Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What's in a name?

Technology changes language. Who would have thought five years ago, we would add the verb “google” to our vocabulary? The centuries-old term "book" seems to be going through a transition, as well. The first definition at dictionary.com is still “a set of written, printed or blank pages fastened along one side and encased in a protective cover.” Anyone who has popped an audio book tape or CD into a car player knows better.

When paperback books became popular in the 1940s and ‘50s, there was much wringing of hands that the new format was a death knell for its hardback cousin. Any visit to a library should alleviate such fears. Hardbacks still abound, along with all the newer formats.

Libraries also now offer digital books that you can download from the Internet and read or listen to. All you need is a Fairfax County Public Library card. We’ve got bestsellers, how-to guides, business books and more  all in digital format. More information about our new downloadable recorded books is available here.

If you’ve ever checked out an e-book or a digital audio book, please leave a comment below about your experience.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


“I feel duped,” Oprah Winfrey said during her show yesterday. She was referring to author James Frey’s book “A Million Little Pieces.” Last October Oprah selected Frey’s memoir for her book club. On January 8 The Smoking Gun, an investigative Web site, revealed that the author had fabricated key parts of his autobiography. A media storm erupted, and Oprah, Frey, the publisher and autobiographies in general came under attack.

“NPR radio interviewed authors who taught memoir writing and they slammed him,” reports Reston Regional Library Manager Nadia Taran. “I'm disappointed in Mr. Frey. Saying that only five percent of the
book is inaccurate is like saying you're only a little pregnant.”

The New York Times reports that on her show yesterday, Oprah asked Frey if he made up the material because it helped him cope or because he wanted to sell books. “Probably both,” he admitted.

“If he had simply turned his fantasies into a novel, rather than an autobiography, he wouldn't be getting so much bad press now,” says Nancy Ryan, the manager of our Herndon Library. “But as a novel, the book probably wouldn't have gotten picked by Oprah and wouldn't have gotten published by a big publishing house.”

What do you think?

February 1, 1:30 p.m. George Mason University’s Dr. Janette Muir presents “The News We Need: Finding Balance in an Age of Spin” for ages 15 and older at the Dolley Madison Library.

February 4, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Crafts, grab bags and face painting as part of Fairfax City's Chocolate Lovers Festival. For all ages at the Fairfax City Regional Library.

February 4, 2 p.m. Korean New Year Celebration. Music, dance and light refreshments for all ages at the George Mason Regional Library.

February 4, Noon to 3 p.m. Black History: A Celebration of Community. Crafts, games and entertainment for all ages at the Pohick Regional Library.

February 4. Used Book Sale at the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library.

Find free activities for toddlers in our online calendar.

“The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency – the belief that the here and now is all there is.” -- Allan Bloom

© 2006 Fairfax County Public Library

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Pen and Ink

From West Point cadets to Stephen King, everyone is discovering the power of comic books. King has agreed to create an original graphic novel based on his Dark Tower series. Future graduates of the U.S. Military Academy are required to read Persepolis, a 2003 graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi set during the Iranian revolution in 1979.

According to Time International, revenue from the sale of graphic novels in the U.S. almost tripled between 2001 and 2004. Borders has reported a 100 percent increase in graphic novel sales over the past three years. Teachers and librarians have even embraced the genre for reluctant readers. Special graphic novel sections for young adults have been created in public libraries -- including ours.

Long gone are the days when those of a certain age had to take a flashlight to bed to read forbidden adventures published by Marvel and D.C. Comics. A Contract With God by Will Eisner, published in 1978, marks the birth of the modern graphic novel. The form took another leap toward respectability when Art Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for Maus, the biography of his parents during the Holocaust. (The book depicted Jews as mice and Nazis as cats.) In the past 15 years, the form has exploded. In addition to Persepolis and Maus, here’s a few more to sample. If you’ve got a favorite to recommend, please use the comments box below.

The Yellow Jar by Patrick Atagnan

Ghost World and Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes

The Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins

Mother, Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier

Palestine by Joe Sacco

In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Other Virginia

On January 22, 1901, Britain’s monarch died, marking the end of one of the most important periods in history: the Victorian era. During Queen Victoria’s 64-year reign, Britain became the first world superpower, dominating 25 percent of the earth’s population. The global telecommunications industry was launched with the invention of the electric telegraph in 1844; health care took a giant leap forward with the discovery of bacteria in 1860; British males of all classes were allowed to vote by 1885, and mass transit railways, daily newspapers and factories all resulted in profound changes in western society.

