Tree-mendous Books, Movies and Music

Arbor Day is April 27, so we’re going out on a limb to highlight a few of our favorite trees in literature, film and even music. There’s no shortage of choices, given that humans have coexisted with and been fascinated by trees—sometimes even worshiping them—for all of history.

To_Kill_a_Mockingbird
The Radley oak tree in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Trees loom large in Harper Lee’s beloved 1960 novel, so it’s no surprise that most editions of the book feature a tree on the cover. Trees, after all, are where mockingbirds hang out. And, as Atticus Finch tells us, “it’s a sin” to kill a mockingbird because all they do is make music for us to enjoy. Furthermore, a tree plays an important role in the plot, as the mysterious recluse Boo Radley uses the knothole of a neighborhood oak tree as a place to leave small gifts for the Finch children, Scout and Jem.

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All Things Printed & Recorded: Puzzles Rise to the Challenge

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 March, we’ve exercised our brain to bring you some fascinating info about puzzles.

PuzzleMainVisualTIMELINE
1760s  Londoner John Spilsbury creates early wooden jigsaw puzzles.
c.1900 A jigsaw puzzle craze sweeps the US.
1920s  Jigsaw puzzles become an inexpensive Depression-era pastime.
1932  Jig of the Week, a weekly 25¢ puzzle, is a hit on newsstands.
2011  The world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, with 551,232 pieces, is assembled in Vietnam.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • A 1514 engraving by Albrecht Dürer featured a “magic square,” a distant ancestor to sudoku and other number-based puzzles.
  • Jigsaw puzzles emerged in the 18th century when maps were mounted on wood and cut into pieces along national borders. Known as dissected maps, they were used to teach geography to children.dissected map.png
  • In the early 20th century, the high cost of wooden jigsaw puzzles put them out of reach of average consumers, but they became a staple of the high-society party scene.
  • The first known published crossword puzzle appeared December 21, 1913, in the New York World. By the 1920s they were carried in most US newspapers.

DISCOVER MORE
book The Jigsaw Puzzle: Piecing Together a History, Anne D. William
book The History and Craft of Wooden Jigsaw Puzzles: From Historical Source Instructions to Modern Tools and Techniques, Carrie Franzwa
book Crossworld: One Man’s Journey Into America’s Crossword Obsession, Marc Romano
book A Clue for The Puzzle Lady, Parnell Hall
book The New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzles: 50 Sunday Puzzles from the Pages of The New York Times, Will Shortz, ed.
book Sudoku Mania, Book 1
clapperboard Wordplay

All Things Printed & Recorded: Readers Flip for Magazines

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 February, we’re covering a product that’s been a mainstay at HPB since we first opened: magazines.

3 Magazines.pngTIMELINE

1731  The Gentleman’s Magazine debuts in England. Its publisher invents the word “magazine” based on the Arabic word “makhazin,” meaning storehouse.
1741  Early American magazines include Ben Franklin’s General Magazine.
1842  The Illustrated London News is the first magazine with illustrations.
1898  Ladies’ Home Journal becomes the first US magazine to have one million subscribers.
1923  Time ushers in the weekly news magazine
1944  Seventeen, the first magazine targeted to teens, debuts.
2015  Approximately 7,300 different magazine titles are published in the United States.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • In the 19th and 20th centuries, American magazines spread trends nationwide and helped create a shared pop culture.
  • Around 1900, popular magazines like McClure’s began publishing pieces by reform-minded investigative journalists. Known as muckrakers, these writers aimed to expose corruption in business and government.

McClures.pngDISCOVER MORE

book Life: The Classic Collection
book Memos: The Vogue Years, Diana Vreeland
book Covering the ‘60s: George Lois – The Esquire Era, George Lois
book Muckrakers: How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, And Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, And Invent Investigative Journalism, Ann Bausum & Daniel Schorr
book How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time, Marisa Meltzer
slate_film-512 The Devil Wears Prada
slate_film-512 Funny Face

Holiday Albums You Love—And Others You Should

Now that it’s December, it’s time to dust off those records that live in the back of your collection, the ones that only get played one month out of the year: Christmas albums. In this post, I’m taking a look at some of the albums on Billboard’s list of the ten top-selling holiday albums of all time. Chances are you own some of them, and maybe you can’t imagine Christmas without them. But the thing about traditions is, you have to add new ones from time to time. In that spirit, I’m offering some alternative holiday albums that might be less familiar and a little fresher to your ears.

