A Book Nerd’s Look at the Best Books of the Decade (2010-2019)

As 2019 comes to an end, “Best Books of the Decade” lists are bound to start popping up everywhere. This is ours; along with a list of the best books I’ve read this decade. Of course, as a used book store we also want to remind you that every book is new if you haven’t read it yet!


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot—A nonfiction book and winner of the National Academies Communication Award (published 2/2/2010)


  • Honorary mention: Room, by Emma Donahue (published 8/6/2010)
  • Best book I read in 2010: Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett (published in 1929)

Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Editor’s Note: Kate Morton is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lake House. Her newest book The Clockmaker’s Daughter, now available in paperback, is the rich, spellbinding new novel that tells the story of a love affair and a mysterious murder that cast their shadows across generations, set in England from the 1860s until the present day. Special thanks to Sara Rattaro for this insight into what went in to the writing of Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

 How did you manage to intertwine different narrative plans with such ease and without any flaws? How do you write and develop your novels?
I wrote The Clockmaker’s Daughter differently from my other novels. In the past, I have written each chapter in the same order that it appears in the published book; this time, however, I wanted the structure of the novel to support the thematic exploration of time. It was important to me from the start to show the way different layers of time had transpired within a single place. I knew up front that the novel would contain a number of short vignettes – snapshots into the lives of various residents of Birchwood Manor, the house at the novel’s heart – linked together by an over-arching first-person narrative. I wrote the historical vignettes first so that when it came time to write Birdie Bell’s story, I – like she – was privy to the experiences of all of the other characters across time. Because I wrote the past interludes simultaneously, I was better able to glimpse the silvery threads that tied them together.

Continue reading

A Grown-up Who Grew Up With Harry Potter

I was a junior in college when the first Harry Potter book was released. Needless to say, the series was not on my radar then, and it remained stealthily outside those bounds until I began substitute teaching after college. That’s when I first saw 12 and 13-year old children toting around the same book.

I finally asked, “What are you all reading?”

I got the definitive answer, “Oh! YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THESE BOOKS!”


Continue reading

If You Like “The Fault in Our Stars,” You Might Also Like…

If you (like me) loved reading The Fault in our Stars by John Green, here are a couple of other similar books you might also enjoy.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

This winner of the 2012 Cybil Award for Young-Adult Fiction and the 2013 Westchester Fiction Award is about Greg Gaines, a socially invisible senior who only has one friend, Earl.  Greg and Earl spend their time playing video games and making their own movies.  Then Greg’s mother forces him to befriend Rachel, who has leukemia. However, when Rachel decides to stop her treatment, Greg and Earl must give up their invisible status and make a stand.

The Probability of Miracles by Windy Wunder

Sixteen-year-old Cam Cooper has spent the last seven years in and out of hospitals, but her mother and half-sister won’t accept that Cam’s cancer is terminal. So they decide to move 1,500 miles away to Promise, Maine, a town known for the miraculous events that occur there. Cam wants none of it, but she can’t deny the strange things that happen in Promise.  I’d tell you more, but I don’t want to give anything away.

As you may know The Fault in our Stars was dedicated to Esther Earl, a sixteen-year-old girl who passed away from cancer in 2010. Today, the book This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl has been released.  This book is a collection of journals, fiction, letters and sketches of the late Ester Grace Earl.  If you are looking for other non-fiction titles like This Star Won’t Go Out, here are a couple you might want to check out.

Poster Child: A Memior by Emily Rapp

Emily Rapp was born with a congenital defect that required her to have her left foot amputated at the age of four.  She also became the smiling, indefatigable poster child for the March of Dimes, spending her childhood traveling around the country making appearances and giving pep talks.  Emily writes about her trouble finding artificial legs that can keep up with her activity level and how her disability has impacted her entire life.


Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer.  After a surgery in which doctors removed a third of her jaw, she returned to school to face the cruel taunts of her classmates.  She writes movingly about what it’s like to want to be loved for who you are and at the same time desperately wanting to be perfect, a contradiction everyone will be able to relate to.

You might also check out This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, out at the end of January; John Green dedicated TFIOS to Esther Grace, who died at the age of 16 from cancer. As always, Don’t forget to join the HPB Book Club in reading The Fault in our Stars this month, and be on the look out for the movie, scheduled to be released this June. 


