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!
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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.
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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

All Things Printed & Recorded: Video Games Come Into Play

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 August, it’s all fun and games—video games, to be exact.

Super Mario gamesTIMELINE
1940  A computer playing the traditional game Nim is displayed at the World’s Fair.
1958  A tennis game played using an analog computer and an oscilloscope is demonstrated at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
1962  Spacewar, the first computer-based video game, is invented by an MIT student.
1975  Atari partners with Sears to release its arcade game Pong for the home market.
1985  Nintendo’s NES revives an ailing American video game industry two years after its original release in Japan, where it was called Famicom.
1995  Sony releases PlayStation in the United States. When PlayStation 2 debuts in 2000, it becomes the dominant home console.
2001  Microsoft enters the market with Xbox and hit games like Halo. Xbox 360 would debut four years later.

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Hot Days and Steamy Books

August days are known to be hot and steamy. Maybe that’s why August is Read-a-Romance Month. As the resident hopeless romantic (yes, I love happy endings and cry over Hallmark commercials), I was asked to make a few reading recommendations to heat up the month of August.

Brushing Up on the Classics:
pride and prejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Ah, the classic story of boy meets girl. Boy insults girl. Girl snubs boy. Boy saves girl’s sister. Girl gets insulted by boy’s family. Love. If you haven’t read it, where have you been for the last 200 years? You need to read this book. If you have read it, then you know how good it is. Maybe it’s time to read it again.

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The beginnings may smack a little of Cinderella, as this orphan deals with life in a not-so-pleasant household, but no one could call her brooding love interest a prince charming. One thing you can say about the Brontë sisters: they love themselves a bad boy. If you want a new take on the Jane Eyre storyline, try My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Ashton Brodi and Jodi Meadows.

Going Old School (Books my grandmother read):
The India FanThe India Fan by Victoria Holt
Take the proud, rich boy from the local aristocracy and mix him up with the local vicar’s daughter who is hired to be governess to his sister’s children and throw them in the middle of India during the uprising against the East India Company. What do you expect to happen? A must read for any hopeless romantic.

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Behind the Book: Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

Editor’s Note: Kristan Higgins is the kind of author who likes to dance her way out of the box and into the creative space, simultaneously maintaining humor while addressing deep-rooted and uncomfortable issues. In Good Luck with That (on Sale August 7),  Kristan Higgins provides an emotional, compelling read that focuses on addressing the issues of body image, eating disorders and self-esteem. Her unique voice helps the story come to life, and we find ourselves rooting for these friends to truly develop their self-worth. That’s why it’s our Book Club pick for August and September!  We had a chance to catch up with Kristan recently, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts on these important issues. 

Why do you feel it is important to represent women of size in literature and other media? Where do you think we are still missing this perspective?Everyone deserves to be seen. Everyone has a story! So many times, women of size are presented as sidekick characters, or women who want to lose weight, or women who have absolutely no problems with being overweight—they’re content, healthy and confident (which of course, we want them to be). But I wanted to write a book that showed where most of us are—still struggling to like what we see, knowing on the one hand that our value comes from within, yet still fighting off those messages about looking a certain way.

This is the hardest perspective because it admits that guilty secret…a lot of us still care. It can be really hard to like our bodies in a society obsessed with beauty and size…and food! We’re given so many mixed messages, and the healthcare pros have a new theory about what or how to eat every half hour. We need to learn to take care of ourselves in all ways—mental, spiritual, physical. Once we get to that place—and it can be hard to get there—real self-acceptance and love begin, no matter what your size.

The fat acceptance and body positivity movements are great and incredibly needed, but it’s a process. When I look at fiction, most of the women of size are shown as “curvy,” not significantly overweight, and happy with their sizes. Which is lovely, if you’re one of them. But for those of us who struggle to like how we look, struggle with how much we weigh, struggle with food, there’s not much out there. Maybe that’s starting to change with characters like Kate from This Is Us and Renee in I Feel Pretty, but in general, women of size have been ignored or glossed over. I was tired of it. It made those struggles feel invisible.

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Are there any storylines that you wrote into your characters that you struggled with? Perhaps because they were too personal or maybe too revealing?Sure. This was a very personal book. I’ve done every crappy eating habit the characters do, from starving myself to binge-eating (one dark night, I ate two pizzas, all by my lonesome, just like Emerson in the book). Like Georgia, I had a family member who constantly criticized my size. And like Marley, my family shows love by cooking really unhealthy food. But it felt so good to admit that, even through fictional characters—to talk about self-esteem and its link to size in a way that’s not filtered, that’s hard and honest and difficult and funny, too. My heart broke for Emerson, and while her story is tragic, it still deserves to be told. I was so proud of Georgia and Marley for tackling their issues. Their friendship is the kind we all deserve. Girl power, yo!