Gigantic Bestseller:
ElvisElvis’ Christmas Album – Elvis Presley
Released in 1957, Presley’s first Christmas album—the top-selling record on Billboard’s list— features secular tunes on side one and sacred fare on side two, including a few non-Christmas gospel songs that had been previously released. The King is solemn on the religious tunes but loosens up for the secular stuff, including originals like “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me).” Personally, I can’t stand Elvis’ version of “Blue Christmas,” but it’s here, too.

Alternate Choice:
James Brown’s Funky Christmas – James Brown
Let the King rest in heavenly peace this year and invite the Godfather of Soul over for Christmas instead. This compilation features tracks from the three holiday albums Brown recorded at the height of his funky powers between 1966 and 1970, including “Go Power at Christmas Time,” “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and “Soulful Christmas.” Brown shows his socially-conscious side on tracks like “Let’s Unite the World at Christmas.”

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Five American Writers Who Served

On November 11, America will pause to honor all those who have served in its Armed Forces. Veterans Day as we know it was established in 1954, when Congress changed the name of Armistice Day and broadened its definition—what had been primarily a celebration of World War I vets was redefined as a day dedicated to all military veterans.

Here at HPB, we’re thankful for all who’ve donned the uniform to fight for our country. But being the bookish types we are, we thought it’d be interesting to consider a few of the great American writers who spent time in the military. Most of these authors wrote about their war experience, and it’s safe to say that all of them were shaped by it in profound ways. The writer Norman Mailer called it the worst experience of his life but also the most valuable.

Joseph Heller
HellerThe novelist of Catch-22 fame joined the U.S. Army Air Corps at age 19, shortly after America entered World War II. He was sent to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, and from there flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier. After the war, Heller went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an advertising copywriter before the publication of Catch-22 established him in the literary world. The satirical novel, published in 1961, is decidedly anti-war, but it has been used by the U.S. Air Force Academy to teach about the dangers of bureaucracy. Heller even appeared at the Academy in 1986 for a celebration of the book’s 25th anniversary.

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Bebop Birthdays: Monk and Dizzy Turn 100

You could say bebop was born in October 1917. It wasn’t until the 1940s that this complex form of modern jazz was played or heard, but that one autumn month 100 years ago was when two of bebop’s principal architects first came into the world.

Pianist Thelonious Monk and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie were born eleven days and 170 miles apart—Monk in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on October 10, and Dizzy in Cheraw, South Carolina, on the 21st.Monk_and_Dizzy_together[1]

Along with Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and a few others, Monk and Gillespie would develop a revolutionary style of jazz that was more harmonically complex than the early jazz and swing that came before it. Initially dismissed by older musicians, bebop captured the imagination of younger players and profoundly impacted all jazz that came after it, establishing the DNA of the classic jazz of the 1950s and 60s. Both men were also known for their personalities and sense of style.

Let’s take a closer look at these two legends as we celebrate their centennials.

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Books, movies and music for the eclipse. No special glasses necessary.

On Monday, August 21, as you might have heard, the U.S. will experience a total solar eclipse for the first time since 1979. At least those in the ominous-sounding Path of Totality will. The rest of us will experience a partial eclipse. Nevertheless, it’s been 99 years since a total eclipse crossed the whole country, so it’s a big deal.

Back in the day, historically speaking, eclipses were often seen as omens. At HPB, we see it as a chance to highlight some books, movies and even music where eclipses play a role.

Books
Connecticut YankeeA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
In Twain’s 1899 novel, an American named Hank is transported back in time and across the pond to the court of King Arthur, where he uses his knowledge of modern science and technology to fool the people there. He’s scheduled to be burned at the stake on the exact date of an eclipse that he knows about since he’s from the future and all, so he cleverly gets out of the jam by making people think he caused the eclipse to happen.

Nightfall_coverNightfall by Isaac Asimov
Asimov was only 21-years-old when he wrote this short science fiction story, published in 1941. It concerns the fictional planet Lagash, which is lit by six suns and therefore experiences daylight at all times. When scientists start predicting a very rare eclipse of all six suns, hysteria ensues. Nightfall was once voted the best science fiction short story ever written. Asimov worked with Robert Silverberg to expand it into a novel in 1990.

