February. There is a very exciting list of movies coming out, and I am sure you want to get a jump on them by reading the novels they are based on. As part of the Books: Read the Movie series, here are five you should have on your reading list.

Crazy-Rich-Asians-Kevin-KwanCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
This book and film is about three rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his girlfriend to the wedding of the season. Crazy Rich Asians hits the big screen August 15.

Continue reading