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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

2017 Summer Reading Recommendations Right Here!

Looking for some great summer reads? We have been too, and we have some good lists to help you find exactly the right book.

Bill Gates recommends a great list of books "that pushed me out of my own experiences, and I learned some things that shed new light on how our experiences shape us and where humanity might be headed." His selections includes our staff favorites Hillbilly Elegy and Born a Crime.

If summer is a time to catch up on all the good books you've been too busy to read this year, take a look at this comprehensive list put together by the Washington Post book editors "37 Books We've Loved So Far in 2017". One of our writers here at About Books enjoyed the new Elizabeth Strout from this list, Anything is Possible. It's a set of short stories which pick up on characters from Strout's My Name Is Lucy Barton.

Beachy fiction more your style? These lists from Bookish and Publisher's Weekly have loads of books from many genres, all perfect for vacation.

Don't forget many branches sponsor Summer Reading programs for adults. Happy summer reading!

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

If You Like...Big Little Lies

Perhaps you discovered Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies through the HBO miniseries that ran earlier this year. Perhaps you have always loved Liane Moriarty’s books. Or perhaps a friend recommended it when it came out three years ago, or you read it for a book club, or you just happened to pick it up off one of your local library shelves, intrigued by the oxymoronic title or the exploding lollipop on the cover. The reasons you may have read the book in the first place are, perhaps, almost as numerous as the reasons you may have enjoyed it. Whatever those reasons are, try giving the titles below a chance too, if you haven’t already!                                                                                           

Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple
A little less dark than Big Little Lies, this story also prominently features parent-school politics and a mother who doesn’t quite fit in. Bee’s mother has disappeared shortly after promising her daughter the vacation of her choice as a reward for excellent work in school. It shares a similar investigative style and tone to Big Little Lies, as Bee collects documents to piece together what has become of her mother and uncovers the things she has been hiding.

The Slap – Christos Tsiolkas
This book is driven less by mystery, but has a similar drama: a violent act and its repercussions are examined from multiple points of view. At a backyard barbeque, full of close friends and family, a frustrated adult slaps a misbehaving child who is not his own, causing a series of divisive emotions and opinions to ripple through each individual there – from the fury of the child’s parents to controversial justifications of the act by others in attendance. This book was also adapted into a TV series two years ago on NBC.

You Will Know Me – Megan Abbott

Devon Knox is a gymnastics prodigy – headed straight for the Olympics, if everything goes according to plan, in spite of a few hiccups. Her parents have sacrificed much to get her there. But they and the rest of their small gymnastics community will have to face what lies they are willing to tell – and what truths they are willing to bury - to protect their dreams and their families, when faced with the tragic and unexpected death of one of their own.

The Perfect Neighbors – Sarah Pekkanen
Secrets abound in Newport Cove, one of the 20 safest neighborhoods in the country and the neighborhood to which Kellie and her family have moved to escape a traumatic event from their recent past. This story encompasses snapshots from the lives of multiple women, including Kellie’s, and the secrets they keep to protect those they love as well as themselves. Similar to the community commentary at the end of each chapter in Big Little Lies, The Perfect Neighbors offers a taste of life and relations in Newport Cove in the form of responses on the community listserv at the beginning of each chapter.

You Should Have Known – Jean Hanff Korelitz
 As in Big Little Lies, the death of a parent in a school community is the driving force for the plot of this novel. Instead of being told from multiple points of view, however, Korelitz relates all that has occurred and is occurring through a single narrator – Grace Reinhart Sachs. Grace is a therapist with a book on relationship advice weeks away from coming out, a mother who happens to be on the same committee as the parent who dies and a devoted wife to a hard-working pediatric oncologist who has unexpectedly disappeared.
Do you have other recommendations for readers who enjoyed Big Little Lies? Leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

I Love the '90s!

With shows like Full House being revived and Surge back on grocery store shelves, ‘90s nostalgia is at an all-time high. Keep the memories flowing with these ‘90s flashback titles:

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

The year is 1996, and Emma has a brand-new computer. Her best friend Josh comes over with a CD that gives her 100 free hours on AOL. (Remember those!)  Once they log on, they discover that they are able to somehow login to Facebook. With every change they make, their Facebook status updates with a new life. An interesting commentary on the role that social media plays in our lives, The Future of Us is rich with references to ‘90s pop culture and will make any ‘90s kid smile.

As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling, the Cast and the Crew by Jen Chaney

Whether you love it or hate it, there is no denying that "Clueless" is one of the most iconic movies of the ‘90s. Clueless changed the language of teenagers, spawned fashion trends and created an everlasting legacy. Jen Chaney uses interviews from the cast and crew that take you from start to finish and beyond, describing how the movie was made and the legacy it created afterwards. A must read for fans of the movie and anyone who likes watching director commentaries.

