Books Authors Read with Leanne Vogel

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Editor’s Note: We are pleased to welcome Leanne to not one, but TWO of our Texas locations this week. She’ll stop by our Montrose location in Houston on Saturday, April 15 at 2 p.m. and our North Lamar location in Austin on Monday, April 17 at 7 p.m. to discuss her new book, The Keto Diet (April 11). Hope to see you there! In the meantime, we asked Leanne to share some of her favorite books with us in our Books Authors Read blog series – enjoy!

Surprisingly, I’m not much for books about food. You’d think with my line of work that I’d be into all of the hot nutrition topics, but it’s the exact opposite – when I have time to carve out of my day, the last thing I want to do is read about more food. I’m a sucker for an inspirational biography, self-help books,and short business boosting books that are guaranteed to light a fire in my entrepreneurial belly. Also, I have a soft place for apocalyptic and war novels.

The Universe Has Your Back by Garbrielle Bernstein_Half Price BooksThe Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
I found Gabby’s work shortly after I quit my full-time gig and moved across the country with my husband (then boyfriend). I was eager for inspiration and a healthy dose of positivity when a colleague recommended Gabby’s book, Spirit Junkie. After reading, it set me on a path of looking at the world in a very different way, leading me to write my first self-published book, travel to New York to study photography and boost my confidence. I’ve read all of Gabby’s books and The Universe Has Your Back is by far my favorite. It was there for me as I finished my paperback, reminding me to stay present, positive, hopeful and grounded. I couldn’t have finished the last round of edits without her solid advice and guidance leading me through. Continue reading

Books Authors Read with Omar El Akkad

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Editor’s Note: We’ve been looking forward to the release of Omar El Akkad’s new book, American War (available April 4), so we were thrilled when he offered to share some of his favorite reads from the past year. Enjoy!

My reading list this year has been wildly varied, in large part because one of the chief perks of loitering on the outskirts of the publishing industry is the ability to swipe advance copies of upcoming novels. Having no self-discipline when it comes to such matters, I have, in the past few months, nabbed every book I could get my hands on.

These are ten of the most interesting books I’ve read this year. Some are older titles I stumbled on serendipitously, but most are either newly released or will be coming out soon.

Sin_Selected Poems of Forugh FarrokhzadSin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad
Iran’s stunningly gifted poet died too young, at 32. But in her brief career she breathed life into the country’s modernist movement, eschewing a long tradition of poetic conservatism in favor of frank explorations of sexuality and powerful indictments of bureaucratic oppression. Sin is a beautiful cross-section of her work, and translator Sholeh Wolpe does an outstanding job of keeping the fire of the original text alight.

Ernest Hemingway_A BiographyErnest Hemingway: A Biography by Mary V. Dearborn
Regardless how you feel about Hemingway’s work, Mary Dearborn’s fascinating new biography is an enthralling chronicle of the writer’s life. The book presents an intimate, immensely well-researched portrait of a man who, capable of immense acts of literary and personal grandeur, eventually falls prey to his own myth-making. This book is set to hit shelves May 16.

SpoilsSpoils by Brian Van Reet
Ironically, given the title of my debut novel, I honestly don’t like war stories that much – or at least not ones about contemporary wars. But Spoils is the rare exception. Set in Iraq and telling the dual stories of a captured U.S. soldier and a disillusioned jihadist, it’s a wondrously nuanced book. Van Reet offers none of the bang-bang breathlessness that so often accompanies contemporary descriptions of war. Instead, there is something deeply human here – a story concerned first and foremost with the souls of those who find themselves protagonists in history’s darkest chapters. This book is set to hit shelves April 18. Continue reading

Books Authors Read with Priya Krishna

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Unsurprisingly, I read a lot of books about food. But I also love memoirs. And children’s books. And, strangely enough, accessible tomes on international politics.

