Top Ten Things Ben Franklin Gave the World

307 years ago, a man by the name of Benjamin Franklin was born.  Of all the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin has always been my favorite.  Don’t get me wrong – the majority of them were all educated, some inventors, some with wisdom beyond their time that would last through centuries.  But, Benjamin Franklin, the son of a soap maker, he continues to affect our lives in ways that many of us don’t even realize.  Here are just a few ways:

Bifocals: Yes.  Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, after becoming tired of having to change glasses for up close and far away.

“Remember that time is money” — Words said by Ben, that are still repeated today. Perhaps your boss has used those words today?

Electricity:  I didn’t put this at number one, only because of course electricity “existed” before Benjamin Franklin.  So he didn’t invent it, but it’s because of him that we began to understand it A LOT more. He also coined many new terms in relation to electricity including: Charge, Conductor, Positively, Negatively, and Battery (more on batteries in a moment)

Odometers: We may not look at them everyday,  but they are definitely in all of our automobiles.  As PostMaster, Franklin wanted to keep track of routes delivering the mail.

Batteries: The battery might have many incarnations today, but Ben is the one who first developed the name and experimented with his “Franklin Battery.”

“A penny saved is a penny earned” — It’s a little bit of a misquote from what was originally said by Franklin – but I certainly cannot count the number of times this was said to me by my parents and grandparents.

Public Libraries: Franklin created the first U.S. public library so the less fortunate could expand their minds.

Swim Fins:  Ok, so maybe we don’t use swimfins everyday.  But, he did invent them at the age of 11. (His were just used on the hands instead of the feet)

“Benjamins” — The Pennsylvania Gazette was a printing press owned by Benjamin Franklin that began printing the first paper money in Philadelphia and Delaware.  (Even with misspellings thought to ward off counterfeits.) Over a century later, an image of Franklin was used on the $100 bill, and many of us call them Benjamins to this day.

Freedom:  Yes, we have him to thank for this.  He was one of the 5 men to draft the Declaration of Independence. He was also one of only 4 men to sign the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War and acknowledged the United States to be a free, sovereign and independent nation. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from Ben Franklin?


Crystal is Store Manager at Half Price Books Flagship in Dallas, Texas.

David Bowie Fashions through the Decades

Fashion! Turn to the left!

Fashion! Turn to the Right!

Oooh, Fashion!

David Bowie is as synonymous with fashion as he is with music.  From Diamond Dogs to Scary Monsters.  In honor of his 66th birthday, let’s put on our red shoes and dance through fashion trends during the decades of David Bowie.

The 1960sThe Redhead

David’s signature locks showed us all that being a red headed stepchild actually looked good! Ginger was definitely the color to have on your head.

The 1970s – Glam Rock

The trend that describes a musical style as much as a fashion style.  Don’t like your hair? That is totally fine – Just cover it with a wig!  Don’t like your face? Not to worry – Just paint one on that you like! Feeling a little short? No big deal – Heels are now ok for girls and guys alike!  And let’s not forget the beginning of bling with all that glitters and sparkles.  Who was at the center of all of this?  Ziggy Stardust.

The 1980s – Goblin King

Sure there were many styles in the 80s, but I want to focus on my favorite.  The style that proved that being the bad guy can always be in fashion.  David Bowie as the Goblin King in Labyrinth.  With a hairstyle and eye makeup that have re-emerged on fashion runways through the years.   David Bowie was certainly holding the crystal ball to see into fashion trends.

The 1990s – Goatee

The facial hair pattern that is still worn by so many men (including my husband.. on rare occasions).

The 2000s – Re-inventing the Mustache

The 2000s re-introduced us to Bowie, the actor.  When we say mustache, so many of us think Burt Reynolds in the 1980s, we so often forget the 90s – the 1890s in fact with Mr. Nikola Tesla.  David Bowie’s portrayal of Tesla showed us that it’s not only cool to be geek but it’s also cool to sport the ‘stache.

