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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Which is Better – the Blog or the Book?

“Show me a successful blogger, and I’ll show you a successful book” appears to have been the mantra of book publishers over the past several years. We live in an interesting age where digital and print media increasingly intersect and inform each other. Being a successful blogger, with a built-in audience, seems to almost always lead to a book deal. This genre has been so popular that in 2008 the New York Times predicted it would reach its zenith soon. Yet blogs turned into books continue to be popular and new titles appear every year--a win-win for publishers and readers alike.

Check out these recent picks at Fairfax County Public Library. Which do you prefer – the blog or book? What is gained or lost in translation to the printed page? Do these books make you more likely to follow the blog? Let us know!

Humans of New York – Photographer Brandon Stanton attempts to create a “photographic census” of New York City and “ordinary New Yorkers in their most extraordinary of moments.”

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, and Other Things that Happened – Blogger Allie Brosh’s musing on her childhood, accompanied by her crudely drawn comics, have garnered her legions of fans. And her candid depictions of her struggles with depression and anxiety, which led her to abandon her blog for more than a year, have also struck a chord with many.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – Self-taught home cook Deb Perelman delivers a cookbook of favorite recipes from her blog Smitten Kitchen. Even non-cooks may want to check out this book for its gorgeous photography.

Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update and Show Your Home Some Love - Bloggers Sherry and John Petersik chronicle their home renovation and design projects on their hugely popular Young House Love blog. Look through their book for your own design inspirations.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir – Jennie Lawson, The Bloggess, recounts her childhood in rural Texas in this irreverent book that will leave you in tears from laughter.

And one of the first from this genre, Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, and 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen - Julie Powell blogged about her attempt to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and produced this title. The movie version of the book stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

- Ginger Hawkins, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

10 Classic Picture Books for Young Children

There is plenty of room for debate – even internal debate -- when choosing 10 classic books for young children. Some books are a pleasure to read no matter how many times the child on your lap says, “again…!” The words flow, the illustrations absorb and the stories engage. They entrance even the most restless crowd of preschoolers. Here are the 10 classics that top my list of favorites:

1)   Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. This is a bedtime story in the most literal sense. It also soothes the sleepy child with its reassuring tone, rhythmic text and detailed pictures. Watch the moon rise while the bunny and the room settle into sleep.

2)   The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The tiny but hungry caterpillar eats his way through a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables as the days of the week countdown to Saturday when he feasts on a smorgasbord of sweets. Now bigger, he wraps himself in a cocoon then emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

3)   Freight Train by Donald Crews. A spare text and bright colors add to the thrill of a train moving across the landscape until it disappears in a blur. Choo-chooooo.

4)   Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley. Monsters can be scary but not when you know how to make them go away. This book gives the young reader a measure of control over her fears.

5)   The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. A little boy, a fresh snowfall and a morning of discovery and play are brilliantly illustrated.

6)   Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin. Repetitive text, predictability and brightly colored animals allow the young reader to anticipate what comes next.

7)   Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. This is the quintessential picture book. The beautifully paced text would be nothing without Sendak’s unique illustrations. And it captures the emotional turmoil of childhood -- “We’ll eat you up we love you so!”

8)   Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. Three owl babies wake up and find that their mother is not in the nest. Worried about where she might be, they seek comfort and reassurance from each other until she returns.

9)   The Napping House by Audrey Wood. This is a cumulative story. On a rainy day, everyone and everything in the house is lulled to sleep. A tiny, wakeful flea changes everything. By the end of the book, your child’s vocabulary for sleep will have grown!

10)  Mother Goose. Any Mother Goose. My personal favorites are Tomie DePaola’s Mother Goose and The Real Mother Goose by Blanche Fisher Wright. These traditional rhymes introduce children to poetry, rhythm and cultural references they will encounter as they grow.

- Jessie Lacy, Youth Services, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Life Lived Fully – Biographies and Memoirs that Move



New Year’s resolutions come and New Year’s resolutions go. This is so widely accepted that January 17 is national Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day. So this year, I’m hoping to get a little extra motivation by reading the stories of people who have faced overwhelming challenges with courage, creativity and hope. In the words of the Nobel Prize winner and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, “There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Who knows where inspiration may lead you?

The following inspirational biographies and memoirs are on my reading resolution list. Have a book that inspires you? Let us know in the comments!

March 1 by John Lewis - Inspired by the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story," Congressman John Lewis’s first installment of a graphic novel trilogy details his lifelong history of participation in the civil and human rights movements.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell - A thirteen-year old Japanese boy with autism offers his insights into autistic behaviors and his perceptions of the world in this memoir.
Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba - In drought-stricken Malawi, a young boy reads about windmills and dreams of bringing electricity and running water to his impoverished village. Despite ridicule from his neighbors and lack of access to materials, Kamkwamba perseveres with his plan.

Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela - This collection of diary entries, letters from prison and recorded reminiscences with former fellow prisoners illuminates the life, struggles and personal love and sacrifices of the iconic South African statesmen and activist.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand - This riveting account of a 1936 Olympic athlete and World War II prisoner of war survivor is notable not just for Louis Zamperini’s great endurance but for his courage and generosity of heart.

- Rebecca A. Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

If You Liked Lone Survivor, Try These Books


Which movies are on your must-see list this year? Perhaps one of them is Lone Survivor, which opens in wide release on Friday. Mark Wahlberg stars in this movie based on the best-selling autobiography of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. In June 2005, Luttrell alone survived when his four-man SEAL team was ambushed by Taliban fighters. He was rescued by a group of Afghan Pashtun villagers after an American rescue attempt ended in tragedy. The helicopter carrying the rescue party was shot down, killing all 16 soldiers onboard. Luttrell eventually made it to safety with the help of his protectors and penned a gripping account of his ordeal in Lone Survivor.

If you’re interested in reading more eyewitness accounts from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, check out these titles:

The Good SoldiersJournalist David Finkel spent eight months embedded with an Army infantry battalion during the “surge” in Iraq, and this remarkable work of reporting is the result. His fascinating and moving follow-up, Thank You for Your Service, chronicles the challenges those same soldiers face when they return from war and attempt to remake their lives back home.

Paradise General: Riding the Surge ata Combat Hospital – Dave Hnida was a family physician in Littleton, Colo., when he decided at age 48 to join the military reserves in the midst of the Iraq war. This account describes his second tour of Iraq when he headed the trauma unit at a Combat Support Hospital during the 2007 “surge”.

Adult and teen audiences will enjoy Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-year-old G.I. by Ryan Smithson, a 2012-2013 Virginia Readers’ Choice nominee. Smith’s memoir fills a void in the first-person narratives which tend to be written by those much older or with extraordinary stories. His experience is representative of the typical American soldier – a young man desperately trying to navigate the perils of war and return home safe to his family.

No Easy Day: The First hand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden – When Navy SEAL Team Six killed Bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011, “Mark Owen” (his pen name) was on the ground. As a member of the 24-man elite team, Owen participated in the raid and provides a blow-by-blow account of it in this memoir.

Search here for these and similar personal narratives in the library’s online catalog.

- Ginger Hawkins, Centreville Regional Library

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Emerging Voices – Discovering New Fiction Authors in the New Year

Have blockbuster authors and multi-volume series lost their appeal? Are you interested in exploring a new author but don’t know where to start? Try one of these emerging voices from book critics’ Best of 2013 lists.

The Next Time You See Me is Holly Jones Goddard’s debut novel about the disappearance of a woman from a small Kentucky town and the way it the shapes the lives of the townsfolk who know her. (Slate, “The Overlooked Books of 2013”)
First time novelist Anthony Marra explores the relationships that bind us all together in A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, set in war-torn Chechnya. Fans of Tea Obrecht’s The Tiger’s Wife, a debut novel that made many Best of 2011 lists, might enjoy this book. (Washington Post, Top 10 Books in 2013")

Graeme Simsion’s first book of fiction, The Rosie Project, has already been optioned for a movie. Don Tillman, geneticist professor, applies the scientific method to his search for finding the perfect wife. The lead character of this hilarious, feel-good book will remind you of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. (Los Angeles Times, “2013 Holiday Book List”)
Philip Meyer hits the mark again with The Son, his second novel. An epic, coming-of-age story, The Son is a take on the American creation myth as seen through three generations of a Texas family. Meyer’s first book, American Rust, made several critics’ lists for Best Book of 2009. (Washington Post, Top 10 Books in 2013)

Rachel Kushner’s second novel The Flamethrowers made multiple “Best of” lists this year. It is a subtle, beautifully-written story about art, motorcycle racing and revolutionary politics. Her first novel Telex from Cuba was published in 2008. (New York Times, “10 Best Books of 2013”)
At 28, Eleanor Catton became the youngest author ever to win Britain’s Man Booker Prize with The Luminaries, a complex page-turner set in 19th century New Zealand. A series of strange events sets this mysterious adventure story in motion: a wealthy man is missing, a prostitute attempts suicide and a treasure of cash has been found in an unlikely place. See this list for previous Booker Prize winners and nominees.

Author Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008 and recently published her fourth  book, Americanah. Shown through the lens of the modern African immigrant experience, this is a book for today’s global world – a fearless yet funny and tender story that spans three continents. Adichie’s  prior works include two novels, Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus, and a collection of short stories, The Thing Around Your Neck. (New York Times, “10 Best Books of 2013”)
- Ginger Hawkins, Centreville Regional Library