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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Science of Storytelling

Researchers are intrigued by the fact that the human brain seems to be wired to enjoy stories according to Scientific American Mind ("The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn," September 18, 2008). Various studies have found that those with empathy — the ability to perceive other people’s emotions — are more easily involved in a story; that stories may act as “life simulators” similar to “flight simulators” for pilots — practice for social relationships; or that story themes, such as romantic love, are the same across cultures because of underlying biology — the concept of “literary Darwinists.”

What makes a good story for you? Humor, intrigue, romance?

Don’t Miss . . .
One of this generation’s great storytellers — spy novelist Daniel Silva will discuss “The Undercover Life of an Espionage Writer” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 in the Board Auditorium of the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035. Books will be available for sale and signing. No registration is required; first come, first served.

Silva has written 11 novels since 1997, including his most recent New York Times bestseller, Moscow Rules.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Forget “Chanel No. 5,” Try “In the Library”

New York perfumer Christopher Brosius has created a fragrance he calls “In the Library,” according to the Intelligent Life blog ("He Hates Perfume: Swearing Off the Bottle," Sept. 18, 2008). Brosius, who owns CB I Hate Perfume, a perfumery in the Williamsburg section of New York City, has a unique philosophy that “great fragrances are unimposing and genderless, and they should harmonize with a person's natural odor.”

On the shelves of his shop there are 350 vials with names such as “Rhubarb Leaf,” or “Crayon,” which Brosius uses to help his customers create specialty scents. The “In the Library” fragrance includes a blend that Brosius describes as "First Edition, Russian and Moroccan Leather, Binding Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish."

Curious how more traditional scents are made or how to make your own? You can browse these books:

Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin

The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York
by Chandler Burr

The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and the Science of Smell
by Luca Turin

Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume by Mandy Aftel

A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s Perfumer
by Elisabeth de Feydeau

Do you have a favorite scent? Would “In the Library” appeal to you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The End

The library’s 2008 All Fairfax Reads season officially ends this week. We hope many Fairfax County and City of Fairfax readers had a chance to pick up Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, a satiric novella with some serious messages.

If, as Bennett suggests, reading can transform a Queen and her reign, perhaps to paraphrase Mark Twain, “the rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In a cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review, "The Future of Reading," (May-June 2008), author Ezra Klein decided to walk around for a month with a Kindle, the electronic reader from Amazon, to see if the art of reading was really being transformed. His conclusion — perhaps not. He writes:

“Put another way, content is king. It will seek out the vehicle best suited to its absorption or enjoyment. Sometimes, it will occupy multiple mediums at the same time, in order to appeal to the largest audience (think of how books live happily alongside audio books, and then are turned into movies). But the endless discussion as to whether books are dead tends to conflate “books” with “text,” and thereby obscures far more than it illuminates. Books will not die, after all, unless we want them dead. They have survived the advent of radio, television, the Internet, and Nintendo. Rather, they will be challenged once again, and books’ content will find new ways to express itself more effectively.”

And for perspective, a Scribner’s Magazine writer in 1894 lamented the threat to the book from Thomas Edison’s new audio inventions.

“. . .printing, which since 1436 has reigned despotically over the mind of man, is, in my opinion, threatened with death by the various devices for registering sound which have lately been invented, and which little by little will go on to perfection.”

So – any thoughts? What is the fate of reading in the decades to come?

Don’t Miss . . .

George Mason University, the Fairfax County Public Library and others are sponsoring Fall for the Book, September 21-26. Visit their Web site to see the entire list of authors participating in this year's festival.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Book Proverbs

David Crystal, who has authored a number of books on language, has just published a new book of proverbs he has gathered from around the world, reports the daily blog published for independent book store owners.
Here’s a few on books and reading.

● If you want to be acquainted with the past and the present, you must read five cartloads of books (China)
● There is no worse robber than a bad book (Italy)
● It is not healthy to swallow books without chewing (Germany)
● Those who can read and write have four eyes (Albania)
● Poets and pigs are appreciated only after their death (Italy)

Know any other book-related proverbs from other cultures? Please share.

Don’t Miss …
Fall for the BookGeorge Mason University, Fairfax County Public Library and others are sponsoring Fall for the Book, September 21-26. Visit the Web site to see the entire list of authors participating in this year’s festival.

As part of the festival, City of Fairfax Regional Library will host former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton on Wednesday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. He will be discussing his memoir “Opportunity Time.” To register for this event, call the library at 703-293-6227. City of Fairfax Regional Library is located at 10360 North Street, Fairfax, VA 22030-2514.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Books About Books

In the final pages of The Uncommon Reader, the Queen announces that she has decided to write a book. “It will, I trust be a tangential history of the times,” the Queen tells a surprised gathering of her advisors. “. . .I’d like to talk about books, too and people.”

She is certainly not unique in wanting to pen a book about books and reading. For inspiration, she could certainly browse such as The Jane Austen Book Club, People of the Book, The Reader, and Fahrenheit 451 or lesser known works such as:

First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Lord of the Libraries by Mel Odum

The Everlasting by Tim Lebbon

Do you have a favorite book about books and reading?