So what’s your favorite Bowie incarnation? — Crystal

Crystal is Store Manager at Half Price Books Flagship in Dallas, Texas.

Introducing the latest in retro-nostalgic holiday fun — “Halfy Call-A-Days,” the Half Price Books Holiday Hotline!

Our talented Bibliomaniacs are at it again! They sing, they write poetry, they give great book, music and movie recommendations . . . and they can really spread the holiday cheer! So this year HPB created a toll-free line where you can dial in for holiday greetings any time, any place, straight from our Bibliomaniacs to you! Hurry, don’t delay! Call 1-855-HPB-FONE right now!

Our HPB Halfy Call-A-Days Kazoo Crew gives you a special preview!

So, grab a cup of holiday tea or cocoa at your desk, at home by the fire or even while you wait in line at the grocery store and take a moment to relax and enjoy the holidays. Dial up Jim Swayze at 1-855-HPB-FONE that’s (toll-free) 1-855-472-3663.

Add it to your contacts and call back often!

If you are wondering what you might hear, some options include:

  • A special greeting from the Half Price Books Santa Claus
  • T’was the Night Before Christmas in the Bookstore, an original poem written by Elizabeth E. on the HPB Development team (and read by Tim, our HR director)
  • Up On the Housetop performed by the Buy Guy
  • A Holiday Funny brought to you by Our Customer Service Department
  • Auld Lang Syne  performed by some Caroling Marketeers
  • And a bonus track from Jim Swayze!

Our warmest wishes to you this festive season! – Becky

Becky is Marketing Communications Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @Bexican75.

Pumpkin Carving Step-by-Step DIY Guide

It is that time of year again where everyone is preparing for Halloween. Whether it be picking out costumes, buying candy or watching scary movies, October is a fun time of year. A Halloween tradition at Half Price Books corporate headquarters: pumpkin carving competion. And some departments take it pretty seriously. So, as we get in gear for our rivalry, I thought I’d share some tips on how to carve a design into the exterior of a pumpkin. This means foregoing the messy gut-removal of jack-o-latern style pumpkin carving. Instead of a self-portrait, I decided on someone a little more attractive than myself – a flesh eating zombie!

Find a picture you want to carve, your favorite monster, super-hero or even your kids. Print out the face so it fits on an 8.5 x 11 sheet. You may want it larger or smaller depending in the size of the pumpkin you have. Get your tools ready. You will need tape, a push pin or small nail, and a cutting tool. (I chose a linoleum cutter)
Take the print of your character and tape it the best you can to the pumpkin. It may be necessary to fold some corners and improvise since the pumpkin is a curved surface.
Once the face is taped down, begin punching small holes around all the edges you wish to cut. You might think it would be easier to take a razor blade and just cut along the edge. If you do this, the paper will be shredded before long and very hard to deal with.
After punching along the lines of your image, remove the paper and begin cutting away. Be carful when you are cutting, the pumpkins can be hard to handle and a slip of the knife or cutting tool can easily cause a bad injury.

And now you have your favorite (or creepy) face on a pumpkin.

Have a spooky and safe Halloween! – Jim

Jim is Art Director at Half Price Books Corporate.

The Great, the Gross and the Gruesome

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

Places you should not go on vacation:

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

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

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

People you do not want operating on you:

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

Things you don’t want to eat:

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

Since we’re talking about bodily fluids…

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

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

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

Ode to Colin Firth

Last year Kristen D. gave us an Ode to Robert Pattinson and Darek T. gave us an Ode to Zooey Daschanel.  Now, no offense to my esteemed colleagues, but an ode is actually a lyrical poem. And with that in mind, here is my “Ode to Colin Firth.”

        At The Edge of Reason

        In a Circle of Friends

        Hope Springs eternal

        And Celebration begins


         In your work you must take Pride

         And Prejudice we cannot be

         For you know What a Girl Wants

         And it’s Love Actually.


