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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Great Book Club Picks: No Rest for the Dead

For book clubs interested in sampling new authors or branching out into mystery, No Rest for The Dead offers an introduction to a variety of voices. No Rest for the Dead is a serial novel in which each chapter has been written by one of twenty-six bestselling authors.

The mystery centers on the murder of Christopher Thomas, a charismatic but mercurial art museum curator in San Francisco. His body was found in an iron maiden contraption after the torture devise was returned from his museum to its home museum in Berlin, Germany. Christopher’s wife, Rosemary, also a curator at the museum and in charge of medieval armory, was accused of murdering her husband. However, we learn early on that she was likely innocent of the crime. The dead man had a lot of enemies, so there is no shortage of suspects—from jilted lovers to art forgery dealers.  

Rosemary was convicted and executed for her husband’s murder, but she left behind a request in her will that her late husband's friends and colleagues be reunited ten years after her execution for a "memorial” in the museum. The lead detective on the case, John Nunn, haunted by his part in wrongly convicting Rosemary, is determined that this event will help reveal the real killer.

The tale is remarkably fluid considering the many authors who contributed. Some of the popular writers who participated include: Sandra Brown, Lisa Scottoline, R. L. Stine, Jeffrey Deaver, David Baldacci, Diana Gabaldon, Michael Palmer, Kathy Reichs and Alexander McCall Smith.

Although the book has multiple authors, because it is a novel, it is shelved in the adult mystery section under “MYS NO.” No Rest for the Dead is an engaging read and an interesting way to compare the styles of popular authors. Book club members may enjoy discussing the unique construction of the novel and discovering authors whose work they would like to explore further.

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, Kings Park Library


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Remembering the War To End All Wars

Private Howard N. Wolff and his fiancé (3rd and 4th on right) 1917
For me, the First World War has always been overshadowed by the Second World War.  I know the basics – Franz Ferdinand dying in Sarajevo, the sinking of the Lusitania, the carnage of trench warfare – but not much more. However, finding my grandfather’s memorabilia from his WWI service last year sparked my interest in the struggle, which claimed between 9 and 15 million lives. July 28th marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the war. So, it’s an auspicious time to learn more about an event that ushered in many critical ideas and movements that shaped the 20th century. The publishing world agrees and has celebrated the centennial with an onslaught of new books on the subject. Whether your interests lie in rich historical analysis or personal stories that bring the war to life, the library has a wealth of material on offer for a 100th year retrospective.

Readers looking for a general overview of the war can’t go wrong with either of these titles. World War I: The Definitive Visual History: From Sarajevo to Versailles by R.G. Grant provides the clear overview that mark DK Publishing. Timelines, detailed maps, personal biographies and a plethora of images enhance a comprehensive catalog of events. John Keegan, a noteworthy military historian, provides more analytical coverage in his 1999 publication, The First World War. His thorough yet engaging examination is an excellent introduction to the conflict.

Two recent books stand out among the offerings highlighting the American contribution to the war. In 2003, 85 years after the end of the war, Richard Rubin began a decade-long quest to interview the last surviving serviceman of the American Expeditionary Forces. The experiences of these veterans are captured in The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War. Ranging between 101 and 113 years old at the time of their interviews, the veterans offer a unique perspective on both the war and American society of that time. Ann Bausum’s book Sergeant Stubby: How a Stray Dog and his Best Friend Helped Win World War I and Stole the Heart of a Nation outlines the story of a stray dog who accompanied Private Bob Conroy from Connecticut to the battlegrounds of Europe in 1917. Bausum intertwines the more general history of the war with tales of Sergeant Stubby’s brave service running dispatches, alerting soldiers to mustard gas attacks and helping medics find wounded men. Stubby became a post-war celebrity who warmed hearts then and will do so now.