On the Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu 

I love carbohydrates in all forms, and this is a book of back-to-back vivid descriptions of said carbohydrates in many varied, delicious forms. This book is about one woman’s journey through China, Central Asia and Italy to learn the origins of the noodle. However, by the end of the book, I didn’t really care where the noodle came from. I just wanted to eat noodles. The book is entertaining and accessible, and Jen Lin-Liu elevates these humble noodle dishes from all across the world with her really rich sense of storytelling. Expect to eat a bowl of noodles after every reading session.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is awkward and cool and rocks at Scrabble. Even more than her really profound analyses of feminist representations in media and entertainment, my favorite parts of this book are when she trash talks her Scrabble competitors. I hope one day to meet Roxane Gay over Scrabble and discuss her thoughts on feminist representations in Disney Channel Original Movies.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

One of New Year’s resolutions was to identify people that inspired me and email them to talk about how they became the awesome people that they are. I don’t have Amy Poehler’s email address, so instead I treat Yes, Please as an elaborate and long conversation I had with Amy Poehler over tea. She’s a fiercely-smart writer who wants to do everything and sacrifice nothing and she’s killing it. I love reading about her children, her work life, and her awkward teen years. #LongLiveLeslieKnope

World Out of Balance by Stephen G Brooks and William Curti Wohlforth

I did debate in high school, majored in government in college, and I often find international politics EQUALLY as interesting as food. In fact, my original career plans included joining the foreign service and authoring several papers on world politics.  I have read this book maybe 20 times. It was co-written by my college major advisor, who is one of the most brilliant minds in international relations and had killer braces when I first took one of his classes. If you want to read an accessible book about government that won’t bore you to tears and also be able speak intelligently about the United States’ place in the international system, World Out of Balance is a winner. I have kept my edition of the book since high school.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

I LOVE CHILDREN’S BOOKS. Like children’s movies, the plot is always so seemingly straightforward yet rife with meaning. This is a book about a really, really cute kid who loves to hug everything—mailboxes, cars, animals—he even has a checklist. It is about the simple things in life that make all the difference, and it is also about inclusivity! He hugs a porcupine! And a snake! And a hydrant! Have you bought this book yet?!?

Priya Krishna is the author of the cookbook Ultimate Dining Hall Hack.

You may visit her online or follow her on Twitter @PKgourmet.

Books Authors Read with Matt Kepnes

There’s nothing more inspirational than a well-written travel book. It can fill you with awe, wonder, and wanderlust. Books make those 10-hour bus rides through Laos more bearable. They get us excited for new destinations and can change our world view. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but my goal this year is to read one book a week (if not more). I go through fits and starts with reading. I’ll read a book or two a week and then won’t pick up another for months. This year I want to be more consistent.

As we make our way through the new year (where did January?), I wanted to share some of my favorite recent reads. These books will inspire, teach, and maybe change your habits so without further ado, the books:

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden

 Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest JailRecommended to me by a reader of this blog, Marching Powder tells the true story of Thomas McFadden and his time in San Pedro prison in Bolivia. McFadden was an English drug trafficker who ended up in jail after an official he was bribing double-crossed him. While it wasn’t the best-written book I read last year, the storyline is what makes this one of my favorite recent reads. In the book, you learn about life in a prison where inmates bought their own cells (which created a huge class system), made their own drugs (to be sold on the streets), bribed cops, and developed an economy filled with shops, elected officials, and neighborhoods. Rich prisoners were even allowed to leave with a prison escort. McFadden also started leading tours through the prison during his incarceration (they even ended up in Lonely Planet) to backpackers (who for the right price could also stay the night). This is not a story of redemption. It’s one about life in one of the most corrupt prisons in the world. The book is now being made into a movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor from 12 Years a Slave.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

 Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S. )Before Anthony Bourdain roamed the world without reservations or to places unknown, he was a chef clawing his way through the kitchens of New York City. This book (his first one) is a very well written insider’s account of the restaurant industry. True to form, Bourdain is crass, vulgar, and doesn’t hold anything back. You learn about the drug use in kitchens, the fast pace and dog-eat-dog world of the restaurant business, staff loyalty to chefs (kitchen staff follow the chefs they like), and why there are some foods you should just never order. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. I always enjoy his work, so it was nice to read about his rise to fame. This book was a very fun and interesting read. You’ll never look at restaurants the same way again.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessWhile this book has nothing to do with travel, it is a wonderfully researched account of how we form habits. Why do we do what we do? Are we hard wired to repeat habits, even when they are bad? How do we break bad habits and form good ones? I read this towards the end of 2014 and it really impacted my life, which is why it is making this book list. We should strive to be better people than we were yesterday. What makes great people so great? They work at it. I believe in self-improvement because being better people makes us better travelers. This bestselling book discusses how we form habits and gives specific strategies about how to break bad habits and start good ones. This book definitely made me rethink many of my habits and is part of the reason why I decided to read more. (For example, I replaced my before-bed TV catch-up time with reading time!)