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Behind the Book: A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Editor’s Note: From first-time author Fatima Farheen Mirza comes a book that is beautifully written and emotional, a book that you will adore from the moment you begin the first page until you close the cover at last. A Place for Us handles one of the biggest desires in life—the desire to belong. This is the story of Rafiq and Layla, an immigrant couple in California, and their children, as they seek to reconcile their non-Western values with those of modern America. A Place for Us breaks open the family dynamic and examines what it truly means to belong. It was also the HPB Book Club pick for June and July. We had a chance to catch up with Fatima Farheen Mirza, who describes her writing process below.a-place-for-us

Days before I was to submit the final draft of the novel—after all the major editing had been done and I was only reading to find mistakes—there was one sentence I added toward the very end, and writing it into the margin moved me to tears, despite how insignificant the line seemed: “Layla pointing out the leaves when the wind makes them all wave at once.”

It arrived in a paragraph written in Rafiq’s perspective. Rafiq and Layla have been married for decades, and it is their family that the novel centers around. The passage is written from the furthest point of time in the novel, when Rafiq is in his late sixties and looking back on his life to understand what kind of a father he was. In the passage, he is reflecting on the sights in his life that he will never tire of: his wife tying her hair up into a bun, his daughter whistling when she was younger, and, in the case of the sentence, Layla pointing out the leaves on trees when the two took their evening walks together. Continue reading

Behind the Book: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

Editor’s note: Colleen Hoover is a prolific author who delivers every emotion on the spectrum in one beautiful package. Her latest novel, All Your Perfects, is a heartaching and heartbreaking look at a marriage put to the test. This novel is a masterpiece of love that weaves in the pain of life with its beauty. The intense, emotional and beautifully poignant story is everything you never knew you needed from a romance. We asked Colleen to provide us with her insights on her writing. Read more about it below.

 ALL YOUR PERFECTS_9781501171598All Your Perfects is my thirteenth full-length romance novel, but this is the first time I’ve written about an actual married couple. I tend to gravitate toward new romances, first loves, and the exploration of characters in their formative years. I assumed I would always stick to that, but when I got the idea for All Your Perfects I knew I’d be making a departure from my previous work.

The idea initially came to me because of something my sister and brother-in-law did at their wedding. They each wrote a love letter to the other and then placed the unread love letters in a box. They locked the box during their wedding and vowed only to open it and read the letters on their tenth anniversary. I forgot about the box and the letters until they reached their tenth anniversary a couple of years ago. My sister said they celebrated by reading each other’s love letters they had locked in the box ten years before.

I thought the idea of the love letters was such a great idea and wanted to incorporate it into a novel somehow. In order to do that, though, I’d have to write about a married couple, which is what sets this book apart from a lot of my others.  Continue reading

Behind the Book: Eat Cake. Be Brave. by Melissa Radke

 

Editor’s Note: Eat Cake. Be Brave. is the kind of book that captures your attention and refuses to let go. Written by a woman who is intimately relatable, incredibly hilarious and at times introspective to the point that you wonder if you ARE Melissa Radke, this book will stick to your insides like cake. You will laugh, you will cry and you will be hooked to the raw power that is Melissa’s uniquely funny voice. Her brilliant storytelling makes Eat Cake. Be Brave. into a gut-wrenchingly beautiful and hilarious debut you are sure to enjoy.  We had the opportunity to catch up with her recently and ask her some questions about her debut book. Check out her answers below. 

Everyone who has read your book so far has called it intimately relatable. You reach people on a genuine level. Why do you think that is?
I don’t know. That’s a stupid question, move on to the next one. NO! I’m kidding! But see? I talk to people like I’m their sister or their best friend or their crazy aunt. I don’t filter a lot of what I say and I think that feels relatable to people, especially women. No one likes the unfiltered person who slices people with their words and abrasiveness, but we all want that friend who says what we’re thinking and puts words to our thoughts. And I think I do that for them. I also think I look like them – and dress like them – and holler at my kids like them, so they get me.

