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

A Bestseller Flashback- 2018 in Books

Editor’s Note: Throughout the year, our buyers curate a selection of new, bestselling books to offer in our stores at 20% off the cover price. Here’s a closer look at some of 2018’s standouts!

melmoth
Melmoth (Sarah Perry)
Melmoth is a full-on gothic horror novel from the author of The Essex Serpent. The story crosses many different time periods and focuses on people who are in the midst of difficult situations. It is primarily centered on Helen Franklin, an English translator working in Prague, who disregards an obscure local monster legend before a friend’s disappearance reveals that Helen is being watched. This particular book asks the question, “What’s the difference between someone who orders a horrific act be done and the person who turns a blind eye towards it?” It’s a very chilling, and at times horrific, book that stays with you. 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

If You Liked Good Luck With That, You May Also Like…

If you are part of the HPB Book Club, you are currently reading (or perhaps just finished) Good Luck With That, by Kristan Higgins, a wonderful, heartwarming story about learning how to love and respect yourself no matter what you look like. The main characters, Georgia, Marley and Emerson, are highly relatable to anyone who has ever had issues with their body image. After meeting at a weight-loss camp for teens, these three girls become life-long friends, but when Emerson passes away as a result of her weight, she challenges Georgia and Marley to do all the things they promised each other they would do when they lost their weight. Now, as adults, Georgia and Marley try to honor their friend’s last wish, by getting a piggy-back ride from a guy, getting a stranger to buy them a drink and telling off people who were mean to them when they were fat. Though Higgins weaves romance into her book, the main focus is how these two women learn to love themselves.

If you (like me) liked Good Luck With That, here are a few other books you may like:

Dumplin’, by Julie Murphy- movie coming to Netflix!dumplin Continue reading

The Best and Worst of Agatha Christie

With more than 60 novels and 14 short story collections, is it any wonder that Agatha Christie is the bestselling novelist of all time? Her works are ranked third in the world’s most published books, behind Shakespeare and the Bible, and they have been translated into at least 103 languages. However, with 66 novels and numerous short stories, not all of Mrs. Christie’s works are going to be favorites. Then again, one person’s favorite is another person’s least favorite, and sometimes for the same reasons. For example, the first time I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, I literally threw the book across the room, vowing to never read another Agatha Christie book again, all because of the twist ending that makes other people count this story as their favorite. So here are some of the best and the worst (in my opinion) of Agatha Christie.

THE BEST
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: This is Christie’s first published novel and introduces the world to retired Belgian police detective Hercule Poirot, Inspector Japp and Arthur Hastings, who becomes the Watson to Hercule’s Holmes. This book is a great one to start with if you have yet to dip your toe into the Christie canon.
The-Mysterious-Affair-at-Styles

And Then There Were None: One of my absolute favorite mystery books, which will keep you guessing until the end. Interesting Fact: First published in the U.K. in 1939, this book has had several different names, but since those were considered racially offensive (look them up if you dare!), the title was changed to And Then There Were None in January 1940.
And-Then-There-Were-None

The A.B.C. Murders (or the Alphabet Murders): The victims in this book seem to be completely unrelated as Hercule Poirot and his good friend Arthur Hastings begin to investigate. This book doesn’t really follow Christie’s usual style, and so it is a good read if you are looking for something a little different.
ABC MURDERS

The Mousetrap: Yes, this is a play. In fact, it’s the longest-running play in history. The play is actually based on a short story by Christie, who asked that the story not be published as long as it ran as a play in the West End of London. The play was first performed in 1952, and the story has still not been published in the U.K. However, it was first published in the United States in a short story collection in 1950 under its original title Three Blind Mice.themousetrap

THE WORST
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: In regards to this book, I have been asked to say that “this bloggers opinion does not reflect the opinion of Half Price Books”… or in fact anyone else on the planet apparently. I’ll just say, be prepared to feel cheated.the-murder-of-roger-ackroyd

The Big Four: This is Christie’s first stab at writing espionage. In my opinion, she should have stuck with police detectives and little old ladies and left the spy work to Le Carré.thebigfour

