Behind the Book: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

What do you get when you mix Scooby-Doo and Stranger Things together? Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. It’s a rare gem of a book, having a perfect blend of mystery, humor, intrigue and wit.  In Meddling Kids, a teenage detective group reunites over ten years later when suspecting that a long-solved case may not have been solved after all. So begins the descent into the nightmares that have haunted them all since they were teenagers. The monsters from their nightmares come alive and this time they have to solve the case for real. We caught up with Edgar to find out more about the book, his writing process and what will be coming up next from him.

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Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
 I remember jotting down ideas since I was a child- stuff I hoped to develop properly when I learned to draw comics or had my own cartoon show. I don’t know when I settled with just writing them in prose. Maybe at 17 or so, when I realized it was the easiest way to share them.

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
Easy one. I used to enjoy Enid Blyton’s child detective novels as a kid; I enjoyed the cosmic horror of Lovecraft & friends’ as a young adult; I wondered what would happen if those two genres clashed.

Do you have any rituals or anything special that you do while writing to get into the right mindset?
Not really. But both walking and showering help me figure out the first sentences. Since I moved to New York, I need to find a third ritual that doesn’t get me wet.

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Behind the Book: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

How to Walk Away is one of the most inspiring, hopeful and honest books I’ve ever read. And I read a LOT. I’m going to be completely honest here – when I first heard about this book, I didn’t want to read it. The premise seemed very depressing. There’s enough sad things going on in the real world. But I kept hearing that this book was the opposite of tragic, so I finally decided to try it out. This story is so refreshing – which, given the content, is quite an achievement! After finishing this book, I just had to know about Katherine’s writing process and how she came to write the scene of the plane crash. And she was kind enough to share!

Want to learn even more about How to Walk Away from the author herself? Katherine will be joining us at our Flagship location in Dallas on Tuesday, May 22nd at 7 p.m.  to celebrate the release of her book with a signing. Be sure to join us for this exciting event!

Almost as soon as I knew that I was going to write a story about a plane crash, I knew that I would have to go up in a plane. Not a big, normal, commercial plane. A little plane. The kind where the only place to sit is in the cockpit. That was the kind of plane that was going to crash in my story, and I’d never been in one. If I was going write about it in an authentic way, I was going to have to fix that. Even though I have always been a little afraid of flying.

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I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that there’s a plane crash in How to Walk Away. It happens in chapter one. The story is not really about the crash itself—though it’s important. The story is much more about what happens after the crash—how that moment rips the characters’ lives into unexpected pieces, and how they put those pieces back together. That’s the kind of story I love the best—ones with characters who just refuse to give up.

Myself, I give up very easily. In most situations, I start with hopeless and work my way backwards. I have to talk myself into optimism. I have to look for reasons to be encouraged. Flying, for example, always seems pretty doomed to me. My sense of the odds is doggedly incorrect. I always think I have about a 75% chance of crashing on any flight. And for one of those tiny little all-cockpit planes? More like 95%. But if I wanted to write the story—and I really, really did—I had to brave it.

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Behind the Book: The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

As a lover of psychological thrillers, when I first heard the plot of The Perfect Mother I was intrigued. It’s the story of a mother’s group and one of the babies goes missing. Seems simple enough. But place this mother’s group in the middle of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and add the fact that the baby goes missing while the moms are out partying together and things start to get more interesting. As the police hunt for the baby, the reader sees the lives of each of the mothers in the group put on full display. Marriages and friendships are put to the test as secrets are revealed about each character. This thriller definitely delivers the thrills – and Kerry Washington agrees. She’s already signed up to both produce and star in the movie! We procured this Q&A with author Aimee Molloy to tell us a little more about the book.

The Perfect Mother

WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF THE PERFECT MOTHER?
After my first daughter was born in 2013, I signed up for September Babies, a new moms group in Brooklyn. I was a little skeptical about this initially, but the skepticism dissolved almost immediately. I had no family around to help and very little experience with infants. September Babies became my lifeline. Though some members met in person, most of our interaction was via a list serve—a place where people asked questions (Is this normal . . . ? Should I be worried . . . ? Will they ever sleep through the night?). I was blown away by the generosity and encouragement the members showed one another. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation, but I envisioned us—a relative group of strangers—as a tribe of women who had banded together, and the question occurred to me: what if, God forbid, one of our babies went missing? I could see the members of the group, black war paint under our eyes, torches in hand, combing the streets until the baby was found. I remember I was riding the subway, my daughter strapped to my chest, and I pulled out a notebook, jotting down notes on this idea. A few years later, those notes became The Perfect Mother.