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Photo Credit: Kylie White

Your Southern roots are a big part of who you are – from your sweet Texan twang to your Tennessee detour to your small town charm. Do you feel like the gentility and hospitality of the South has played a big role in shaping you and your book? Why or why not?
Oh, yes. And I’m proud of that. But it took me a while to say that and mean it and to appreciate where I’m from. When I first started writing, I felt like I needed to be so different, so much more enlightened and fancy. But I couldn’t! I tried, believe me, I tried. But how do I write in a way that is not true to who I am? I spent too many years living my life that way and it got me nowhere. So. I decided to tell the stories I grew up hearing, write the way I talk and not cry over spilt (sweet) tea.

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All Things Printed & Recorded: Paperbacks – Judge Them By Their Cover

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 July, we’re going way back to cover the history of the paperback.

Penguin Waugh

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The modern paperback was born in 1935 with the hit debut of Penguin in the United Kingdom. Founder Allen Lane’s goal was to sell affordable, high-quality books to the masses in places like train stations. Their minimalistic, type-driven cover designs, color-coded by genre, became iconic.
  • Inexpensive paperbound books called dime novels were published in the US starting in 1860. Their British counterparts were called penny dreadfuls.
  • In 1939, Pocket Books launched in the US with 10 titles priced at 25¢ each. By comparison, a hardback might cost a few dollars. Pocket sold their books in subway stations, newsstands and drugstores, reaching new readers and forever changing the bookselling industry.
  • Soldier in circleSmall enough to fit in a uniform pocket, paperback books were carried by soldiers in World War II. One writer noted that “if the back trouser pocket bulged in that way,” it indicated that the soldier was a reader.

TIMELINE
17th cent.  Early softcover books are printed in Europe.
1935  Penguin publishes its first paperback, Ariel, a biography of Percy Shelley.
1938  The first US paperback, Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, is released by Pocket and sold at Macy’s as a test.
1950  Using the brand Gold Medal Books, Fawcett begins publishing original fiction in paperback, as opposed to reprinting titles originally released in hardback.
1960  Sales of paperbacks pass those of hardcover books.

stack of paperbacksWant to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Westerns, ed. Bill Brown
book Classic Penguin: Cover to Cover, by Paul Buckley, ed.
book Penguin By Design: A Cover Story, 1935–2005, by Phil Baines
book When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II, by Molly Guptill Manning
book Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, by Kenneth Davis & Joann Giusto-Davis
book Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix
slate_film-512 Paperback Dreams , directed by Alex Beckstead

 

Celebrating the Undiscovered: Inspiration for Aspiring Writers

Author and journalist Gene Fowler once said, “Writing is easy; all you do is sit, staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Novelist P.G. Wodehouse said, “I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit,” and author and sportswriter Red Smith said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” In other words, writers know that to create something out of nothing but a thought and put it down on paper in an engaging, exciting or maybe humorous way requires patience, commitment, sacrifice and pain.

So why do it? Because you must.

At Half Price Books, we celebrate not only the wonderful books that have already been published, but also those that are still waiting to be discovered, or written. How? Well, there are several ways.

Just getting started? We have journals, research materials, inspirational quotes, writing style guides (if that sort of thing interests you) and nice little nooks where you and your laptop can get lost for a while. I once startled an HPB employee while sitting in the floor of the fiction section, writing a murder mystery under the watchful eye of Ernest J. Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying. I though it apropos.

Stuck? We have writing prompts for those of you who need a jumpstart, not to mention the shelves and shelves of escapes and reboots just waiting to be discovered.

Ready to submit? We have guides to help find publishers and agents, as well as books about the publishing business and novel proposals. Don’t forget to look at the acknowledgements in your favorite books to see who published, edited and represented those authors.

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Need encouragement? Throughout the year, Half Price Books stores across the country hold writers workshops or (in November) National Novel Writing Month Write-ins, where you can sit and talk to other writers about the creative process and the struggles of writing. We’re also partnering this month with Scribbler, the only subscription box for novelists! The purpose of the box is to help writers improve their craft and reach their publishing goals. Subscribe to the June Scribbler box and get a special coupon from Half Price Books.

Kate 20Half Price Books is also proud to be the place where many talented writers and artists have started out. Did you know that the Newberry Award-winning novelist Kate DiCamillo once worked in our Coon Rapids, MN store? Check out other authors who have worked or still work for us in our “Meet the Bibliomaniac” series, Brian Douglas and Dayna Ingram.  (And maybe one day you’ll see my name there!)

So no matter what you write, where you write, how you write or what you need to write, Half Price Books has you covered.