Behind the Book: The Dark Between Stars by Atticus

Editor’s Note: Atticus is the internationally bestselling author of Love Her Wild, his first collection of poetry. In The Dark Between Stars, Atticus delves into the dualities of life experiences and the connections between life’s highs and lows. In this poignant collection, he captures the need for both beauty and pain, for light-heartedness and deep revelations. This collection is a glimpse into the human soul, full of tragedy and promise. We had the opportunity to catch up with Atticus recently. Read on to discover his answers to our questions!

When did you first start writing poetry? What was your inspiration?
I began about 5 years ago. I was in Paris at the time and was moved by the way the city looked after it rained. I took out my phone and started writing. I decided to post what I had written on Instagram, but I knew that I wanted to do it anonymously so I could always remember to write what I feel and tell the truth.

Do you have any recommendations for people who are just starting to write poetry for the first time?
Bukowski said, “don’t try,” which, to me, means: don’t set out to write the best poem. Just write something, period, and the good will come. I believe that.

Do you have any rituals or anything special that you do while writing to get into the right mindset?
I have a little back-house/writing shack filled with things that inspire me: old books, typewriters, candles, photos, records, tobacco pipes, anything that gets me in the headspace to write.  Sometimes I go back there and don’t even write, I just sit and look at pictures and read. For me, half of writing is sitting, staring at a candle, watching the flame dance, and waiting for it to tell me something profound. Continue reading

Meet the Artist: Louis Zoellar Bickett II

At HPB Hamburg Pavilion, we receive large amounts of paper history from Appalachia, books on local history, books signed by famous local authors and artists, and books that are just brimming with fascinating information about Kentucky. To showcase this wealth of knowledge, we’ve carved out a nook in our Collectibles section to display the many wonderful books we have for sale. Stop by our store to check it out.

Recently Kentucky lost a notable historian and artist, Louis Zoellar Bickett II. For a sense of the personality of the man I give you a short piece from the obituary he had written himself before he passed: “…went home to glory, crossed over, passed away, was carried to paradise, fell into the arms of Jesus, gave up the ghost, petered out, kicked the bucket, croaked, faced the music, bit the bullet, left the building, did not go gently into the night, and died Sunday, October 29, after engaging a long battle with ALS: ALS 1, LZB 0…” His most notable work is a collection that spans more than three decades that is simply known as The Archive. This collection indexes thousands of pieces of ephemera, which for Bickett was proof of concept that the people who owned them existed and acts as an eternal witness to the weight of a person’s life.

At the beginning of March, Aaron Skolnick got into contact with our store to inquire, like most folks, whether or not we’d be interested in buying a vast part of the more personal collection of his late husband, Louis Zoellar Bickett II. Over the course of the next three months, we received hundreds of signed and inscribed books that began to tell a piece of the story of this voluminous curator. Many of these inscriptions speak with great warmth of this human who infiltrated their lives in some way or another. Some of the more notable authors include Maya Angelou, Wendell Berry, Allen Ginsberg and Luke Smalley.

You can find a sample of the collection for sale listed on our store page in the Amazing Finds in section. Simply put: This is a mere fraction of the enormous collection of items sold to us, and if you’d like to see them all, swing by or give us a call and we would be more than happy to talk about it and even ship the books to you. I am humbled by the resonant impression of vibrant “here-ness” that the man known as Louis Zoellar Bickett II left on reality in my own Kentucky home.

Mirry Childs, Shift Leader, HPB Hamburg Pavilion in Lexington. KY

Literary Besties for Best Friends Day

Whether you call them bosom buddies, kindred spirits, BFFs or just besties, one thing is sure: neither life nor literature would be the same without best friends. That’s why we are celebrating June 8, Best Friends Day, with some of the greatest BFFs to ever be written on the page.

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Anne Shirley and Diana Barry, from Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery—Who else but your bosom friend would not pursue a guy because she knew you secretly liked him (although you pretended like you hated him)? Continue reading

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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Adventures Worth Telling: A Book Nerd’s Look at Appreciate a Dragon Day

“Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

January 16 is Appreciate a Dragon Day, and what better way to celebrate than to look at some of our favorite dragons in literature?

beowulfThe Dragon that Slays Beowulf
The epic poem Beowulf is one of the oldest surviving and most important works of Old English literature. It is certainly one of the most important works in regards to dragons, as Beowulf was the first piece of English literature to represent a fire-breathing dragon as we think of them today. This unnamed dragon is the third monster that Beowulf faces and is the monster that deals him the wound that costs him his life. The dragon is slain by Beowulf’s distant cousin Wiglaf, who Beowulf names as his heir as he lays dying.