Choose Yourself! by James Altucher

Choose Yourself!I became friends with James a few years ago at a mastermind conference I was speaking at in Toronto. He’s an amazing, quirky guy who’s started dozens of finance and tech companies, consulted for the likes of Twitter, made millions, lost millions, and made millions again. His book is about how the new economy has made it easier for people to become their own bosses and put their happiness first. The old economy is rigged, he says. Companies treat workers like an expense, won’t rehire in the new post-financial crisis, and provide very little opportunity for financial independence. Unless you take it upon yourself to choose yourself (i.e. break out of the system and find ways to be independent), you’ll end up in a dead-end job or downsized into oblivion. From tips on starting your own business to advice on picking up a new skill or just figuring out what makes you happy and doing more of that, Choose Yourself is an uplifting book with practical resources on becoming your own boss and taking control of your life.

Turn right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a TimeThis book recounts Adams’ tale of roughing it through Peru in search of little-visited Inca ruins and ancient cities with a surly Indiana Jones-type Australian guide. While most tourists stick to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail, Adams goes everywhere else, tracing the Incas’ flight into the Andes Mountains after the Spanish invaded their empire. He discovers just how much there is to see in Peru that tourists never visit. In a country filled with Inca ruins, many are still unexcavated and have few tourists. It’s one of best-written tales I read last year and opened me up to a whole new understanding of the Incas. There was a lot about Peru I didn’t know and now I’m even more excited to visit the country someday, follow Adams’ footsteps, and get off the beaten path! I highly recommend you pick this book up.

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald

Holy Cow: An Indian AdventureJournalist Sarah MacDonald writes about her experience moving to India to follow her boyfriend, despite vowing never to return after a visit a few years before (she hated India after her first visit). The book is well written and funny, and features amazing insights into Indian culture and its differences from the West – from family, marriage, and dating to class breakdowns, Sarah shares a lot about her time in the country. In a way, it’s the classic fish-out-of-water tale, but it reminded me of my own experience living in Thailand and having to adapt to Thai culture. I couldn’t put this book down and enjoyed her account of culture shock and how India broke down her preconceived notions of Western versus Indian values. It allowed her to appreciate the best of both worlds.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite RunnerI first read this book when it came out in 2003 but after recently rummaging through my book collection at my parents’ house, I picked it up again. The book follows the story of Amir, a wealthy Afghan kid who escapes with his family during the Soviet invasion, grows up in America, and eventually goes back to Afghanistan during Taliban rule to save his friend’s son. Though I read it many years ago, it remains one of my favorite books of all time. Re-reading it made me realize why it was such a phenomenon – it’s beautifully and vividly written with strong characters and a powerful story about grief, guilt, and redemption. Hosseini’s follow up, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is just as powerful. If you’ve never read his works, do so.

 

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World HistoryWhile dense, this book was surprisingly incredibly fascinating. It traces the history of salt and its importance to civilization, ancient empires, and how we were able to explore the world. It’s filled with quirky facts that make you realize how much of our world was influenced by salt. For example, to be “worth one’s salt” means to be worth one’s pay: the word “salary” comes from the Latin word for salt (sal). Ancient Romans and soldiers were often paid in salt since it was so valuable. Salt was recommended to me by a number of my friends and it was one of the most fascinating books I read last year. It’s important to know about the world – you can’t understand a place if you don’t understand its past, and this book will explain a lot of the past to you. I liked it so much, I picked up his follow-up book, Cod (about how cod changed the world).

