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Friday, February 27, 2009

Remembering a Sci-Fi Giant: Philip José Farmer

The prolific science-fiction writer Philip José Farmer died recently at the age of 91. His books had global appeal. According to a tribute in the New York Times, his more than 75 books have been translated into 22 languages and published in more than 40 countries.

Farmer is best known for a number of imaginative series. In Riverworld, Farmer created a river that was millions of mile long on a far-away planet where anyone who has died on earth is reborn in good health and with a second chance. The first book in the series, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, won a Hugo Award in 1972. Among the people reborn in his Riverworld books were Mark Twain and Odysseus.

Other series include Dayworld in which a population crisis requires individuals to spend one day a week awake and the other six in suspended animation and World of Tiers in which god-like figures create pocket worlds for their own enjoyment, but then have to deal with their rebellious creations.

Farmer had his critics and was sometimes accused of writing too fast, but no-one questioned the scope of his imagination. According to the New York Times, Farmer once said, “Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.”

If you wish to sample some of Farmer’s creations, try these books:

The Classic Philip José Farmer: 1952 - 1964

To Your Scattered Bodies Go

The Dark Design

Gods of Riverworld

Dayworld Breakup

A Reminder

Mississippi Freedom Riders. March 5, 7:30 p.m. Alden Theatre, McLean Community Center.
The Fairfax Library Foundation presents Eric Etheridge, author of Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders and former Freedom Rider Rev. Reginald Green. For more information call 703-324-8428. Registration is not required; tickets will be distributed beginning at 7 p.m. on March 5; limit of four tickets per person, first come, first served; books will be available for sale and signing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tet — Four Decades Later

Library Director Sam Clay recently interviewed Charles Krohn, the author of The Lost Battalion of Tet: Breakout of the 2/12 Calvary at Hue for BookCast, our series of podcast interviews with local authors.

Krohn’s 1993 book, republished recently as part of the 40th-anniversary commemoration of the 1968 Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, is among a number of books on the intense military campaign conducted by the Viet Cong between Jan. 30, 1968 (Tet –Vietnamese New Year’s Day) and Sept. 23, 1968.

Tet is credited with turning the American public against the war. Krohn’s book recounts what went wrong during a six-week period in January and February 1968 during the recapture of the city of Hue when a U.S. infantry battalion was ordered to attack a North Vietnamese force of more than 2,000 without air or artillery support.

For other books on the Tet Offensive, see:

The Tet Offensive: A Concise History by James Willbanks

Marines in Hue City: A Portrait of Urban Combat, Tet 1968 by Eric Hammel

Platoon: Bravo Company by Robert Hemphill

Battle for Hue, Tet 1968 by Keith Nolan

Don’t Miss . . .

Monday, March 2, 4 p.m. Great Falls Library
Children's Author Laura Elliot. Laura Elliott will discuss the writing and history of her novel, Give Me Liberty. Attendees will learn fun colonial trivia about the little-known Battle of the Great Bridge and about the research and writing of the novel. Try out 18th-century greetings and folklore! Age 8-16.

Tuesdays, March 3 & 10, 7 p.m. Patrick Henry Library
Art in America. Interactive discussion of American art led by a Smithsonian Museum of American Art docent. The program will focus on particular artists, their paintings and their place in the spectrum of American art. Adults.

Friday, February 20, 2009

World’s Funniest Books

The Reading Copy, a blog published by the staff of, recently published a list of the world’s funniest books based on a survey of 500 0f its British customers. Yes, the Brits may have a slightly different sense of humor than we Yanks (think “Monty Python,” “Benny Hill” and “Are You Being Served?”), but at least two American writers made the list.

If you need some chuckles to get through the final weeks of winter, try these:

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Don’t Miss . . .

Mississippi Freedom Riders. March 5, 7:30 p.m. Alden Theatre, McLean Community Center
The Fairfax Library Foundation presents Eric Etheridge, author of Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders and former Freedom Rider Rev. Reginald Green. For more information call 703-324-8428. Registration is not required; tickets will be distributed beginning at 7 p.m. on March 5; limit of four tickets per person, first come, first served; books will be available for sale and signing.

