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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Traveling Time and Time Again

In the world of Doctor Who, Dec.  25 is usually marked by two major events: an alien invasion of London and the annual holiday special.  After celebrating the 50th anniversary of the BBC science fiction show earlier this year, fans are anxiously awaiting Peter Capaldi‘s debut this Christmas as the latest Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.  Viewers can rely on one constant as the new Doctor begins his tenure in the TARDIS, a time-traveling spaceship disguised as a blue British police box.  The TARDIS doesn’t always take the Doctor where he wants to go. But it does take him exactly where he needs to be to save humanity and the universe time and time again.

If you’re finding it hard to wait for the next installment of Doctor Who, consider opening up one of these alternatives for an adventure through time and space of your own.  And if your travels take you to London this holiday season, don’t forget:  Keep your eyes on the sky and watch out for aliens.
In Jasper Fforde’s lighthearted novel The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next, a special operative in literary detection, faces a seemingly all-powerful enemy when both timelines and storylines begin to break down in an alternate reality 1980s London.

The Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book by Connie Willis takes a deeper look at the complications of time travel as a 21st century history student is mistakenly stranded in 1348 Europe during the ravages of the Black Plague. 
In the conspiracy-filled Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, Professor Brendan Doyle’s ill-fated trip to 1810 England leaves him trapped with an eccentric cast of Egyptian magicians, werewolves, gypsies and literary heroes of the age.

Teens might like to travel with seventh-grader Martin Conway in London Calling by Edward Bloor as his antique radio transports him to the bombing of London in 1940 and to the aid of a young boy in desperate need of help.
The dark and doom laden The Cure by Sonia Levitin makes Gemm 16884 choose between being “recycled” in the present year of 2407 or taking a painful “cure” by experiencing the world of Strasbourg in 1348. 

For those who need a dose of the real thing, get your fix here with novels inspired by the classic TV show.

- Rebecca A. Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Time for Reading

I have been drafting blog posts for About Books for more than eight years. During that time, I’ve searched for the best lists from authors, readers and others in a wide variety of genres and shared their recommendations.  Now that I am about to retire, I thought I would share with you my favorite authors and recent books that I hope to immediately read in my expanded leisure hours. There will be many, many others.

Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
And the Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini

The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne

-         Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Best of 2013

It’s that time of year, again. Lists of the year’s best writing have already begun to appear. The Washington Post published "The Top Ten Books of the Year" last Friday. For a slightly different perspective, here are some selections from the Toronto Globe and Mail’s guide to the best international fiction in 2013 (U.S. authors qualify).

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Joyland by Stephen King
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Best Sci-Fi of All Time

As “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the film version of the second book in Suzanne Collins’ popular series, opens this week, it seems appropriate to share other great works of imaginative fiction.  Business Insider recently culled two Reddit lists to come up with "The 25 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time," Nov. 8, 2013.  Here are some of the favorites:

Anathem  by Neal Stephenson

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer
Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Excession by Iain M. Banks

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Great Sports Books for Non-Fans


Flavorwire’s Jason Diamond recently posted a list of his favorite sports books, which he believes any reader may enjoy ("10 Books About Sports That Even Non-Fans Should Read," Oct. 29, 2013).  Here are a few of his selections plus more from Bleacher Report:
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger

The Legend of Pradeep Mathew by Shehan Karunatilaka
My Losing Season by Pat Conroy

A Good Walk Spoiled  by John Feinstein

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Kid’s Series for Adults


Now that Voldemort is gone, Aslan’s last battle is finished and Frodo’s One Ring is no more, you may be looking for some new adventures.  Whatever your age, here are some recommendations of books you may have missed in your younger years. ("5 Series You Probably Missed as a Kid (But Should Read as an Adult), The Millions, Oct. 28, 2013”) 
The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken beginning with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
The Stanley Family Series by Zilpha Keatley Snyder beginning with The Headless Cupid

The Half Magic Series by Edward Eager beginning with Half Magic
The Vesper Holly Series by Lloyd Alexander beginning with The Illyrian Adventure

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Bit of Humor


Dan Zevin, author Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad and TheDay I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown up, was recently awarded the 2013 Thurber Prize for American Humor.  If Congressional gridlock, the botched health care website or international conflicts are getting you down, find relief in books by the previous winners of the only prize to recognize the art of  American humor writing.
Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff  by Calvin Trillin

Half Empty by David Rakoff
How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

I Love You, Beth Cooper  by Larry Doyle

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Best of True Crime

Writing in The Guardian, author Charles Graeber admits that “many ‘true crime’ offerings are pulpy quickies with a tabloid heart and tabloid brains – human tragedy served as porno McNuggets.” But among the riffraff, the author of The Good Nurse: A Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder, believes there are some hidden gems (Charles Graeber's Top Ten True Crime Books, Oct.2, 2013). Here are a few selections from his top ten list:

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story ofViolent Faith by Jon Krakauer

Columbine by David Cullen
The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman by Richard Lloyd Parry

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Shutdown Reading List

Nine days ago, when the partial government shutdown began, Quirk Books offered a reading list for members of Congress who might have some extra time on their hands (Government Shutdown: A Reading List for Congress, Oct. 1, 2013). Here are a few of their recommendations:



The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Berenstain Bears Trouble with Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Book by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

David Bowie’s Top 100

Rock legend David Bowie (David Robert Jones) told an interviewer recently that if he had not become a musician he “would have written novels” and referred to his songs as “little stories set to music.” As part of an exhibition opening in Canada, a list of the singer-songwriter’s  top 100 books has been released ("From Homer to Orwell: David Bowie’s 100 favourite books revealed," The Independent, Oct. 1, 2013).  Here are a few selections from the list:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
White Noise by Don DeLillo

1984 by George Orwell
Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kid Super-Sleuths

For those of us who grew up reading Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, those young detectives could entertain us for hours.  A few weeks back The Huffington Post  shared its list of the best kid sleuths ("15 Greatest Kid Detectives," Sept. 4, 2013). While popular P.I.s such as Nate the Great and Encyclopedia Brown made the cut, here are a few lesser-known super-sleuths.

