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Friday, August 29, 2008

Six-Word Memoirs

A bookstore in Blytheville, Ark., is celebrating its anniversary by soliciting six-word memoirs of customers’ experiences in the store. The owner based the idea on Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word short story “For sale: Baby shoes, Never worn.”

It is a common belief among professional writers that the shorter a piece is, the harder it is to write.

So, since there is a long week-end coming up, let’s borrow the concept and see what those who love libraries can compose about their experiences. Here is my attempt: “Will never know all it holds.”

Share your six-word library memoirs here.

Have a good Labor Day weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What We Read

In The Uncommon Reader, the Queen dubs Norman Seakins, who works in the palace kitchens, her “amanuensis” or “literary assistant” as he steers her toward books that feed her new-found passion for reading.

While many of us have our own literary mentors – friends, colleagues, book discussion members and others who offer reading suggestions, another source is best seller lists. The New York Times Best Seller List and The Washington Post Best Seller List are among the most well-known.

The Times list appears each Sunday in the “New York Times Book Review,” but is actually prepared by the editors of the News Survey department rather than the Book Review staff. The list is based on the weekly sales record of selected independent, chain book stores and retailers, but the specific methodology is considered a classified trade secret. One study found that making it to the Times best seller list actually helps the sales of lesser known writers more than the stars, who are on it regularly.

Last Sunday’s Times included bestselling authors Sandra Brown (Smoke Screen), Eric Van Lustbader (The Bourne Sanction) and Daniel Silva (Moscow Rules) among the top five on the hardback fiction list. Lesser known authors in the top five included Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Sherrilyn Kenyon for Acheron. Last Sunday’s Post includes Brown, Van Lustbader and Silva among the top five, but adds The Turnaround by local writer George Pelacanos and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.

Do the bestseller lists influence your reading choices? What are your sources for good reading? Let us know.

Friday, August 22, 2008

James Thurber’s Legacy

For those of a certain age, James Thurber defined American humor during the first 50 years of the 20th century. Each year Thurber House, a literary center and museum located in the Cleveland, Ohio home Thurber lived in from 1913 to 1917 awards a $5,000 Thurber Prize to a contemporary humorist. The 2008 prize will be announced October 6 at the Algonquin Hotel, Thurber’s New York haunt. The short list includes these books owned by the library:

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

Him Her Again the End of Him by Patricia Marx

Some previous winners include:

Coyote verses Acme by Ian Frazier

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

No Way to Treat a First Lady by Christopher Buckley

My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan

So, what’s the funniest book you have read recently? Let us know.

Don’t Miss . . .
Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11

On a more serious note, Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, authors of Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11, will appear at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 9 in the Board Auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center. The event is sponsored by the library’s Center for the Book.

Creed, a volunteer firefighter and Army officer, spent over five years scouring public records and conducting 150 interviews to compile this account, including the stories of Fairfax County firefighters. Newman has written for U.S. News & World Report for more than 15 years. From 1995 through 2001, Newman was the magazine’s chief Pentagon correspondent.

No registration required; first come, first served. Books will be available for sale and signing. The Government Center is located at 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035. For more information, call 703-324-8428.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

English Tea – High and Low

At several points in The Uncommon Reader, the queen is interrupted for her daily tea and pastries. According to Linda Stradley in an article on the History of English Afternoon Tea, before tea was introduced in Great Britain, its citizens had only two meals – breakfast and dinner. Breakfast consisted of ale, bread and beef. During the mid-18th-century, dinner for the middle and upper classes shifted from lunch time to later in the day.

While tea was common in British coffee houses by 1700, legend has it that afternoon tea was created by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in waiting in the 19th-century. Supposedly, Anna Maria Stanhope was finding lunch to be less and less satisfying and started to sneak in tea and pastries around five in the afternoon. Soon she was inviting her friends to join her.

Afternoon tea is also called "low tea" because it was usually taken in a sitting room where there were low tables, such as coffee tables. In Great Britain it is served at 5 p.m. and does not go longer than 7 p.m. In the U.S., where it is mistakenly referred to as “high tea,” it is usually served in teahouses between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. High tea is normally a heavier meal, sometimes called “meat tea” and does not involve the pastries associated with afternoon tea.

If you are a tea drinker, here’s a few books that might interest you:

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss

Steeped in the World of Tea by Sharon Bard

Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea From East to West by Beatrice Hohenegger

If you are a tea lover, how do you drink yours? With biscuits and scones like the British? Or do you nibble on more American fare?