         So though I may not be Shakespeare

         In Love I still can say

         I wish you the very best

         On this your special day

Did you know? Colin Firth is one of Great Brittan’s sexiest men, according to The Brit List: 20 Sexiest.   

So, what’s your favorite Colin Firth movie? Here’s a round-up of some of the Internet’s best animated Colin Firth gifs, should you need some eye-candy while you consider.


Happy Birthday, Colin! And a special shout out to your Bridget Jones and Love Actually co-star Hugh Grant, whose birthday was yesterday (and with whom you were fighting above.)  – Julie

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

The Day I Met Don King

Editor’s Note: Today is Don King‘s 81st birthday. Thus, a questionably relevant blog post about how one of our District Managers rectified a missed photo opportunity by snapping this epic shot, below.

About ten years ago I was a Timberwolves season ticket holder, and one of the world’s biggest Kevin Garnett fans.  The Big Ticket was the same age as me, and I loved his passion and youthful enthusiasm for the game.  His interviews were relatable and humorous and his game was dominating.  He brought in the first (well, only, really) era of T-Wolves basketball being any good. 

One night I was with my then girlfriend (now wife) and a friend at a TGIFriday’s in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  Why I was at a TGIFriday’s is something that I can’t possibly wrap my head around now.  Why KG was there was something that I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around then.  But sure enough, on a random, slow, weekday night in an inner ring suburb of Minneapolis, there, sitting at a table in the back, was my favorite athlete in all of sports at the time.[1] 

I couldn’t believe my eyes. 

His table was on the way to the bathroom, so I only had to have a couple of my favorite beverages to have an excuse to get near him.  Twenty minutes later, my time was up. 

I made my move. 

As I got closer to the table, I saw that he was sitting there with a girl and two children.  He was wrapped up in his table and conversation. 

He had diamonds earrings the size of dimes. 

I looked at the table and thought, you know, he’s sitting down trying to have a nice meal with some family and/or friends, and probably doesn’t want some long haired, heavily bearded half drunk super fan coming up and bothering him with some “I’m a huuuuuuge fan will you sign this napkin for me” nonsense. 

So I simply walked by and took the memory with me of my brush with greatness.

You’re probably wondering, what on Earth does this have to do with a photo of Don King?  That’s because these two celebrity sightings probably couldn’t be more different. 


It’s now 2007.

I lived in Chicago, married to the then-girlfriend, no longer had long hair, and my favorite athlete was Adrian “All Day” Peterson[2]

Our Marketing Director, Allyson Bradley, came up to Chicago to visit some of our stores.  When people come from out of town to visit (business or pleasure), I always make sure and take them out to eat.  I’ve moved beyond my TGIFriday’s stage and like to go to places that are 1) good 2) not a chain and 3) an experience they cannot get in their home town. 

I settled on one of my favorite restaurants in the city, La Scarola. 

I also invited some other store managers to round out the group and to have a little fun.  I’ll spare you the minute details of La Scarola, but let’s just say that it’s a classic Chicago Italian restaurant –photos of famous people who have been to the restaurant on the wall; bad, dated wall paintings of some generic Italian countryside; and absolute deliciousness. 

We got seated, and in full disclosure, I can’t tell you one thing about any of our conversations[3]

However, we enjoyed our meal, paid the bill, and got up to leave/smoke[4]

As we were leaving, there was a large table with a whole gang of people there.  I briefly look over and saw someone who I thought was Don King.  We went outside and I mentioned that I thought I just saw Don King to Allyson.  Allyson reacted like I just asked her if we walked by my first grade teacher.[5]  (Meaning, she had no clue whatsoever who Don King was).  Greg Lamer, who was a store manager in Chicago but is now the trainer in Kentucky, stated that he, too, thought it was Don King.  I was looking through the window trying to make it out, when out came a man to smoke[6] who was sitting at the table with Don King. 

Me: “Excuse me, were you just sitting at the table with Don King?”

Him: “I sure was.”

Me: “Do you think he would be offended if I went up and asked to have my picture taken with him?”

