Stories at the Speed of Life

James Patterson has just released a series of books called BookShots, which are a variety of books approximately 100-150 pages long that the average booklover should be able to finish in just a few hours. Excited? I was. Being a busy booklover, I know the frustration of having to set down a good book because real life intrudes, but with these BookShots I was able to read a good story from cover to cover during one sitting. (Actually, there were three of them, so three sittings.)  The only problem was that when I was finished, I was ready for more.

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Cross Kill, by James Patterson was the first BookShot I read.  In only 113 pages, the reader is launched into an impossible mystery, as Alex Cross investigates the shooting of his own partner, John Sampson. However, all evidence leads to a man that Cross watched die more than ten years ago, Gary Soneji. Has Soneji risen from the grave?  Will Sampson survive?  Will Cross?  I’m not going to tell you—just know that nothing will prepare you for the end of this book. Continue reading

5 Book and Beer Pairings to Try this Weekend

Books & Beer

It’s pretty straightforward. One book. One beer. One photo. People seem to like it because often good books go well with good beer. Sometimes, you’ll land on a real stinker book- or beer-wise. The following selections are not those times, though. These pairings are the real deal, the 1 percent, the extra fry in the bottom of a bag. Happy reading and happy drinking.

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Book: The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories by Simon Rich
Beer: Mai Bock by Atwater Brewery
I want to be Simon Rich when I grow up. Nevermind the fact that he’s 10 years younger than me and looks like he’s 14 years old. The Last Girlfriend on Earth is full of funny stories about the absurdity of relationships and love. Your standard romantic characters, such as Cupid and condoms appear, but you’ll be more intrigued (taken aback?) by other subjects, such as Hitler falling in love and moving to Prospect Heights in contemporary New York. The stories are the basis for the TV show Man Seeking Woman, and Rich is just one genius grant away from taking over the world with his humorous outlook on life. Pair this book with Mai Bock by Detroit’s Atwater Brewery, because, like most relationships, it starts off sweet and smooth but ends with a bitter aftertaste.

tumblr_n3oucibGJd1r7j3coo1_1280Book: The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff
Beer: Ginger Barrel Aged Ale Brrrbon ‘13 by Widmer Brothers Brewing
The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff made me want to move to San Francisco (again). His descriptions and stories about Mark Twain and the burgeoning literary scene in that scandalous City by the Bay in the 19th century inflamed a want in me to be a part of something exploding with creativity. Tarnoff explains how Twain’s San Francisco time influenced his writing. Tarnoff also includes other San Francisco literary heroes, such as Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard and Ina Coolbrith. The rivalry between Twain and Harte is particularly engaging and supports the theory that often great art is created via feuds. Pair this book with Widmer Brothers Brewing’s Ginger Barrel Aged Ale Brrrbon ‘13, because, like San Francisco, it balances frou-frou (ginger) with working class (bourbon).

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Book: The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry by Mark Ribowsky
Beer: Prickly Pear by Shiner
I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan since birth, and I continue to be no matter how many criminals they sign. Growing up, I fondly remember Tom Landry’s famous hat framing his stoicism. His demeanor caused more questions than answers much of the time, so when I came across The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry, I immediately read it. Plus, I love biographies and living in the past. Readers will learn more than they ever thought they wanted to know about Landry and the Cowboys in this hefty (720 pages!) book. For example, I learned that Cowboys fans from day one have never been that vocal during games. So now when I hear people complaining about the low energy of fans at games, I know it’s just part of the organization’s DNA. Pair this book with Shiner’s Prickly Pear, because 1) it’s a beer brewed in Texas and you’re reading about a Texas football team, and 2) Landry could be prickly person on more than one occasion.

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Book: Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity by Edward Slingerland
Beer: Twilight Summer Ale by Deschutes Brewery
Practically every child since 1977 has wanted to use the Force in their everyday lives. While most think it’s a movie fantasy, its origin is found in the Eastern philosophy of wu-wei, which translates to “no trying” or “no doing.” Edward Slingerland is an expert in Asian studies and he effortlessly guides readers through hundreds of years of Chinese philosophy and contemporary brain science to help us understand what it’s like to be “in the flow” and how that makes us happy. Sadly, though, I’m still unable to lift an X-wing Fighter out of a swamp after reading the book. Pair this one with Twilight Summer Ale because twilight is the perfect time between light and dark, doing and not doing.