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What Reader Type Are You? New Spring Reading Recs Matchmaker!

At Half Price Books, we know that all readers are different. Some scale the top of the bestseller list; others gravitate to rare tomes no one else has heard of (the dustier, the better). But what all readers share is a passion for books that isn’t easily satisfied. To discover which archetype, you are — and get some expert recs on the books you should read this Spring — take a look at our bookish guide to the best in bibliophiles!

THE HUNGRY, HUNGRY BOOKWORM

You’ve got at least five volumes on your bedside table and a mile-long literary wish list. Able to balance three (or more) reads at once, you never discriminate between fiction, non-fiction or biography—it’s all good. Their only quandary is, what to devour next? Our suggestions for the next page-turner await!

Circe by Madeline Miller – A modern twist on Greek mythology, the story of the goddess of magic is one of the most anticipated books of 2018.

Calypso by David Sedaris – The notable humorist delivers again with a beach read about a beach house, plus essays on middle age and mortality. On sale May 29, 2018.

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THE SLOW-SIMMER & SAVORER

You’re not afraid to pick up a book that’s 500 pages (or more). You gravitate to doorstop-sized nonfiction you’ll ponder and pour over for months and months. Never in a real hurry to finish – your motto is “quality, not quantity,” and a long, slow read satisfies you like no other. If this sounds familiar, check out these substantial histories and lofty fiction and nonfiction:

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker – Bill Gates’ “new favorite book,” this assessment of the modern human condition helps illustrate how humans can flourish with the help of reason and science.

The Overstory by Richard Powers – This magnificent literary fiction from a National Book Award-winning author tops out at 512 pages. It’s a passionate novel about activism and nature.

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THE BOOK COVER CRITIC

You’re distracted by bright and shiny graphics and curious titles. Elegant books are stylishly stacked on your coffee table, and great novels with eye-catching covers sit on your color-coded bookshelves. You know that style often leads to substance, and you’ll take a chance on an unknown author because “the cover is just so cool.” Discover some vibrant volumes ready to pop off the shelves and into your cart this spring!

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer – A striking, colorful cover might catch your eye. But inside you’ll find a charming novel about ambition, power and mentorship.

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman – Another piece of fiction that’s riding the trend of vibrant type-driven cover designs – This heartbreaking novel about family and loyalty just hit shelves.

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THE WATERCOOLER READER

If it’s the next [insert bestseller name], then you’re already three chapters in. You may not go for an obscure novella, but if the film rights were sold it’s on your shelf and your TBR list. Most likely to join a book club, you hate to miss on the next big thing, which is why these blockbuster bestsellers are what you’ve got your eye on this season:

Tangerine by Christine Mangan – Described by author Joyce Carol Oates, “As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock.” This tightly-wound debut is already slated to be a movie with Scarlett Johannson.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy – A book about a group of Brooklyn moms going to desperate lengths to find a missing child, this novel will soon be a major motion picture starring “Scandal” lead Kerry Washington.

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THE BOOK BINGER

Books are a little bit like potato chips — you can’t stop at just one! You love to explore alternate universes, and there’s no better way to do that than with a series. If it isn’t a trilogy, it isn’t worth starting, and you’ll often go right back to the beginning of a series for a full re-read before signing on to something new. If you haven’t yet discovered these classics, get ready to dive in!

The 17th Suspect (Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson – Let the suspense continue with this 17th in the Women’s Murder Club series. With bestselling author James Patterson, these are always riveting and binge-worthy.

Dark in Death (Book 46) by J.D. Robb – If you’re not already hooked, you’ve got 45 books to read first to get caught up on this series. This suspenseful, crime fiction novel and the entire In Death series is sure to please your ravenous appetite.