Let us know.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Romance

You’ve still got a few weeks left for some relaxed summer reading, so the recent announcement of the 2008 RITA Awards arrives just in time. Here’s some of this year’s winners chosen by Romance Writers of America.

Best Contemporary Single-Title Romance
Catch of the Day by Kristan Higgins

Best Historical Romance
Lessons of Desire by Madeline Hunter

Best Inspirational Romance
A Touch of Grace by Linda Goodnight

Best Novel With Strong Romantic Elements
Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Best Regency Historical Romance
The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

Best Romantic Suspense
Ice Blue by Anne Stuart

Are you a romance novel fan? Got any good suggestions? Let us know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Makes a Good Book?

Each year when library staff and other community representatives gather to select a book for All Fairfax Reads, it is quite a challenge to find a title that will appeal to the largest number of Fairfax County and City of Fairfax residents.

This year’s novella, The Uncommon Reader, by British playwright and author Alan Bennett has good things going for it. It is a comic portrait of an unnamed queen of England who suddenly discovers the joy of reading. Bennett’s satire makes the book a laugh-out-loud experience and at 120 pages, it’s a fast read. Nothing is sacred – the British monarchy, the British citizenry or even writers.

As we begin our All Fairfax Reads events in September, you have some great opportunities to discussion the novella at one of our facilitated book discussions, or other branch discussions scheduled throughout the month:

Facilitated All Fairfax Reads Discussions
Participate in a discussion of The Uncommon Reader led by facilitator Wendi Kaufman of John Hopkins University. Adults.
Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m. Sherwood Regional Library
Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library

More All Fairfax Reads Discussions
All Fairfax Reads Book Discussion. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Adults.
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 7:15 p.m. Oakton Library
Thursday, Sept. 18, 2 p.m. George Mason Regional Library
Monday, Sept. 22, 10 a.m. Centreville Regional Library
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 7 p.m. Burke Centre Library
Thursday, Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m. Centreville Regional Library

We’ll let you know about other All Fairfax Reads events as they get closer or you can check the Books and Special Events page on the library’s Web site.

In the meantime, what do you think makes a good book? Let us know.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Lucky Eights

Today, Beijing launched the Summer Games of the XXIX Olympiad at 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (8 p.m. in China). Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture, thus explaining the sequence of eights in the date and time. According to Wikipedia, 10,500 athletes are scheduled to compete in 302 events in 28 sports, ranging from gymnastics and swimming to table tennis and canoeing.

If you want to follow the drama of your favorite sports, check out the links on the Summer Olympics page on the library’s Web site.

How good are you at Olympic trivia? Can you answer this question?

How many events are alike in the ancient and modern Olympic games?

a) 2     b) 6     c) 5     d) 8

Share your answer.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Writers at a Soirée

In The Uncommon Reader, once the Queen gets involved in her new pastime of reading, she decides she would like to meet some of the authors she has read. At her request, her staff sets up a reception that her chief reading advisor, Norman, insists on calling a “soiree.”

The evening does not go as planned as the writers seemed “loud, gossipy and, though they laughed a great deal, not particularly funny” (p. 50). After ineffective attempts to express her admiration for their work, she concluded “authors … were probably best met with in the pages of their novels, and as much creatures of the reader’s imagination as the characters in their books.”

Do you think this is true? Have you been to readings or met authors face-to-face? Did they meet your expectations? Share your experience.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Real Anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Although July 4th is the day Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, the delegates didn't begin to sign the final/legal copies of the document until Aug. 2, 1776. John Hancock and Charles Thomson signed only draft copies on July 4.

Fifty additional men signed on Aug. 2. Later that year, five more men apparently signed separately, and one added his name in a subsequent year. To read a chronology of events related to the Declaration of Independence, visit
http://www.ushistory.org/Declaration/timeline.htm.

If you want to learn more, check out the following book from the Fairfax County Public Library:

The Declaration of Independence: The Story Behind America's Founding Document and the Men Who Created it by Rod Gragg.

Don’t Miss – Patrick’s Film Odyssey
Wednesday, August 6, at 6:45 p.m., travel the world through popular
movies the first Wednesday of every month at Patrick Henry Library. Call 703-938-0405 to register. Patrick Henry Library is located at 101 Maple Avenue East, Vienna 22180.

Traveled anyplace exotic this summer? Seen any interesting libraries?

Let us know.