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The AlchemistThis book is always on my Top Reads list. A story about following your dreams, this is one of the most widely read books in recent history. The story follows a young shepherd boy traveling from Spain to Egypt after he has a dream telling him he needs to get to Egypt. Along the way, he meets interesting people, learns to follow his heart, go with the flow, and love, and discovers the meaning of life. The book is filled with wonderful and inspirational quotes. My favorite is, “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man…Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.” A book about following your dreams is perfect for travelers because we certainly are dreamers. I’ve read this book multiple times – it always inspires me to enjoy life and dream more.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into ValuesOriginally published in 1974, this book has been a classic hit since its release and was a long overdue read for me. I’ve heard people talk about it for years, and it’s highly recommended by Tim Ferriss, another voracious reader I respect. The book follows a father and his young son during a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest. The tale addresses love, growth, discovery, and the meaning of existence. It is one of those deep books that uses travel as a backdrop to make us question why we do what we do, what makes us happy, and how we can be happier. Like The Alchemist, this is an uplifting and inspirational story that makes you want to turn your dreams into a reality. It makes you want to get out there and explore the world, and that’s a message I can always get behind!

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the WildThis book (which inspired the excellent movie of the same name) follows Christopher McCandless after he graduates from college, donates his savings to charity, and sets off across the United States in search of a deeper meaning to life. Sadly, he was tragically found dead by hikers in Alaska after mistakenly eating the wrong type of berries. Not much is known is about his time on the road – McCandless used an alias while traveling (Alexander Supertramp). Krakauer tries to fill in the blanks by using McCandless’ diary and interviewing the few people he met on the road. Much of the book is pure speculation. Regardless, it’s an inspirational story about breaking the mold, following your dreams, and living a more meaningful life (notice a theme on this year’s best books list?!).

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

Almost French: Love and a New Life in ParisI like all books about people who fall in love with Paris, so when this came up in Amazon as a suggested read, I immediately bought it up and wasn’t disappointed. Sarah Turnbull’s visit to the City of Light was supposed to last a week, but she ends up staying permanently with the guy she had traveled to Paris to visit (Paris has that effect on people). This book follows Turnbull’s life in the city as she navigates the highs and lows of trying to fit into a foreign culture while slowly falling more and more in love with it. Its a fish-out-of-water tale and clichéd at many times, but it offers lessons on embracing life in a foreign culture that will never really accept you as one of its own. Funny and witty, I found it to be a fun pager turner. It’s light read so it won’t take long to finish.

As am I reading a lot more this year, I thought it would be fun to start a travel book club. Once a month, I’ll be featuring about five amazing books – some oldies, some recent reads – covering travel, history, fiction, and anything else I think you might enjoy! So, if you want reading suggestions, just click on the big yellow button below and come join the 1,000 people already reading more great books!

This was originally published February 2, 2015 on Matt Kepnes’ travel blog Nomadic Matt.

You may visit him online or follow him on Twitter @nomadicmatt.

Matt Kepnes is the Ney York Times bestselling author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.

Books Authors Read with Katy Evans

As a writer of contemporary romance, I will read anything – anything – with romance in it. From classics to modern day romances, these are some of my most favorite reads which have stayed with me for decades.

Tryst by Elswyth Thane

This book is haunting in the best way. It is beautiful, unexpected, the love story between a young girl and a boy who may, or may not, be coming back to the house her family is renting. Between its lovely descriptions, the young couples’ love bound by the supernatural, this is the sweetest, loveliest ghost story I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë 

Like any romance writer, I like my heroes hot and preferably brooding, and that’s exactly what Heathcliff is. The ultimate brooding hero—borderline villain, Heathcliff stole my heart twenty years ago when I first read this book and to this day, Wuthering Heights continues to be one of my favorite love stories. Once again, there’s a supernatural element here that turns what could have been a regular star-crossed-lovers romance into something beyond everlasting. A must, must read classic.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you haven’t lived well if you haven’t met Mr. Darcy! The sometimes infuriating, sometimes charming, always impossibly attractive Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice has been stealing readers’ hearts for ages, and the same can be said for his lady, one of my most beloved heroines, Elizabeth Bennett. This book will not only amuse you, but it will tug at every romantic bone in your body and pull your heartstrings too. If you haven’t done so already, I do think it’s time you met Mr. Darcy!

