The Best of 1972: Books, Music & Movies

Back in 1972, Half Price Books embarked on its mission to provide people things to read and to listen to, at prices they could afford.  (And a few years later, with the emergence of the VHS tape, we offered them things to watch, too.)  Those early customers liked what they saw on the shelves, and the many customers who have come along since have kept us at it, four decades later. 

So what were our customers looking for all those years ago?

What We Read in ‘72

Even in the earliest days, our Fiction section was always well-stocked.  Some of the current titles then were:

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a parable about a seagull seeking perfection, was an unlikely bestseller from Richard Bach, who said it came along at just the right time.  It had been rejected by numerous publishers before Macmillan took a gamble on it and won
  • Other popular books of that year included Watership Down, by Richard Adams; Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, which was made into two movies, three decades apart; The Exorcist (published in ’71 and filmed in ’73) by William Peter Blatty; and The Winds of War, a hefty WWII tome written by Herman Wouk and turned into a popular miniseries, starring Robert Mitchum, in 1983

We were reading some more literary stuff, too:

  • Eudora Welty’s last novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, was published in 1972 and won the following year’s Pulitzer Prize for Literature.    
  • The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, written between the ‘40s and her death in 1964, won the 1972 National Book Award.

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.