Fixed Navigation Bar

Friday, December 21, 2007

HAIKU

Tomorrow is National Haiku Poetry Day. Haiku is a poetry form consisting of unrhymed verse with three lines. Traditionally, the three lines contain five, seven and five syllables, respectively, but many poems don’t follow that structure (such as the sample below). Haiku originated in Japan and usually has a seasonal reference. In the winter 2007 issue of Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry this haiku was written by Cathy Drinkwater Better:

sunset lake
a rabble of geese
lift off as one

A similar form of poetry consisting of three lines is senryu. The tone and subject matter of senryu poems are different from haiku. The focus of senryu poetry is human nature; senryu can be humorous, satirical or ironic. Samples of Senryu poetry can also be found in the Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry. This sample was written by Carol Raisfeld in the winter 2007 issue:

your attention, please!
who can fly this plane
and didn't have the fish?

Some people believe that haiku is a less intimidating, although more structured, type of poetry. Are you a poet at heart? Share one with us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fairfax County Stories

As part of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the public was invited to submit original writings on local historic events over the past four centuries. A panel of judges selected the 30 essays included in the book Fairfax County Stories: 1607-2007. Topics range from “The Ghost of Keene Mill School” to “Nike Missiles in Fairfax County,” “Fairfax County’s Most Famous Duel,” and “Suffragists at the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton.” Listen to an interview of two of the authors by Sam Clay, Director of the Fairfax County Public Library.

This historical anthology is available for $10 in paperback or $25 in hardback. It can be purchased in-person or by phone through the county’s Maps and Publications Center, Fairfax County Government Center, Suite 156, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax; 703-324-2974, TTY 711. Shipping and handling will be charged for books delivered by mail. The book can also be checked out at your local branch of the Fairfax County Public Library.

If you are interested in local history, the following materials are also available at the Fairfax County Public Library:

Fairfax County, Virginia: A History by Nan Netherton

Braddock’s True Gold: 20th Century Life in the Heart of Fairfax by Marion Meany

The Fairfax Family in Fairfax County: A Brief History by Kenton Kilmer

Official Records of the Colonial Period in Fairfax County, VA by the Historical Society of Fairfax County

Friday, December 14, 2007

The South Pole

Although a lot of focus is on the North Pole at this time of year, it was the South Pole that was discovered on December 14, 1911. Norwegian Roald Amundsen with four companions and 52 sled dogs located and visited the pole and returned safely to base camp.

The next explorers to the South Pole were led by British explorer Robert F. Scott. Scott and four companions met a tragic fate. Between the time Scott knew his death was inevitable but before he became too weak to write, Scott managed a last entry in his diary and 12 complete letters to family, friends and others. He wrote a message to the public which read, in part: “but for my own sake I do not regret this journey, which has shown that Englishmen can endure hardships, help one another and meet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman … .”

These are the facts of the trip but, as always, there’s more to the stories. Some refer to Roald Amundsen’s last minute exploration of the pole as sneaky. He left without much fanfare, some say, in order to beat Scott to the pole. He did beat him by a mere month. Some say Scott made mistakes, and it was not just the blizzards that sealed his fate.

To read more about these two adventurers and other stories of Antarctic exploration you can read the following books:

Race to the South Pole by Roald Amundsen

The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice by Dr. Max Jones

Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen by David Thomson

The Coldest March: Scott's Fatal Antarctic Expedition by Susan Solomon

Do you have an opinion on these long ago explorers? Let us know.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Local Celebrity

An in-depth profile of local suspense writer, David Baldacci, appears in yesterday’s USA Today (“Author David Baldacci's Power Over the Pen is Absolute”). Baldacci is favorite reading for presidents; Bill Clinton even named The Simple Truth his favorite book of 1999. His books are crammed with Secret Service agents, CIA operatives and other types familiar to political Washington.

The author of 14 bestsellers, Baldacci’s newest suspense novel is Stone Cold, the third in his Camel Club series.

If you want to sample more of his work, try:

Absolute Power (1996)

Total Control (1997)

Saving Faith (1999)

Last Man Standing (2001)

Camel Club (2005)


Are you a Baldacci fan? Which is your favorite book?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Winter’s Snowfall

Wednesday’s snowfall here in Northern Virginia seemed appropriate for the season, and many people thought it was a nice touch for the holidays. If you are in search of some reading that evokes this special time of year, try these books:

This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Gutterson

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Got any other books you like to read on cold and snowy winter nights? Let us know.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Disney’s Legacy

Tomorrow marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated animators and entrepreneurs - Walt Disney. From the release of the full-length animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1938 to the recent movie “Enchanted” Disney’s imaginative creations still capture our imagination more than 40 years after his death. For more on this creative and complex man, see:

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler

Inside Disney: The Incredible Story of Disney World and the Man Behind the Mouse by Eve Zibart

The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms
by Christopher Finch

The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life by Steven Watts

Don’t Miss . . .Saturday, December 8, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.Sounds of the Season. Festive open house with musical performances and craft activities for children at the Centreville Regional Library, 14200 St. Germain Dr., 703-830-2223.

Saturday, December 8, 11 a.m.
Jamestown Colonial Fiddler. Michael McDonnell, a fiddler and historian with Hidden Oaks Nature Center, plays tunes from the Jamestown era at the George Mason Regional Library, 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, 703-256-3800. Age 5 & up.

Sunday, December 9, noon – 3 p.m.
Season’s Serenade. A holiday open house featuring music and activities at the George Mason Regional Library, 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, 703-256-3800.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Kindle Fever

There has been a lot of buzz this past week about Amazon’s new e-reader, the Kindle. Apparently it is changing the way readers can buy e-books by allowing a book to be downloaded directly to the reader, rather than first to a PC.