Remembrance by Jude Deveraux

Jude Deveraux is one of my favorite authors and among the very first I ever read. Although I loved A Knight In Shining Armor and all of her historicals, this book stands out as my favorite. It touches upon the subject of reincarnation, and we find ourselves reading about a pair of star-crossed lovers during different lifetimes. It is a captivating, imaginative, original, beautiful read that just thinking about makes me want to read again.

Something Wonderful by Judith McNaught

I have loved every single Judith McNaught book I have ever read. From Perfect to her historicals, she’s an amazing writer and one who has given me countless hours of enjoyment ever since I was a voracious little reader at fifteen. But there is something extra special about this book—I love the sassy, strong heroine, the strong alpha hero, the circumstances that both keep them apart and pull them together, and the lingering feeling of hope that it left me with. This is the sort of read you close with a deep, delicious sigh and then open back up to page one, because you want to experience it all over again, it’s just that wonderful.

Katy Evans is the New York Times bestselling author of the REAL series. Her latest novel, Manwhore is set to hit a bookshelf near you, March 24, 2015.

You may visit her online or follow her on Twitter @authorkatyevans.

Books Authors Read with Philip Siegel

Young Adult author Philip Siegel stopped by the Dallas Flagship Half Price Books back in July as part of the Mighty Mississippi Book Blast tour and is one of the 12 fabulous authors featured in the 2015 Half Price Books – Books Authors Read calendar (which can be yours with a $30 HPB purchase! or bought for $2.99). Check out Philip’s suggestions and pick up your calendar today!


I’ve always had varied tastes in books. I love reading non-fiction as much as fast-paced YA fiction as much as sprawling general fiction. It’s good to diversify your reading, especially if you write, too. Soaking in those different author voices will help craft your own unique voice. Here are some books that I just plain LOVE, and if we ever meet in person, I’ll probably recommend them to you, too.

1) The Duff by Kody Keplinger. This book spoke to me, not just because I was (and let’s face it, still am) the fat friend. I love the mix of truthful writing, soapiness, romance, and humor in the writing. Keplinger’s books have a warm, lived-in aura to them that remind me of shows I used to watch on The WB growing up. (Dawson’s Creek, Felicity) I’ve made at least three of my friends read this novel, and whenever I’m asked for a YA recommendation, The Duff instantly comes to mind.

2) The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. I remember I found this book at a garage sale in high school and was so excited to read it. At the time, I had an obsession with the 80s and New York society. I had never read such a long book, nor such an adult book. The Bonfire of the Vanities is a searing and hilarious account of race and class in a pre-Giuliani New York. Tom Wolfe writes books with a journalistic eye, getting down every character tic and cultural detail. His books are sprawling epics that take you inside specific environments: New York in the 80s, Atlanta in the 90s, college campuses, Miami of the ‘10s. For me, a Tom Wolfe book is an event, not just because he only publishes about once a decade.

3) The Tipping Point/Outliers/Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I’m cheating and putting these books as one because I can’t choose my favorite. They’re all fascinating, eye-opening examinations of human behavior. How does something become a fad? Why do some people succeed while others fall short? How do we make decisions? What makes these books so much more than research findings is Gladwell’s spunky writing. He’s not only giving you the facts; he’s telling you a story. He makes these topics come alive. You can feel his excitement leap off the page. Years after reading these books, I can still remember the case studies.

4) Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I know I’m not alone in loving this book, but it delivers. It delivers so hard. The twisty plot, the hyper-smart characters, the settings. I will never get the image of people sleeping in an abandoned mall out of my head. This book kept me turning pages, kept me glued to my subway seat, and blew my mind about fifteen different times. And Amy’s tirade against being “the cool girl” is worth a reread.

5) The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. I can honestly say this book changed my life. The authors write about the truly wealthy people in America, and they’re not doctors driving BMW’s to their McMansions. They’re your unassuming neighbors next door who drive a modest car, live in a modest house, and wear non-designer clothes. The book gives countless examples about the importance of living below your means, not trying to keep up with the Joneses, and investing wisely – all lessons to live by. Never again will you be impressed by your friend’s flashy new purchase.