A Reminder

All Fairfax Reads winds down with a series of events this week and next. Here is the schedule:

Sept. 16, 10:30 a.m. at the George Mason Regional Library
All Fairfax Reads Movie. A screening of the 2006 movie featuring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and the events immediately after the death of Princess Diana.

Sept. 17, 7:15 p.m. Oakton Library Book Discussion.
The Uncommon Reader

September 23, 7:30 p.m. Old Town Village Gallery, North Street at Rt. 123 in Fairfax. Theater of the First Amendment.
George Mason University’s professional theater in residence will highlight Alan Bennett’s half-century of plays with a reading of his works. Alan Bennett is the author of The Uncommon Reader, the library’s 2008 All Fairfax Reads selection. Visit Fall for the Book for information.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Happiness and Hard Science

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times notes there has been a flurry of books on happiness published in the last few months. The article quotes Margot Schupf, associate publisher for Collins Publishing Group, who attributes the trend to new hard data on happiness. "Authors are beginning to report real science and aren't just talking about a warm, fuzzy feeling,” she says.

Here’s a few from the list you can find at the library.

What Happy Women Know by Dan Baker

The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonya Lyubomirsky

Happiness for Two by Alexandra Stoddard

Happiness Is an Inside Job: Practicing for a Joyful Life by Sylvia Boorstein

Any other good reading suggestions on happiness?

Don’t Miss . . .
September 23
, 7:30 p.m.
Old Town Village Gallery, North Street at Rt. 123 in Fairfax. Theater of the First Amendment. George Mason University’s professional theater in residence will highlight Alan Bennett’s half-century of plays with a reading of his works. Alan Bennett is the author of The Uncommon Reader, the library’s 2008 All Fairfax Reads selection. Visit Fall for the Book for information.

September 24, 7 p.m. at Oakton Library
Meet Alison Larkin, comedian and author of The English American, as part of the Fall for the Book program. Larkin based the novel on her own experiences as an adopted English woman who finds her birth parents in the United States. For library programs, call the branch to register two weeks in advance.

September 24, 7:30 p.m. at the City of Fairfax Regional Library
Former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton shares excerpts from his memoir Opportunity Time. In 1969, Holton put together a coalition of business, labor and African-American voters to become the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Twists and Turns

For those who have yet to read The Uncommon Reader, we won’t spoil the surprise ending. But, author Alan Bennett is certainly not the first to enjoy startling his readers. Here are a few titles of books with twisted endings from a list compiled by the subscribers of the Fiction_L mailing list that includes many librarians and other information professionals.

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg

The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken

The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by Sharon McCrumb

The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve

Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon

Do you have a favorite book that took you by surprise?

All Fairfax Reads Book Discussions and Activities

If you would like to discuss The Uncommon Reader this week, you can participate in a discussion led by facilitator Wendi Kaufman of John Hopkins University on:
Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m. Sherwood Regional Library
Sept. 11
, 7:30 p.m. Reston Regional Library

Other discussions and All Fairfax Reads activities in the next week include:
Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. at the Pohick Regional Library
The Art of Flower Arranging, UK Style. The art of flower arranging and the features of an English garden, presented by floral designer and horticulturist Bruce Nash.

Sept. 16, 10:30 a.m. at the George Mason Regional LibraryAll Fairfax Reads Movie. A screening of the 2006 movie featuring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and the events immediately after the death of Princess Diana.

Sept. 17, 7:15 p.m Oakton Library
Book Discussion. The Uncommon Reader.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Digital Bookmobile Coming To Centreville

Attention e-book fans! A digital bookmobile will be in the parking lot of the Centreville Regional Library from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13 (rain or shine). The bookmobile, sponsored by Overdrive, one of the providers of the library’s e-book collection, is a great opportunity for people to learn more about downloading audiobooks, eBooks and other digital media. There will be instructional videos and interactive computer stations so readers of all ages can experience new ways to enjoy digital books and more from the library. For more information visit the library's Web site.

Are you a digital reader? How do you use eBooks, audiobooks and more? Let us know.

Upcoming All Fairfax Reads Events
September 15, 7:30 p.m. at the Pohick Regional Library
The Art of Flower Arranging, UK Style. The art of flower arranging and the features of an English garden, presented by floral designer and horticulturist Bruce Nash.

September 16, 10:30 a.m. at the George Mason Regional Library
All Fairfax Reads Movie. A screening of the 2006 movie featuring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II and the events immediately after the death of Princess Diana.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Endless Books

In the early pages of The Uncommon Reader, the Queen begins to feel overwhelmed by her new passion for reading:

“The sheer endlessness of books outfaced her and she had no idea how to go on; there was no system to her reading, with one book leading to another, and often she had two or three on the go at the same time. . . ‘I have started too late. I will never keep up.’” (p. 47)

It is no wonder. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) figures published by Wikipedia, in 2006, the United Kingdom published 206,000 new titles compared to only 172,000 in the U.S. It was the second time Great Britain had overtaken the U.S. in the past 20 years. Book production in the United Kingdom rose 28 percent in 2005-2006, but dropped 18 percent in the U.S. Apparently Great Britain leads the world in number of new titles published per capita per year.

The Queen faced quite a challenge. Do you have more than one book going at the same time? What’s on your bedside table? Let us know.

A Reminder
There is a variety of All Fairfax Reads events scheduled in September. Here’s a list of book discussions:

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