Him: “I think he be offended if you didn’t!”

With that, I was off. 

Greg was not only a good manager; he was also a great photographer and always had a camera in tow.  He followed me inside and I went up to the table and asked Don if I could get a picture with him.  As the man outside suggested, he was more than accommodating.  He asked me to pull up a chair, and I’m now sitting at a table with frickin’ Don King.  Greg took the photo[7], and I proceeded to sit in on King and Co.’s dinner conversation.  Evidently, he was in town promoting a championship fight.   This also happened to be right around the time of Michael Vick’s dog fighting trial.  As you can probably guess, Don was pontificating on the subject as only he can.  I will spare you the gory details of his position on the topic, but let’s just say that Don doesn’t hold dogs in very high regard.  Which wasn’t surprising for a man who once managed Mike Tyson and has killed someone.  But it was highly entertaining.  I sat around long enough to get a great story, but not too long to overstay my welcome.  I thanked Mr. King again for the photo and talk, and went on my way back into the night.

Only in America indeed.

[1] I now no longer really like KG.  Which pains me to write.  But, frankly, the dude dumped the Wolves and signed with the Celtics to get his ring.  Which I don’t really blame him for.  What I can blame him for is that he has become the complete opposite of what he used to be.  He used to be the kind of player that you felt played the game because he loved basketball.  He was fun and energetic.  Now he’s like that rich old grampa who’s the meanest SOB that you’ve ever met.  What happened?

[2] Side note- I got to go on the field before the game when the Vikings played the Bears at Soldier Field in 2011.  I yelled out “All Day, baby!” to Peterson, and he smiled and pointed at me.  Got that on video.  Made. My. Day.

[3] No offense to Allyson or anyone else there.

[4] Kids, don’t smoke, it’s terrible for you and I’m glad I quit.  

[5] Mrs. Stender.  Meanest. Lady. Ever.

[6] I know, a lot of smoking references.  I get it, I’m a bad person.  But the experiences you get hanging outside smoking are priceless.  Well, that, or whatever the cost is for a tracheotomy and some oxygen tanks.

[7] Just look at that photo.  It was a full on denim suit with matching patriotic tie.  He had on enough chains to embarrass Mr. T or your favorite rapper.  Do you think they used a Bedazzler to make that jacket???

Kent is the District Manager for the Half Price Books Chicago District.

Handsome Hunks of August

There are a lot of different incarnations of “handsome hunks,” and August is a great month to celebrate them all, whether he is a gorgeous innocent (or not so innocent) young man, a rugged older man, a writer, a movie star or a musician.


If you could sing happy birthday to any one of these handsome hunks, who would you choose? I would definitely choose Gene Kelly! – Kristen B.

Kristen is Buyer’s Assistant at Half Price Books Distribution Center.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kbev302.

BFFs of Literature and Film

Happy Best Friend’s Day! What better way to celebrate than to round up some of the best friendships in film and literature?







Who are your favorite best friendships in entertainment? Anyone you love that we missed? Be sure to give YOUR best friend a shout-out in the comments!  

— KD 

Chicagoland Bibliomaniacs compete for Olympic gold

BW the Bookworm isn’t the only bibliomaniac with the Olympic spirit.

For three years in a row, our Chicago employees held the HPB Olympics at the Elk Grove Village Forest Preserve.  This last Olympics, which took place in 2010, included roughly 35 participants from our seven stores and regional distribution center.  For the second time, we had a couple of participants from outside the district who were brave enough to come down to compete.  The events were fun and the competition was as tough as it has ever been.