Smaug

Smaug

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The greedy, wicked worm from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit is probably the most well-known dragon in the world. Described as “the greatest of the dragons of his day,” Smaug attacked against King Thrór without warning and engulfed the dwarf king’s mountain in flames, causing the dwarves to flee. Smaug then moved in, taking the dwarves’ riches for himself and resided in the mountain for 150 years, until a meddlesome wizard and a band of dwarves elicited the help of a simple hobbit to take back the mountain. For more about this dragon and what brought about the quest to recapture the mountain, read Appendix A from The Return of the King and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales.

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An Adventure in Time and the Holidays

Doctor Who is all about change, about comings and goings. And few things mark the passage of time more than the holidays. Each year since the show relaunched in 2005, Who has done a Christmas special. These episodes tend to be big, dramatic and more than a little silly. They’ve also become the time each actor playing the Doctor bows out from the role. This year’s upcoming special is no different, with Peter Capaldi saying his farewells.

Now seems like a good time to look back and offer up my choices for the five best holiday specials. There were some difficult decisions here, but the five episodes selected highlight the many wonderful (and weird) aspects of Doctor Who.

The Time of the Doctor (2013)

An imperfect episode that gives Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor a fitting sendoff, The Time of the Doctor attempts to end a three-season story arc, tell a charming Christmas story and say goodbye to Smith in 60 minutes. It’s far too much for a single episode.

The premise, while confusing, is a good one. The Doctor is trapped on an alien world in a town called Christmas (a bit on the nose, yeah), which holds a secret that all of Who’s classic baddies want. Thanks to some sci-fi nonsense, a force field (mostly) keeps the monsters out, but it means the Doctor can never leave or tell a lie. The Doctor is forced to live out his own personal hell of putting down roots and living an honest life.

The Doctor resigns himself to fighting the last battle of what he believes is his last life. Of course, that doesn’t happen, but there are some surprises – and Matt Smith is particularly good throughout. Time works best when viewed immediately after the far better 50th anniversary special. Together, the two episodes celebrate the show’s history while setting up its future.

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Bebop Birthdays: Monk and Dizzy Turn 100

You could say bebop was born in October 1917. It wasn’t until the 1940s that this complex form of modern jazz was played or heard, but that one autumn month 100 years ago was when two of bebop’s principal architects first came into the world.

Pianist Thelonious Monk and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie were born eleven days and 170 miles apart—Monk in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, on October 10, and Dizzy in Cheraw, South Carolina, on the 21st.Monk_and_Dizzy_together[1]

Along with Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and a few others, Monk and Gillespie would develop a revolutionary style of jazz that was more harmonically complex than the early jazz and swing that came before it. Initially dismissed by older musicians, bebop captured the imagination of younger players and profoundly impacted all jazz that came after it, establishing the DNA of the classic jazz of the 1950s and 60s. Both men were also known for their personalities and sense of style.

Let’s take a closer look at these two legends as we celebrate their centennials.

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Meet the Bibliomaniac: Lizz Comer

Educator Appreciation Weekend is Oct. 5-9 at Half Price Books. While all of our staff loves teachers, we wanted to take a moment to recognize one of our great bibliomaniacs who has spent some extra time working with educators and students in her community. So in this edition of “Meet the Bibliomaniac,” we are pleased to introduce you to Lizz Comer from our Columbus, Ohio district. Take it away, Lizz!

17800241_1520290407983678_4328985803447515679_nName: Lizz Comer
Job Title: Store Manager
Location: HPB Northpointe Plaza in Lewis Center, Ohio

When did you join the team?
I started with Half Price Books in March 2007 at the wonderful Bethel Road location in Columbus. I was a bookseller and shift leader there before I transferred to Lane Avenue as an assistant manager in 2013. I became a store manager for the brand new Northpointe Plaza store Lewis Center in 2015 and have been getting this store up and running ever since.