A reviewer in "The Wall Street Journal" liked the ease of downloading up to 90,000 titles, and some of Kindle’s excellent software features. The hardware, he felt, needed some tweaking. Amazon, he felt, had more to learn about designing electronic devices.

The announcement of the Kindle sparked a new and reoccurring debate on the state of the book. “Newsweek” explored ("The Future of Reading") in a recent issue and the NPR show, ("On the Media"), devoted a segment to books last week.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you still like the feel of a book in your hands or is the Kindle and e-paper the future of reading? Is there a future to reading? Let us know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Baby Boomers’ Favorite Author

Three of the post-war generation’s most famous writers have died in the last year – William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer. But of those, the most popular – according to sales – is Vonnegut. “[He] was the American Mark Twain. He even looked like him,” said Mailer’s literary executor in an article AP article, published November 15 ("Kurt Vonnegut Tops in Public's Heart").

According to the article, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five has sold about 280,000 copies since 2006, which is more than four times the rate of six of the most popular books of the past 60 years: Mailer's The Naked and the Dead, The Armies of the Night and The Executioner's Song, and Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice and Darkness Visible.

If you want to decide for yourself, check the library’s catalog for the work of these giants of post-World War II American literature. Which of the above is your favorite? Let us know.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Oprah Picks Ken Follett

Oprah Winfrey has chosen Ken Follett's 1989 novel, The Pillars of the Earth, for her next book club selection. Follett, who lives in Wales, considers the 973-page book, a 12th-century love story, one of his favorites. It still sells about 100,000 copies a year, according to an Associated Press article.

If you have never sampled Follett’s books, here’s a few to try:

World Without End (2007) (sequel to The Pillars of the Earth)

Whiteout (2004)

Hornet Flight (2002)

Code to Zero (2000)

The Hammer of Eden (1998)

The Third Twin (1996)

Lie Down With Lions (1986)

Eye of the Needle (1978)

Are you a Follett fan? If so, what’s your favorite book?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Second Time Around

A recent survey in Great Britain revealed that 80 percent of its residents re-read a book and the Harry Potter series tops the list for novels that are picked up again. ("Harry Potter Most Re-Read Book in Britain: Survey, AP, Nov. 9, 2007)

Other favorite books to sample one more time include J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. The survey also found that 43 percent of the respondents knew after reading the first chapter that they would finish a book and one third knew after the first 50 pages. Four percent knew after the first page.

Here’s the list of the most re-read books:

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

2. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

4. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

6. 1984 by George Orwell

7. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

8. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Have you got a favorite book you love to read again and again? How many pages in a book do you read before you know you’ll get to the end? Let us know.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Newbery Medal

Those of you who frequent libraries with your kids may be familiar with the distinctive Newbery Medal stamped on award-winning books. When it was first conceived by the American Library Association in 1921, the medal became the first award for children’s literature in the world. The award is named for John Newbery, a British bookseller in the 18th century, who was among the first to market children’s literature. Some of the more well-known Newbery winners include Johnny Tremain (1944); The Island of Blue Dolphins (1961); A Wrinkle in Time (1963); Sounder (1970); Sarah, Plain and Tall (1986); and Holes (1999).

Don’t Miss …Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, author of the 1992 Newbery-Medal-winner, Shiloh, will present “Shiloh and Other Stuff” on November 16 at 7 p.m. in the Board Auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. Age 8 and up. For details and to reserve a seat, call 703-324-8428 or e-mail libraryevents@fairfaxcunty.gov.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Working Class Fiction

It may seem an odd genre, but if writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald or John Cheever focused on the lives of the upper middle class in the last century, a more recent crop of authors, such as Larry Brown and Richard Russo find their inspiration among the masses. They are following in the footsteps of writers such as Upton Sinclair (The Jungle) and James T. Farrell (Studs Lonigan) who tried to capture the blue collar lives of an earlier era.

One such author is Stewart O'Nan. Viking Press has just announced the release of his newest novel, Last Night at the Lobster, about the lives of the staff at an aging Red Lobster restaurant in a decaying mall in New Britain, CT. Some of O’Nan’s other books include: The Good Wife; The Night Country; and Everyday People.

If you enjoy a fictional glimpse into the lives of regular folks, try these books:

The Beans of Egypt by Carolyn Chute

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Fay by Larry Brown

Live Like You Were Dying by Michael Morris

Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen

Well by Matthew McIntosh

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Art of the Epitaph

It may seem a bit ghoulish, but today is "Plan Your Epitaph Day." William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill certainly prepared theirs. Shakespeare's ends with the famous line: "And cursed be he who moves these bones." Churchill's reads: "I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter." So, if you feel like scribbling some memorable last words, today's the day.
Don’t Miss . . .
Thursday, November 8, 7:30 p.m.
Civil War Lecture. Greg Mertz presents "The Overland Campaign of 1864: The Battle of the Wilderness" at the Centreville Regional Library, 14200St. Germain Dr., 703-830-2223.
Wednesday, November 7, 10:30 a.m.
Yoga for Seniors. Author/yoga instructor Shakta Kaur leads breathing exercises and gentle, rejuvenating movements (that can be done in a chair) at the George Mason Regional Library, 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, 703-256-3800.
Wednesday, November 7, 7 p.m.
Danger Between the Lines. Documentary film on daily life in Oakton near Hunter Mill Road during the Civil War at the Oakton Library, 10304 Lynnhaven Place, 703-242-4020.
Thursday, November 8, 7 p.m.
Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygrapher. John Sullivan discusses his 31-year career with the CIA, shedding light on this secretive and controversial organization at the Patrick Henry Library, 101 Maple Avenue East, Vienna, 703-938-0405.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Twenty-First Century Manners

Today marks the birthday of Emily Post (1872-1960), whose 1922 book Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage set standards for social behavior for a good part of the last century. Her legacy lives on with third-generation family members who offer advice through The Emily Post Institute, which she founded in 1946.