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THE ARMCHAIR PHILOSOPHER

First to get into a debate, you like to know about the issues and headline news of the day. Political and social nonfiction are your favorite food for thought, and you’re likely to loan your copies out afterwards to friends and family so they stay informed, too. Here’s what’s worth talking about for spring:

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership by James Comey – Seventh director of the FBI, James Comey, shares his never-before-told stories about his career in American government, covering topics of leadership and ethics.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil de Grasse Tyson – Arm yourself for cocktail parties with these witty, digestible bits about cosmology, the big bang and black holes. This book has remained on the bestseller list since its release – and for good reason.

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Kendall Morgan is a freelance copywriter at HPB Corporate. You can follow her on Twitter at @kinklek.

Ready Player One & What’s Next for Ernest Cline Fans

Editor’s Note: By now any serious movie buff has already seen the movie adaptation of Ready Player One, which hit theaters in March. At Half Price Books, we love movies too. But since we’re booklovin’ nerds at the core, we would like you encourage you to “READ THE MOVIE” – If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of the book and discover all the action-packed stuff they couldn’t fit into the 2 hour and 20 minute film. While you’re at it, join the HPB Book Club as we re-read this genre-busting, Easter-egg-filled novel by Ernest Cline.

If you’ve already read the book and watched the flick, then keep reading here! This staff review is just for you! Let’s turn it over to Becky embracing her geekiness as she talks about Ernest Cline, Ready Player One and his more recently-released novel, Armada.

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.readyplayer1

Which brings me to Ernest Cline.

I read his first bestseller, Ready Player One, when I heard all the buzz about 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.

“The grown-up’s Harry Potter… the mystery and fantasy in this novel weaves itself in the most delightful way, and the details that make up Mr. Cline’s world are simply astounding. Ready Player One has it all.” — Huffington Post

Cline’s second novel, Armada, 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.

“Nerd-gasmic… Armada is another science fiction tale with a Comic-Con’s worth of pop-culture shout-outs.” — Rolling Stone

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.”

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 Armada. It’s a great read for teens (with some language warnings for parents) 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.

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Photo of Ernest Cline, courtesy of Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ. CC BY-SA 2.0

I imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more from Ernie Cline in the future. According to sources, there’s a yet-untitled Ready Player One sequel in the works and the acclaimed Steven Spielberg will direct it too.

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

Becky is Marketing Communications Manager at Half Price Books Corporate. You can follow her on Twitter at @bexican75.

2001: A Reevaluation Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is a masterpiece. But here’s the thing: masterpieces aren’t for everyone.

As the resident sci-fi nerd around here, I was asked to write something about 2001 for its 50th anniversary on April 2. At first, I had no idea what to say. I’ve always had an appreciation for the film, but I’ve never liked it. For me, it’s a painfully slow movie–all brains and no heart.

I also had trouble remembering anything but its most iconic moments; I’ve only seen it once or twice–and the last time was at least a decade ago. So here’s what I decided to do: I’d watch it again and take notes throughout. I was curious to see how my opinions changed (if at all) through the course of watching it. Were the boring parts still boring? Would I care for any of the characters this time? Would I know what the hell was going on?

This isn’t intended as an MST3K riff or anything–though you can tell where my attention started to wander. If you’re interested, there’s a time marker for my notes so you can play along at home. So without further ado, here’s my odyssey of revisiting 2001.

[0:21] Black screen and dissonant music. Stanley Kubrick knew how to put you on edge.

[1:24] Fun fact: if you start this movie with the sound off and play Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, they don’t sync up whatsoever.

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[2:33] And the dawn of the fast-forward button.

[4:13] I won’t skip the apes part…I won’t skip the apes part…

[7:38] Forgot there were two tribes of apes at odds with each other.

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Money, Money, Money: 10 Books That Help Kids Learn Early

During tax season, we often find ourselves crunching numbers and thinking about our savings. If you’re a parent or grandparent, or even a spectacular aunt or uncle, seize this moment to talk to the littles in your life about money.

Preschool is the time to introduce the basic concepts of earning, spending, budgeting and saving. Ages 3-6 is not too early to lay a foundation of frugal thinking before your kid’s elementary school teacher beats you to it. Most states teach some lessons on personal finance in the classroom during K-12, but you can get a jumpstart on these valuable lessons by incorporating these whimsical children’s books into storytime at home.