Destination Unknown: Originally called So Many Steps to Death, this is another one of Christie’s spy novels, and it just seems bland, which may be why it is one of only four Christie novels never to be adapted into another kind of medium.destination unknown

Postern of Fate: This is the last novel that Christie wrote, and it is reported that she suffered from dementia during that time, so it’s not surprising that this book would be on the bottom of the Christie spectrum.postern of fate

Now, this is just a sampling of some of the best and the worst of Agatha Christie, or at least this blogger’s opinion about the best and worst of Agatha Christie. Of course, Agatha Christie’s legacy continues through Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot novels, The Monogram Murders (2015), Closed Casket (2017) and The Mystery of Three Quarters (2018), not to mention the movie version of Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express that came out in 2017, starring  Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. Plus, And Then There Was None was voted best mystery by HPB customers in our Mystery Madness tournament this past March! So, I think it’s safe to say Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery and her books (even the worst ones) are worth the read. Check them out at your local HPB and HPB.com.

What’s your favorite (or least favorite) Agatha Christie novel?

Booklovers’ Choice: Favorite Books from HPB Bibliomaniacs Across the Country

I think every booklover will admit that one of the hardest questions to answer is “what is your favorite book?” Someone asked me that question not long ago, and I had read so many good books, trying to pick a favorite was almost heartbreaking. I finally said The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton because that was the first book that made me want to be a writer and touch people’s lives the way that book had touched mine. However, the question got me wondering what were some of my favorite booklovers favorite books? So much to their chagrin, I asked. And what better time to share their answers than on August 9, better known as Booklover’s Day?

Amanda B., Woodshoppe Manager, Dallas, TX
“I think I’ll have to go with Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. As I child I remember reading it and being fascinated by the depth and detail of the novel. It was the perfect mixture of horror, fantasy, suspense and Americana. As an adult, I think it is one of the most touching and nostalgic books I’ve ever read.”

Heidi H., Store Inventory Manager, Indianapolis, INLegacy of Ashes
“One of my favorite books of nonfiction is Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. It may be one of our country’s most important tomes. At over 1,000 pages it took me over six months to read, mainly because I’m a slow reader, but the content was gripping and brought new meaning to the phrase ‘page-turner.’”

Jammie M., District Inventory Manager, Dallas, TXThe Hobbit
“My favorite book is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s the only book I’ve read multiple times. I like the world and the story. Plus, it was my mother’s favorite book, and I feel connected to her when I read it.”

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerDavid J., District Inventory Manager, Indianapolis, IN
I think the first book that caused me to fall in love with reading was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg because it intrigued my imagination and really got me into the world that the characters lived in. From that time on, books were a gateway into another world and into the lives and experiences of other people.

Continue reading

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.

earnest-cline

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.

How I Came to Love the Audiobook

As a lifelong booklover and someone with a lit degree, I’d always thought of audiobooks as “not real books”. When my commute went from seven minutes to an hour and a half each way, I found myself bitter about the loss of free time to get in some reading. I got my first audiobook a few years back, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I rationalized in my mind “It’s a one-time thing. I just like her. It’s different because it’s her book she’s reading.” I couldn’t get over the “it’s not really reading” mentality. Then, keep the long commute and add a baby to the mix and watch the reading time dwindle even more. I got another audiobook… and then another.

Two years ago, I just embraced it. In the car is my go-to, but occasionally I’ll listen to a story while I’m working out or doing dishes – something where reading a “real” book isn’t an option. Audiobooks have helped me stay on top of – no that’s not right. I’ll NEVER be “on top” of my reading list; as is the case for most booklovers, my list grows faster than I can read or listen. Let’s go with, I’ve fallen less behind on my list of books to read. On top of my paper books, I’ve “read” about 50 audiobooks in the last couple of years, including entire series like The Dark Tower (and standalone novels that tie in to the series like Insomnia and The Stand), A Song of Ice and Fire (aka A Game of Thrones), and Outlander – all of which are fabulous and I would highly recommend.

Some of my favorites (in no order at all):

Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; read by Wil Wheaton
This was so good, when it was over I put the first disc in again and started over. I wasn’t yet ready to leave the word of Parzival, Aech and Art3mis. Side note: Spielberg’s movie adaptation is due out early 2018. Continue reading