Great-granddaughter Liz and great-granddaughter-in-law Peggy Post now deal with a different world where technology and a more casual lifestyle have changed the way we interact with each other. Is it really correct now to e-mail a thank-you note? How about wearing flip-flops to the White House?

Interested in how manners have changed in the last few decades? Browse these books:

One Minute Manners: Quick Solutions to the Most Awkward Situations You’ll Ever Face at Work by Ann Marie Sabath

Business Etiquette for the New Workplace by Harvard Business School Press

Excuse Me, But I Was Next: How to Handle the Top 100 Manners Dilemmas
by Peggy Post

The Joy of Text: Mating, Dating and Techno-Relating by Kristina Grish

Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin

Some believe civility is a lost art these days. Others think it is just a matter of changing manners for changing times. Your thoughts?

Friday, October 26, 2007

MySpace Enters the Book Trade

Lest you think that print and the virtual world are incompatible, the social networking site MySpace has announced that it will collaborate with HarperCollins on an environmental book to be released on Earth Day, April 22, 2008. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the paperback, to be called MySpace/Our Planet: Change is Possible, will be written by a freelance writer and include environmental tips from MySpace users, who can submit suggestions on the MySpace Web page until November 7. An initial printing of 200,000 is planned.

“We're always talking to potential partners about big ideas and this one with HarperCollins made a lot of sense," Jeff Berman, MySpace’s senior vice president for public affairs, said in the AP article. "We want to be at the forefront of user-generated media, and books are an important part of that."

Fairfax City Regional Library to Move
The Fairfax City Regional Library will close on November 25, 2007 at 6 p.m. for its move to a new location at Old Lee Highway and North Street in the City of Fairfax. The branch’s Virginia Room will close one week earlier at 6 p.m. on November 18. The new library branch will open with a grand celebration on Saturday, January 26, 2008.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Help for Caregivers

According to the National Family Caregivers Association, Virginia ranks 12th among U.S. states with the largest number of individuals who care for chronically ill, disabled or aged family members or friends. More than 740,000 caregivers in the Old Dominion provide 793 million hours of care per year.

Nationwide, approximately 60 percent of caregivers are women; the typical caregiver is a 46-year-old woman caring for a widowed mother who does not live with her. Thirty percent of caregivers who provide care for seniors are 65 or older themselves, and another 15 percent are between the ages of 45 and 54.

But each statistic represents someone who seeks support for his or her unique situation. In Fairfax County, one major resource is the Area Agency on Aging, which sponsors the Caregiver Seminar Consortium. The Fairfax County Public Library’s Access Services branch also offers services for seniors with visual impairment and other disabilities, including providing recorded books through the Talking Book program of the Library of Congress.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver, learn more at the workshop below:

Tuesday, October 30, 7 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Legal and Financial Challenges of Caregiving. Learn about essential legal and financial tools to aid in long-term care planning. Cosponsored by the Fairfax Caregiver Seminar Consortium. George Mason Regional Library, 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA. To register, call 703-324-5205. Adults.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Women Nobel Laureates

Doris Lessing, the British author who won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature last week, is the 11th woman to win an award in that category. She is in good company with the likes of Toni Morrison (1993) and Pearl Buck (1938). In all, 34 women since 1901 have been awarded Nobel Prizes including: Mother Teresa in 1979 (Peace); Marie Curie in 1903 (Physics) and again in 1911 (Chemistry); and Jane Addams in 1931 (Peace). A full list of those women honored by the Swedish Academy is available on the official Nobel Prize site.

For more on these laureates, try:

Doris Lessing: A Biography by Carole Klein

Toni Morrison by Jill Matus

Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography by Peter Conn

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”
by Mother Teresa

Something Out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium by Carla McClafferty

Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy by Louise Knight

Don’t Miss

Tuesday, October 23, 7 PM
Meet The Author Hear author Roland Haas talk about his book, Enter the Past Tense: My Secret Life as a CIA Assassin. Patrick Henry Library. To sign up, call 703-938-0405.

Wednesday, October 23, 7 p.m.
The How-Tos of Podcasting Age 12-18. George Mason Regional Library. To sign up, call 703-256-3800.

Saturday, October 27, 7 p.m.
Reading Across the Centuries. Join a great literature book group. Writer and university instructor Wendi Kaufman facilitates a discussion of Beowulf: A New Verse Translation. Pohick Regional Library. To sign up, call 703-644-7333.

Tuesday, October 30, 7 p.m. - 8:45 p.m.
Legal and Financial Challenges of Caregiving. Learn about essential legal and financial tools to aid in long-term care planning. Cosponsored by the Fairfax Caregiver Seminar Consortium. To register call 703-324-5205. George Mason Regional Library

Friday, October 12, 2007

Schulz and “Peanuts”

A new biography about “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz reveals a man much more complex than the 17,897 stories he told about Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, Linus and the rest of the gang over a 50-year period.

According to an October 8, 2007 Associated Press article, biographer David Michaelis writes in Schulz and Peanuts that the cartoonist’s personal life and the strip often intersected. Apparently, Lucy at times represented Schultz’s first wife — an assertive woman from whom Schulz kept his distance — similar to Schroeder at the piano keyboard, his concentration designed to keep Lucy at bay.