161103_GAL_Books_BunnyMoneyBunny Money by Rosemary Wells – This picture book for 3 to 6-year-olds, part of the bestselling Max and Ruby series, teaches a lesson in budgeting. These two bunnies have saved up money for Grandma’s birthday gift, but they stumble along the way when they get thirsty and hungry and their savings are spent.

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Behind the Book: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Editor’s Note from Kristen Beverly, HPB Buyer:

I was on a phone call with booksellers from across the country when someone said, “Have any of you read The Astonishing Color of After? I just read the first 50 pages and it’s phenomenal. You haaave to read it!” So, I went home that night, picked it up and thus began my love affair with this book. I was so enraptured by Emily X.R. Pan’s writing that I read the entire thing in two mind-blowing days. The story starts out with the main character’s mother appearing to her as a red bird. I had the opportunity to meet Emily earlier this year at a bookseller’s conference. The first thing I asked her was, “Where exactly did the inspiration for that red bird come from?” Apparently, I’m not the only one who wondered. Here’s the scoop from Emily herself – the story behind the book.

astonishing-cover-debut-novelPeople like to ask me why the mother in my story turns into a bird. “Why this giant red bird, of all things?”

It’s a tricky question for me to answer, because I’m not totally certain of it myself. But I’ll try to make my best guess. To do that, I first need to tell you a bit about my story development process:

It’s like I’m sitting in a boat, out in the middle of the ocean, scanning the surface of the sea for pieces of wreckage that drift past. Those pieces might be characters, concepts, settings, plot twists — any tiny component of a story that has flitted into my consciousness at some point and then decided to stay.

That ocean is my brain. And sometimes it takes years for me to realize that a few specific pieces that have been floating around totally separately could actually come together in the most perfect and interesting way — and that’s when I finally sit down and begin writing the story.

So back to that bird. I’d always known that I wanted to write a story of a person transforming into a bird. I wasn’t sure of the circumstances. I just knew: At some point a human being was going to become a bird.

I started writing The Astonishing Color of After back in 2010. It had a different title, and a different cast of characters, and it definitely had no bird. I tried rewriting that story many different ways, in many different voices and even in different age categories. And it was literally years later that it occurred to me that instead of having the mother die by pneumonia and just be plain old dead…she could turn into a bird.

Not long after I started toying with that idea in my head, I lost my aunt to suicide. I couldn’t stop thinking about her death and its impact on my family. I couldn’t stop thinking about how easily that could’ve been my own mother, who struggles with many of the same things my aunt battled.

A long time after that, I sat down to rewrite the novel from scratch yet again, and the opening pages poured out. I knew that this was the story I had been trying to puzzle together all along.

At first, I couldn’t figure out the importance of the red bird. But later I realized why she was so crucial in this story. My Buddhist family taught me that after death comes a transition—whether that’s reincarnation, or a journey to a different place, or something else. That transition might take up to 49 days, and the spirit of the person might stay near us before the transition occurs. So the bird, I realized, was my way of clearly visualizing a spirit being stuck in that limbo.

When the book begins, the bird is still here in our human world, still tangible. She seems like she’s free. But she’s not. She’s waiting. The bird’s freedom comes only when the main character, her daughter Leigh, has figured out some very important things.

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Emily X.R. Pan is a debut young adult author who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @exrpan. Her debut YA novel The Astonishing Color of After is available in Half Price Books stores and online at HPB.com while supplies last.

 

Vocabulary Booster: Convivial, Defenestrate & 5 Other Words I Learned From Books I Read This Year

October 16 is the birthday of American teacher and lexicographer, Noah Webster, which consequentially makes it Dictionary Day.  Now, I will admit that looking up words in the dictionary is a great way to improve your vocabulary. Unfortunately, the dictionary can make for some dry reading, which is why most of the words I’ve learned have come from novels I have read.  Sometimes I can figure them out from context clues, but others require some help from Mr. Webster.  Here is a list of words I have learned from reading.