Julie is Production Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

Mission Accomplished: I Read 100 Books in 2013

Like many of you (50K of you, in fact), I resolved to read more in 2013. I challenged myself to read 100 books before the year’s end. And I can proudly say I did it!

Since I work for a bookstore and mingle with publishers year-round, I’m lucky enough to always have a good book on hand, including some advanced reader copies. Here’s a look at my 15 favorites among the 100 books I read in 2013, along with my ratings of each. The first 13 on my list earned themselves a 5-star rating. Keep reading to learn how you can enter to win a $100 HPB Gift Card.

1. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert,
2. The Son by Philipp Meyer,
3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand,
4. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey,
5. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer,
6. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple,
7. Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard,
8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell,
9. The Dinner by Herman Koch,
10. Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley,
11. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini,
12. On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee (January 7, 2014 release date),
13. Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan,
14. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (January 7, 2014 release date),
15. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


So now it’s your turn, booklovers. Join me! I’m making a resolution again for 2014 to keep on reading more! Tell us about your resolution (here) and enter for a chance to score a $100 HPB Gift Card.

HOW TO ENTER: Go to hpb.com/resolve and complete the entry form, including how many books you resolve to read in 2014. You must provide a valid email address so we can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. Limit one entry per person. Deadline to enter is Friday, January 31, 2014.* Just for kicks, tell us what books you’ll be reading this year in the comments below. Need some recommendations? Stop in your local store today and ask for help. Happy New Year!

*One randomly selected winner will be notified via email after January 31, 2014.

Kristen B. is Procurement Specialist at Half Price Books Distribution Center.
You can follow her on Twitter at @kbev302.

Remembering JFK: 50 Years after the Assassination

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Those are among the most famous words spoken by John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address as our nation’s 35th president.

On this 50th anniversary of his assassination, we take time to reflect on his life, his presidency, his tragic death and his legacy. In addition to the more than 40,000 books already published about JFK, there’s a shelf full of new titles which were released this year. Here’s a quick guide to help you discover some of the best-selling and most-talked-about nonfiction this season.

(Row 1) Five Days in November by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin, The Kennedy Assassination by Professor Matthew Smith and David Southwell, End of Days by James Swanson, The Day Kennedy Was Shot by Jim Bishop; (Row 2) Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly, Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House by Robert Dallek, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews, TIME JFK: His Enduring Legacy by David Von Drehle with Chris Matthews; (Row 3) Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy by Caroline Kennedy, Photographic History of JFK: His Life, His Legacy by Tim Hill; and Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio. 

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

Snowstorm Read: The Marriage Plot

Although the following sentence currently seems laughable in Texas (where it’s 60 degrees outside), we are quickly approaching the time of year where we can start expecting some serious snowstorms. When that time arrives, you should have a copy of The Marriage Plot on your shelf.

The Marriage Plot follows the lives of three very different people– Leonard, Madeleine, and Mitchell, who are caught in a love triangle while finishing college and trying to decide what to do with the rest of their lives. Mitchell loves Madeleine, Madeleine loves Leonard, and Leonard – well, no one knows exactly what Leonard wants. Madeleine graduates college and wants only to be with Leonard, but then she discovers something very difficult: Leonard is bipolar. Throughout their time together, Madeleine discovers what it’s like to live with and love someone with this disease. Marriage and love are two very different things. Mitchell, meanwhile, runs off to India only to be slapped in the face with the realities of a third world country.

The writing of this novel is absolutely beautiful.  Eugenides has accomplished something here– in an age where books and TV shows are all about more and more action, he managed to keep my attention without any. I found myself never wanting to put the book down, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. I didn’t need to know what was coming next; there weren’t any cliff hangers; I just couldn’t stop reading. And that, my friends, is the mark of a truly amazing book, in my opinion. Madeleine was an English major, so Eugenides took the chance to write about books, authors, and readers.

