Behind the Book: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Our March/April 2020 Book Club Pick is The Island of Sea Women, by New York Times bestselling author Lisa See. Few books can be called upon to so beautifully span decades and to delicately detail the relationship between two women who are inextricably linked. Lisa See provides us wiith a glimpse into the inspiration behind her latest novel  below.

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What made you want to write about haenyeo, Korean sea divers?
In many ways I feel that the haenyeo called to me. I was sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, leafing through magazines, when I came across a tiny article—just one paragraph and one small photo—about these remarkable women. I ripped it out of the magazine and took it home. I hung onto the article for eight years before I decided that now was the time to write about the haenyeo. They have a matrifocal society—a society focused on women. Historically, they were known to have the greatest ability of any human group on earth to withstand cold water. They hold their breath for two minutes and dive down sixty feet (deep enough to get the bends) to harvest seafood. They are the breadwinners in their families, while their husbands take care the children and do the cooking. In the past, women would retire at age fifty-five. Today, the youngest haenyeo is fifty-five. I was and am amazed by their bravery and persistence, as well as the camaraderie—sisterhood—that they share with each other. About five years ago, UNESCO gave the haenyeo the designation of an Intangible World Heritage Tradition and estimated the culture would be gone in about fifteen years. I felt I couldn’t wait five, ten, or fifteen years to interview women who were in their seventies, eighties, and nineties. Continue reading

Checking in with the Million Book Donation Project

Since we’re well into 2020 now (where does the time go?!), let’s check in on our 2020 Million Book Donation Project!

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In case you’ve forgotten, the Million Book Donation Project is exactly what it sounds like – Half Price Books makes a pledge to donate at least one million books to great non-profit organizations and schools across the country. Since we officially launched the program in 2012, we’ve donated more than 11 million books!

As of today, we’ve already donated 54,180 books across the country in 2020, including some to our friends at Eastside Elementary in Cleveland, TX.

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Need some books for your organization or school? Make a donation request and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Best of the Decade: 1920s

Editor’s Note: This year, our Half Price Books calendar once again features lists of books, movies and music. We’re heading into a new decade with a new focus…the past. Each month, we’ll share a list of events, inventions and, of course, books, movies and music, from every decade since the 1900s right here on the blog. Enjoy!


Something cool came along when jazz was introduced to the masses and the literary scene got a leg up from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Get a good look at the grandstanding books, music and movies from the decade that left dancers flapping in the wind…see what we did there? You guessed it. It’s the 1920s!

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The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald Continue reading

Behind the Book: Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

Editor’s Note: Kathleen West’s debut tackles the confusion, delusion and, yes, catastrophes often seen in the ecosystem of grade-school education. In this edition of Behind the Book, West lets us in on just how much of the storyline was influenced by her own life as a middle school teacher and what she would like readers to glean as they pour through the pages of her wry, cleverly observed offering.

What inspired you to write Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes?

The idea for the story came to me as I waited to find out whether my then-sixth grader had been cast in his middle school musical. I taught in the school he attended, and a colleague asked me if I planned to sneak up to the drama board and check to see if he’d gotten a part. Though I admit I was tempted, we agreed this was a terrible idea. What kind of parent would storm the bulletin board, pushing kids aside to read the list?

Obviously, I loved the idea of a character who would do just that. Julia means well, but she’s completely out of line. I’ve met moms like Julia lots of times, and I feel like I’ve (mostly) resisted being a mom like Julia lots of times.

As I started writing about Liston Heights, both from Julia’s and Isobel’s perspectives, I found myself obsessed with public criticism, which plays a big role in school communities. Everyone has been in school, and so everyone thinks they know how to define excellent teaching. And usually, when parents don’t agree with something they perceive to be happening in the classroom, the last person they’ll talk to about it is the teacher. So, instead of having a productive meeting with one parent who has questions, teachers end up having cryptic conversations about how “everyone” feels things are going badly. I really enjoyed exploring the consequences of behind-the-back complaining and gossiping, and the distrust and resentment it breeds between parents and teachers.