Philip is the author of The Break-Up Artist.

Visit him online or follow him on Twitter @FillupSeagull.

Books Authors Read with Ryan Graudin

Young Adult author Ryan Graudin visited with her fans at the Dallas Flagship Half Price Books back in July as part of the Mighty Mississippi Book Blast tour. In honor of her brand new book, The Walled City, we thought this would be a great time to hear about some of Ryan’s favorite books. Take it away, Ryan!


1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor.

As a former English major and a writer, I’ve read a lot of books. Books, books, books and more books. And while I love reading, the unfortunate side effect is that it becomes harder and harder for me to find a story I can get completely lost in. As soon as I picked up DoSaB I was swept away by Taylor’s beautiful language (to call it poetic hardly does her writing justice), her phenomenal worldbuilding and her hilarious, endearing characters. There’s magic and romance, angels and teeth, feisty best friends, tragedy on the most heartbreaking of scales. The overall series itself is a feat in character and plot arcs that I can only hope to come close to one day.

2. T.S. Eliot Collected Poems 1909-1962 by T.S. Eliot.

Eliot is one of my all time favorite poets. The way he evokes emotion with just a few images and lines has always floored me. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Hollow Men and Journey of the Magi are good (shorter) poems to introduce you to his style. Reading this volume is always such a cathartic experience. And shows me (again and again) how to make a reader feel an emotion without expressly defining it.

3. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

This is a hefty, yet masterful volume. It is an alternative history set in 1808 about a British society where magicians and fairies are commonplace. The book is a feat of seamless research and flawless worldbuilding on an epic scale. Clarke also employs the use of footnotes quite heavily, which lends to the scholarly feel of the novel.

4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Do you want your heart torn out of your chest and stomped to bloody bits? This is the book for you. Just kidding. Kind of. (Not really.) This book is about WW2 Germany and the Holocaust told from Death’s point of view, so it really doesn’t hold back any punches. It is meaningful and heartbreaking. It will change the way you look at life and the relationships around you.

5. I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Sloan was a screenwriter before she ever wrote her debut novel, and her command of story structure shines through in I’ll Be There. The novel follows Sam and his younger brother Riddle as they struggle to survive life with their criminally insane on-the-run father. The story is masterfully braided and shows how each character’s decision impacts the other. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

Ryan is the Young Adult author of All That Glows and The Walled City.

Visit her online or follow her on Twitter @RyanGraudin.

Books Authors Read with Sophie Kinsella

We continue our “Books Authors Read” series with Sophie Kinsella. Sophie is the best-selling author of the Shopaholic series. Her latest novel, Shopaholic to the Stars, is available at your local HPB today in the new arrivals section. Sophie loves a good book that make for a great film. Enjoy some of her favorite reads! – Emily


Hollywood and the publishing world are irrevocably intertwined these days. After all, a book and a film are just two ways of telling a story; two forms of entertainment; two ways to connect with an audience. But they are very different forms. A novel is essentially one single person’s creation with one name on the cover, whereas a film is the ultimate example of team-work, with about 6,000 people named in the credits. (OK, I exaggerate!) A lot can fall through the gaps as books move from the page to screen. So to find novels that you loved – AND loved the movie version – this can be rare. But here are five that worked for me…

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I am a huge Dickens fan. His storytelling takes your breath away – and the characters! The names! There is such comedy and drama and pace in any Dickens novel that you wonder how any film can do justice to the original. And then you see David Lean’s Great Expectations, and you sink back and wallow. 

2. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

This book is very, very funny. It made me laugh out loud on many occasions when I read it – and it does so again whenever I subsequently read it. The main character, Rob, is so hopeless and honest, you can’t help rooting for him and his friends. He’s a bit stuck in life, trying to work out what it’s all about and defining his life through lists. Mainly lists of songs. I worried again that no film would be able to bring his idiosyncratic character to life, but John Cusack was perfect and the whole movie felt true.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

This was the first Harry Potter book I read. I absolutely loved it, immediately read the previous books and became an avid fan, waiting for new releases as eagerly as my children. I hoped and prayed that the films would be wonderful, and I really think they are. They are so faithful to both the detail and spirit of the books. I particularly like this one because of the neatness of the plot.