Precious Ramotswe in The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith

Petra and Calder in Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
Turtle Wexler in The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Sophie, Rebecca and Margaret in The Red Blazer Girls by Michael D. Beil
Reynie Muldoon in The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Best 9/11 Fiction

Writing in today’s Daily Beast, Jimmy So reviews 9/11 fiction over the past dozen years ("Reading the Best 9/11 Fiction," Sept. 11, 2013) and recommends those novels he feels deals with 9/11 in “significant if oblique ways.” Here are some of his selections:

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
Saturday by Ian McEwan
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The Submission by Amy Waldman

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Cookbooks


With a few weeks of summer left, you can still sample recipes from this year’s crop of new seasonal cookbooks.  There’s Bobby Flay’s grilled mango, Melia Marden’s watermelon salad and the Batali brothers’ sloppy joes. Food lovers can find these recipes and more in recommended reading from USA Today ("10 New Cookbooks Celebrate Summer," June 25, 2013).

Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction by Bobby Flay

 Smoke and Pickles:  Recipes & Stories from a New Southern Kitchen by Edward Lee

Modern Mediterranean: Easy, Flavorful Home Cooking by Melia Marden

The Batali Brothers Cookbook by Benno and Leo Batali

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Books for Geeks


Eric Smith, self-proclaimed geek and author of the soon-to-be published The Geek’s Guide to Dating, was recently asked by Random House Canada to recommend some reading for those of you who, as Smith writes, “keep your action figures in their original packaging and your bedsheets are officially licensed Star Wars merchandise.”  ("Ten Books for the Geek in All of Us,” July 10, 2013) Here are a few of his suggestions:
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Redshirts by John Scalzi

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Once Is Not Enough


BuzzFeed recently asked its readers what books they enjoy the second-time around ("Books You Like to Re-Read," July 17, 2013). Here are a few favorites from BuzzFeed staffer Cates Holderness:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Scar by China Miéville

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A Lifelong Passion: The Letters of Nicholas and Alexandra
by Andrei Maylunas and Sergei Mironenko


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Favorite Fictional Teams

The author of Code Name Verity, the popular young adult novel that pairs a British spy and Air Transport pilot – both young women -- during World War II, recently shared her favorite fictional partners in The Guardian (Elizabeth Wein's Top Ten Dynamic Duos in Fiction, June 20, 2013). They range from Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Pooh and Piglet in Winnie the Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner. Here are some other fictional matches she admires:

Hazel and Fiver in Watership Down by Richard Adams
Laura and Paul Ingalls in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey in Strong Poison and other novels by Dorothy Sayers
Marcus and Esca in The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
Ged and Tenar in The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

YA Reading for Adults

Even if your teen years are long gone, young adult books can be great reading. Writing for mashable.com, Molly Horan has recommended some must-read YA books for adults “15 Young Adult Books Every Adult Should Read," July 12, 2013).  Here are a few of her suggestions:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Audiobooks for Summer

Traveling this summer?  Looking for a good audiobook to entertain you in car, plane or train?  Check out the 2013 Audies, the best of the year complied by Audiofile.  Here are a few on CD you can find at our library:

America Again
by Stephen Colbert and cast*

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman*

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth*

Killing Kennedy by Bill O’Reilly*

*Also available as an eAudiobook for iPods, mp3 players and other devices through the library’s Overdrive  collection

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Books into Film

Are you a film buff? Get ready for the fall movie season with AtlanticWire’s list of books to appear in film after Labor Day (“Spend the Summer Reading the Books That Will Be Turned Into Films This Fall,” June 14, 2013).

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of Seal Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Editors’ Picks

While the year is only half over, Amazon’s editors have already selected their favorite new books in 2013 ("Best Books of the Year So Far 2013: Top 20"). At the top of their list is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life followed by Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed. Other books among the top 20 are below. They are popular, or soon will be once they all arrive in the library, so place your holds now.

Joyland by Stephen King

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Chapter Books

The library launched its Summer Reading Program yesterday. In addition to the reading lists gathered by our library staff, book buyer Jordan B. Nielsen recently published a list of new chapter books that might appeal to middle-school-age kids. ("New Chapter Books for their Summer Reading List," Huffington Post, June 12, 2013). Here are a few of her selections:

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Summer Meditations

Summer reading doesn’t always have to be “brain popcorn,” writes NPR Books contributor Rachel Syme ("Moments of Truth: Six Memoirs Written From the Heart," May 30, 2013). “Lately, I find that I want my summer reading material to match my buzzing mind,” she adds, “And for that kind of constant engagement, I turn to memoir.” She does recommend, however, packing Kleenex for the eloquent chronicles below.

After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Give Me Everything You Have by James Lasdun

Shocked by Patricia Volk

Her by Christa Parravani

Friday, June 07, 2013

Cold War Spies

The art of espionage has gone hi-tech recently in ways James Bond would never have imagined.  But, perhaps its finest moments were during the Cold War (1947-1991) and some great fiction has captured the intrigue of that era.  Here are samples from a list of "10 of the Greatest Cold War Spy Novels” compiled by Flavorwire.   
From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming
The Ipcress File by Len Deighton
Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean
The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon
Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré