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Friday, March 30, 2007

Mommy Lit

Chick lit seems to have evolved into a new subgenre: “mommy lit.” Readers who enjoyed Bridget Jones' escapades a decade ago are now having kids of their own. Apparently in Great Britain, where Bridget Jones’ Diary was first published, women over the age of 30 buy more new fiction than any other demographic group, according to a recent article in The Observer. Here are a few “mommy lit” books you can check out:

Babyville: A Novel by Jane Green.

What Do You Do All Day by Amy Scheibe.

I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson.

Amanda Bright@Home by Danielle Crittenden.

Little Earthquakes: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner.

Hey, moms — got any other suggestions? If so, let us know.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Forty Years and Counting

The Woodrow Wilson Library in Falls Church, VA will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Saturday, March 31 from 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by to enjoy a day of free fun and entertainment!

To commemorate this special event, we thought we’d test your knowledge on the year 1967. How much do you know about film, music, sports and other pop culture from four decades ago?

1. In 1967, the NCAA basketball champion was:
b. Texas Western
c. Michigan

2. The Grammy song of the year was:
a. “Up, Up and Away,” Jimmy Webb, songwriter
b. “Michelle,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney, songwriters
c. “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Paul Simon, songwriter

3. Books published that year included:
a. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
b. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader
c. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron and A Garden of Earthly Delights by Joyce Carol Oates

4. A popular film in 1967 was:
a. “In the Heat of the Night”
b. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
c. “The French Connection”

5. The average cost of gas per gallon 1967 was:
a. 28 cents
b. 33 cents
c. 35 cents

We’ll give you the answers next time, but in the meantime, feel free to Ask a Librarian!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Unfinished Business

Recently, the BBC News reported which novels were most often unfinished by British readers. We took a similar survey, asking our newsletter readers to reveal which books they started, but never quite managed to finish. They said:

“Have to disagree with the Brits on the Harry Potter books. I put off reading ALL of them until a month or two ago when I finally succumbed. I enjoyed them a lot!” -- A. Masters

Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice. It bored me to death -- three times!” -- Sarah

“I started reading War and Peace twice, during the winter months. I tried to pick it up a third time to finish it, but I then moved to Florida, and it wasn't really a ‘beach read,’ so it remains unfinished.” -- K. Buscher

The Red Badge of Courage. Had to read it for a high school book report, couldn't even get past the first chapter! So I read the Cliff notes; I think I got a B on it!” -- P. Hartmann

Ulysses by James Joyce. It’s often chosen as one of the best books ever written. Why should a book so tedious and boring be elected to such high status? I'll never know!” -- L. Mooring

“How about books you wish you hadn't finished? Bridge to Terebithia! I hated what happened at the end! I might not have read it had I known it ended that way.” -- C. Fow

Ulysses by James Joyce. Two times I’ve started to read it; I hope to try again soon.” -- J. Bauza

Sea of Thunder. The book is on the reserved list, so it couldn't be renewed; I paid two bucks and still didn't finish it!” -- K. Lowe

“I majored in literature, and Tristram Shandy was on the reading list for two courses, and I never could get even halfway through the book. I literally kept falling asleep while trying to read it.” -- M. Derbali

“The book I’ve started MULTIPLE times is Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude. I even jumped ahead and read the end once, but it didn’t inspire me to finish all the parts I skipped.” -- J. Bilyeu

Finn is my currently unfinished book. It is just unrelieved horror. Definitely not a book for kids -- or for anyone wanting a good read.” -- R. Matthews

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I've tried to read it four times.” -- E. Dennington

“I simply couldn't finish Gravity's Rainbow; it wore me out. I consider myself reasonably intelligent, having graduated from college summa cum laude, but the incessant allusions were just too much. While to be profound is to be misunderstood, the converse is not so.” -- J. Maberry

“Not surprised that The God of Small Things is a book that people pick up and put aside.” -- J. Maitra

“Most recently, I ran out of the permitted number of online renewals (!) for Jane Jacobs' Dark Age Ahead. I'm a habitual book-non-finisher, but Jacobs' book was so full of rich, important ideas that it sent my mind in 10 directions. I must get back to it someday!” –- M. Marsolais

“There are two books that I could never finish. One is Ivanhoe. I tried twice, but it just never grabbed me. The other is Moby Dick. I’ve read thousands of books, but could never get through those two.” -- P. Riedinger

Lord of the Rings, all three books. The history of elves, man, dwarves and every other living creature, plus invented languages, maps and cities just proved too much for me!” -- C. McDaniel

“The dictionary is a book I love to read but haven't gotten all the way through it yet.” -- G. Lesser

“About the books you listed: of the ones I’ve looked at, I managed to read them to the bitter end ... and in some cases, it was very bitter!” -- J. Schmidt

“Stephen King's The Tailsman. Oh, I got through it, but it took me almost five years and by that time the spine has cracked and the pages were falling out.” -- A. Lawson

Ulysses seemed to require extensive knowledge of English and Irish literature to follow. While I found the small part of what I read interesting, I didn’t get very far into the book before I gave up.” -- G. McMullin

“I've never finished All the Kings' Men by Robert Penn Warren, and Paradise by Toni Morrison. In both cases, after slogging through the first 20 pages or so, and being completely unable to figure out what was happening, I gave up.” -- M. Morris

“I don't know how to get the word out, but I listened to Crime and Punishment on tape, and I was spellbound. This would be a great way to enjoy the book without reading it. I give the audio FOUR STARS!” -- A. Posner

“Of the four books on this list that I have tried to read, I have never been able to finish any of them!” -- Chris

Maybe you’d like one of these books better!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Crossword Champs

For those of you addicted to the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, the 30th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament runs March 23 – 25 in Stamford, CT. Ken Jennings, who gained fame as the longest-running “Jeopardy” winner, competed in 2006 and won first place in the Division C and Rookie categories.