Literature was massively impacted by the emergence of universal education and the invention of the gas lamp. This meant that more people could read, and they didn’t have to rely on candlelight to do it. Novelists were finally freed to write for the masses instead of for wealthy patrons; classics were penned by Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Arthur Conan Doyle and many others.

Victoriana” is hot these days. Check out:

Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders.

Victorian Chic by Anita Louise Crane.

Victorian Painting by Lionel Lambourne.

Bedrooms: Private Worlds & Places to Dream by Kim Waller.

An Introduction to Antiques, the English Style by Sotheby’s. [video]

Cherished Objects: Living With and Collecting Victoriana by Allison Kyle Leopold.

Victorian Entertaining by John Crosby Freeman.

Creating a Victorian Flower Garden by S.T. Buczacki.

January 23 at 7 p.m. Reach for the stars with activities, stories and a night-time craft to take home. For ages 6-12 at the Lorton Library.

January 24 at 7:30 p.m. Washington Post reporters Alec Klein, Lonnae O’Neal Parker and Juliet Elperin discuss their books and articles. For adults at the Patrick Henry Library.

January 28 at 2 p.m. Attorney Rebecca Turner discusses immigration status, immigrants' rights and local resources. For adults at the Woodrow Wilson Library.

January 29 at 2 p.m. Ralph and Sandra Minker and historian Harry Butowsky discuss and sign their new book about family life during WWII. For adults at the Reston Regional Library.

Find free activities for toddlers in our online calendar.

“Life happened because I turned the pages.” -- Alberto Manguel

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

You Say You Want a Revolution

“I offer nothing but the simple facts, plain arguments and common sense,” wrote Paine in his famous pamphlet published this month 230 years ago. While fighting between Great Britain and the American colonies broke out in 1775 at Lexington and Concord, there wasn’t a lot of support for complete independence until Paine published Common Sense on January 10, 1776.

His short treatise, which sold 150,000 copies in its first printing, became a blueprint for those who gathered to draft and adopt the Declaration of Independence seven months later. In it, he argued that a continent should not be ruled by an island; that being a part of Great Britain would drag the American colonies into irrelevant European wars; and that the distance between Great Britain and America created almost a year delay in communicating the need for changes in government policy.

An inventor, as well as a political philosopher, Paine might have remained a footnote in history books if Thomas Edison had not rediscovered him a century after his death and rescued him from oblivion.

Paine believed that government is needed because of the darker side of human nature. In Common Sense, he wrote: “Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.”

What do you think?

For more on Paine and the birth of Common Sense, check out:

Rebel! A Biography of Tom Paine by Samuel Edwards.

Thomas Paine: Revolutionary Author by Karin Farley.

Thomas Paine and the Promise of America by Harvey J. Kaye.

Tom Paine: a Political Life by John Keane.

46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense and the Turning Point to American Independence by Scott Liell.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Books You'd Like To See

Last week FCPLEASE asked what subjects you wished someone would write a book about, and what topics you could do without. Here’s what you said:

I'd love a book written about the shared characteristics, traits and experiences of only children. -- N. McDermott

I wish travel books were written by someone who had lived like a local for a short time. Anyone can travel like a tourist; I like to experience a place as a local would. -- D. Noblet

I've never seen a book on how to start and run a successful modeling agency. -- C. Richardson

It would be fun to see a book about the life and adventures of a book. I have thought about how many hands a book passes through in its life and how many places it goes. -- P. Riedinger

A history of the Middle East, never taught in Fairfax County Public Schools. -- P. Hartmann

Honeymoon With My Brother was excellent. I would read more of that type of story. It’s about a fellow who gets left at the altar by his fiancĂ©. Then the two brothers travel the world for two years. I enjoyed it immensely. -- L. McLeod

I find that there is very little that I am interested in that has not been written about; I just need to make the effort to find it. -- J. Dickert

I think I got this from FCPLEASE; I also think it answers the survey. According to Toni Morrison, "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." -- J. Bauza