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Best of the Decade: 1910s

Editor’s Note: This year, our Half Price Books calendar once again features lists of books, movies and music. We’re heading into a new decade with a new focus…the past. Each month, we’ll share a list of events, inventions and, of course, books, movies and music, from every decade since the 1900s right here on the blog. Enjoy!


Oreos arrived (arguably making cookie jars more interesting nationwide) and Uncle Sam asked for America’s best candidates to confront Germany as the U.S. entered World War I. This month, we’re taking a look at the events, books, music and movies that took America by storm in the 1910s.

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Behind the Book: Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

For our first Book Club pick of 2020, Half Price Books has selected Finding Dorothy, the fictional retelling of the true life of Maud Baum, wife to L. Frank Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz. This a perfect read for lovers of all things Oz and historical fiction. We had the wonderful opportunity ask author Elizabeth Letts some in-depth questions regarding her inspirations, discoveries and insights into this wonderful book!

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Can you tell us more about Maud Baum, the voice and inspiration behind Finding Dorothy? What made you decide to write a story inspired by her and from her point of view?
Frank Baum died in 1919, twenty years before his book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was turned into the classic MGM film. The only living link between the book and the movie was his widow, Maud, who was seventy-seven years old. Maud’s mother was one of the most radical advocates for the rights of women—she grew up with Susan B. Anthony hanging around her house. Her mother was constantly in the newspapers for organizing protests, and she got laws changed so that Maud could be one of the first young women to attend an Ivy League school. So what did she do with all that opportunity? Did she become a lawyer for the cause, as her mother had hoped? No. She dropped out of school to marry a very handsome but not too impressive young theater man named L. Frank Baum. To me, this was fascinating. Maud was clearly a powerhouse, strong enough to defy her overbearing mother. But I think it’s easy to overlook the incredible influence of women like Maud, who make their mark behind-the-scenes. We may not remember her, but every time we quote The Wizard of Oz, we are paying homage to her legacy. Continue reading

2019 Million Book Donation Project Wrap-Up

At Half Price Books, we know the importance of reading in everyone’s lives. That’s why we’ve always made book donations a priority since we were founded back in 1972. As our co-founder Ken Gjemre once said, “Books should fill our lives, not our land.”

So we’ve taken great pleasure in continuing our Million Book Donation Project in 2019 – we are pleased to announce we’ve donated… Continue reading

Best of the Decade: 1900s

Editor’s Note: This year, our Half Price Books calendar once again features lists of books, movies and music. We’re heading into a new decade with a new focus…the past. Each month, we’ll share a list of events, inventions and, of course, books, movies and music, from every decade since the 1900s right here on the blog. Enjoy!


Corn Flakes® became a breakfast staple on tables across the nation and up in the sky, it was a bird, a plane! No, really. It was a plane. Check out the interesting events that made our list beside the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight and see which books, music and movies were all the rage during the 1900s.

 

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2019 HPB Author Events Recap

It has been a wonderful year of author events and book signings for Half Price Books! More than 100 authors visited our stores or spoke at offsite events. Booklovers poured in from all over the country to listen to their favorite authors speak and get their books signed. We are honored to be able to provide a place of community for authors and their readers. Watch our recap video to get a glimpse of all the authors we hosted in 2019!

Thanks so much for watching! We hope you were able to come to some of these events this year, and we look forward to seeing you in stores in 2020. To stay informed of HPB events and more, visit hpb.com/events or join our email list.

Meet the Bibliomaniac: Santa

Name: Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, Papa Noel, etc.
Job Title: CEO
Office Location: North Pole

The big guy in the red suit is a booklover, too! Who knew? (We did.) From films to cookies, we got the scoop on a few of Santa’s favorite things as he took a little time away from the workshop to have a fireside chat. Enjoy!

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What’s your favorite part of the job, you know, being the world’s best gift giver?

Spreading joy. They say it’s better to give than to receive and, you know, it really is true! Knowing that I can help add a bit of cheer to someone’s day, even if just for a moment, even if it’s just once a year, that makes the frequent flyer miles worth it.

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