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Book: Spinning Into Butter by Rebecca Gilman
Beer: Saint Dymphna by Lakewood Brewing Co.
I don’t think enough people read plays for pleasure. Just because a play isn’t being performed doesn’t mean you can’t read it. Go on, I dare you. In fact, start with Spinning Into Butter. The story is set at a small college that is investigating racist messages left for one of its students. The topic is timely, but the end result isn’t tidy. As any great play does, the questions raised aren’t easily answered. So, pair this play with Saint Dymphna as you discuss the story with your friends. The beer’s flavor is complex, much like the play.

— Jason Hensel is the creator of the Tumblr site titled, Book and Beer.

Embrace Your Geekness: HPB Reviews Armada by Ernest Cline

Personal disclaimer: I was an elementary and middle school aged kid during that golden decade we call the ’80s. This was a time when girls and boys played arcade games, watched a lot of cartoons and played with the same toys. We ate sugary cereal, wore Mork from Ork suspenders, feathered our hair and (seriously) were all considered really cool.

Which brings me to Ernest Cline.

I read his first bestseller, Ready Player One, earlier this spring when I heard all the buzz about the upcoming release, Armada. It was everything I loved about mid-’80s cinema, games, music and culture, and I decided that if Ernie Cline is writing it, I am on board.

Cline’s second novel, Armada, comes out tomorrow, and it hopes to answer the age-old question, what if your video game obsession is training you to LITERALLY save the world? In the near-future, teenager Zack Lightman, a gaming aficionado who just wants to graduate high school, soon realizes that he and other elite gamers might hold the keys to saving the planet against alien forces.

Armada reads like every ’80s video game geek adventure movie, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. It lacks a bit of the “wow” factor after the ingenious. Ready Player One, but it is no less adventuresome. Cline truly is an encyclopedia of video-gaming culture, not to mention his reaches into the depths of ’80s kid’s cinema. Just like with RPO, you can practically see the movie playing while you read. He also strategically places a complete ready-for-mixtape playlist headlined by Queen’s “One Vision”. BTW, Warner Bros. purchased the rights to Ready Player One and some unknown named Steven Spielberg, will direct. Universal Pictures grabbed the rights to Armada all the way back in December.

The thirty and forty-year old set who hung out at arcades and rushed to theaters to watch any movie with “Star”, “War”,“Games” or “Fighter” in the title will feel whisked back into their local mall movie theater at the over-the-top action, righteous references to all-things-’80s once in again in Cline’s newest book. It’s a great read for teens (with some language warnings) who are really into gaming and retro-culture and they will be screaming for the movie releases in the next couple of years. Expect a lot of fan art and fan fiction to evolve, because that’s what the kids do these days, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some video game spin-offs as well. We’ll be hearing a lot more from Ernie Cline in the future, and if you are lucky enough to be in the area, you can catch him in Richardson, Texas as Half Price Books and Alamo Drafthouse partner to present An Evening with Ernie Cline Monday, July 27, at 7 p.m.

Look for copies of Armada iat your favorite Half Price Books with our specially-priced brand new releases and hot bestsellers!

Books Authors Read with Christina Lauren

We continue our “Books Authors Read” series with Christina Lauren, the combined pen name of long-time writing partners Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Christina Lauren will stop by our Dallas Flagship store on Sunday, May 11 at noon as part of the Belles on Wheels bus tour. To tide you over until then, here are some of their favorite reads! – Emily

We’re lucky enough that we get to play in multiple sandboxes: erotic romance, contemporary romance, young adult fiction and even free-form stories on Wattpad. As readers, too, we’ve always gravitated toward romance of any form, whether it’s for teens or adults, and our bookshelves definitely reflect that. Our list of favorites seems to grow longer every year. Here are but a few!

