HPB Celebrates Independent Bookstore Day

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day, Half Price Books salutes the many great independent bookstores around the country (and around the world)! We are proud to be part of a field that involves noble entrepreneurs, clerks and advisors who provide knowledge and entertainment—by way of books—to so many. Independent bookstores remain strong as centers of their community, fonts of wisdom and refuges in the age of instant gratification. Continue reading

Behind the Book: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Beautifully, exquisitely wrought, When We Left Cuba is everything you could ask for from a historical novel, and it’s our HPB Book Club pick for April and May 2019. Chanel Cleeton will break hearts with this tale of a privileged Cuban refugee and the powers and people that change her life. Full of love, revenge and deadly situations, When We Left Cuba will leave your heart racing and your mind transported. Chanel  provided us with an in-depth look into her protagonist, Beatriz, for our Behind the Book series. Continue reading

Droppin’ Some Science, Son: Big Bang Coined 70 Years Ago

On March 28, 1949, the term “Big Bang” originated when British astronomer Fred Hoyle tried to describe a theory of how the universe came to be to the audience of BBC Radio’s “Third Programme.” The Big Bang theory states that the universe originated at a single point and expanded outward, and is the most popular theory of how the universe came to be. It’s so popular that it even had its own sitcom named after it (You didn’t think this blog was all about science did you?).

Continue reading

Celebrating Women’s History Month with HPB’s Leading Ladies

Since March is Women’s History Month, we thought it would be a great time to check in with some of our fearless female leaders here at Half Price Books. They spoke with us about the women who’ve inspired them in literature, music and their personal lives.

Sharon Anderson Wright, President and CEO

SharonAWright2Favorite female authorBarbara Kingsolver

Dream book club guest – My mother, Pat Anderson (and co-founder of Half Price Books)

Favorite female musician – I can’t pick just one, so I’ll say Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt and Carole King.

Which woman has inspired you the most in your personal life? Kathy Doyle Thomas, HPB’s Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer. Continue reading

All Things Printed & Recorded: Ephemera, Etc.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For December, we’re looking at one of our smaller but most interesting product categories: ephemera—miscellaneous printed materials that have become collectible over time. Common examples found in HPB stores include sheet music, postcards and posters.

TIMELIMEsheet music singers
1457  The Mainz Psalter is the first printed book to include music, though the notation is added in by hand. 
1840  The world’s first picture postcard is sent when British writer Theodore Hook mails a self-made card to himself.
1891  Toulouse-Lautrec’s artful poster designs spark a poster craze in Paris.
1917-1918  During World War I, the US government prints 2,500 different posters to aid in the war effort, including the famous “I Want You” recruiting poster featuring Uncle Sam.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Cheret posterBefore the advent of recording, sheet music dominated the music industry. The late 1800s saw the zenith of “parlor music,” with people gathering around the piano to play and sing the popular songs of the day.
  • “Large letter” postcards, usually printed on linen-textured paper, were popular during the mid-20th century. The style was developed by Chicago-based Curt Teich and Company.
  • In the 1880s, French painter and lithographer Jules Chéret ushered in modern advertising with a new printing process that allowed for brighter colors and more economical mass production of large posters.
  • Psychedelic posters of the 1960s, like the ones produced by The Family Dog, were influenced by Art Nouveau and Surrealism.

Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book A History of Postcards: A Pictorial Record From the Turn of the Century to the Present Day, Martin Willoughby
book Postcards: Ephemeral Histories of Modernity, David Prochaska & Jordana Mendelson
book Toulouse Lautrec and La Vie Moderne: Paris 1880–1910, Phillip Dennis Cate, et al.
book Toulouse Lautrec: A Life, Julia Frey
slate_film-512 Discovery of Art: Toulouse Lautrec
book World War I Posters: 100th Anniversary Collectors Edition, Edward J. White
book World War II Posters In Color, Philip Martin McCaulay
book Jules Cheret: Artist of the Belle Epoque and Pioneer of Poster Art, Michael Buhrs, et al
book Posters of Jules Cheret: 46 Full Color Plates and Illustrated Catalogue Risonne, Lucy Broido
book High Art: A History of the Psychedelic Poster, Ted Owen, Denise Dickson & Walter Patrick Medeiros
book Off the Wall: Psychedelic Rock Posters From San Francisco, Amelie Gastaut & Jean-Pierre Criqui
slate_film-512 24 X 36: A Movie About Movie Posters
music-note-2 American Classics: Parlor Music Revisited, Daniel Kobialka

All Things Printed & Recorded: Board Games Take A Turn

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For November, we’ve got all the pieces in place for a look at the history of board games.

TIMELINE

2650 BCE  The Royal Game of Ur is played in Mesopotamia.playing checkers
1300 BCE  Two-player strategy game Ludus latrunculorum is played throughout the Roman Empire.
1822  The first American-made board game, Travellers Tour Through the United States, debuts.
1935  Monopoly is released. It would go on to become the biggest selling board game in US history.
1995  European strategy game The Settlers of Catan is released. It has since been translated into 30 languages and called “the board game of our time.”

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The Checkered Game of Life, released in 1860 by lithographer Milton Bradley, is known as America’s first popular parlor game and is the basis for the modern-day Game of Life.
  • Checkers, known as draughts in the UK, has been played in one form or another for centuries, having evolved from the early Middle Eastern game Alquerque.
  • The boot, thimble and wheelbarrow are among the Monopoly pieces to be discontinued in recent years.
  • The ancient Egyptian game Senet, which somewhat resembles Backgammon, dates to 3100 BCE and can be seen in this painting from the tomb of Queen Nefertari.

Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book The Oxford History of Board Games, David Parlett
book The Games We Played: The Golden Age of Board & Table Games, Margaret Hofer
book The Master of Go, Kawabata
book It’s All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan, Tristan Donovan
book The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game, Mary Pilon
book The Player of Games, Iain Banks
book The Game Makers: The Story of Parker Brothers, from Tiddledy Winks to Trivial Pursuit, Philip Orbanes
slate_film-512 Searching for Bobby Fischer (movie)
slate_film-512 Clue (movie)
slate_film-512 Word Wars (movie)
slate_film-512 Jumanji (movie)

Behind the Book: When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Editor’s Note: When the Men Were Gone is a debut historical novel centered on the truly inspiring story of a high school teacher who surprises everyone when she breaks with tradition to become the first female high school football coach in Texas. Set during WWII, Tylene Wilson faces extreme opposition but shows what courage really means. This inspiring story has won hearts everywhere and was chosen as our Book Club selection for October and November. We had the opportunity to discuss the book with Marjorie Herrera Lewis, which you can read about below.

This is your debut novel- what did you learn about the process of crafting a book?
The biggest lesson I learned about the process of crafting a book is that it’s hard; it’s really hard. It takes discipline, passion, skill and a willingness to learn something new almost every day.

MHLBOOKCOVER

What first interested you in Tylene Wilson’s story?
The story resonated with me the instant I was told what Tylene had done. I am a career sports journalist, and to discover that a woman had coached football in the 1940s took my breath away. I also felt connected to her in a way because I was the first woman assigned to the Dallas Cowboys beat in the 1980s. I knew firsthand what it was like to work in a male-dominated field. I was drawn to what I imagined she had endured. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Girl They Left Behind by Roxanne Veletzos

The Girl They Left Behind is a breathtaking novel set in war-torn Bucharest that follows the life of Natalia, a child abandoned by her parents who had hopes that her abandonment would mean she would have a better life. It is a tale of unrelenting love and sacrifice, of what defines a family and how to come to terms with one’s past. We recently talked to Veletzos about her incredible debut.

Congratulations on your debut novel! Have you always wanted to be a writer or is this a new development in your life?
Thank you so much! Writing has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think I fell in love with it when I was about seven or eight, and my first story was entered in a children’s writing competition in my native Bucharest. Ever since I’ve written and read constantly, and in the early years of my family’s move to California, it brought me such solace. Eventually this led to a degree in journalism and work as a copywriter and editor—but it wasn’t until 2010, after bracing some health challenges with my youngest son and my father’s unexpected passing, that my dream of crafting a novel began to take shape. One night during that challenging period, I came across on my hard drive something I’d written three, maybe four years earlier, and it was as if someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. It turns out that those pages became the opening chapter of The Girl They Left Behind, which I then went on to complete in less than two years.

bookcover

What initially drew you to write a story set in Bucharest during World War II?
I have to say, several factors. Most importantly, my family’s story of survival during the war and the years of Soviet occupation was nothing short of fascinating and harrowing, giving me rich material to work with. Secondly, Romania’s history in that time has so seldomly been covered in modern literature, and I wanted to bring some of it to light through the eyes and experiences of my characters. Thirdly, I suppose it was simply nostalgia for my native city—and a desire to reconnect to it on some level. In fact, many of the piazzas and streets that I describe in my novel come directly from my recollections as a child. Continue reading

All Things Printed & Recorded: Ready. Cassette. Go!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For October, we’re hitting rewind on the history of the cassette tape.

TIMELINE
1928  Magnetic tape is invented by Fritz Pfleumer.cassette
1963  Philips introduces the compact cassette; it is first used for dictation machines.
1968  The first in-dashboard car cassette player appears.
1968  Dolby noise reduction gives cassettes better sound and more viability for music. 
1993  Compact discs overtake cassettes in sales. By 2000, a tiny percentage of music is sold on cassette.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Mixtapes on cassette—homemade compilations of songs in a carefully considered order, often given to another person—were a mainstay in the 1980s. Novelist Nick Hornby wrote in High Fidelity, “making a tape is like writing a letter—there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again.”
  • Bill Lear of Lear Jet Corporation led the development of the 8-track, which debuted in 1964 and was common until the early 80s. Some record labels released 8-track tapes as late as 1988.
  • Due to their small size, cassettes made music personal and portable, paving the way for products like stereo boom boxes and the Sony Walkman.

Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!

book Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture, Thurston Moore
book Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Love, Jason Bitner
book Tape, Steven Camden
book Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, Rob Sheffield
book High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
slate_film-512 High Fidelity 
slate_film-512 Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape

Behind the Book: The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

EDITORS NOTE: From debut author Imogen Hermes Gowar comes The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, an atmospheric historical fiction novel set in 18th century London. The elegant prose and magical realism transports you to a world of opulence and turmoil. Gowar’s rich visuals and detailed descriptions kept us reading and reading and reading! We had the opportunity to catch up with Imogen recently. Read on to discover her answers to our questions!

MermaidandMrsHancock.hc c

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is such a unique story. Where did your inspiration come from? Was there something in particular that drew you to mermaids?
I’ve been interested in the supernatural since childhood, and that definitely includes mermaids. I was particularly compelled by the traditional mermaid myths: the idea that they had a dangerous, inexorable power as much rooted in melancholy and longing as in anything erotic.

I was also really interested in the way people thought of mermaids, as opposed to how they were displayed. The goblin-like counterfeit mermaid effigies that were popular in the eighteenth century and beyond didn’t bear a huge resemblance to the sexy damsels of popular imagination, but people were willing to be taken in by them nevertheless. While I was working at the British Museum I came across one of these fake mermaids—it’s made from a monkey’s torso stitched to a salmon’s tail—and it is oddly chilling. I could immediately imagine the sort of man who might want to acquire it: how he would bridge the gulf between how it looked and what he wished to believe. Continue reading