29 Short Books to Read on Leap Day

2020 is a leap year, which means this February we get one extra day to read. If you’ve ever wanted to up your book reading from say, fifty a year to seventy-nine, then this list is just for you.

Here is a list of twenty-nine quick reads under 300 pages you can dive into on this extra day. They are a perfect mix of some old, some new, some blue, some yellow, some poetry, some self-help, some existential and everything in between.

So the real question is, how many of these can you knock out with your extra day?

1. The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho


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11 Military Stories for Memorial Day

As we honor those who have fallen in service to our country, I find myself drawn again to stories about that selfless sacrifice. From movies to books, here are my recommendations of accounts of war I think are compelling and memorable for this Memorial Day.

I’ve been a military movie buff since I was a kid. Initially drawn to films meant more for entertainment than an honest account of war. Movies like The Longest Day, The Dirty Dozen, The Alamo, The Big Red One and The Great Escape were favorites. As I matured, so did my tastes, developing towards more truthful narrative. Galipoli, Paths of Glory, Platoon, Glory, and Saving Private Ryan are personal standouts.

In later years, I joined the Army, and subsequently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Ironically, my taste for war movies has sharply waned. After experiencing war first hand, I now find Hollywood typically falls short of the truth. I read more about war rather than watch it on screen now. Books allow more freedom to draw my own conclusions and at my own pace. Here are a few non-fiction books I recommend as a way to remember and honor the sacrifice others have made.

Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose is full of hundreds of amazing facts and first-hand accounts of Allied and Axis troops from the day after D-Day through the end of WWII in Europe. Another book by Ambrose, Band of Brothers, follows a group of Paratroopers during WWII and chronicles their life-long bonds forged in war. From the same author of Flags of Our Fathers, Flyboys by James Bradley tells the incredible and horrifying ordeal of US POWs on the Pacific Island of Chichi-jima. The Long Gray Line by Rick Atkinson is an intimate and honest portrayal into the complex lives of several West Point cadets from the class of 1966; their journey from school, through Vietnam and into their lives after the war. The Rough Riders by Teddy Roosevelt is a unique historical read, by a giant of American history. The personal accounts of Teddy Roosevelt’s experience in the Spanish American War is both insightful and engaging.

Whatever your plans for Memorial Day, please keep in mind those who made the ultimate sacrifice, even if that comes in the form of a book or movie.

Scott is Senior Designer at Half Price Books Corporate. He still serves in the Army Reserves and will be participating in Carry The Load this Memorial Day.

The Kick in the Pants You’ve Been Looking For: 7 Career Advice Books

Need a kick in the pants? Feel stuck? Desperate for motivation on the job? Well, I’ve got some reading suggestions for you! Granted, there are many business advice or job-seeking books out there, but these books don’t talk about making millions or climbing corporate ladders. This collection of nonfiction will stir you. And perhaps that’s just the energy you need to get your career in gear. 

In addition to these titles, I’d highly recommend reading just about anything written by Sally Hogshead or Seth Godin – both brilliant and passionate minds.

What career advice books do you suggest?

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

8 Things I Learned From My Dog

It is a new year and the holidays are in the past. It is time to be open to some new ideas. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am a dog owner, and our English Springer Spaniel, Kelsey, is just as much a part of the family as anyone. I know, pets require training and are completely dependent on our care, but if you let them, they can give back just as much. Here are 8 things I learned from my dog!

  1. When you want something, go after it! Dogs are relentless. They bark, chase and search until they get what they want. Don’t give up on something you want until you have exhausted all your effort.
  2. Adventure is all around you! You don’t always have to travel to find an adventure. There are many things in your “backyard” that are worth exploring. Appreciate everything around you.
  3. Be curious! Don’t be afraid to try new things. You may come across something you absolutely love.
  4. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. When has a dog ever pretended to be anything other than a dog? Be genuine and honest.
  5. Greet people like you haven’t seen them in a million years! It really makes a difference being greeted in a pleasant manner.
  6. Enjoy the simple things. Try to enjoy and savor the simple things in life. There are lots of things to be thankful for and enjoy each day if you just look around.
  7. Play! Be open to spontaneous fun. Take time to get away from the grind at work. Give yourself time to relax and get away from the stress.
  8. (And last but not least…) Be forgetful! Don’t hold a grudge.

