A Not-My-Birthday Gift From Dad

A Rare Occurrence

During a trip for my nieces birthday party several weeks ago, I drove straight from my overnight shift at work to the city the party would be held in, about 3 hours from here. I arrived unexpectedly early, and the only other person at the house there was my dad, who’d apparently just woken up. I love my dad a lot, but it’s an infrequent occurrence that we’d be together with absolutely no one else in my family there. As a matter of fact, it may have been the first time. This has not been by design; rather, my dad is a very busy man, I live in a different city, and to be honest, we don’t have a whole lot in common.

So, dad decided to take me out for something we do have in common: a love of Mexican food. We chatted and made plans to pick up last minute party supplies, talked about both our work, things like that. We stopped by a party supply store, and then headed back; he said he wanted to get me something I’d like. He stopped at a James Avery. For the unfamiliar, James Avery is a jeweler from Texas who specializes in silver. His pieces are lovely, and most of the women in my family love getting a gift of the little orange boxes the piece come in. I’ve received some pieces myself.

But, I’m not exactly the biggest jewelery fan. I’m clumsy, and forgetful, and have a rough job. I’m not allowed to wear it there. I don’t even wear my wedding ring. I knew any piece he bought me would be worn for a few days, then probably put back in its pretty velveteen bag, in its little orange box, and “kept safe”.

But by sheer happenstance, by the greatest good fortune, my dream store happened to be on the other side of the parking lot. My haven. The place I’ve had date nights in. The place I’d wandered aimlessly and whiled away untold hours and spent God only knows how much money.

Half Price Books
In all its glory.

Half-Price Books has been my absolute favorite store since I was a teen. My dad had never set foot inside. For anyone not in Texas or Oklahoma, Half Price Books is a chain that’s also a resale shop. Most books are at least half off their cover price (the exception is specific newer titles and rarities). They also sell DVD’s, Blu-Rays, vinyl albums, and various nerdy gifts. Since I live in a university town, we’re quite heavy on individual titles, and there’s even the opportunity to buy and sell textbooks here.

This mug was my favorite.
Who wants to bet there’s a freshman level lit class at this university with a section on Sophocles?
John Ciardi translation or GTFO. Change my mind.

In short, it’s a book lover’s dreamland. And instead of the jewelry that may have collected dust, my dad gave me the best gift of all.

A $200 gift card

I insisted it was too much, but of course, in the end, I accepted, plotted and blew through most of it within a week. I bought a few books for my niece, a bibliophile like myself; one for a friend who was having a bad day, and one for my sister, who doesn’t live near HPB, as I lovingly refer to it.

Which still left plenty for me. And I did put it to good use.

But I found myself sitting on the last $40. Just wanted to spend it on something good, I said. Maybe go all in on one spectacular thing, add to it from my pocket if needed.

What happened instead was that Matt created this site, and invited me to contribute. And I thought people might like to see the inside of a regional bookstore, and maybe see the mini haul I got with that last $40.

The Mini-Haul
From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel Dennet.

Eventually, I decided on a variety. I made sure to save a bit for one pricier purchase. This one, a current non-fiction book called From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel Dennet. I’m a huge fan of non-fiction, probably because I love trivia, and these sorts of books seem to be prime sources to help me defeat my opponents in the trivia field of combat. This particular one concerns the evolution of the higher brain in humans, how we learned to think critically and problem solve. I think I’ll be reading this one first. It was not the “half price” that the store implies: as I mentioned, more recent releases may be marked only 20-25% off the cover price. Still, a reasonable price for a newly released book, at $15. It would be the most expensive item on this trip.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Sophie’s World is a book I’ve read before. I found it extremely educational. Though it’s marketed and sold as a young adult novel, I’d say it would take a very particular young adult to get through it. It’s absolutely ideal for someone in a beginner’s philosophy class because that’s what it primarily concerns. Equal parts philosophy and mystery, it has an ending that makes it worth a re-read. As I’ve had a renewed interest in philosophy lately, I thought it’d be a lovely book to visit again. This book is a couple of decades old, and so it is the cheapest one I purchased on this trip, at $4.99.

The Gilded Cage by Vic James

The Gilded Cage is a book that honestly, just stopped me because of the cover. It attracted my attention, and upon reading the back, I decided it seemed interesting. It definitely fits into the “speculative fiction” genre my dear husband loves, and concerns magic. It’s about what happens when an elite ruling class is given free reign to terrorize and subjugate a huge but weak lower class. Definitely timely. It came out last year, and I plan on reading it second. Cost: $5.99

Under The Shade Of Olive Trees by Nadia Zarouali and Merijn Tol

The last one I picked up was another that just immediately drew my eye. Under The Shade Of Olive Trees is a cookbook specifically concerning the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Northern Africa. I love regional cooking, and a glance through the recipes proved that they’d be accessible, but authentic and with a few new fusion type recipes thrown in. Perfect combination. Into the car it went, and a glance through has already showed me several recipes I want to make. Perhaps a future post can display the fruits of my labor? There’s an olive oil cake in there that looks divine and more than worth a try. $7.99, not a bad price for a cookbook.

A Fun Trip

If you’re ever in Texas, it’s always, ALWAYS worth a visit to. Every HPB store has a unique selection and layout. The employees are some of the most passionate you’ve ever met. And if you should so happen to find yourself with a gift card, it may be the hardest thing you can do to not spend it all in one day. If there’s any interest, I can show y’all what I got with the rest of it too.

Which of these books do you think is most interesting? Which do you want to see a review of? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page.