What is your favorite part about working at HPB?
I love talking to people about books, movies and video games.

As a store manager, what’s an average day like for you?
My average day consists of coming up with lots of projects for our booksellers to work on.  I also spend a lot of time finding creative solutions to issues J.

What is your all-time favorite book, movie, album or video game?
This is way too hard to narrow it down to just one! I like classic horror movies with Vincent Price. My favorite authors are James Herbert, James Herriot and Shirley Jackson. My favorite video games are the Persona games.

What are you reading right now?
The Literary Ghost by Larry Dark, Yellow is for Fear by Dorothy Eden, The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean and Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson.

What other things do you do in your free time?
I volunteer at my local dog shelter and foster cats and dogs with PetPromise.

Tell us about your work with educators.
I recently had fun doing mock interviews with some high school students.  I gave the teacher a bunch of applications and then went to the school to tell them what I look for in an applicant. These students were in a work-study program and would soon be doing real interviews to find employment once they graduated.

Our store has also showcased local students’ essays about the book Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  We made a special display and most of the students came in to show their parents.

Who was your favorite teacher in school and why?
Every science teacher I ever had.  There are too many to name, but they made school much more interesting and instilled a curiosity to find out how things work.

Anything else to add?
I highly respect teachers and enjoy working with them.

Celebrating National Public Lands Day

Some of my fondest childhood memories are walking, riding my bike or roller skating to my neighborhood park. Marcus Park was my personal paradise where I played basketball, softball, kickball, hopscotch and even chess. My best friend and I shared secrets on the swings and made up stories while leisurely pushing the merry-go-round. This little plot of public land was an essential part of my everyday life and helped form my love of the great outdoors.

Through books, I was able to explore public lands beyond my neighborhood. When I was a young child, Make Way for Ducklings took me to the Public Garden in Boston and Brighty of the Grand Canyon instilled a lifelong desire to explore that great National Park. As an adult, I laughed my way through Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and started planning my own trek on the Appalachian Trail.

Of course, movie directors have discovered the dramatic potential of public lands such as the cliff-hanging Mount Rushmore scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

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Plus,  in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Roy Neary’s (Richard Dreyfuss) UFO obsession leads him to an isolated mountaintop, aka Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming, the nation’s first national monument.
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Saturday, September 30 is National Public Lands Day, a day to volunteer and help restore or improve your neighborhood, city, state, or national park, forest, monument or shoreline. And after you have finished volunteering how about discovering other publicly owned lands and waterways in these books and movies.

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Books, movies and music for the eclipse. No special glasses necessary.

On Monday, August 21, as you might have heard, the U.S. will experience a total solar eclipse for the first time since 1979. At least those in the ominous-sounding Path of Totality will. The rest of us will experience a partial eclipse. Nevertheless, it’s been 99 years since a total eclipse crossed the whole country, so it’s a big deal.

Back in the day, historically speaking, eclipses were often seen as omens. At HPB, we see it as a chance to highlight some books, movies and even music where eclipses play a role.

Books
Connecticut YankeeA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
In Twain’s 1899 novel, an American named Hank is transported back in time and across the pond to the court of King Arthur, where he uses his knowledge of modern science and technology to fool the people there. He’s scheduled to be burned at the stake on the exact date of an eclipse that he knows about since he’s from the future and all, so he cleverly gets out of the jam by making people think he caused the eclipse to happen.

Nightfall_coverNightfall by Isaac Asimov
Asimov was only 21-years-old when he wrote this short science fiction story, published in 1941. It concerns the fictional planet Lagash, which is lit by six suns and therefore experiences daylight at all times. When scientists start predicting a very rare eclipse of all six suns, hysteria ensues. Nightfall was once voted the best science fiction short story ever written. Asimov worked with Robert Silverberg to expand it into a novel in 1990.

DoloresClaiborneNovelgeralds-gameDolores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
The real-life solar eclipse of July 20, 1963, plays a role in these two loosely connected Stephen King novels, both released in 1992. The books were originally conceived by King as part of a longer work called In the Path of the Eclipse. By the way, this very same historical eclipse was featured in an episode of Mad Men (“Seven Twenty Three”) and was mentioned in the John Updike novel, Couples. Continue reading