A Grown-up Who Grew Up With Harry Potter

I was a junior in college when the first Harry Potter book was released. Needless to say, the series was not on my radar then, and it remained stealthily outside those bounds until I began substitute teaching after college. That’s when I first saw 12 and 13-year old children toting around the same book.

I finally asked, “What are you all reading?”

I got the definitive answer, “Oh! YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THESE BOOKS!”

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64 Coming-of-Age Books for the Ages

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There’s just something about coming of age stories that I’ve always loved. They tend to be raw and honest, funny yet heartbreaking books. Everyone only “comes of age” once in their lifetime, so it’s fun to read others’ stories again and again. A couple of my personal favorites are Skippy Dies by Paul Murray and Winger by Andrew Smith.

We polled our booksellers across the country and below is a list of some of their favorites. What book would you add to this list?

  1. The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
  2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
  3. Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami
  4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  5. Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
  8. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
  9. The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
  10. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card Continue reading

Experiencing Dead Wake: An Emergence into Nonfiction

If you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading, or perhaps just finished, Dead Wake by Erik Larson, which is the first nonfiction book we have chosen.  I am a fiction girl. In my experience, nonfiction books have always read like the boring textbooks I had to read in school, full of dry facts with nothing to activate the imagination.  Dead Wake has changed my opinion of nonfiction forever and left me longing to read more by Erik Larson. If you interested in hearing about the Lusitania, listen to Erik’s interview with THINK.

Perhaps, Larson’s book intrigued me because of the way Larson presents his information. He considers himself an “animator of history” as opposed to an historian.  He wants his writing to “create pictures in the minds of his readers,” just like they do in fiction.

If you enjoyed Dead Wake, here are a few other books by Erik Larson for you to check out:

So, what Erik Larson book will you read next?  I already have The Devil in the White City waiting on my bedside table, ready to be read.

Julie is Traffic Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Hey, Mr. President, read these books next!

ABC News reported yesterday that President Obama has packed an armful of books for a two-week vacation with his family in Martha’s Vineyard. Here are the six books he selected!

  

There are some great choices on his summer reading list, including award-winning fiction and non-fiction but what happens when any booklover finishes the last book on the TBR list? You ask, “What should I read next?” We’ve got the answer. If you enjoyed these selections, here’s a list of HPB Staff Picks to get you started on your next book.

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14 Things You Should Know About Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird

As we anxiously await the release of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set a Watchman, we shouldn’t forget that 55 years ago on July 11th, Harper Lee’s first novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published. While critics may not have raved about the book when it first came out, the novel, published right before the peak of the American civil rights movement, became a phenomenal success, selling more than fifteen million copies and winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. It was then made into a movie shortly afterward in 1962. Since the book was published, To Kill a Mockingbird has topped must-read book lists, and the movie version of the book ranks 25th on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) list of Greatest American Movies of All Time.

I have gathered 14 interesting facts about Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, (both the book and the movie). I wonder how many you will already know and how many will be new to you.

  1. The author Nelle Harper Lee and Truman Capote were next-door neighbors in their hometown of Monroeville, AL. The character of Dill is said to be based on Capote.
  2. Lee said she identified with Jane Austen, because she wanted to challenge social norms and customs.
  3. Lee’s mother’s maiden name was Finch.
  4. A man named Son Boulware lived down the road from Lee and Capote and used to hide presents for them in the trees around his house.
  5. Atticus was loosely based on Lee’s father, who retired from the practice of criminal law after defending a group of black men who were accused of murder.  He lost the case, turning his attention to reporting the news instead.
  6. The book that Scout tells her father about, The Gray Ghost, was a real children’s book by Robert F. Schulkers—part of a series of adventure titles in the 1920s that Lee read when she was young.
  7. Lee is an honorary member of the Alabama Bar on the basis that in creating Atticus, she created an exemplary lawyer.
  8. Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee’s editor was so intrigued by a flashback in Go Set a Watchman that encouraged her to write a book from the child’s point of view.
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird is Clark Kent’s favorite movie in the Superman Comics.
  10. Gregory Peck won his first and only Academy Award in 1963 for his role as Atticus Finch.
  11. To prepare for the role of Boo Radley, Robert Duvall spent six weeks out of the sun so he would look like someone who had spent most of his life indoors.
  12. After the film was completed, Lee gave Gregory Peck her father’s watch, because she said he reminded her so much of her father. Peck wore this to the Academy Awards.
  13. Brock Peters, the actor who portrayed Tom Robinson, delivered Peck’s eulogy on the day of his funeral, June 16, 2003.
  14. Peck’s grandson Harper Peck Voll is named after Harper Lee.

