Fixed Navigation Bar

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Don’t Mangle that Language, Mango It!

Whether you’re brushing up on a second language, practicing English as a second language or just learning a few phrases for a summer trip abroad, the library has got you covered. Most of our customers know the library offers books, CDs and DVDs to help you learn a foreign language. But you can also use our powerful language learning tool, Mango Languages, without ever leaving your home. All you need is your free Fairfax County Public Library card to get started with more than 70 online language courses. Each lesson covers practical, real-life conversations presented by native speakers in a clear and simple format.

Accessing Mango is easy:

  1. Go to the library's website at
  2. Select Online Resources in the menu on the left.
  3. Select the orange Languages icon in the e-Research section.
  4. Select Log On and enter your valid Fairfax County Public Library card number.
  5. Create a profile and log in to access the Mango language course of your choice.
You can use Mango as a guest user, but you’ll need to create a profile and log in in order to be able to track your progress through your completed lessons. Once you’ve created an account, Mango is accessible 24/7 and on the go as well. Download a Mango mobile app and learn a language whenever and wherever you choose. Soon you’ll be saying thank you in a whole new way.

-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Library

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book Club Pick: Someone by Alice McDermott

This short novel is a perfectly drawn portrait of an ordinary woman's life. It is all the more extraordinary because it spans seven decades yet takes place in just over 200 pages. Not one word is wasted in McDermott's fiction. Her writing is spare and perfect; every word is meaningful.

Marie Commeford is seven years old when the book begins with her observing her little world from the stoop of her family's home in an Irish American neighborhood in pre-WWII Brooklyn. She is waiting for her father to come home from work. A brief encounter with a young woman on the street hints at the themes to come. Things happen. A young woman suffers a fall. Her best friend's mother dies in childbirth. A bride is left at the altar. Her brother enters the priesthood. We see snapshots of Marie's childhood, her parents and her brother Gabe, her early adult life working as "a consoling angel" for the local funeral home, the excitement of her first love and then heartbreak. "Who's going to love me?" she asks her brother Gabe. "Someone," he replies, "Someone will."  We see her marry a good man, have children and enter old age. All these snippets of her life come together to show a genuine human being. Marie is someone you will recognize.

Someone is a book I didn't want to end. My first thought was that I wanted to go back and re-read it again There were so many words and phrases that I wanted to etch in my mind. Too often I find myself unable to remember a book soon after I read it, but I still remember scenes from an earlier book of Alice McDermott, After This, and I think this book will have the same effect. This is a book that stays with you.
--Ellen Bottiny, Tysons-Pimmit Library

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rediscovered Classic: The Last Picture Show

“Sometimes Sonny felt he was the only human creature in the town.”

Thus Larry McMurtry sets the table for his novel The Last Picture Show. The town is Thailia, Texas, and the year is 1951. Though the name Thailia means “paradise,” only the wildest optimist would dub this wind-swept, isolated, provincial clutch of humanity paradise. Like many small towns, the high school is the pulsating center of life, the high point of the locals’ lives. Some escape the town through wars, jobs or college, but most marry high school sweethearts, find one of the few sustaining jobs in town, have children and let life take over. Beyond the high school in Thailia, the only sources of entertainment are the picture show, football, the pool hall, alcohol and sex, of course, sex.
Adults and teens alike reach out to each other with a kind of visceral desperation – a force raw and lonely. The pool hall shark, Abilene, hones his craft at the expense of the few rubes who have money to lose. Brother Blanton regularly stokes revival fervor and urges the town to “get right with God” while the dancehalls swing, and the houses of pleasure flourish. Teens swim in the nude, and mothers sip from their hidden flasks while their husbands dissect the latest football games or stare at the tiny TV’s beginning to spring up in homes. And all the while, night after night at the picture show, Doris Day, Ronald Regan, John Wayne and Ginger Rogers shine like the stars they are.  

If it all sounds bleak, well, it is. But having said that, I feel the book radiates with humor and profound understanding of the heart. When life is stripped down to the bottom, it’s really not all that different from life at the very top. And there are intense moments of honesty that snatch your breath: Lois and Jacy have a mother-daughter chat about marriage, fidelity and money; Sam the Lion takes Sonny fishing and wistfully recounts the beautiful ache of an earlier forbidden love; Genevieve the waitress reaches out to Sonny and Duane with loving advice and extra pieces of apricot pie; Billy, the developmentally disabled young man whose  broom endlessly sweeps the town, offers a fixed point of gentle goodness; Ruth, the neglected wife of Neanderthal Coach Popper, ends the book with a soothing stroke of Sonny’s arm saying, “Honey, never you mind.”
And we feel that somehow, despite terrible odds, everyone, while not living happily ever after as the credits roll, is at least surviving  - and some with a slight smile.

--Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Five Books That Will Make You Glad You Never Went to Boarding School

Add a gifted but lonely outsider to a circle of privileged, eccentric students and you have the formula for a wicked good read. These five novelists shine a fictional light on decadent deeds taking place in the shadows of expensive, elite academic institutions. Read just one –  you’ll never be happier not to have been born with a trust fund.

A young American student and a poor British student at Oxford convince four of their friends to join in an escalating game of pranks and dares for a coveted cash prize. A tragic mishap delays the game, but in the end, a winner must be found in Christopher Yates’ thriller Black Chalk.

Andrei, a talented outsider who studies at an elite Moscow school, becomes involved with a secret club devoted to the poet Pushkin. After two students from the club are killed, the secret police investigation extends all the way into Stalin’s inner circle in One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

When a young Trinity College graduate student who looks just like Detective Cassie Maddox is stabbed, Maddox agrees to pose as the student as part of an undercover investigation. Maddox soon feels herself drawn to the main suspects in the case, the charismatic, reclusive students who live at Whitethorn House in The Likeness by Tana French.


An insecure scholarship student, Richard Papen, becomes fascinated with an aloof group of classics students at a prestigious New England college. His desire to join their exclusive circle entangles him in the more sinister aspects of their studies in Donna Tartt’s debut novel, The Secret History.

Troubled American teenager Andrew Taylor is suspected of causing the death of a fellow student his first semester at an exclusive British boarding school. Uncanny visions and ghostly confrontations link Taylor to a centuries-old scandal involving a lonely charity student and the infamous poet Lord Byron in Justin Evan’s gothic fiction The White Devil.

-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library