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

When this story opened, we worried that it would be heartbreaking (it can be) or difficult (it is, a little), but the voice is so strong and so gorgeous, that it immediately eclipses the early heartbreak. What grows over the pages, really, is a story so wonderfully sweet and uplifting, with prose that is both real and completely absorbing, that it’s one of the few books we both reread at least once a year. By far, our favorite book of all time.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

In contrast to The Sky Is Everywhere, Forbidden is hands-down the hardest book we’ve ever read. It grabs your heart and squeeze, squeeze, squeezes until the very last page when you want to lie down and cry for a week. But it is so good, and the writing is so wonderful, and the story is so different than anything else out there that it’s the best kind of pain, the most delicious kind of book to read where it makes you feel things no other book makes you feel, and you never want to go back and un-read it.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K Massie

Oh, if you love biographies, this book is for you. Massie makes Catherine real, and accessible and damn—girl gets hers. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case, nonfiction trumps so much fiction out there. Most of us know about her awful marriage to Peter, but what we loved here is the story of how she learned to live by her rules, how intelligent she was (far more intelligent and savvy than anyone around her, frankly) in a time when most women weren’t allowed to read, to write, to take power in the form of knowledge. We’re toying with the idea of writing a historical romance with a modern edge based on her life.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

Lamb is Lauren’s favorite author by about a mile, and this is a book she’s reread at least a dozen times since college. Dolores Price narrates her story—with humor, heart, and a sometimes shocking level of obliviousness—starting from when she’s a little girl until she’s a grown woman. Her childhood is rife with accumulated small and big traumas. She’s overweight, lonely, abused and eventually broken. But this story is about her rebirth, really, and it’s one of the few books that gives the reader every heart wrenching piece of it: of her setbacks and victories, of her bad decisions and the increasing number of moments that Delores takes charge of her life and sees her own worth. It’s a female voice, in first person, masterfully delivered by a man. Simply adore this book.

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall is a mile a minute roller coaster. Make sure you’re settled in with snacks and hydration, because once you pick this one up, you won’t be able to put it down. It’s been six weeks since the apocalypse and the angels have descended from the sky. The catch? They aren’t the good guys. It opens on a dark, deserted street and a single feather floating down to the ground, and never stops. Literally. Penryn is a smart, capable heroine and Raffe will tear your heart out. We were lucky enough to discover this gem when author Susan Ee was still self-publishing, so it’s awesome to see it and it’s sequel, Worlds After in bookstores today.

The Curse Worker Series by Holly Black

What we love most about this series—and there is plenty to love—is how seamlessly Black has built a completely different reality in the very world we live in. She’s slipped in Curse Workers into our history, and our political system, and makes the reader believe this might actually be true. Her characters are tough and edgy, but you can’t help but want to take them home and make them dinner anyway, if only to give them a little break from the constant tight corners in which they find themselves.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Talk about badass. Andi is about as badass as you can get. She’s independent, salty, broken—but stronger than she thinks. She’s failing out of school and the only thing that matters to her is her music, her mother, and her dead brother. And that’s just the first chapter! Initially this sounded like something we weren’t sure could be done. Time shifts in books are often clunky, disorienting or so overdone you feel like you’ve been clobbered when you finish the book. Also, history as a rule scares one of us (Lauren): as a scientist, she works by rules and structure, and history is so easily remade with each iteration. But, in the end, that’s the point of this one. The story is so complex, but it never lets go of the reader’s hand. It is triumphant and heartbreaking—a truly fascinating read.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This is a newer read for us—one we both devoured over the holidays—and a totally delightful one. It has unique voice coming out of its ears:  a different sort of narrator that we found irresistible. Of course there are a few savant-like stereotypes in there, but it’s nearly impossible to not completely fall in love with Don.

Romance author duo, Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, are New York Times bestselling authors of Beautiful Bastard and Beautiful Stranger.