Our first event was the Hot Dog Eating Contest, and it turned into a border war.  There were two employees from the Countryside store, Sean F. and Nick H., who were representing the Chicago district.  Kory and Gene were representing the Wisconsin district, aka The Beer, Brat, and Cheese District.  The event started off with a bang- or should I say a choke?  Sean F. bit off more than he could chew on his first hot dog and had what they call in the competitive eating world a “reversal.”  Hot Dogs 1, Sean 0.  That left just Nick, Gene and Kory.  Nick realized early on that he had no intention of winning (“I still wanna like hot dogs”) and actually took the time to put on various condiments (watch out for those hot peppers!).  He still finished respectively with 8 hot dogs eaten in 15 minutes.  That left Kory and Gene to battle it out.  It came down to a tight finish, but Kory “I’m so competitive I would enter a CD eating contest” Kosmicki won with 11 hot dogs and a bite to set the new record!  Gene finished with 10 hot dogs.

The next event was Speed Pricing.  This is always one of the more exciting events, as paperbacks and price guns are always flying.  The goal is to price 10 paperbacks front and back as quickly as you can.  Aaron P. from our Niles store started it off well with a solid time of 10.2 seconds.  A few competitors came and went before Janelle S. from came in with a very fast time of 9.3 seconds.  That looked like it was going to hold until Tom “Too Quick” Schaber from Bloomingdale, with paperbacks flying everywhere, came in with a new record time- 7.8 seconds!  He stated that the key to winning the event was to “not care about the product, just get it out.”  Indeed.

Our third event was the Recycling Toss.  Here the participants attempt to toss a paperback into a garbage can that goes farther back after each round.  This event ended up being very close.  It started out hot, with numerous people advancing, but quickly slowed down.  As we got down to the last three participants, we actually had to start bringing the can closer again so that someone could make it in.  However, they soon regained their rhythm. Erich L. from Countryside, a previous winner in this event, ended up in third place.  Kevin Moore from Niles and Chicago District Trainer Jake S. battled it out for first.  Kevin rimmed out, and the event was won by Jake “If only the Cubs could throw this well” Sikora with a throw of 15’1”.

The fourth event was the Large Dictionary Shot Put aka “the event that Jake gets too worked up about.”  The event did have a little controversy, as we instituted a rule where you could not go over the line for your throw to count (see photo).  This event came down to three participants and was tight to the finish.  Countryside bibliomaniac Nick “Last year I was a ringer, now I just collect rings” Hollinger defended his title on his last throw.  Gene took second, and Ben H. took third.

One of the perennial favorite events, the Record Toss, was our second to last event.  We had the most participants in any event for this one, and it was a good one.  There were numerous people battling for the title, and I almost had my head taken off by a record at one point.  (It would have been worth it.)  Defending champion Sean “Yeah I puked but I’m a baaaddd mofo when it comes to tossing records” Forston had a bit of pressure on him on his final throw to keep his title.  He did not disappoint as he set a new record throw of 150’ 2”.  Very impressive.  The silver went to Chicago district wanna-be Kory K. and the bronze went to Ben H. from Countryside.

We thought that we were done, but it was soon clear that we weren’t.  Palatine bibliomaniac Tim Pallanch had arrived with an event that actually was closely related to working in a bookstore (who would have thought of that?!?!?).  He had taken the time to cut out author pictures of about 60 titles to see who could get the most correct (example: Dennis Rodman’s Birthday suit, JD Robb vs. Nora Roberts).  Suddenly people who had no interest in making fools of themselves throwing or eating things were interested.  The competition was pretty fierce, but Eddie “What Me, Worry?” Boyle from Niles took the crown of ‘Book Nerd’ with 24 people correct.  Gene “The Jeweler” Lass took his third silver medal, and Ben “Penny Bank” Huizenga took this third bronze.

The Medal Count:

                                     G         S          B          T

Countryside                 2          0          5          7

Beer, Brat, Cheese      1          4          0          5

Niles                            1          1          1          3

Bloomingdale               1          0          0          1

Regional Dist. Cntr.      1          0          0          1

Highland Park               0          1          0          1         

All in all, a good time was had by all and we did enjoy having our friends to the north come down to compete with the best.  As always, we still challenge all others to have their own Olympics, or to come to compete in ours.  The crown still don’t move! Okay, maybe it moved a little bit…           

— Kent H., Chicago District Manager