For more on Schulz and the characters he drew, see:

Good Grief: The Story of Charles M. Schulz by Rheta Johnson

Charles M. Schulz: Conversations by M. Thomas Inge

Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz by Charles M. Schulz

The Gospel According to Peanuts by Robert L. Short

Peanuts: A Golden Celebration by Charles M. Schulz


Do you have a favorite comic strip? Let us know.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Art of Biography

Those who enjoy delving into life stories may be interested in a recent New Yorker article, "The Lives of Others: The Biography Business" by Louis Menand (August 6, 2007).The article is actually a review of two books: Shoot the Widow by Meryle Secrest and Biography: A Brief History by Nigel Hamilton.

“The purpose of biography is not just to record, but to reveal,” Secrest, a biographer of such figures as Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Rodgers argues.
Menand, on the other hand, argues that this philosophy tends to lead biographers to invert the truth, looking for one hidden letter that negates the true observations of friends and intimates.

Nigel Hamilton, in his book, suggests that biography is the “genre of democracy.” He believes by reading about the lives of others, individuals learn about themselves. The intimate details of the rich and famous somehow level the playing field – bringing a kind of social equality to the reader.

Are biographies your favorite form of reading? If so, let us know why.

For some bios to sample, here’s a few of the best:

Operation Yao Ming by Brook Larmer

Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power by Richard Carwardine

At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years: 1965-1968 by Taylor Branch

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields

LBJ: The Architect of American Ambition by Randall B. Woods

Don’t Miss

Thursday, October 11, 7:30 PM
Civil War Lecture. Park ranger and historian Stacy Humphreys presents "The Washington Artillery of New Orleans: Creole Cannoneers in the Eastern Theatre." Cosponsored by the Bull Run Civil War Round Table. Centreville Regional Library, 703-830-2223.

Tuesday, October 16, 7:00 PM
What You Don't Know Can Keep You Out of College. Author and educational consultant Don Dunbar discusses common fatal mistakes made on college applications, plus offers insights on the admission process. Books available for sale and signing courtesy of Borders. Adults and high school students. Kings Park Library, 703-978-5600.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Thurber Prize

Among the various literary awards bestowed in the U.S. – the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Pen Faulkner – is a lesser known accolade known as the James Thurber Award for American Humor.

On Wednesday, October 3, an Associated Press story announced that Joe Keenan, a television writer-producer who won an Emmy 10 years ago for his work on the TV sit-com Frasier, is the most recent recipient of the humor award. He was cited for his novel, My Lucky Star.

He has illustrious company, including runner up Bob Newhart, and previous winners Jon Stewart, David Sedaris and Christopher Buckley.

If you want to lighten your days, here are a few books to try:

I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This by Bob Newhart

America: The Book by Jon Stewart

Dress Your Family in Corduroy or Denim by David Sedaris

People Have More Fun Than Anybody by James Thurber

Don’t Miss . . .

"Conversations That Count: Talking With Your Doctor in Sickness and in
Health," 7:30 p.m., October 11, Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, 7584
Leesburg Pike, Falls Church. To sign up, call 703-790-8088. Helen
Osborne, president of Health Literacy Consulting, will discuss asking the
right questions of your health professional.

"Minerva Louise at the Library," 7 p.m., October 9, Kings Park Library,
9000 Burke Lake Rd., To sign up, call 703-978-5600. Age 3 and up with an adult. Janet Stoeke, author of numerous books including the popular Minerva Louise series, will discuss her new book, Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve. Books available for sale and signing courtesy of Borders.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Remembering Robert Jordan

Fantasy readers mourned the loss of Robert Jordan on September 16. The 58-year-old writer was working on the 12th book in his Wheel of Time series at the time of his death from a rare form of cancer.

Robert Jordan, which is the pen name for James Oliver Rigney, Jr. was born in Charleston, S.C. where he was living at the time of his death. He attended the Citadel and served in U.S. Army Vietnam and was awarded several medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star. He began writing in 1977.

The Wheel of Time series is the story of Rand al’Thor whose destiny is to become a champion against evil in a mythical land. The 11th book in the series, Knife of Dreams, was published in 2005.

To read the series from start to finish, start with Book I, The Eye of the World, published in 1990.

Asked in a 2001 interview why he wrote fantasy, Jordan said:

“Some stories need to be told in certain genres, and fantasy allows the writer to explore good and evil, right and wrong, honor and duty without having to bow to the mainstream belief that all of these things are merely two sides of a coin. Good and evil exist, so do right and wrong. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference, just as it can be difficult to know what is the proper thing to do, but it is worth making the effort.”

Don’t Miss . . .
October 6, 10:30 a.m. Author Vincent Carretta, author of Equiano, the African: The Biography of a Self-Made Man, discusses the life of this eloquent social observer and former slave. Sherwood Regional Library, 2501 Sherwood Hall Lane, Alexandria, 703-765-3645.

October 10, 7 p.m. “Cataracts, Glaucoma and Dry Eyes,” ophthalmologist Wesam Silk. Kingstowne Library, 6500 Landsdowne Centre, Alexandria. Cosponsored by Inova. Call 703-204-3366 to sign up.

October 11, 7:30 p.m. “Conversations That Count: Talking With Your Doctor in Sickness and in Health,” Helen Osborne, president of Health Literacy Consulting. Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, 7584 Leesburg Pike. Cosponsored by Inova. Call 703-204-3366 to sign up.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A Grand Opening!

If you are in the neighborhood, stop by the new Oakton Library between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 29 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a classical music concert, storytelling, tours and more to celebrate the opening of the Fairfax County Public Library’s 22nd branch. The branch is located at 10304 Lynnhaven Place near its intersection with Hunter Mill Road.

The new building is the first library branch in the Providence District and a “green building,” registered for certification according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The branch has all the amenities of a 21st-century library with self-check-out and wireless access, as well as 70,000 items, a meeting room, conference room, quiet study area, group study area and a professional staff ready to help you locate the information you need.

