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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Meet the Bibliomaniacs: The HPB Tyler Team

You asked, we listened. We’re beyond excited for the opening of our new store in Tyler, TX. In this edition of Meet the Bibliomaniacs, we would like to introduce you to the entire HPB Tyler team. Take it away, guys!

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What is your favorite part about working at HPB?

  • “Interacting with and serving our customers and setting up my staff to succeed.” ­– Joseph M. (Store Manager)
  • “My interactions with customers and employees.” – Cody T. (Asst. Store Manager)
  • “The customers and coworkers are my favorite part of working at HPB.” – Twila B. (Shift Leader)
  • “Being surrounded by the things I love.” – Curtis B. (Bookseller)
  • “Meeting new people.” – Natasha M. (Bookseller)
  • “Learning! Opportunities to learn about anything and everything are endless.” – Bree L. (Bookseller)
  • “Discovering fantastic books!” – Jeff G. (Bookseller)
  • “How much HPB understands and celebrates the individuality of its team members.” – Dana E. (Bookseller)
  • “I am a bibliophile, so my favorite part of being a team member is the books and officially becoming a bibliomaniac.” – Jennifer G. (Bookseller)

What is your all-time favorite book, movie or album?

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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

Meet the Bibliomaniac: Aliyah Uddin

If you haven’t heard the good news, we’re opening a new store in St. Charles, MO. We can’t wait for you, our booklovers, to come check out our new digs. We’re even more excited for you to get to know the amazing staff. In this edition of “Meet the Bibliomaniac”, we introduce you to Aliyah.

Store #127 Shift Leader-Aliyah UddinName: Aliyah Uddin
Job Title: Shift Leader
Location:  HPB St. Charles

When did you join the team? 
September 2016

As a shift leader, what’s an average day like for you?
Right now, we are installing our new store in St. Charles, MO.  So it’s a lot of guidance, lots of alphabetizing, sizing the books and making sure the shelves are full for our Great Opening on August 17!

What is your favorite part about working at HPB?
Definitely seeing what we are buying from our customers!  Then visiting with our customers about our inventory and getting them as excited about it as I am!

What is your all-time favorite book/movie or album? 
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

What are you reading right now?
A Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

What TV show/movie are you embarrassed to admit you love?
Say Yes to the Dress

What do you like to do in your free time?
I am a photographer.  I love to photograph weddings and families!

If you could write a book about yourself, what would the title be? 
A Foot in Two Worlds

When are you the happiest?
When I am in the presence of my family, whether we’re doing something special or just hanging out.

Anything else you’d like to add? 
I love this job!  Can’t wait for the new store to open!

 

A Book Nerd’s Look at the Modern Mass Market Paperback

To call me a book nerd would be like calling the Hulk green, so obvious that the statement is completely unnecessary. So, when I found out that July 30 was the day the modern paperback book was introduced, I wanted to know more.

First, let’s get some facts straight. July 30, 1935 was not the day the first paperback book was published. In France and Germany, paperback books were published in the 17th century, and James Fenimore Cooper wrote paperback book-like frontier stories back in 1823. Probably the first true mass-market paperback was Malaeska, by Ann S. Stephens, published in June 1860 by the pioneers of the Dime Novel or “penny dreadful.”

However, July 30, 1935 was the day Sir Allen Lane, founder of Penguin Publishing, published the first “respectable” paperback book, Ariel, by André Maurois. Ariel is a biography of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The story behind the first Penguin paperback is that Mr. Lane, after a weekend in the country with Agatha Christie, was at the train station looking for something to read on his trip back to London, but couldn’t find anything except slick magazines and pulp fiction. His idea was to make quality fiction and nonfiction available in places like train stations for discerning readers who were traveling, and to make them just as affordable as a pack of cigarettes. Voila, the modern paperback was born.

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At first, booksellers were reluctant to buy Lane’s paperbacks, but when Woolworths placed a large order, the books sold so well that booksellers began to stock Lane’s books, making the name “Penguin” synonymous with paperbacks. Continue reading

For HPB’s 45th Birthday: What Else? 45s!

In honor of Half Price Books turning 45, we feature some great 45 rpm singles from their heyday in the fifties, sixties and seventies. (Wait until 2050 for the birthday when we feature 78 rpm records.)

When are 45s gonna become cool again? Or so uncool that they’re hip? Who cares—we love 45s! They sound big and in-your-face, and we see so many rare, sublime and forgotten treasures come through our doors.

45s are cheap, too! Most are in the 50 cents-to-a-dollar range in our stores. Here are a few that are a little more special.

ElvisPresleyElvis Presley – “That’s All Right”/ “Blue Moon of Kentucky”
1976, RCA Victor 447-0601 promo in RCA sleeve MCST 40462 (UK) picture disc
Elvis recorded these songs in 1954 (the single’s label says 1955) at Sun Studio for his first single. Also available, a promo reissue of his 2nd single, “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
Both are in Very Good condition.—$15 each Continue reading