Impunity | /imˈpyo͞onədē/ | noun
I learned this word from Edgar Alan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, which I remember reading in the 7th Mr. Webster would define impunity as “freedom from punishment, harm or loss.” Though, I wonder if we asked Montresor if he truly punished Fortunato with impunity what he would say.

Copse | /käps/ | noun
I’m embarrassed to say that I learned this word not that long ago when reading The Swiss Family Robinson, by Johann Wyss. A co-worker told me it was their favorite book growing up, so I decided to read it.  I had seen the word in other books and glanced over it, always confusing it with the word corpse and so thought it meant a small graveyard.  However, Mr. Webster would define copse as “a thicket of small trees or shrubs,” which makes more sense, especially when I read it in Tami Hoag’s Cold Cold Heart later that same month. Continue reading

Best of 2015: HPB Staff Picks in Books, Movies & Music

As with any year, putting together a list of the best new releases is challenging because there is so much great work to recognize. This collection of HPB Staff Picks are the books, music and movies which inspired and entertained us in 2015. If you haven’t discovered these yet, we hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we did. Here they are, in no particular order:

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BOOKS // 1. Best Coloring Book (for Adults): Secret Garden Artist’s Edition by Johanna Basford / 2. Best LOL Biography: Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling / 3.  Best Literary Fiction to Cry Your Eyes Out Over: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara / 4. Best Edge-of-Your-Seat Mystery: Memory Man by David Baldacci / 5. Best Unexpected, Recently-Published 1950s Novel: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee / 6. Best Finale to a Series: Winter by Marissa Meyer / 7. Best Finger-Licking Good Recipes: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond / 8. Best Controversy-Stirring Nonfiction: Missoula by Jon Krakauer / 9. Best Euphorically-Geeky, Shout-Out-to-the-80s Science Fiction: Armada by Ernest Cline / 10. Best Historical Novel: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah / 11. Best Children’s Picture Book Grown-Ups Will Enjoy Reading Again & Again: The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin / 12. Best Impactful Middle Grade Novel: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan / 13. Best Brush-Up-On-Your-Manners Children’s Book: Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony (which technically was released on December 30, 2014 but we’re going to count it as a 2015 release) / 14. Best Pass-on-Your-Passion for Star Wars Graphic Novel: Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown / 15. Best Ghost Story: Slade House by David Mitchell / 16. Best Inspirational, Red-White-and-Blue American History Biography: Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice by Adam Makos / 17. Best Continuation of a Series by a New Author: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz / 18. Best Revelatory and Culture-Questioning Memoir: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates / 19. Best Start of a New Series: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard / 20. Best Infectiously Happy Bio: Wildflower by Drew Barrymore / 22. Best Impassioned and Thought-Provoking Memoir: Spinster by Kate Bolick / 22. Best Movie Tie-in Edition: The Martian by Andy Weir / 23. Best Dystopian Fantasy: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi / 24. Best Steamy Romance Fiction: Country by Danielle Steel / 25. Best Adventure-of-a-Lifetime Story: The Explorer’s Guild by Kevin Costner and Jon Baird  //  MOVIES // 26. Best Based-on-Real-Events Film: Selma, starring David Oyelowo / 27. Best Music-Rich, Unorthodox Biographical Film: Love & Mercy, starring John Cusack / 28. Best Feel-All-the-Feels Animated Movie for All Ages: Inside Out by Disney Pixar / 29. Best Weirdly-Wonderful Dark Comedy: Birdman, starring Michael Keaton / 30. Best Action-Packed-Dialogue Movie: Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin // MUSIC // 31. Best Playful-Surprise Alternative Rock Album: Star Wars by Wilco / 32. Best Throwback-to-Soul Album: Coming Home by Leon Bridges / 33. Best New Album of Old Standards: Shadows in the Night by Bob Dylan / 34. Best Powerhouse Vocalist Album: 25 by Adele / 35. Best Hauntingly-Beautiful Indie Folk Album: Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens.

What are your favorites from 2015? Did we overlook the best new book you read in 2015? We’d love to hear about your Best List in the comments below. Here’s to another fantastic year of literature, music and films in 2016! Happy New Year, booklovers!

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