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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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

Banned Book Titles, A Poetry Challenge

Last year we held a Banned Books Title Poetry Contest, and our finalists inspired me to write my own Banned Books Title poem.  Then, I was challenged by the lovely Kristen D. to use as many titles as I could in one poem.  I have answered that challenge, and here it is.  I call it:

“That was Then, This is Now”

It was

1984, just one year,

Though maybe 365 Days

Still only A Wrinkle in Time

In the small Hamlet

Where The House of Spirits stood,

My House,

My Sanctuary,


With A Light in the Attic

Burning across A Thousand Acres

In the Night.

Kitchen full of Strange Fruit

Where One Fat Summer

The Grapes of Wrath

Dried up like a Raisin in the Sun,

I sat with my Beloved James

And the Giant Peach he ate

While I finished The Last of the Wine.

Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon” he said.

But The Art of Love is confusing,

To know Where the Heart Is,

Or worse, Where the Sidewalk Ends,

To Have and Have Not,

A Paradise Lost.

So I exercised The Right to Lie

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,

Like Fallen Angels,

And Their Eyes Were Watching God

And No Birds Sang.

But That was Then, This is Now,

A Brave New World

Where I’ve found A Separate Peace

Full of Public Smiles, Private Tears

And The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Now As I Lay Dying I say,

It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me.

Love is One of the Choices,

And The Facts Speak for Themselves.

We are all Outsiders,

And We All Fall Down.

But The Headless Cupid

Offers no Deliverance

In Love and Trouble.

I also wrote a much smaller one titled “The Chocolate War”

One Fat Summer

In Civil Disobedience

Johnny Got His Gun

And started The Chocolate War.

From The Upstairs Room

I heard the question, “Where’s Waldo?

Go ask Alice!” I screamed to Charlie.

And the Chocolate Factory gurgled away,

Like Water for Chocolate,

Always Running,

Blood and Chocolate,

The Red and the Black

Causing The Color of Earth

To turn black like Oil!

So we make The Stand

On The Fighting Ground,

The Last Mission before

A Farewell to Arms

Sees Charlie following Alice in Wonderland,

For there are no Hard Feelings

When Legends Die.

And I Still Rise

Knowing A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich

And The Long Secret of it all

Was that he was just trying To Kill a Mockingbird.

So, now I challenge you!  Can you write a poem using the titles of Banned Books?  They don’t have to be as long as mine.  Share them in the comments below. 

And Celebrate Banned Books Week by reading a banned or challenged book.  You can find them at your local HPB. — 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.

5 Poems for People Who Don’t Like Poetry

April is National Poetry Month. Now, I happen to love poetry. It is fascinating to me that you can say so much by saying so little, while really delving into the psyche through an honest display of emotion.  However, I have found that not everyone enjoys poetry the way I do. For some, even the word poetry drags up boring lectures about how a butterfly represents the metamorphosis of existence in the temporal field. (Yeah, I don’t even know what I just said.)

If this sounds like you, don’t despair. Here are five poets and their poems that I guarantee even people who hate poetry will like and understand. These are poems that are easy to read, tell a wonderful story and will maybe even make you laugh.

1. The Man from Snowy River, by Banjo Paterson

“The Man from Snowy River” tells the story of a group of men who are following a mob of wild bush horses to recover the colt from Old Regret, who was worth a thousand pounds.  Though they don’t think much of the Man from Snowy River who comes to help them or his small mountain bred pony, this mountain man chases the horses relentlessly and brings them in singlehandedly.  The ballads and poetry of Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson are said to have captured the spirit of the Australian Outback.  His ballad “Waltzing Matilda” is Australia’s unofficial national anthem and “The Man from Snowy River” was turned into a film in 1982, starring Kirk Douglas.

2. Entertaining her Big Sister’s Beau, by Bret Harte

“Entertaining her Big Sister’s Beau” is a funny, one-sided conversation a precocious little girl has with her big sister’s date, reminding you that kids do indeed say the darndest things.  I first read this poem in an old English textbook that my mother kept, and I used the poem for poetry readings at dramatic competitions.  Now, I wish I had kept that old textbook, as this poem is very difficult to find.  Thank goodness I made a copy of it.  Now, I just have to remember where I put it.

3.  she being brand new, by e.e. cummings

Anyone who believes that poetry has too many rules should read e.e. cummings, the ultimate rebel poet, and of course, the world’s best poetic metaphor, “she being brand new.”  Don’t be discouraged by the fact that the poem is a metaphor.  Read it once and if you don’t get it right away (due to e.e.’s odd use of punctuation), have someone read it to you.  Believe me, you won’t be able to stop smiling.

4. Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House, by Billy Collins

If that title won’t get you to read this poem, then I don’t know what will.  “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House” is a fun poem about the neighbor’s dog that will not stop barking and what the narrator does to counteract this disturbance. Billy Collins uses his dry sense of humor to make his poetry not only amusing, but also relatable. No wonder he was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003.

5.  Fleas, by Ogden Nash

The complete poetic genius of “Fleas” can only be understood by looking at the entire poem.


That’s it. What more can you say? Ogden rocks.

So, if you felt animosity
Toward any type of poetry,
I hope these poems helped you see

You don’t have to be vexed
At all the subtext
Sometimes a flea is a flea.

— Julie

#BBAW11 Title Poetry CONTEST

We LOVED the Title Poetry contests put on the last few weeks by the incomparable Janet Reid and the adorable Tahereh Mafi, so we were inspired to do our own, with a Banned Books twist! 

Here’s how it will work: 

Make a poem with your *banned* books. You may need to add a word here and there, but each line of the poem must include the title of a *banned* book— children’s or adult.  

How to enter: EMAIL the poem and the jpg to besocial@hpb.com. Poem in the body of the email, jpg attached. The contest will close Wednesday 9/28 at noon (12:00 p.m.) and will open . . .  NOW! We will publish the Top 5 and the winner on Thursday 9/29. 

(UPDATE: We’ve heard that some of you would like more time (understandably) so we’re pushing the deadline back to Thursday 9/29 at noon, with the Top 5 & winner posted on Friday 9/30. Now get to it.)

Don’t have a stack of banned books just laying around? Feel free to go to your nearest Half Price Books — there are plenty sold there (since 1972 :))

We can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

— Kristen D.  

Top 31 (PG-13 Rated) College Experiences (In Which I Not-So-Subtlely Encourage You To Order Your Textbooks* from HPB.com)

(Disclaimer: The following is a list of college experiences compiled from the HPB Blog Team and is not meant to directly reflect my own college experience. Except for the brilliant & funny bits — those are all totally mine. Also, please prepare yourself for some nudges to buy your textbooks from HPB.)

1. Move to college town. Feel so excited you might puke on your shoes. Or your new pot-luck roommate’s shoes. Try hard not to.

2. Get your textbooks. Which you ordered from hpbmarketplace.com (of course). Cheer (quietly, because roommate is napping. Again.) Roommate did not order textbooks from hpbmarketplace.com. Start to suspect this regret may be adding to her depression (naturally).

3. Request change of residence. Because roommate had a nervous breakdown, which may or may not have been textbook-related (but obviously it was).

4. Two words: Ramen Noodles

5. Two more words: Spaghetti O’s

6. Write a check at the copy shop for $1.27. Which bounces.

7. Forage for snacks. Take zip top bags to the dorm cafeteria and stash to-go food secretly in your back pack.

8. Acquire the resolve to do well in college, graduate, and get a job that pays enough to not have to eat mustard packets for dinner. Until then, make some cash by selling your first semester textbooks to Half Price Books. Use windfall to upgrade mustard from French’s to Grey Poupon.

9. Get dumped by your girlfriend/boyfriend. Woe. Gloom. Despair. 

10. Visit the Home Laundromat. Take trunkfuls of dirty laundry home to visit Mom. Upload enough “fun” pictures to Facebook to make all your high school friends believe you’re having the time of your life. Ask Mom if it’s normal to feel like you’re not having the time of your life. Feel better when she lends you a poetry book on finding yourself. (Which she ordered– wait for it — from hpbmarketplace.com.)

11. Wipe tears, and try again. Play the field. Find a new girlfriend/boyfriend, or fall in love with being on your own. Joy. Glee. Euphoria.

12. Join the intramural badminton team. Design the uniforms, including monogrammed sweatbands.

13. Score some battle scars. Try out for the local roller derby league, only to show off your best bruises to your sorority sisters.

14. Get involved on campus. Make some friends. Pledge a fraternity/sorority/social group, and find yourself doing and saying things you never thought you’d do or say (for which you can make fun of yourself years later, with the rock solid friends who did and said those things with you.) Wear school colors. Sing school songs. Develop undying hatred for rival schools and their state’s inhabitants. 

15. See your favorite band in concert for the first time. Call home and hold up your cell phone for your brother, who’s introduced them to all his high school friends. Buy him a half-priced LP for his birthday.