So, how many of these facts did you already know?

The HPB Book Club is currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird.  If you would like to chat with fellow HPB Book Clubbers, visit hpb.com/bookclub/fb and join the conversation.

Plus, look for Go Set A Watchman at your local Half Price Books on July 14!

Julie is Traffic Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Long Reads for the Longest Day of the Year

For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice falls on June 21 this year. That means today will be, well… sun day. The proverbial “longest day of the year.” Actually, it’s 24 hours just like other days, but it’ll have the most daylight. Here at HPB World Headquarters in Dallas, we’ll have a whopping 14 hours, 18 minutes and 47 seconds of sun.

If you’re a reader who hates spending money on electricity—or a blog writer desperate for a timely topic—that means 14.3 hours of absolutely free reading light. To take full advantage of it, we suggest skipping the morning paper and diving into the longest book you can find. You might not finish it all on June 21, but hey, you only lose one second of daylight on June 22.

Here are some long reads for those long sunny days.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1996)
This 1,000+ page postmodern novel has 388 endnotes, some of which have their own footnotes. Its themes include addiction, tennis, suicide, advertising and Quebec separatism. Fortunately, it’s a joy to read Wallace’s prose, and it’s easy to see why this book made him a star in the literary world.

Endnote: Jason Segel stars as Wallace in The End of the Tour, a film out later this summer about the promotional tour for Infinite Jest.

Footnote to the endnote: the late author’s family did not cooperate in the making of the film.

The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro
includes The Path to Power (1982), Means of Ascent (1990), Master of the Senate (2002) and The Passage of Power (2012).
Caro’s masterful multi-volume biography of LBJ contains four books so far, most of which would qualify for this list on their own. Johnson, a highly skilled but deeply flawed politician, is one of our most fascinating presidents, and Caro’s work reads more like a novel despite its level of meticulously-researched detail. The fifth and final book is forthcoming. (Robert Caro, if you’re reading this, get off the Internet and get busy writing!)

Underworld by Don DeLillo (1997)
DeLillo’s sprawling non-linear novel spans several decades in postwar America and finds his characters reacting to several historical events. A New York Times reviewer called it “a dazzling, phosphorescent work of art.” The book’s riveting prologue—chronicling Bobby Thomson’s historic home run that won the New York Giants the National League pennant in 1951—is worth the price of admission alone.

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
Published in the author’s native France between 1913 and 1927, this novel in seven volumes (and 4,000 pages) helped usher in the modern era. The highly influential and massive work tells the life story of the narrator, with his everyday experiences—most famously dipping a cookie into a cup of tea—evoking recollections of the past. Current-day novelist Michael Chabon has cited it as his favorite book. Bonus points for tackling this one in the original French.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This international bestseller tells the story of Theo Decker, a New York teenager whose life is forever changed when his mother is killed in a terrorist attack at the Metropolitan Museum. This page turner (and there are 800 of them) is a moving and mesmerizing story of loss and survival. While some critics complained about the book’s length, it went on to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
The musical is a big deal. The movie was a big deal. The book is big, too—655,478 words on a couple thousand pages. This French historical novel was first published in 1862 and has been hailed as one of the best novels of the 19th century. In Hugo’s words, the book constitutes “a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from corruption to life, from bestiality to duty, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God.”

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
The title of this ambitious novel, first published in Japan in three volumes in 2009 and 2010, refers both to the year 1984, when the story takes place, and to George Orwell’s 1984. Set in a fictionalized Tokyo, the stories of two main characters—a woman and a man—converge over the course of the book. Murakami employs surreal elements, alternate realities, down-the-rabbit-hole digressions, and frequent references to Western composers and musicians as he explores complex themes including murder, violence, cult religion and, ultimately, the triumph of love.

Lest this blog post end up in a blog post about long blog posts, I’ll stop there. What are some of your favorite long reads?


Mark is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow him online here.