DoloresClaiborneNovelgeralds-gameDolores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
The real-life solar eclipse of July 20, 1963, plays a role in these two loosely connected Stephen King novels, both released in 1992. The books were originally conceived by King as part of a longer work called In the Path of the Eclipse. By the way, this very same historical eclipse was featured in an episode of Mad Men (“Seven Twenty Three”) and was mentioned in the John Updike novel, Couples. Continue reading

Ice Cream & Book Pairings for the Book Loving Foodie

July 16 is National Ice Cream Day, and as far as we’re concerned, every day is National Book-Reading Day. To help you effectively combine these two life-giving pleasures, we’re serving up some recommendations for books and ice cream flavors that pair well together. (If you figure out how to eat ice cream and hold a book at the same time, let us know.)

benjerry
Ben & Jerry’s Bob Marley’s One Love™ and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The famous Vermont ice cream kings created this flavor as a tribute to the late, great reggae star Bob Marley. It’s got a banana ice cream base with caramel and graham cracker swirls and fudge peace signs. This ice cream is to die for, so it’s a perfect pairing with A Brief History of Seven Killings, the Man Booker Prize-winning novel from Jamaican writer Marlon James. The centerpiece of this sprawling, music-infused book is the 1976 attempted assassination of none other than Bob Marley. Continue reading

11 Writers the Beatles Thought Were Fab

This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important rock albums ever made, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As every rock snob knows, Sgt. Pepper is widely hailed as one of the first concept albums (although, as some critics have pointed out, the songs don’t have all that much to do with each other). For the Fab Four and producer George Martin, the record represented new heights of creativity and experimentation in the studio.

sgtpepper-main

Then there’s the iconic cover, which features the band members along with dozens of celebrities and public figures chosen by the Beatles and represented in cardboard cutouts and wax figures. There are actors, comedians, musicians, artists and philosophers, but here at HPB we couldn’t help but notice that authors make up one of the largest contingents. Here’s a look at the literary types on the most famous album cover in history.

huxleyAldous Huxley
The British author famous for Brave New World relocated to California in 1937 and became involved with mysticism and other spiritual subjects. His 1954 book Doors of Perception, which detailed his experiences with psychedelic drugs, was influenced on Timothy Leary and others in the hippie generation. Some have suggested a connection between this book and the Beatles song “Help,” in which John Lennon sings, “Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors.”

thomasDylan Thomas
The Welsh writer behind poems like “Do not go gentle into that good night” had a reputation that rock stars would appreciate—that of an erratic, drunken poet. Paul McCartney said: “I’m sure that the main influence on both [Bob] Dylan and John [Lennon] was Dylan Thomas. We all used to like Dylan Thomas. I read him a lot. I think that John started writing because of him.”

carrollLewis Carroll
Carroll’s surreal literary nonsense and wordplay was a big influence on John Lennon. The Beatles song, “I Am the Walrus,” written the same year as Sgt. Pepper, was a reference to “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” a poem by Carroll that appeared in Through the Looking-Glass. In a 1965 interview, Lennon said he read that book and Alice in Wonderland “about once a year.” Continue reading

50 Years of R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means…

Fifty years ago, on April 29, 1967, the world first heard the horn blasts and guitar twangs that mark the opening of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” What follows are two and a half remarkable minutes of pop music that would capture an era and define one of the preeminent voices of our time. What makes it so great? We’ll take a cue from the Queen of Soul and spell it out for you.

R – Re-Invention. While it became Aretha’s signature song, her recording of “Respect” was actually a cover. Otis Redding wrote and recorded it a couple of years earlier, and it was a decent-sized hit for him, especially on the R&B charts. But calling Franklin’s version a mere cover or remake is ridiculous. Aretha (whose nickname was “Re”) re-invented the song, re-imagined it, re-everythinged it and made it her own. aretha-franklin-respect-1967-3

E – Essential. “Respect” is in the Grammy Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Rolling Stone put it at number five on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, saying, “Franklin wasn’t asking for anything. She sang from higher ground: a woman calling an end to the exhaustion and sacrifice of a raw deal with scorching sexual authority. In short, if you want some, you will earn it.” Continue reading