You can visit them online or follow them on twitter at @seeCwrite and @lolashoes

If You Like “The Fault in Our Stars,” You Might Also Like…

If you (like me) loved reading The Fault in our Stars by John Green, here are a couple of other similar books you might also enjoy.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

This winner of the 2012 Cybil Award for Young-Adult Fiction and the 2013 Westchester Fiction Award is about Greg Gaines, a socially invisible senior who only has one friend, Earl.  Greg and Earl spend their time playing video games and making their own movies.  Then Greg’s mother forces him to befriend Rachel, who has leukemia. However, when Rachel decides to stop her treatment, Greg and Earl must give up their invisible status and make a stand.

The Probability of Miracles by Windy Wunder

Sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out of hospitals, but her mother and half-sister won’t accept that Cam’s cancer is terminal. So they decide to move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine, a town known for the miraculous events that occur there. Cam wants none of it, but she can’t deny the strange things that happen in Promise.  I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to give anything away.

As you may know The Fault in our Stars was dedicated to Esther Earl, a sixteen-year-old girl who passed away from cancer in 2010. Today, the book This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl has been released.  This book is a collection of journals, fiction, letters and sketches of the late Ester Grace Earl.  If you are looking for other non-fiction titles like This Star Won’t Go Out, here are a couple you might want to check out.

Poster Child: A Memior by Emily Rapp

Emily Rapp was born with a congenital defect that required her to have her left foot amputated at the age of four.  She also became the smiling, indefatigable poster child for the March of Dimes, spending her childhood traveling around the country making appearances and giving pep talks.  Emily writes about her trouble finding artificial legs that can keep up with her activity level and how her disability has impacted her entire life.

 

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer.  After a surgery in which doctors removed a third of her jaw, she returned to school to face the cruel taunts of her classmates.  She writes movingly about what it’s like to want to be loved for who you are and at the same time desperately wanting to be perfect, a contradiction everyone will be able to relate to.

You might also check out This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, out at the end of January; John Green dedicated TFIOS to Esther Grace, who died at the age of 16 from cancer. As always, Don’t forget to join the HPB Book Club in reading The Fault in our Stars this month, and be on the look out for the movie, scheduled to be released this June. 

— 

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

Mission Accomplished: I Read 100 Books in 2013

Like many of you (50K of you, in fact), I resolved to read more in 2013. I challenged myself to read 100 books before the year’s end. And I can proudly say I did it!

Since I work for a bookstore and mingle with publishers year-round, I’m lucky enough to always have a good book on hand, including some advanced reader copies. Here’s a look at my 15 favorites among the 100 books I read in 2013, along with my ratings of each. The first 13 on my list earned themselves a 5-star rating. Keep reading to learn how you can enter to win a $100 HPB Gift Card.

1. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert,
2. The Son by Philipp Meyer,
3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand,
4. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey,
5. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer,
6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple,
7. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard,
8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell,
9. The Dinner by Herman Koch,
10. Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley,
11. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini,
12. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee (January 7, 2014 release date),
13. Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan,
14. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (January 7, 2014 release date),
15. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

 

So now it’s your turn, booklovers. Join me! I’m making a resolution again for 2014 to keep on reading more! Tell us about your resolution (here) and enter for a chance to score a $100 HPB Gift Card.

HOW TO ENTER: Go to hpb.com/resolve and complete the entry form, including how many books you resolve to read in 2014. You must provide a valid email address so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. Limit one entry per person. Deadline to enter is Friday, January 31, 2014.* Just for kicks, tell us what books you’ll be reading this year in the comments below. Need some recommendations? Stop in your local store today and ask for help. Happy New Year!

*One randomly selected winner will be notified via email after January 31, 2014.

Kristen B. is Procurement Specialist at Half Price Books Distribution Center.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kbev302.

Falling in Love with Cathy Lamb

Our customers know books. So, when one of our customers suggested that I read a book by Cathy Lamb, I went straight over to the fiction section and picked up The Last Time I Was Me, by Cathy Lamb.  Then I spent a weekend reading the book cover to cover while simultaneously falling out of my chair laughing.