So, even if you can’t make it for Saturday’s festivities, make a point of stopping in soon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Few Thoughts

When we began our weekly All Fairfax Reads musings on our first president, library staff wondered if there would be enough material to sustain a column. Reading His Excellency: George Washington, the 2007 All Fairfax Reads
selection by Joseph J. Ellis, convinced us otherwise.

Over the weeks, we’ve discussed the myths surrounding the man, Washington’s military expertise; his attitude toward slavery; his relationship with the Indians; his hands-off approach to the Constitutional Convention; his refusal to be named “king”; and his close relationships with other founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton and companions, such as Billy Lee, a slave he freed at his death. And more.

In Ellis’ introduction to the biography, the author writes:

“It seemed to me that Benjamin Franklin was wiser than Washington; Alexander Hamilton was more brilliant; John Adams was better read; Thomas Jefferson was more intellectually sophisticated; James Madison was more intellectually astute. Yet each and all of these prominent figures acknowledged that Washington was their unquestioned superior.”

You can hear Ellis explain why at the final All Fairfax Reads event on Thursday, September 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Concert Hall at the Center for the Arts on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University. We hope to see you there.

And, if you have any suggestions for the 2008 All Fairfax Reads selection, let us know.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fall for the Book Festival

All you bibliophiles out there, don’t miss the annual Fall for the Book Festival held on the Fairfax campus of George Mason University from Sunday, September 23 – Friday, September 28. The festival is sponsored by GMU in collaboration with the Fairfax County Public Library and other organizations. Special events not to miss include:

Monday, September 24, 8 p.m. Harris Theater. National-Book Award-winner Alice McDermott, author of Charming Billy and After This discusses the art of fiction.

Tuesday, September 25, 8 p.m. Dewberry Hall, Johnson Center. Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays With Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day accepts the Fairfax Prize for Literary Achievement in the Literary Arts sponsored by the Fairfax Library Foundation.

Wednesday, September 26, 8 p.m. Concert Hall, Center for the Arts.
Elizabeth Berg, author of the recent novel, Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, is presented by the Friends of the Reston Regional Library and the Friends of the Fairfax City Regional Library.

Thursday, September 27, 7:30 p.m. Concert Hall, Center for the Arts.
Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington, the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection discusses the biography.

Friday, September 28, 8 p.m. Harris Theater. Jonathan Lethem, award-winning author of Motherless Brooklyn, The Fortress of Solitude, and You Don’t Love Me Yet accepts the Mason Award celebrating an author whose body of work has made extraordinary contributions to bringing literature to a wide reading public.

There’s much, much more, including events morning, noon and night for all ages and everything is free! For details, see the Fall for the Book schedule of events.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Washington’s Descendants

George Washington had no children, so although there is a National Society of Washington Family Descendants, it takes some digging to prove a relationship with our first president. Determining who these descendants are is not a simple task. According to a Washington Times article ("Stubborn Washington Spurned Kingdom,"), in 2000, there were 8,000 Washington descendants scattered across the country, but only 200 with the Washington name.

James C. Roberts, who authored the article, wondered what might have happened if Washington had accepted the title of “king” as some of his supporters urged him to do. Who would be sitting on the throne 200 years later? To be considered a descendant, one has to be related to Washington’s siblings, but it becomes complex, because he had two older half brothers, three younger full brothers and one sister who survived to adulthood.

You are allowed to join the above-mentioned society of Washington family descendents, if you can prove your lineage to: Colonel John Washington, George Washington’s great-grand-father who immigrated from England; as well as seven other descendants.

Most of us don’t have such lofty origins, but if you are an amateur genealogist, you may want to check out the Fairfax County Public Library’s Virginia Room, which offers a variety of research resources. You can also do genealogical research online with Ancestry Library Edition, available from home, work, library branches or anywhere, as well as HeritageQuest Online, available only at all library branches.

All Fairfax Reads Events:

September 18 (Tonight!) at 7 p.m., Kings Park Library. Patricia Brady discusses her book, Martha Washington: An American Life. Books for sale and signing, courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner.

September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library. Actor Brian Hilton portrays George Washington and describes his life from 1732-1760.

September 27 at 7:30 p.m. Joseph Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. The author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection will discuss his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Remembering Madeleine L’Engle

When the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux announced the death of 88-year-old Madeleine L’Engle last week, generations of readers fondly recalled her 1962 children’s classic A Wrinkle in Time, which has sold eight million copies and is in its 69th printing.

L’Engle explained once that she took concepts from Einstein’s theory of relativity and Planck’s quantum theory to create the story of Meg Murry and her psychic brother, who use time travel and extra-sensory perception to save their father. The book spawned a series which includes A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time.

According to a September 8, 2007 New York Times obituary, L’Engle once said of writing:

“Why does anyone tell a story? It does indeed have something to do with
faith – faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose to say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

If you are interested in sampling L’Engle’s books, browse the library’s catalog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Washington: Genius With Judgment

In a time when there were neither Democrats nor Republicans and in fact, political parties were just beginning to rear their heads, it’s interesting to look at Washington’s leadership style.

According to Joseph J. Ellis, author of His Excellency: George Washington, our first president’s “genius was his judgment.” Ellis believes that Washington was a central figure in two distinct creative moments in U.S. history – winning independence and the invention of the American nation.

The author of the library’s All Fairfax Reads selection continues by saying he believes that Washington’s skills may rest in part because he was a self-educated man. “Though it might seem sacrilegious to suggest, Washington’s powers of judgment derived in part from the fact that his mind was uncluttered with sophisticated intellectual preconceptions.”

He was, in summary, a pragmatist who believed that “men and nations were driven by interests rather than ideals, and that surrendering control to another was invariably harmful, often fatal.”