An exerpt: “She wasn’t all that interested, as a reader, in the reader. She was still partial to that increasingly eclipsed entity: the writer. Madeleine had a feeling that most semiotic theorists had been unpopular as children, often bullied or overlooked, and so had directed their lingering rage onto literature. They wanted to demote the author. They wanted a book, that hard-won, transcendent thing, to be a text, contingent, indeterminate, and open for suggestions. They wanted the reader to be the main thing. Because they were readers.

Whereas Madeleine was perfectly happy with the idea of genius. She wanted a book to take her places she couldn’t get to herself. She thought a writer should work harder writing a book than she did reading it.”

I would definitely highly recommend getting caught in a snowstorm with this book and a good cup of hot chocolate! If you finish it before the storm is over, pick up Middlesex, also by Eugenides, which is also an amazing book!

What book do you recommend getting stuck in a snowstorm with?  

 — Kristen B.

Great gifts for lovers of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Looking for the perfect gift for the lover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy? Here are a few books published in the last year that can help fill that void and keep anyone reading way into the night.

The Informationist, Taylor Stephens   

Meet Vanessa “Michael” Munroe, a woman who was born to missionary parents in Africa and soon became the protégé of a gunrunner and his mercenary crew once she was old enough. Michael deals with information. You need information, she can find it – no matter what the cost. That is, until something sent her running. After building a new life and starting over, a Texas oil billionaire hires her to find his missing daughter. Michael agrees and starts to find some very deep, dark secrets. Can she eventually find out what happened to the billionaire’s daughter? She heads back to Africa to deal with her demons and find out.

The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen

After almost being killed in the line of duty, Carl Mørck, is “promoted” to a new department, called Department Q, which handles special investigations. He quickly discovers that he is the only one in the department and it’s not exactly a promotion. He acquires a stack of Copenhagen’s cold cases – ones that are so cold no one else can figure out. One of these cases catches his attention. A case of a missing politician, Merete Lynggaard, who vanished out of thin air five years earlier.  This novel flips back and forth between Mørck’s investigation and what actually happened to Merete.

The Hypnotist, Lars Kepler 

After a gruesome murder of a family, only one witness remains. A young boy, who himself was attacked with over a hundred times with a knife and lapsed into shock. Desperate and out of other leads,  Detective Inspector Joona Linna, enlists a hypnotist, Dr. Erik Maria Bark, to help see into the boy’s mind & get information to lead them to the killer. Dr. Bark had sworn in the past that he would never do that kind of work again, but he finally agrees. After he hypnotizes the boy, it triggers a very dangerous chain of events.

And don’t forget The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie with Daniel Craig as Blomkvist comes is in movies theatres tomorrow. Tickets to the movie is another great Christmas gift. Check your local theatre for show times or gift cards. Enjoy the trailer!


 — Kristen B.

Catherine the Great + 12 Historical Biographies about Royalty

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert K. Massie has done it again. His latest historical biography, Catherine the Great, officially releases tommorow –  Tuesday, November 8. Thanks to our friends at Random House, we were able to dive in to an advanced copy so we can tell you all about it. Such intrigue!

In Massie’s characteristic style, this book offers an imagery-laden narrative read that’s so rich in drama you might just forget it’s historical fact and not fiction. Highly recommended reading selection for history buffs or for any reader who enjoys a good, sordid tale. And it runs the gamut – from numerous affairs and illegitamate children, to near-assassination plots and political coups. Catherine the Great‘s biography tells the fascinating turn of events from childhood through adolescence which led her into the Russian court, and into adulthood when she became Empress of Russia at the age of 33. You follow along as Russian Empress Elizabeth takes her under her wing and nurtures her, and then watch how quickly so many turn against her.

Massie studied American history at Yale and European history at Oxford. He brings his fine education and decades of research to the page in this new book. His previously-published, enthralling biographies include Peter the Great (1980), Nicholas and Alexandra (1989), and The Romanovs (1996).


If you enjoy this biography, you should check out these other historical biographies about monarchs throughout history (pictured above). Many of their life stories have been written about countless times, some made into award-winning motion pictures. There’s enough published about royalty and nobility to keep you busy reading for quite a while.

And remember, November is National Lifewriting Month, an opportunity to celebrate and share our personal and family stories. So read a biography or grab a pen and start scribing your own memior.

— Meredith