4. Atonement by Ian McEwan

This is such a powerful, atmospheric book, full of big ideas and a riveting plot. There is everything in this book, from love to class to war, and of course, guilt as a driving emotion. I lapped it up as soon as it came out, and went to see the movie too, which I thought was quite brilliant.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

What can one say? It’s a classic tale which moves and charms and inspires new thoughts every time you read it. I now enjoy it through my children reading it and discussing it. And when they ask, “Is there a movie?” I don’t frown and say “Read the book!” but instead: “Yes there is, and that’s a classic, too.”

Sophie Kinsella is an English novelist known for her Shopaholic series. Her two best-selling novels, The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic and Shopaholic Abroad were adapted into a film in 2009 entitled Confessions of a Shopaholic. Visit her online or follow her on Twitter @KinsellaSophie.

Books Authors Read with Matt Bondurant

We’re in the midst of celebrating Literacy Month here at Half Price Books. One of the great literacy organizations we support is right here in our hometown of Dallas – Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT). LIFT will hold their annual fundraiser, A Toast to Literacy, next Thursday, Sept. 18, which will feature a keynote speech from author Matt Bondurant, so we thought there was no better time to hear about some of the books Matt loves. Take it away, Matt!

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This sort of question is a difficult one for a serious reader, not just a writer. I’m going to try and focus on books that made an indelible impression on me as a writer, from different periods of my life. I’m also trying to avoid the standard or canonical great books that of course shaped me as a writer and human.   

The Journals of John Cheever, by John Cheever

I was getting a master’s degree in literature when I decided to take a fiction workshop.  At this point I had no real intention of being a writer. The instructor recommended Cheever to me, and I immediately read all the short stories and fell in love with Cheever’s writing. But the journals were a revelation; such personal, elegant, trenchant, and heartbreaking writing, done on a daily basis, revealing the state of mind of one of the great American prose stylists. I carried it with me everywhere for several years, nearly every page dog-eared and marked up. My last novel, The Night Swimmer, is in essence an homage to Cheever. In terms of style, tone, and general depiction, Cheever is always my pole star, my guide, my champion.  

London Fields, by Martin Amis

I also found Martin Amis at an early stage when I was beginning to pivot from a scholarly career in literature to fiction writing. I still find Amis’ writing to be mesmerizing, from the catalogues of grit and filth, the hilarity of human greed, gluttony, and hubris, to the intellectual puzzles and narrative tricks. He was my introduction to the postmodernism of contemporary English novelists and still ranks among the best. My first novel, The Third Translation, was basically an attempt to conjoin my love of London, Egyptology, and the writing of Martin Amis. I unapologetically emulated his work – with dubious success.

Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson

Anderson is one of the great unacknowledged prose masters of the 20th century, who probably did more than anyone to develop what is known as the 20th century American style.  In Winesburg, Ohio Anderson probed the dark spaces of small lives in a small town. The ardent desires, thwarted dreams, and how these things expressed themselves outwardly, physically, creating “grotesques,” is something I’ve always worked with in my writing. The structure of the book was also revelatory; having a series of connected characters working through the “hub” character of George Willard gives the book balance and an organic architecture. My second novel, The Wettest County in the World, follows this model, and Sherwood Anderson is actually a principal character in the book. It was like a dream to inhabit him in this way, one of my heroes, and its fair to say that everything I do is influenced by Winesburg, Ohio.   

The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers

This is another book in which the structure and arrangement had an effect on my writing.  The way McCullers worked with the various perspectives, getting into the interior lives of these very different people, still astonishes me. She handles her characters with such sincerity and sensitivity that for me this is a profoundly emotional book. Since then I have searched for the same kind of attachment in my own work. I want to touch people in the way McCullers touched me, deeply and with lasting effect. I can just think about Singer and his loneliness, Mick and her clumsy coming of age, the quiet desperation of Brannon, and I am moved to tears. It may be my most re-read book.   