Ellis believes Washington’s decision to resign as commander-in-chief of the Continental army, as well as his wish to step down after his first term as president ended, also are mirrors into his character.

Ellis suggests: “He knew himself well enough to resist the illusion that he transcended his human nature. Unlike Julius Caesar and Oliver Cromwell before him and Napoleon, Lenin, and Mao after him, he understood that the greater glory resided in posterity’s judgment.”

You can learn more about Washington’s character at a special appearance by Ellis on September 27 at 7:30 p.m. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. The author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington, will discuss his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.

Other All Fairfax Reads events include:

September 18 at 7 p.m., Kings Park Library. Patricia Brady discusses her book, Martha Washington: An American Life. Books for sale and signing, courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner.

September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library. Actor Brian Hilton portrays George Washington and describes his life from 1732-1760.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Reader’s Advisor Online Blog

Looking for some good reading? Here’s some news from our favorite library blog:

“Check out The Reader's Advisor Online Blog. Looks like it was launched in June, and already there are lots of interesting stories for readers (Nonfiction Reading . . . Without All That Pesky Nonfiction Reading), writers (Where Has the Mystery Mid-List Gone?), and other book lovers.

Besides the feature articles, there's also a Bestseller Mashup of Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction (the kind of non-fiction that feels more like fiction), and a list of books coming out this week. Diana Tixier Herald, of the well-known readers' advisory tool Genreflecting, is one of the contributors.” (August 16, 2007)

h2o lib blog
Waterloo Public Library
Waterloo, ME

P.S.
Don’t forget to check out Good Reading on the Fairfax County Public Library Web site. There’s some great stuff there, as well.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Colonial Medicine

If antibiotics had existed in colonial Virginia, George Washington might not have succumbed to the infection that ended his life on December 14, 1799.
According to Joseph Ellis in His Excellency: George Washington, the former president rode the rounds of his estate for five hours during a snow, sleet and hail storm two days before his death. He then chose not to change out of his wet clothes because dinner was ready when he returned and he didn’t want to inconvenience his guests. The next day, although hoarse, he again went out in bad weather to mark some trees for cutting.

That night, he woke complaining of shortness of breath and pain in his throat.
His personal physician was called. He diagnosed Washington’s condition as serious and consulted two other physicians.

They bled him four times; blistered him around the neck; and gave him laxatives to try to eradicate the infection – common, but misguided treatments at the time.

Modern medical experts believe Washington may have suffered from an infection of the epiglottis, which is located at the entrance to the larynx .
It is quite uncomfortable, since the epiglottis blocks the windpipe. Breathing and swallowing become difficult.

Finally, Washington asked his doctors to stop their efforts. “I die hard,” he said, “but I am not afraid to go.” His last words were “Tis well.” Washington was 67 years old.

Save This Date:
September 27
at 7:30 p.m. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. Joseph J. Ellis, author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington discusses his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.

Upcoming All Fairfax Reads Event:
September 10
at 7:30 p.m., Sherwood Regional Library. James Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Estate & Gardens, discusses his book, George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Micro Histories

You may not recognize the term, but you’ll definitely recognize the books when you encounter them. Micro histories are those non-fiction musings on the history of a particular thing. Here’s a few to try:

The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw by Witold Rybczynski

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Blue: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau

Prayer: A History by Philip Zaleski, Carol Zaleski

Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys

Check out more micro histories at Squidoo. And if you have a favorite, let us know.

You’re Invited

September 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Technology Book Club. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. First selection for a new book discussion group at the George Mason Regional Library.

September 6 at 12:15 p.m.
Daytime Book Discussion Group at the Kingstowne Library. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck.

September 7, 12:30 PM - 2:30 p.m.
Knitting for Beginners at the Martha Washington Library. Bring your own supplies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Billy Lee

The mulatto slave Billy Lee, Washington’s valet, butler and personal attendant, may have been one of Washington’s closest confidents according to a BookCast interview with Joseph Ellis author of His Excellency: George Washington posted on the Fairfax County Public Library’s Web site.

As described on the Mt. Vernon's Web site, his duties included taking care of Washington’s clothes, powdering and curling his wig, taking mail to the post office in Alexandria. Lee seems to have joined Washington’s estate in 1768.

During the Revolutionary War, Lee accompanied Washington and took care of his important papers. But, two crippling knee injuries prevented Lee from serving as Washington’s valet when he became president.

Lee asked Washington to bring his wife, Margaret Lee, to Mt. Vernon after the war, and Washington made the arrangements, but it is unclear if she did ever live on the estate.

Lee’s brother Frank, served as a butler in the Mt. Vernon Mansion House after Billy’s injuries. He was married to a cook named Lucy. The couple had at least three children.

In his will, Washington freed Billy, gave him food, clothing and a generous allowance at the time of $30 a year.

Save This Date:
September 27 at 7:30 p.m. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. Joseph J. Ellis, author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington discusses his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.

Other All Fairfax Reads Events:
September 10 at 7:30 p.m., Sherwood Regional Library. James Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Estate & Gardens, discusses his book, George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character.

September 18 at 7 p.m., Kings Park Library. Patricia Brady discusses her book, Martha Washington: An American Life. Books for sale and signing,courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner.

September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library. Actor Brian Hilton portrays George Washington and describes his life from 1732-1760.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Vesuvius Day

On August 24 in A.D. 79, just short of two millennia ago, Mt. Vesuvius, an active volcano in southern Italy, destroyed the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and other nearby towns. Based on accounts by Pliny the Younger to the Roman historian Tacitus, the eruption supposedly began around noon. The volcano began showering Pompeii with lapilli, small pieces of solidified lava. By the following morning, ash had buried Herculaneum, Oplontis and finally Pompeii.