The Last Time I Was Me is about Jeanne Stewart, a creative director from an advertising firm in Chicago who recently had a nervous breakdown and lost her job. She is also facing civil and criminal charges for “creatively” breaking up with her boyfriend and is being forced to take anger management classes.  She ends up traveling to Oregon where her brother helps her get a job with the governor’s office. She buys a broken down house, runs naked by the river, falls in love and helps cover up a murder. And if that wasn’t enough to keep you interested, Cathy Lamb only hints at Jeanne’s “creative” break-up that landed her in anger management class, until the end when she has to go to court to face the charges.  I’m not going to tell you what she did, but I will say that it has something to do with peanut oil and an exacto knife.  Curious?  I guess you’ll have to read the book.  I want to reread the book, just writing about it.

So, if you love to laugh, I would highly recommend Cathy Lamb.  In fact, I’m going to go to Half Price Books right now and get another one of her books. 

What about you?  What author have you fallen in love with?

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

Books About Books Make Great Books

“In books I meet the dead as if they were alive,

In books we see what is yet to come…

All things decay and pass with time…

All fame would fall victim to oblivion

If God had not given mortal men the book to aid them.”

I believe the above quote from Richard de Bury adequately expresses the importance books play in our lives.  Books can teach us about civilizations long gone, as well as the world around us now, and they can inspire us with glimpses of what the future could be.  Some people believe that books are so important they have written books about them.  Here are 5 of my favorite books about books.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke — This book is about Meggie and her father Mo, a man who can read characters out of books and into the real world.  One night while reading the book Inkheart aloud to his wife and baby girl,  Mo reads several characters out of the book.  Unfortunately, for everything that is read out of a book, something must go in.  Mo’s wife is taken into the book, and the rest of the story is roughly about getting her back, while the characters from the book try to take over the real world.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford — While the characters of Inkheart are read into the real world, Detective Thursday Next in The Eyre Affair uses the Prose Portal to go into a book to stop a thief from blackmailing the literary world.  However, the damage done by Thursday and the thief to the classic novel Jane Eyre causes Thornfield Hall to burn down and Rochester’s mad wife to fall to her death…What do you mean that’s how the story ends?  Are you sure it always ended that way?   And are you sure that a Goliath Corporation operative named Jack Schitt hasn’t always been trapped in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven?

The Bookman’s Wake by John Dunning — Speaking of The Raven, the bibliomystery The Bookman’s Wake follows detective-turned-book dealer Cliff Janeway as he tries to protect a young woman who has stolen a rare volume of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven from someone who’s been killing people for more than 20 years to get his hands on it. This book also can teach you a lot about rare books and book binding, even as the reader stops into the University District Half Price Books store while following Janeway to Snoqualmie Falls. (Seriously, we’re in the book!)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — Since we were talking about people stealing books, we can’t leave out Liesel Meminger, the main character of The Book Thief, a book which is, of course, narrated by Death, during Nazi-Germany, a time when Death admits he was a pretty busy guy.  Liesel steals her first book after an apprentice gravedigger drops The Grave Digger’s Handbook in the snow after her brother’s funeral.  The also steals The Shoulder Shrug from a pile of books to be burned in celebration of Hitler’s birthday  Throughout this book, the power of books to change lives is explored.  Liesel even writes the book of her life story, which is the book that Death has been carrying around with him for years.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury — If we are going to mention burning books, we have to mention Fahrenheit 451, which is about a man whose job is to burn books.  First published in 1953, this book talks about technology taking over our lives and making them empty.  Books became blander and blander due to censorship, and finally stopped selling altogether.  So the government started burning them.  However, some people don’t give up their books willingly and are arrested or killed.  Montag, the main character is a fireman, or someone who burns books for a living, but he is also a man searching for something more in his life.  He begins to keep and read some of the books he is supposed to burn until the men he works with start coming after him.

Now, this is just a sampling of some wonderful and at times very poignant books about books.  There are many others.  In fact, the Assistant Manager at the Mesquite store might kill me for not mentioning The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende.  So, what are your favorite books about books?

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

The Kick in the Pants You’ve Been Looking For: 7 Career Advice Books

Need a kick in the pants? Feel stuck? Desperate for motivation on the job? Well, I’ve got some reading suggestions for you! Granted, there are many business advice or job-seeking books out there, but these books don’t talk about making millions or climbing corporate ladders. This collection of nonfiction will stir you. And perhaps that’s just the energy you need to get your career in gear. 