Journey to the End of the Night, by Louis-Ferdinand Celine

I was living in Paris in my mid-twenties when I came across Celine. A French Literature scholar remarked than anyone doing scholarly work on Celine must be completely insane. Of course then I had to read it. I found a paperback copy of Journey to the End of the Night at the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore and read it while sitting in various parks. I had no idea you could do the sorts of things Celine did, so vicious, dirty, crude, depraved, but intellectual and hilarious. I’ve always strived for that kind of spirit and momentum in my work. I’ve never been as depraved or funny as Celine, but I’m trying. 

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Matt Bondurant is an American novelist known for his historical fiction, Wettest County in the World, adapted into a film in 2012 entitled Lawless. His latest novel is The Night Swimmer. Follow him on Twitter @mbondurant.

 

Books Authors Read with Julie Murphy

Awesome YA author Julie Murphy and some of her awesome author friends stopped by our Dallas Flagship store back in July as part of the Mighty Mississippi Book Blast tour – it was a packed house! We asked Julie to share with us some of her favorite reads in another edition of “Books Authors Read.” (And don’t forget to look for Julie’s book, Side Effects May Vary!) – Emily

I think the best writers are eclectic readers. I love pulling inspiration from all kinds of books to make my own sort of patchwork signature. It takes a lot for me to fall in love with a book, and when I do, I am absolutely evangelical about it. Without further ado, these are the books I just can’t shut up about:

1. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King – My favorite thing about this book is the way it’s pieced together. We know Vera’s best friend, Charlie, is dead, but the mystery of his death is unraveled slowly as we learn about their loaded past. Every relationship in the book is so layered and authentic. Not to mention that I’m a sucker for multiple narrations. This one’s got Vera, Charlie, Vera’s dad, and even the town Pagoda telling different sides of the story.

2. Life by Committee by Corey Ann HayduLife by Committee is one of my favorite books of the year. It’s so different from anything out there with a main character that makes real mistakes. Not to mention the idea of this secret online group serving and guiding your every decision is fresh and relevant. Go for the concept. Stay for the deft character development.

3. One Day by David Nicholls – This is a book I could read over and over again. The story stretches over twenty years, visiting the two protagonists on July 15th of every year. I’m not usually a fan of long timelines, but the structure of the novel keeps me reading every time. Not to mention that the chemistry between the two characters is so tragically perfect. Think Andie and Duckie from Pretty in Pink!  

4. Election by Tom Perrotta – Tom Perrotta is all over the place right now with his HBO adaptation of The Leftovers. I’m a huge fan of the book and am enjoying the show so far, but if you’ve never read any Perrotta, you’ve got to start with Election! It is dark (and I mean dark) comedy at its finest. I’d be remiss to mention Perrotta without saying that his body of work has been a huge inspiration for me. Note: The film adaptation of election starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon is completely worthy—after reading the book first, of course!

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – If this book doesn’t squeeze a few tears from you, I’ll be left wondering if real human blood runs through your veins. Me Before You is one of those books you can’t talk too much about without giving anything away, so I’ll just say that this unlikely friendship isn’t one I’ll soon forget.

6. Stiff by Mary Roach – I’ve always had a morbid curiosity concerning the anatomy of death. In Stiff, Mary Roach dares to ask the questions we all wonder but are too timid to investigate. I love how this book addresses such a complex and touchy subject in simple and humorous terms without being irreverent. A must read for everyone, but especially for those former cemetery obsessed goth geeks and fans of Six Feet Under—my people!

7. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu – Like I’ve already said, multiple narrators are a total sweet spot, but this one has the added benefit of a rich southern setting and Mathieu’s crisp prose. Each narrator offers a different version of what happened on the night Alice supposedly slept with two boys, one of which was killed in a car accident soon after. Everyone thinks they know the truth, except, in the end, it’s the reader who’s left with all the puzzle pieces and the actual truth about Alice.

Julie Murphy is the author of Side Effects May Vary.

You may visit her online or follow her on Twitter @andimJULIE.