2018 Mad Dash Reading List

You were prepped and ready pre-New Year’s Eve 2017. Your HPB Gift Cards were locked and loaded and you had a slightly uninterested, yet supportive group of friends waiting in the wings to hold you accountable. The resolution? Read more in 2018. The result? HA!

We get it. Work got in the way, sports happened, your cousin’s wedding, tricks and treats, Thanksgiving eats and before you could crack the cover on your first New York Times Bestseller, it was December. No worries, you’ve still got plenty of time…not War And Peace time, mind you. But you can do this, and we can help.

Books are kind of our thing, so we’ve curated a list for slackers, not unlike yourself, who’ve found themselves worse for wear with that whole bibliophile resolution thing. Read on (see what we did there?) to check out our top 5 picks to help you make it to the end of the year without becoming a repeat resolution maker.

what it means
1.What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky: Stories – Lesley Nneka Arimah
Author Lesley Nneka Arimah tasks readers with tapping into the root of their familial dysfunction in her debut collection of short stories. The majority of the pieces are set in post-apocalyptic times, often causing the characters to grapple with the very foundation of their being as their behavior plays out in desperate circumstances. As each story unfolds, Arimah touches on the taboo topics woven into the fabric of both Nigerian and American households. Against a weary, yet at times fanciful backdrop, she brings much-needed attention to the ways we deal with class, gender and death. Continue reading

The Christmas Song: A Deep Dive into a Holiday Chestnut

This year our holiday theme at Half Price Books is “Make the Season Bright.” Those four words appear in one of the most ubiquitous and aptly-named Christmas songs ever written, “The Christmas Song.” You might know it better by its opening lyrics: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

Our line comes in the second section of the song: “Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright.” We’d argue that books, music and movies also do the trick.

Here’s a closer look at the history of this holiday classic. Continue reading

Here Comes Santa Claus: A Kid’s Christmas Reading List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…time to entertain the kids during Christmas break. How about a little light holiday reading? Here at Half Price Books, we know a thing or two about children’s books and we’ve got just the list to help keep your little ones in the know about what to expect while they’re waiting on that magical visit from St. Nick.

Christmas ABC – Jannie Ho
Perfect for the tiny one who’s just learning their alphabet, Christmas ABC is filled with whimsical, colorful illustrations that are sure to educate and entertain until Santa arrives.ChristmasABC

How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss
Ever the holiday classic, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is a must for your kiddos whether they’re naughty or nice. The infamous green grump takes to Whoville to wreak havoc on its residents by stealing Christmas gifts before the big day, only to find that the true meaning of the season doesn’t come wrapped underneath a tree. Dr. Seuss’ signature rhyme scheme is perfect for read-along story time and the heartwarming moral is made for winning over any tiny grinches you may find lurking around this season.How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Polar Express – Chris Van Allsburg
The magic of the holiday season comes alive in Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express. A young boy is awakened with an invitation to take an exhilarating trip to the North Pole.  Upon his arrival, he is welcomed by Christmas elves and a chance to be the recipient of the coveted first Christmas gift, given by Santa himself.The Polar Express

Curious George Christmas Countdown – Tish Rabe
It’s Christmas time and Curious George is getting ready! The beloved children’s character celebrates the season with his friends by picking out holiday decorations, baking festive treats and even singing in the Christmas play.Curious George Christmas Countdown

The Night Before Christmas – Clement Clarke Moore and David Ercolini
The perfect Christmas Eve read, The Night Before Christmas was practically made for milk and cookies before bed. Grab your cutest matching pajamas and let the little ones in on the classic account of what happens when Santa visits. From dreams of sugar plums to an epic reindeer shout out, this story is sure to keep the magic of the season burning bright.the night before christmas

There you have it! Here’s to a holiday full of reading that’s guaranteed to calm all the stirring creatures in the house. Yes, even that mouse.  What’s your favorite Christmas children’s story?

Candy & Books: A Sweet Pairing

There’s nothing I like better than a good book. Well, except a good book and some chocolate. Or something a little tart. Okay fine, I love candy, and I love books. Since it is October, I have plenty of each! What better way to celebrate this fun month than pairing candy and books?

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Candy Pairing: Payday

Millions of Americans work full-time, year-round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Pairing 1Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job—any job—could be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. She worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing home aide and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly “unskilled,” that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety and surprising generosity. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich’s perspective and for a rare view of how “prosperity” looks from the bottom.

Pair this critical book that is still relevant today with a Payday to appreciate the fact that millions of Americans have to work full-time, year-round from payday to payday just to survive.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Candy Pairing: Snickers

Pairing 2Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning paragraph to the final sentence. Tina Fey reveals all and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

Pair with a Snickers bar because you will not be able to contain your laughter while reading this classic, humorous account of Tina Fey’s life, as well as behind-the-scenes stories from her hit shows! Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Literacy

September is National Literacy Month and a great time to think about the importance of reading in our lives.

Sadly, there are more than 36 million adults in this country that cannot read, write or do basic math above a third-grade level. And this affects almost every aspect of their lives – they can’t read to their children (which makes their kids more likely to have low literacy skills), job prospects are slim and they can’t read prescriptions or other healthcare information, which makes them more likely to have health problems. The list goes on and on.

Luckily, there are many wonderful organizations across the country working to make sure this won’t always be the case!

One of the organizations we support here in our hometown of Dallas is Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT). I’m a proud member of their board of directors – it’s wonderful to see the work they do with the community each day!

To support organizations like this, Half Price Books will host Literacy Benefit Day on Saturday, Sept. 8. We’ll donate 5% of our sales that day to literacy partners across the country – up to $20,000.