The following books take a look at the events leading up to 1914 in the spirit of Barbara Tuchman’s classic history The Guns of August. In The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, Margaret MacMillan examines the critical question of why the long-standing peace of Europe was upset at a time of unprecedented prosperity. She illuminates the complex web of personalities, events and alliances that contributed to the eventual outbreak of World War I. Journalist and historian Max Hastings focuses on the initial six months of the war in Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War. This weighty volume brings to life the crucial months before the onset of trench warfare. Unlike some recent assessments, Hastings places culpability for the war firmly on the side of Germany and Austria. The immensely detailed work reveals the full scope of the war, from insights into the highest diplomatic circles to the fate of the lowliest farmers.

For those who prefer historical fiction, you’ll find the library’s shelves hold everything from classics to mysteries in WWI fiction.
 -Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Days... and Summer Nights

For most of us, summer days bring up images of seaside vacations, lazing by the pool and paperback beach reads. But even if your work schedule doesn’t allow you to get away, you can escape your everyday routine by picking up a great read from one of these sizzling summer authors.

For a Nantucket get-away, immerse yourself in a novel by Elin Hilderbrand. You’ll experience love, loss, friendship and redemption in a luxurious, historic island setting.  Her novels are the perfect beach-side interlude.
Not all heroines are slim and seventeen. Jennifer Weiner’s  smart, funny characters deal with the complexities of life and love from a plus-size perspective. You’ll find witty but ultimately touching treatments of friendship, family and fidelity in her novels.
While we may not all want to be seventeen again, there is something about the emotional intensity of young love that’s delightful to revisit. Sarah Dessen highlights both the joys and traumas of youth with books that take you on a sweet yet realistic travel through time.

For a more continental flare, British author Jojo Moyes delivers bitter-sweet novels primarily set in England. Her engaging characters embark on journeys of self-discovery and romance. Her books often feature parallel narratives and mysterious family secrets.
If you prefer dark suspense over romance, delve into the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French. Her police procedurals deliver intense psychological insight with intricate plotting. Fans of Stieg Larsson and Gillian Flynn will enjoy how French highlights the gritty realities of modern Irish life.

This summer remember not to let kids have all the summer reading fun – several library branches feature summer reading programs for adults as well as kids.  Check out our event calendar  to see how you can earn a reward while you read. (Tip: Search for ‘adult summer reading’.)
--Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Vacation or Staycation – Library eBooks Are Everywhere You Are

Whether you’re heading out of town or destined for a staycation, we’ve got you covered. Don’t worry about damaging library books at the beach or how you’re going to fit books in your lone carry on. Check out digital books instead. 

EBooks have come a long way at the library since we last wrote about them here at About Books. If you didn’t know libraries have ebooks or haven’t used Overdrive for a couple years, you are in for a very pleasant surprise. Library card holders can now download eBooks and/or eAudiobooks quickly and easily from the comfort of home onto virtually any device that can connect to the Internet -— e-readers (like Nook or Kindle), tablets, laptops, desktops, smart phones, mp3 players, etc. And there are thousands of titles to choose from thanks to the participation of more publishers in library eBook lending.
OverDrive is our most popular eBook collection and the one that you’ll find if you click eBooks on the Fairfax County Public Library home page. It includes fiction and popular nonfiction for all ages in both eBook and eAudiobook formats. OverDrive has a very thorough help section, but if you’d rather have printed directions all library branches have handouts with step-by-step directions for downloading eBooks on different devices. Many branches also have workshops to walk you through the process.

Fewer library users are aware that we also have collections of career, test prep, technical and reference eBooks. Card holders can even download magazines and read enhanced children’s books online. This web page features all of the library’s eBook collections, including descriptions of each. Visit this site to learn how to download magazines from Zinio.
If you have questions or experience any technical problems, please feel free to call a library or visit an Information Desk near you.