Vesuvius is considered a stratovolcano with steep sides formed by repeated flows of various volcanic material. The eruption in A.D. 79 is now referred to as a Plinian eruption, because of Pliny’s detailed description of its nature. A Plinian eruption is characterized by pine-shaped clouds that form above the volcano’s crater and the variety of hazardous materials the volcano releases. In Herculaneum, four surges from the volcano covered the town with 75 feet of ash and volcanic material.

Excavation of Pompeii began in the mid-18th century, primarily to recover art objects for the private collection of Charles III. As the area changed hands between France and Italy, the excavations continued into the 21st century with a number of different archeologists. Today, 44 hectares (1 hectare equals 2.7 acres) of the 66 hectares of the urban area are uncovered; the other 22 hectares will remain buried to preserve their artifacts. (Pompeii: Its Discovery and Excavation)

For more on the A.D. 79 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, see:

Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles Pellegrino

Pompeii: A City Rediscovered (video)

The Lost World of Pompeii by Colin Amery

Pompeii: The Day a City Died by Robert Etienne

The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer Lytton (fiction)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

His Elective Majesty

As the first president of the new republic, Washington was definitely a pioneer, argues Joseph Ellis in His Excellency: George Washington. Even the pomp and circumstance that is so much a part of ceremonial Washington had to be invented.

No one even knew how to address the new leader. When Vice President John Adams suggested titles such as “His Elective Majesty” or “His Mightiness,” the U.S. Senate balked, finally deciding on the simpler “President” (p. 193).

Matters of social etiquette, such as how Washington would interact with the public, had to be determined. Apparently, many memoranda were exchanged. Alexander Hamilton pushed for a “pretty high tone” that stopped short of secluding Washington “like an Eastern Lama.”

The solution – weekly open houses called “levees” – which combined regal bows and courtesies with the drop-in social to appease both republican and more courtly sentiments in the new government.

Apparently, these choreographed affairs were quite scripted with rare impromptu moments. At one such event, Washington bent over to kiss the widow of Nathanael Greene on the cheek ― to the surprise of all.

The reticent Washington seemed to like these formal affairs, since his “gift of silence,” as Adams called it, required everyone around to fill the void with conversation.

Save This Date: September 27 at 7:30 p.m. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. Joseph J. Ellis, author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington discusses his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.

Note: Listen to a podcast interview with author Joseph Ellis posted on the library’s Web site.

Other All Fairfax Reads Events:
September 10 at 7:30 p.m., Sherwood Regional Library. James Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Estate & Gardens, discusses his book, George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character.
September 18 at 7 p.m., Kings Park Library. Patricia Brady discusses her book, Martha Washington: An American Life. Books for sale and signing,courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner.September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library. Actor Brian Hilton portrays George Washington and describes his life from 1732-1760.

Friday, August 17, 2007

iPhone Literature

We knew it had to happen. The Associated Press reported that publisher HarperCollins announced on Wednesday that it has set up a special link that allows users to read excerpts of more than one dozen new releases, such as Ray Bradbury’s Now and Forever or Michael C. White’s Soul Catcher on their iPhones. Those who want to browse a book can view up to 10 pages of a book’s first two chapters. And of course, if the book is intriguing, you can check it out from your nearest library branch. Or, it may be available as an eBook or eAudiobook from the Fairfax County Public Library. All you need is your library card.

So does HarperCollins have it right? Are you going to be sampling best sellers on your mobile devices? Let us know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis Lewis

Most local Fairfax County residents know of Washington’s step-granddaughter, Nelly Parke Custis Lewis, because of Woodlawn Plantation, her residence. Located near Mt. Vernon, it became her home after she married Washington’s nephew, Lawrence Lewis.

The library at Mt. Vernon has a collection of 270 of her letters. In the correspondence, she writes about social life, female education, and the health and well-being of her children. She expresses opinions on political figures and myths about George Washington. Before she married, she often acted as a hostess for Washington while he was president in Philadelphia and at Mt. Vernon. In one letter, she describes her adoptive grandfather. “He was a silent, thoughtful man. He spoke little generally; never of himself,” she wrote in 1833. I never heard him relate a single act of his life during the war. I have often seen him perfectly abstracted, his lips moving, but no sound was perceptible. I have sometimes made him laugh most heartily from sympathy with my joyous and extravagant spirits.”

For more on this presidential hostess, see Eleanor Parke Custis: An Inventory of Her Papers on the Mt. Vernon Web site.

If you are curious about Nelly Custis, as well as George Washington’s family life, the library’s Virginia Room, located on the third floor of the Fairfax City Regional Library, offers access to some rare books on the family:

Family Life of George Washington by Charles Moore (1926)

Mount Vernon: Its Children, Its Romances, Its Allied Families and Mansionsby Minnie Lowther (1930)

Save This Date:
September 27 at 7:30 p.m. Center for the Arts -- Fairfax campus of George Mason University. Joseph J. Ellis, author of the 2007 All Fairfax Reads selection, His Excellency: George Washington discusses his biography. Books will be available for sale and signing courtesy of Barnes & Noble - GMU. Free; first come first served; no registration required.

Other All Fairfax Reads Events:
September 10 at 7:30 p.m., Sherwood Regional Library. James Rees, executive director of Mount Vernon: George Washington’s Estate & Gardens, discusses his book, George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character.

September 18 at 7 p.m., Kings Park Library. Patricia Brady discusses her book, Martha Washington: An American Life. Books for sale and signing,
courtesy of Borders-Tysons Corner.