Venture Into Volunteering. March 5, 10 a.m. – noon. Chantilly Regional Library
Baby boomers, retirees and seniors are invited to attend the Venture Into Volunteering Fair for older adults. Supervisor Michael R. Frey, Sully District, will offer welcoming remarks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lincoln’s Bicentennial

February 12 was the 200th anniversary of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. Here is how he described his early years five months before his nomination as president:

"I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished families ― second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks ... My father ... removed from Kentucky to ... Indiana, in my eighth year... It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up... Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write, and cipher ... but that was all."

As many know, he is now considered one of our nation’s greatest presidents for steering the young nation through the Civil War.

For some recent books on Lincoln and his legacy, browse:

Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Adam Gopnik

Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 by Harold Holzer

The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Epstein

President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman by William Lee Miller

Temporary Martha Washington Library Opens
The temporary Martha Washington Library opened to the public on Feb. 9. The library branch is now located at 6328 Richmond Highway, Unit F, Alexandria, VA 22306.

The temporary location will serve the community while Martha Washington Library undergoes renovation, expected to take a minimum of 18 months. Martha Washington Library staff, including Branch Manager Barbara Rice, invite you to join them at their grand opening on Saturday, Feb. 21. Refreshments and giveaways will be available. For directions to the temporary library, call 703-768-6700 or visit

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

African-American History Month

African-American History Month dates back to 1926 with Dr. Carter G. Woodson who suggested celebrating a “Negro History Week” to correspond with both Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. In 1976 it was expanded to include the entire month of February.

The son of slaves who worked in Kentucky coal mines as a child, Woodson went to high school when he was 20. He later earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He suggested the celebration after he discovered how little of the black experience was reflected in history books at the time.

For more on African-American history, try these resources:

Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings – 1619 to the Present by Nell Painter

Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett

Race: A History Beyond Black and White by Marc Aronson

Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History in and Around Washington, D.C. by Jesse Holland

Don’t Miss . . .

Monday, Feb. 23, 3:30 p.m. at the Centreville Regional Library
Kalimba Music, Ancient and Contemporary. Celebrate African-American History Month with Carl Winters, the Kalimba King. He plays jazz, blues, gospel and hip hop on several kalimbas, or African thumb pianos. Cosponsored by the Friends of the Centreville Regional Library. Age 4 and up.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Late Book Fines Waived For Hero Pilot

Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III became a hero on Jan. 15 when he landed his commercial jetliner safely on the Hudson River and all passengers and crew were able to exit the craft safely. Now we learn this hero pilot is one of us: a library devotee. Sullenberger called Fresno State Library recently to ask for an extension and waiver of overdue fees because his library book, checked out from his local library, had been left behind in the cargo hold of the plane. Library officials at Fresno State waived all fees and dedicated the replacement book to him.

Book Sales in February
Woodrow Wilson Library, Feb. 2 - 28 (ongoing);
Dolley Madison Library, Feb. 2-28 (ongoing);
Reston Regional Library, Feb. 6-11;
Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, Feb. 7;
Kingstowne Library, Feb. 14;
Lorton Library, Feb. 14

For more information or addresses of the branches, visit the library's Web site.

Tax Assistance at Libraries
Both VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) and AARP offer free tax assistance at some Fairfax County Public Library branches. VITA assists those who make less than $42,000 a year. AARP Tax-Aide assists low- and middle-income taxpayers, with special attention to those 60 and over. To find the library closest to you offering the assistance, please visit our Web site or pick up a copy of "This Month" at your local branch.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Gwyneth Paltrow and Her Literary Girlfriends

In her blog Goop, actress Gwyneth Paltrow lists her favorite winter reading and polls some of her literary-minded girlfriends, including Madonna and model Christy Turlington on their choices:

Madonna’s list:
The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Christy’s list:
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Gwyneth’s list:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

Don’t Miss . . .

Thursdays, Feb. 5 & 12, Noon. Pohick Regional Library
Independent Living Exercise Class. Build strength, improve balance and reduce falls. Cosponsored by the Department of Family Services' Fairfax Agency on Aging's Independent Living Project, a series of programs for older adults and adults with disabilities. Registration required. Call 703-324-7210, TTY 703-449-1186 or e-mail Adults.

Wednesday, Feb. 11, 7:15 p.m. Oakton Library
Lifetime Financial Fitness. Personal financial management and investment in turbulent times. Includes group discussion. Suggested reading: Buffett: the Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein. Adults.