In addition to these titles, I’d highly recommend reading just about anything written by Sally Hogshead or Seth Godin – both brilliant and passionate minds.

What career advice books do you suggest?

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

The Great, the Gross and the Gruesome

Have you ever read a book that sent shivers down your spine?  Have you ever read a passage that was so gross that it made you gag?  Have you ever had to close a book and said to yourself, “I don’t think I can read any more of this?”  Now, have you ever done these things with a trivia book?  I have, and the book was Gruesome Facts, published by Igloo books.  So I just have to share all the wonderful things you can learn in this book, like:

Places you should not go on vacation:

  • The village of Pluckley in Kent England, which is one of the most haunted places in the world
  • Deshnoke in India is a good place to stay away from, unless you really like rats
  • Centralia, PA, unless you want to turn into a human fireball
  • Siberia, Russia, for not only is Tunguska, Siberia a lonely and desolate spot whose burned landscape cannot be fully explained, but it is also the home of Peter Plogojowitz, who is said to be the first vampire.  You thought it was Count Dracula, but he’s just a character in a book, who was inspired by Vlad the Impaler, who was not a vampire — just a guy that impaled his victims on stakes.

People you do not want to travel back in time and meet:

  • Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar, whose favorite pastime was boiling people alive.  I was going to make a cooking reference here but it would probably sound too much like Titus Andronicus.
  • Emperor Caligula, who once had a section of the Coliseum’s spectators slaughtered by wild animals, just because he was bored. And they say video games make you violent. 
  • Anyone in the Medici family in Italy; not only did they kill other people, they also killed each other, second only to the Borgia family in their pursuit of power.  So, I would stay away from the Borgias too, and for Pete’s sake don’t tell them about the time machine.

People you do not want operating on you:

  • Dr. Walter Freeman, who preformed lobotomies with an icepick. Can you say “Ouch?”
  • Dr. John R. Brinkley, who used to implant people with goat glands while he was drunk.  I’m thinking the patients must have been drunk too.
  • Ferdinand Waldo Demara Jr.– please note there is no Dr. in front of his name. There is a reason for that.  He wasn’t one, but he played one in the Royal Canadian Navy.
  • Bonus Information: Did you know they used to use giant ants to clamp intestinal wounds together?  Now, don’t you wish you didn’t?

Things you don’t want to eat:

  • Casu marzu. Sounds harmless, but it is cheese with live maggots in it (and yes, this is where I gagged). The book does warn you to be sure and crunch the maggots to death before you swallow because they can tear holes in your gut. (Yum!)
  • Jellied Moose Nose.  Yes, it is exactly what it says it is.  (Still reading?  It gets better—or should that be worse.)
  • Hard Tack.  You may have heard of this as many books have featured hard tack as a food for sailors. However, this is a biscuit that is so old and stale that it is filled with weevils and other insects. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m not much of an insect eater.)
  • Pretzels. Have you ever wondered how pretzels get that lovely brown color on the outside?  It comes from the chemical compound urea, which can be extracted from urine.  Now, it can be made chemically as well, which is how I’m sure how the ones we eat are made. However, I will never look at my favorite salty snack the same again.

Since we’re talking about bodily fluids…

  • Don’t ever ask an Inuit man in Alaska what he’s going to do with that bucket full of urine.  You will never shake anyone’s hand again.
  • Don’t eat your boogers.  You don’t want to know what’s in them.
  • For the same reason, don’t pee in the shower. You never know what’s in your kidneys.
  • Bonus information: There is a man who had his rear end rebuilt after a horrible car accident left him badly damaged.  He now has to go to the toilet using a remote control, which he carries in his pocket. (No, I didn’t make that up.)

These topics are just the tip of the iceberg in the book Gruesome Facts.  So, if you ever wanted to know why the Romans used to have vomitoriums, or why the people in northeast England hung a monkey, then this book is for you. You can find a new copy of Gruesome Facts at your local Half Price Books this Halloween season.  And if you make jellied moose nose for your Halloween party, please don’t invite me. – Julie

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