Last year, 498 people competed in three categories. Many came for a sneak preview of the 2006 film "Wordplay," which chronicles an ACPT competition and profiles Will Shortz, the Times crossword editor. The film also showed famous crossword enthusiasts such as Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and former President Bill Clinton.

If you’re interested in the word-obsessed people who create puzzles or frequent such competitions — or you just want some puzzle-solving hints, check out:

Gridlock: Crossword Puzzles and the Mad Geniuses That Create Them by Matt Gaffney.

Crossworld: One Man’s Journey Into America’s Crossword Obsession by Marc Romano.

Pretty Girl in Crimson (8): A Memoir of Love, Exile and Crosswords by Sandy Balfour.

Crossword Puzzles for Dummies by Michelle Arnot.

Random House Webster’s Crossword Puzzle Dictionary edited by Stephen P. Elliott.

What’s the fastest you’ve ever done the Sunday Times crossword?

Friday, March 16, 2007

National Biodiesel Day

Sunday, March 18 marks the birthday of Rudolph Diesel, who invented the diesel engine in 1900; it has also been designated National Biodiesel Day by the National Biodiesel Board, founded in 1992 by state soybean commodity groups. Diesel originally designed his engine to run on peanut oil and believed in the role of vegetable oils as alternative fuels. His vision has come full circle as organizations such as the NBB encourage research and use of biofuels.

For more on alternative energy sources, browse these books:

Driving Climate Change: Cutting Carbon From Transportation by Daniel Sperling and James S. Cannon

A Thousand Barrels a Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World by Peter Tertzakian

Pollution: Opposing Viewpoints by Louise Gerdes

Internal Combustion: How Corporations and Governments Addicted the World to Oil and Derailed the Alternatives by Edwin Black

Homeowners Guide to Energy Independence: Alternative Power Sources for the Average American by Christine Woodside

The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter W. Huber and Mark Mills

So, what is the solution to our dependence on oil? Share your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

East Indians in America

The release of director Mira Nair’s film "The Namesake" on both coasts last week introduces many to the work of author Jhumpa Lahiri. Born in London in 1967, but raised in Rhode Island, Lahiri’s debut collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000.Three years later, she published her first novel, The Namesake, to rave reviews.

The book and film chronicle the life of the Ganguli family, who emigrated to the United States from India in the 1960s. Their son comes of age straddling two cultures, and undergoes a challenging search for identity.

Lahiri is one of several authors who have captured their East-Indian roots in their writing. Check out:

Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh.

The Tree Bride by Bharati Mukherjee.

Serving Crazy With Curry by Amulya Malladi.

The Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani.

The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

Shiva Dancing by Bharti Kirchner.


Answers to the quiz in our Friday, March 9 posting:

Lou Ferrigno, the weightlifter who starred in the “The Incredible Hulk” TV series, has a permanent partial hearing loss due to childhood illness, and Kenny Walker, who played for the Denver Broncos in the early 1990s, is deaf.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Deaf History Month

How many deaf celebrities can you name?

March 13 marks the start of Deaf History Month, which runs through April 15. The celebration commemorates several milestones in the history of services for the deaf, including the opening of the American School for the Deaf — the first public school for the deaf — on April 15, 1817, and the founding of Gallaudet University on April 8, 1864.

The Access Services branch of the Fairfax County Public Library offers a number of services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These include some meeting rooms equipped with built-in assistive listening systems; portable assistive listening devices; a portable TTY, as well as sign interpretation at library events. To learn more, call 703-324-8380, TTY 703-324-8365 or e-mail

As to famous people with hearing disabilities: the first name that usually springs to mind is Helen Keller, born deaf and blind, who graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 and wrote a number of books; or perhaps Marlee Matlin, the deaf actress who won an Academy Award for her role in the 1986 film, “Children of a Lesser God.”

But can you name the deaf actor in a 1978 TV series or the deaf Denver Broncos football player?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

March Madness

So, will Hofstra be the new George Mason when the official Division 1 NCAA basketball competition begins next week? Here in Fairfax County, Virginia, we were thrilled when our local college team beat basketball giants Michigan State, North Carolina, and Connecticut on their way to the NCAA Final Four last year. Will Florida's Gators reign again this year? What about Georgetown? Then there’s Georgia and Kansas. Who do you think will make the Sweet Sixteen?

The opening round of the 69th Annual Division I Men’s Basketball Championship begins on March 13 in Dayton, Ohio. For more in-depth background on college basketball’s annual championship, check out:

A Method to March Madness: An Insider’s Look at the Final Four by C.J. Jones.

Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four by John Feinstein.

CBS Sports Presents: Stories From the Final Four edited by Matt Fulks.

The Men of March: A Season Inside the Lives of College Basketball Coaches by
Brian Curtis.

Good Enough to Be Great: The Inside Story of Maryland Basketball’s National Championship Season by Josh Barr.

In the meantime, let us know your picks for the Last Dance.