-- Rebecca Molineaux, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Soccer: The Beautiful Game

A thrilling World Expo of soccer talent is in full swing, but now the group stage is over and there are fewer games to watch, why not add a new dimension to the 2D picture on your TV? Grab a book about soccer and dig a little deeper. Our collection is large enough to make even casual soccer moms and pops into erudite and passionate soccer pundits.
I suggest starting with the amusing collection of soccer trivia and anecdotes Who Invented the Bicycle Kick?: Soccer's Greatest Legends and Lore by Paul Simpson and Uli Hesse, released just in time for World Cup 2014. To get a flavor of the book, try an excerpt published recently by Slate, which includes a medley of YouTube clips showing some of the memorable bicycle kicks cited in the book.

No soccer collection is complete without a book by or about Edson Arantes do Nascimento, aka PelĂ©, considered by many the greatest soccer player of all time. Why Soccer Matters is Pele's latest book. The 73-year-old wizard of the beautiful game still clearly remembers his first ball (a bunch of socks tied together), admits hating his meaningless nickname and praises soccer for tying together communities, giving joy to millions of spectators and giving thousands of talented players a chance to rise from poverty. 

A more thorough history can be found in a magisterial tome by David Goldblatt, The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer. At more than 900 pages the book looks intimidating but is packed with interesting facts, stories and match reports. The book hops from continent to continent and flows across time, but it doesn't have to be read cover to cover. Just open to any page and dig in. You might find yourself in England around 1870 and discover that passing is considered a failure, even a dishonor; goals don’t have a crossbar – just tape strung between two flimsy goalposts; a game may last two hours; and the number of players on the field is negotiable.

Add to this global overview of soccer two country studies: the beautifully written Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life by Alex Bellos and the no less colorful La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World by Jimmy Burns.

Soccernomics is written by Simon Kuper of the Financial Times, arguably the best soccer writer in the world, and Stephan Szymanski, a sports economist based in Michigan. The book will appeal to fans of Moneyball and Freakonomics, who will appreciate the application of econometrics to the game of soccer. Did you know that Norway, not England, has the most dedicated and enthusiastic soccer spectators in Europe or that hosting the World Cup or European Cup reduces suicides in European countries? The authors also have some advice for soccer managers: Don't buy the stars from the latest World Cup. They tend to be overvalued. Buy players in their early twenties and whose personal problems you can solve (both tend to be undervalued).

The beautiful game inspires a lot of beautiful writing, like this description of the 1982 World Cup by George Vecsey, a New York Times sports writer: "This was ... a blend of ballet and geometry, quick triangles appearing and disappearing, instant decisions by athletes on the move, so graceful and independent, performing intricate maneuvers with a round ball, on the fringes of their feet." This passage is from Vecsey's new book, Eight World Cups: My Journey through the Beauty and Dark Side of Soccer.

I would be remiss if I failed to include the perennial favorite Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby. The author, an Arsenal fan since the times when admission tickets cost 25 pennies, has written a brilliant tribute to the agony and ecstasy of fandom in the frame of a tragicomic memoir.  

Our library also has two collections of profiles and interviews of soccer demigods that reveal their human side. The Soccer Men by Soccernomics author Kuper includes more than 60 artful sketches of players and coaches, including Beckham, Beckenbauer, Zidane, Cantona and Messi. Beautiful Game: The World's Greatest Players and How Soccer Changed Their Lives includes interviews with players such as van Persie, Figo, Messi and Muntari, as well as wonderful photographs of soccer played around the world. My favorite is a shot of Bangladeshi kids playing on a soaked soccer field in Dhaka with bamboo goals.

For fiction, try two recent novels by another Brit, David Peace, who ventured from literary crime fiction into football noir. Judge for yourself whether Damned Utd deserves to be called “possibly the best novel ever written about sport,” as the Times of London claims. 

Your little ones may enjoy Soccer on Sunday, the newest soccer addition to the Magic Tree House series, accompanied by a soccer research guide. And they will love how SpongeBob looks in a soccer shirt on the cover of SpongeBob, Soccer Star!, a new book by David Lewman.

Find even more books about soccer here.


-- Vladimir Shutov, Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library