These are just a few things that I have received back from my dog Kelsey. There are lots of great dog training books out there and believe it or not, cookbooks to spoil your dog. Just remember to be open to what they are offering back.

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.

This Will Make You Smarter: 5 Brainy Books

How can science explain the creative mind? What causes a spark or an idea for a new invention? Jonah Lehrer (@jonahlehrer) offers case studies to answer these questions in his new bestselling book Imagine: How Creativity Works. As a writer and creative professional, I’ve often theorized about originality and inventive thinking – “What is a truly original idea?” Through examples like invention of the Post-It Note, the formation of Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline, and how Mattel created the Barbie doll, Lehrer recounts how imagination and innovation function. Much like the style of Malcolm Gladwell, this book offers accessibility for the reader to grab hold of intellectual insights. Lehrer debunks common myths about inventions because “the radical concept was merely a new mixture of old ideas.” After reading this book you may learn to pay attention to your daydreams, where emotions and ideas are already flowing inside your brain.

Now here’s a book I was itching to read the first day it was released Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky (@scottbelsky). Ever since I met Scott in 2009, I’ve been inspired by his insights on creative thought and execution. Scott Belsky is on a mission to organize the creative world. His book distills years of research and interviews with productive and successful creative professionals to help the rest of us. Making Ideas Happen deconstructs the myths about what it means to be creative, and reveals simple ways to organize, articulate and produce ideas. Read this book if you’re hungry not just for theories, but tactics which you can put into practice.

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living was a bestseller in France where author Luc Ferry (@ferryluc) – a philophy professor at the University of Paris – is a notable thought leader and lecturer. He poses that philosophy is not an exercise for academic types, but a resource for all man kind to live fuller and freer through our thoughts, convictions and values. Ferry explores the foundation of wisdom from ancient to present day teachings. Many describe this book as accessible and concise, while others find it too dense with syntax to read quickly. Whatever your pace, you will likely find your mind stretched by the end of it, questioning and theorizing meaning in life. And, you’ll feel more knowledgable on the topics of Stocism, Humanism, Nietzche, Heidegger and more.

It’s a bold promise made in the title. This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking, edited by John Brockman (@edge), is a compilation of essays from today’s leading philosophers, scientists, economists, physicists, sociologists and playwrights who each answer the question: “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?” As the thought pioneers of their respective fields, they present 151 diverse ideas and perspectives on the human condition. It is, in short, a collection of dizzying fodder to challenge your mind. It may prove to be a mind-bending, vocabularly-enhancing read.

Long-time bestseller Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Fubner (@freakonomics) offers skilled storytelling and contorted insights to tackle topics of social sciences in a new way. This Steven/Stephen duo turns each topic on its head and pokes at hidden truths within our modern world. Well beyond examining how we think, Freakonomics creates a new way of thinking. It’s highly accessible and straight-forward. After reading this book, you’ll have stretched your brain a bit. Better yet, you’ll be well-armed for amusing and engaging conversation at a cocktail party. Since its original release in 2005, its been revised and expanded in additional editions. And in 2010, Freakonomics was adapted into a documentary film.

You might also be interested in…

13 Things I Learned from Malcolm GladwellThe Power of Habit by Charles DuhiggSeven Sins for a Life Worth Living

Agorafabulous by Sara Benincasa

You may recognize comedian and now author Sara Benincasa from her videos, blog, CNN interviews and Sarah Palin impressions. Our friends over at WIlliam Morrow sent us an advance copy of her first-ever book, Agorafabulous: Dispatches from My Bedroom, which releases February 14. In it, Sara unveils her personal struggle with agoraphobia – that is to say, she has a fear of open spaces.