16. Watch six movies in a row. Decide you’re going to film school.

17. Learn to play the guitar. Decide you’re dropping out of school (don’t, though.)

18. Arm-wrestle. Thumb-wrestle. Lip-wrestle. (Just don’t actually wrestle. Unless you’re on the wrestling team, of course. Or playing Twister.)

19. Travel or study abroad. Don’t watch the movie Taken first. Grow up by leaps and bounds.

20. Immediately upload Louvre and Big Ben pictures to Facebook. Remember that discussion with your mom over laundry freshman year. Find the same inspirational poetry book at your local Half Price Books and give it to one of your new freshman friends, whose life it changes. (Don’t ask us how. It just does.)

21. Sit in on a class you’re not taking because you heard the professor is that good (or, because you’re majoring in Petroleum Engineering but actually want to learn about Cultural Anthropology.) Find the material so fascinating you order the textbook for some light reading. Guess where from.

22. Change majors — because the textbook makes you realize that Petroleum Engineering is rubbish and Cultural Anthropology is your real passion in life. Order more textbooks. Come to terms with the fact that Petroleum Engineering would have actually made for better job prospects than Cultural Anthropology, but it’s cool, because you decide you’d like to do Teach for America/Grad school/Peace Corps upon graduation. Realize you need to start volunteering. And recycling. And applying.

23. Meanwhile, turn 21. Go out and celebrate. Try not to die.

24. Curse loudly. Because while you succeeded in not dying, you discover that your car has been towed.

25. Eat your feelings. By comforting yourself with pizza from a downtown street vendor at 2 a.m.

26. Make impulsive decisions. Feeling sorry for yourself morphs into wild abandon. Get a tattoo from a downtown shop at 2:15 a.m.

27. Regret those decisions. Sob into your pancakes at 3 a.m. Because now Tommy’s hungry. 

28. Realize the epic brilliance of “the fourth meal.” It heals all wounds. And tattoos are (mostly) removable.

29. Watch the sunrise. Pass out till it’s dark again. Boot. Rally.

30. Have an epiphany. Discover that red Solo cups are the key to everything fun in life.

31. Have an actual epiphany. Think often about Mom and her infinite laundry-scented-poetry-book wisdom. Learn (in a myriad ways) that maybe college is not “the best time of your life.” And that’s okay. Isn’t it better to believe that your best days are ahead?

*Seriously though, you should order your textbooks from us. If you shop HPB Marketplace online, you can save up to 90% off campus bookstore prices. You can impress mom and dad before the semester even starts. If you’re a procrastinator (like me), be sure to choose expedited shipping to make sure those textbooks arrive in time for class. You’ll thank me for it later. Cross my heart.

And in the meantime, what are (were) your best college experiences (even if they were the worst at the time?) 

– Kristen D.

Staff Picks: Top Star Trek-Inspired Poems

The weekend before last, our Kentucky HPB team traveled to the Star Trek Convention in Nashville to exhibit, with Captain Kirk books and Star Fleet manuals in tow. Said Tory Herron, Kentucky District Manager, “As for ‘fun, cool, and/or funny,’ the convention was all that and more.  Everyone who went from HPB is a fan of the show in one form or another, so we didn’t feel out of our element—it was really great to see folks just embracing all of it.  If you are going to pay to go to one of these things, you give up the right to be ‘too cool for the room.’ So there’s no looking down your nose at people– no cynicism, none of the normal haters— because it was just a whole lot of people who were all happy to be together, talking about something they all have in common and enjoying the silliness for what it is.”


                                 (Kentucky HPBers showing their Trek spirit)

To tie in intergalactic shenanigans and literature, the staff held a Star Trek Poetry Contest. One of the poems, submitted by Emily Read, really summed it up for Tory: “I left my loser friends at home and went to the convention with my parents/ My friends are jealous, that I’m at Star Trek, they won’t get a shirt.” 

 Here are a few other choice selections:   

(Submitted by Tory’s husband, Wes) 

 (Submitted by a guy who claimed to not be a poet but a mathematician, so he provided his own form of poetry through binary code. Super cool and creative!)

In true team spirit, Tory also provided her own poem: “Oh Spock/ With your pointy ears/ Hear my plaintive cry/ Bilbo Baggins did not live in a hole.” Ha!

How about it, guys? Do we have any poets in our midst? We’d love to hear any Star-Trek inspired poems. Post ’em if you got ’em (in the comments).

— Becky