Being from New Orleans, I’d like to see a book in the style of James Michener tracing a group of families through the trials and tribulations from the city's founding until now. What I don’t want are any more mysteries involving the FBI profiling lab where they develop the complete life story and description based on a few clues. -- A. Labas

I remember subject areas in nonfiction that I just couldn't find books about, including biographies of notable persons. -- M. Leber

A book for prospective newcomers coming to the area. The book should include information about what services are provided by your local area. Things you need to know about moving from another state. -- D.V. Bibbs

Fairfax has such a rich history and the road/area names are associated with interesting historical references. The history of names of streets/places/areas would be interesting. -- Kelseygo

Other ideas? Leave a comment.

January 18, 10:30 a.m. -- Dr. Janette Muir explores separating truth from “spin” in the news. For ages 15 and older at the Sherwood Regional Library.

January 18, 7 p.m. -- Professor Wallace Hutcheon, author of Robert Fulton: Pioneer of Undersea Warfare, discusses subs and steamboats with adults at the Patrick Henry Library.

January 19, 7 p.m. -- An Inova cardiologist discusses heart health tips, heart disease and exercise with adults at the Reston Regional Library. Sign up by calling 703-204-3366.

Find free activities for kids in our online calendar.

“A library is thought in cold storage.” -- Herbert Samuel

© 2006 Fairfax County Public Library

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Did you go to Memphis for the annual Elvis Presley birthday bash? If you’re a big fan, you may have read a lot of non-fiction books about “The King.” How about some Elvis fiction? Check out:

The Year the Music Changed: The Letters of Achsa Mceachern-Isaacs & Elvis Presley by Diane Coulter Thomas -- 15 months of pen-pal letters between a fictional 14-year-old fan and a 20-year-old Elvis.

Viva Las Vengeance by Daniel M. Klein -- the third in a four-book series (after “Kill Me Tender” and “Blue Suede Clues” and before “Such Vicious Minds”) about a crime-solving Elvis.

Elvis Live at Five by John Paxson -- a TV station tries to boost ratings with a talk show hosted by a computer-generated Elvis.

Elvis in the Morning by William F. Buckley -- a fictional boyfriend of 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu draws Elvis’ attention by stealing an album from a U.S. Army base PX in Germany.

Elvis and Nixon by Jonathan Lowy -- “inspired by” White House memos and the actual 1970 meeting.

That's All Right, Mama by Gerald Duff -- the fictional autobiography of Elvis’ twin brother.

Elvissey by Jack Womack -- operatives from a parallel universe kidnap Elvis to gain control over Elvis-worshipping cults.

Not a big Elvis fan? You can find non-Elvis fiction on the library’s online catalog.

January 12 at 1:30 p.m. -- Kids age 3-5 are invited to bring their favorite stuffed animal for a stuffed animal pet show at the Pohick Regional Library.

January 12 at 4 p.m. -- Book Hounds: teen book discussion group at the Woodrow Wilson Library.

January 12 at 7 p.m. -- Your Pets & Disaster Preparedness. For ages 6-12 at the Patrick Henry Library.

Find other free activities in the library’s online calendar.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” -- J.D. Salinger

© 2006 Fairfax County Public Library

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Resolved, Unresolved

How are you doing with your resolutions? According to a recent survey, more than 51 percent of us made them, but only nine percent will actually try to achieve them. For 33 percent of us, procrastination is our most difficult obstacle; 24 percent find lack of discipline hinders progress, and about 10 percent blame having to "do it alone."

If you’re determined to fight the stats and keep your resolutions, here are some recent books you can check out of the library that might help:

The Portion Teller: Smartsize Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss by Lisa R. Young.

The Gotti Diet by Frank Gotti Agnello.

The Body Noble: 20 Minutes to a Hot Body With Hollywood’s Coolest Trainer by Derek Noble.

Mayo Clinic Fitness for Everybody by Diane Dahm.

Truth and Money: Fresh Thinking on Money Management and Personal Finances by James Rainey.

The 7 Most Important Money Decisions You’ll Ever Make by Mary Claire Allvine and Christine Larson.

Put Your House on a Diet: Declutter Your Home and Reclaim Your Life by Ed Morrow.

Good luck, and Happy New Year!