Pause for a sec and read that last sentence again. Now, can you imagine living with severe anxiety, panic attacks and the fear of having a panic attack every day of your life?

In Agorafabulous, Sara rather candidly admits to a number of everyday tasks that, for her, become anxiety-ridden — even a trip to the bathroom. In chapter one, she itemizes her level of fear in an abridged chart, outlining the degree with which she’s been afraid of things like taking the bus and having a wet head. There are some truly awkward moments in her self-described “freak outs” (but hey, we all have awkward moments, right?).

Although it uses the vehicle of comedy, her work addresses a serious topic. Her book reaches out to other people who suffer with mental illnesses and screams YOU’RE NOT ALONE!

“I subscribe to the notion that if you can laugh at the sh#!&est moments in your life, you can transcend them. And if other people can laugh at your awful sh*t as well, then I guess you can call yourself a comedian.”

~ Sara Benincasa

Her comedic storytelling is exuberant. And, make no mistake, Sara is blunt. Perhaps you don’t have a fear of leaving your bedroom, but you may find yourself relating to the vulnerable nature of her confessions and laughing aloud at her honest self-assessments. There’s something wildly bare and relatable about Sara’s writing, similar in voice to that of Tina Fey.

Sara now lives in the wide open spaces of New York City, where “most people are even crazier than I am.” There, she continues to perform her one-woman comedy show on stage. And rumor has it there’s already a film adaptation of Agorafabulous in the works.

Does Agorafabulous remind you of any other memoirs you’d recommend?

— Meredith

On the Menu: Summer Recipies for Your July 4th Cookout

What’s cooking, America?! It’s 4th of July weekend and time to bust out the charcoal for a cookout! Whether you’re hosting an Independence Day backyard bash or an indoor dinner party, here’s a menu to inspire you and get your taste buds salivating.

4th of July Party Menu

  • Crunchy Lemon Pepper Wings
  • Smoked Deviled Eggs
  • Fresh Watermelon Lemonade
  • BLT Burger with Asparagus
  • Potatoes in the Embers
  • Cob Roasted in the Husks
  • Homemade Rocky Road

Start with some finger-food appetizers like Crunchy Lemon Pepper Wings. They have lots of zesty flavor without being spicy (for hot wing wimps like me). Deviled eggs are always a crowd pleaser but when you smoke them, it adds a detail that will make your guests rave about your skills in the kitchen. Slice up a watermelon and serve up a juicy wedge on the side of a glass of lemonade or your favorite cocktail. I suggest Watermelon Margaritas on the rocks with sugar-rimmed glasses. After all, we’re celebrating our nation’s independence! 😉

Next, fire up the grill for BLT Burgers with Asparagus, served with lettuce, tomato and other fixings. It’s a hearty and flavorful entree with the chopped canadian bacon mixed and cooked into the hamburger patty. Take a break from the traditional potato salad and try out a recipe for Potatoes in the Embers with some woody flavor, perfect for a cookout. Add a side of fresh corn on the cob roasted in the husks, which is especially mouth-watering if you season them with fresh ground black pepper, garlic and rosemary.

And last but not least, finish off your feast before the fireworks with Homemade Rocky Road, a classic American ice cream. Plenty sweet and extra nutty with macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and almonds in the mix. Now, go eat, drink and be merry. Happy 4th of July! Enjoy!

Where to find these tasty recipies:

Appetizers: Wings: More Than 50 High-Flying Recipes for America’s Favorite Snack by Debbie Moose (p 36) and The Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook by Ardie A Davis, Check Paul Kirk and Carolyn Wells (p 28).
Entree: Best Ever Barbecue: A Collection of Over 100 Essential Recipes by Love Food (p 14).
Sides: Beer-Can Chicken and 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill by Steven Raichlen (p 242, 255).
Dessert: Ice Cream: Amazing Ices, Sherbets, Sorbets, Bomes and Iced Desserts by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (p 75).

Check your local HPB for these cookbooks or shop hpb.com to shop our online HPB Marketplace.