September 20 at 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library. Actor Brian Hilton portrays George Washington and describes his life from 1732-1760.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Ludlum Identity

Jason Bourne isn’t the only one in search of his identity. Enthusiasts of books by Bourne’s creator, Robert Ludlum, are wondering who has authored some of the 12 books published under his name since his death in 2001, reports The Independent.

By the time of his death, Ludlum had been writing for more than three decades and sold 210 million books. Only J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, has sold more. His long-time agent Henry Morrison recalls that one day in the early 1990s when Ludlum began to have heart trouble, he said “'I don't want my name to disappear. I've spent 30 years writing books and building an audience.”

His estate seems to have honored his wishes. While some of his posthumous books have identified coauthors, such as Eric Van Lustbader, at least three are not identified at all. With the help of ghostwriters, Ludlum has achieved a degree of immortality.

If you want to see if Ludlum’s successors can match his originals, try these books:

Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Betrayal (2007)
The Bancroft Strategy (2006)
The Ambler Warning (2005)
Robert Ludlum’s The Moscow Vector (2005)
Robert Ludlum’s The Lazarus Vendetta (2004)
The Tristan Betrayal (2003)

Do you have a favorite Ludlum novel? Let us know.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Washington and Slavery

George Washington is considered one of the only politically prominent members of the Virginia aristocracy to free his slaves at his death. According to Joseph Ellis in His Excellency: George Washington, he had been struggling with the issue for 30 years and had been trying to figure out how to do it for the five years before he drew up his will. In his “Schedule of Property” in his will, he listed 317 slaves at Mt. Vernon. He owned 124 and leased 40 more. The rest were not his.

In his will, he wrote: “Upon the decease of my wife, it is my Will & desire that all the slaves which I hold in my own right, shall receive their freedom.”

His most famous slave was his valet, William "Billy" Lee, who was with him most of his life. In the will, he provided Lee with his freedom outright and gave him a small annuity for room and board.

For more on the history of slavery in the U.S., check out:

The Birth of Black America: The First African-Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown by Tim Hashaw

Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
by David Davis

The Forgotten Fifth: African-Americans in the Age of Revolution
by Gary Nash

Slavery and the Making of America by James Horton

In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks by James Horton

Friday, August 03, 2007

Emergency Reading

An article in the July 8, 2007 Oregonian explores the types of books people keep in their vehicles for emergencies. The author, Brian Doyle, decided to poll friends and strangers alike to discover what reading material they stash in their cars. A woman in London had books on Margaret Thatcher and rats. A friend in Canada had books about tractors and sake. Another reader had Baby’s First Catholic Bible and Salmon Fishing on the Yemen. As one might expect, overdue library books were among the most common books kept in cars and trunks.

So, what volumes to you carry in your car for reading emergencies? Let us know.

YOU’RE INVITEDAugust 4, 10 a.m. at the Martha Washington Library, 703-768-6700
Dimview. Support group for adults with vision loss. Adults.

August 7, 7 p.m. at the George Mason Regional Library, 703-256-3800
Downloading Books From the Internet. Learn about listening to books on MP3 players, iPods and your computer. Adults.

August 9, 7:30 p.m. at the Centreville Regional Library, 703-830-2223
Civil War Lecture. Author John Quarstein presents "The Peninsula Campaign of 1862" and signs books. Cosponsored by the Bull Run Civil War Round Table. Adults.

August 9, 7:30 p.m. at the Fairfax City Regional Library, 703-293-6227
FamilySearch Introduction. Using the genealogy databases and the Family History library catalog to search for your ancestors. Adults.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Constitutional Convention

The U.S. Constitution is considered a work of art and has served as a blueprint for governing a democracy for more than 200 years. Washington served as president of the 1787 Constitutional Convention that drafted the document, but as Joseph Ellis explains, he was “simultaneously the most important person at the Constitutional Convention and the least involved in the debate that shaped the document that emerged.” (p. 177).

While debates raged on state vs. federal rights, executive, legislative and judicial powers, as well as other issues, Washington participated only once – on the last day. He supported a revision that reduced the number of constituents in a congressional district from 40,000 to 30,000, probably to go on the record as more than just a signer of the document.

Delegates were sworn to secrecy, so not much is known about how Washington felt about the document. In a letter he wrote a day after the Convention ended, he wrote: “. . . What will be the General opinion on, or reception of it, is not for me to decide, nor shall I say anything for or against it – if it be good I suppose it will work its way good – if bad it will recoil on the Framers.” (p. 179)

The document is admired to this day for its artful simplicity.

For more on the Constitution, try these books:

The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution
by David O. Stewart

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitutionby Kevin Gutzman

Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitutionby Lawrence Goldstone

Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution
by Carol Berkin

Friday, July 27, 2007

Summer Gardening

Want to know what to plant around a patio that doesn’t attract bees; how to prune leggy roses to get more blossoms at the bottom; or the correct time of year to move lily bulbs? For answers to these and other questions, you can visit a Neighborhood Plant Clinic at the library branches below. Each year, Fairfax County Master Gardeners make themselves available at community locations to share their expertise. But if you can’t get to your local library branch when the experts are there, here are a few resources that may help you improve your green thumb:

Tending Your Garden: A Year-Round Guide to Garden Maintenance
by Gordon Hayward
Down and Dirty by Ellen Zachos
Complete Home Gardening by Miranda Smith
New Garden Book by Scott Aker
Butterfly Gardening: Creating Summer Magic by The Xerces Society

YOU’RE INVITED
July 28 and August 4 from 10 a.m. – noon at the Kings Park Library
July 30 and August 6 from 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Pohick Regional Library
July 31 and August 7 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Pohick Regional Library
August 4 and August 25 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library

Neighborhood Plant Clinics. The Fairfax County Master Gardeners Association gives tips and strategies. Cosponsored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service. Adults. No registration is required.