We’ve also designed some buttons with a purpose so you can show your support for literacy.

100% of the proceeds from the sale of these buttons will benefit our local literacy partners – available while supplies last.

So we hope you’ll stop by stores in September to help support these great organizations that are boosting the literacy skills of both kids and adults alike.

To find the literacy partner near you, check out our Literacy Month page.

Let’s do the Time Loop Again

February 2 is Groundhog Day, so you’ll find me doing the same thing I do every Groundhog Day, watching the movie Groundhog Day, because Groundhog Day just isn’t Groundhog Day without watching Groundhog Day. (That sentence was brought to you by the people who bet me I couldn’t use “Groundhog Day” six times in a sentence.) Truth is, I have always loved stories that have time loops in them. As someone who constantly gets things wrong, the idea that someone could live the same day over and over again until they get things right appeals to me. Here’s a list of my top five books and movies about people who get stuck in some sort of time loop.

Groundhog Day—Of course we have to start this list with Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The movie never explains how weatherman Phil Connors gets stuck in a time loop, having to relive February 2 over and over again, but I think the groundhog had something to do with it.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver—In this debut YA novel, Sam Kingston wakes up the morning after dying in a car accident, fated to relive the day she dies over and over again. Like in Groundhog Day, the story is about redemption and the reason for the time loop is not given, but it sure makes a great story. This book was turned into a movie in 2017, starring Zoey Deutch.

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Holiday Albums You Love—And Others You Should

Now that it’s December, it’s time to dust off those records that live in the back of your collection, the ones that only get played one month out of the year: Christmas albums. In this post, I’m taking a look at some of the albums on Billboard’s list of the ten top-selling holiday albums of all time. Chances are you own some of them, and maybe you can’t imagine Christmas without them. But the thing about traditions is, you have to add new ones from time to time. In that spirit, I’m offering some alternative holiday albums that might be less familiar and a little fresher to your ears.

Gigantic Bestseller:
ElvisElvis’ Christmas Album – Elvis Presley
Released in 1957, Presley’s first Christmas album—the top-selling record on Billboard’s list— features secular tunes on side one and sacred fare on side two, including a few non-Christmas gospel songs that had been previously released. The King is solemn on the religious tunes but loosens up for the secular stuff, including originals like “Santa Claus is Back in Town” and “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me).” Personally, I can’t stand Elvis’ version of “Blue Christmas,” but it’s here, too.

Alternate Choice:
James Brown’s Funky Christmas – James Brown
Let the King rest in heavenly peace this year and invite the Godfather of Soul over for Christmas instead. This compilation features tracks from the three holiday albums Brown recorded at the height of his funky powers between 1966 and 1970, including “Go Power at Christmas Time,” “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto” and “Soulful Christmas.” Brown shows his socially-conscious side on tracks like “Let’s Unite the World at Christmas.”

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Holiday Reads for the Not-So-Holiday Minded

Every Christmas, there are certain books that my family pulls off the bookshelf. They are absolute must-reads for Christmastime, like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, occasionally between stealing the last can of Who Hash and God blessing everyone, I need to read something that will take me out of the holiday while still capturing the holiday spirit, if only for a moment. Here is a list of classic novels that includes the holidays, but are about so much more.

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
This classic novel begins with a heartwarming Christmas scene, but it takes you through several seasons in the March girls’ lives as they face each blessing and trial together. The love and support the March girls give each other through the years illustrates the importance of family.
little women

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Fictional Feasts

Last autumn, I had the pleasure of visiting family in England and staying with my cousin and her husband in their cozy 16th century home in a tiny East Sussex village not far from the town of Lewes.

On a chilly, clear evening after a full day of walking and exploring the area, my cousin prepared us a warm, delicious meal of daube and homemade bread accompanied by a glass of hearty red wine. Our dinner conversation started with “What is daube?” – a classic Provençal beef stew – and “Where did you get the recipe?” – from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David. By the way, Virginia Woolf (who had a weekend home in Lewes and sadly drowned in the nearby River Ouse) wrote about ‘Boeuf en Daube’ in her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse.

“… an exquisite scent of olives and oil and juice rose from the great brown dish as Marthe, with a little flourish, took the cover off. The cook had spent three days over that dish. And she must take great care, Mrs. Ramsay thought, diving into the soft mass, to choose a specially tender piece for William Bankes. And she peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats and its bay leaves and its wine …” Continue reading

Five American Writers Who Served

On November 11, America will pause to honor all those who have served in its Armed Forces. Veterans Day as we know it was established in 1954, when Congress changed the name of Armistice Day and broadened its definition—what had been primarily a celebration of World War I vets was redefined as a day dedicated to all military veterans.

Here at HPB, we’re thankful for all who’ve donned the uniform to fight for our country. But being the bookish types we are, we thought it’d be interesting to consider a few of the great American writers who spent time in the military. Most of these authors wrote about their war experience, and it’s safe to say that all of them were shaped by it in profound ways. The writer Norman Mailer called it the worst experience of his life but also the most valuable.

Joseph Heller
HellerThe novelist of Catch-22 fame joined the U.S. Army Air Corps at age 19, shortly after America entered World War II. He was sent to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, and from there flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier. After the war, Heller went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an advertising copywriter before the publication of Catch-22 established him in the literary world. The satirical novel, published in 1961, is decidedly anti-war, but it has been used by the U.S. Air Force Academy to teach about the dangers of bureaucracy. Heller even appeared at the Academy in 1986 for a celebration of the book’s 25th anniversary.

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