Things I Can't Explain by Mitchell Kriegman

Part sequel, part reimagining of the classic series “Clarissa Explains it All.”  Clarissa Darling is now in her twenties and is an out of work journalist. A victim of the 2008 recession, Clarissa is a bit more serious but her eclectic wardrobe, obsessions and superstitions still live on. Along with Clarissa, we also learn what has happened to her parents (in the process of a divorce), her brother Ferguson (in jail!) and Sam (Where is Sam, anyway?).

-Alicia Rocconi, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wordless Picture Books

When it comes to picture books for children, the illustrations are every bit as important as the words. In fact, some children’s books don’t need to have words at all. Wordless books can help children learn to predict sequences and develop their own story-telling skills. Some, like David’s Wiesner’s Flotsam and Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and The Mouse, have won Caldecott Medals for best children’s book illustrations. Here are few of the many wordless picture books Fairfax County Public Library offers. Find more by typing “stories without words” into the catalog search bar.
The Snowman , Raymond Briggs
A young boy builds a snowman that takes on a life of its own in this gentle tale.

Spot the Cat , Henry Cole
Follow Spot as he explores the city in this story rendered in intricate black and white illustrations.

Coyote Run, Gaetan Doremus
Coyote breaks out of jail and takes off on an adventure through the American West in this romp inspired by spaghetti westerns.


A girl dances with peacocks in this lift-the-flap book.

Skunk sees his world from a new perspective when a helium balloon takes him for a ride.

Sidewalk Flowers, JonArno Lawson
While walking with her distracted father, a girl appreciates the details in everyday scenes, such as flowers growing through cracks in the concrete.

In this classic wordless book from the sixties, a boy and his dog try to capture a frog, but the frog has other ideas.

Float, Daniel Miyares
A child discovers the most simple of pleasures: A boat made from folded newspaper.

A classic fable is lushly interpreted by a beloved picture book artist.

Fox’s Garden, Princesse Camcam
One magical snowy night, a fox in search of shelter receives help from a kind-hearted child.

The Typewriter, Bill Thomson
A group of friends discover an old-fashioned typewriter with special powers in this tale told with vivid photorealistic illustrations. See also Chalk by this author.

Flotsam, David Wiesner
A camera found on the beach is full of secrets and surprises. See also Tuesday and Mr. Wuffles by this Caldecott Medal author.

Do you have a favorite wordless book that wasn’t mentioned here? Please share it in the comments field.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Club Pick: The Green Road

“I am sorry I can’t invite you home for Christmas because I am Irish and my family is mad.”

Anne Enright in The Green Road serves up a delicious Irish stew, complete with equal portions of sorrow and laughter laced with intricate gravy of compassion.

The novel is divided into two basic parts: leaving and coming home, and when you think about it – that’s every family’s saga.

This particular family consists of Patrick and Rosaleen Madigan and their four children – Dan, Constance, Emmet and Hanna. Though Patrick’s role is largely silent – even while he’s alive – he provides a firm foundation of loving, moral decency. As a mother, Rosaleen, despite her strong love for her children, doles out a daily diet of mixed signals. A compliment is chased with a criticism as though the glare of day could not sustain a ray of encouragement. Disappointment crowns her queenly ways. Nothing is ever completely good. But still the children hover, waiting for that boon of approval and living on it for days.

The story begins with a young Dan announcing his plans to become a priest – which sends the mother into a paroxysm of tears, which water down her Easter dinner, and then to a “horizontal solution” for days. Patrick retreats from the apple pie dessert as well, leaving the rest of the pie and book to be divided between the children and the formidable will of Rosaleen.

They all leave in the next years except Constance. Instead of becoming a priest, Dan heads for New York City where he sells shoes and his Irish charm. And despite, or because of his live-in girlfriend Isabel, he explores the 1980s gay scene that is ricocheting with the frenzy of AIDS. Life and death are chilling bedfellows. With kinetic disregard, he flits dangerously from petal to petal, never stopping long enough to assess or commit.

Constance remains the keeper of home fires, always within reach, always within the smother of resentment. From societal standards, she succeeds, with a loving husband and family, comfortable home, luxury car and an endless longing to drive – anywhere. Emmet roams the world looking for humanity to save from war, hunger, poverty, disease, seeing the suffering of the larger world but unable to salvage relationships in his own bedroom. Hanna strives for a career on stage, lubricating her every possible moment with alcohol. Her relationship with Hugh yields a baby whose birth she describes as “a fight wrapped up in a blanket.” Still she longs for healing, for a firm place to place her feet, for the security of the early days when she snuggled close to her father and smelled “the day’s work: fresh air, diesel, hay, with a memory of cattle in there somewhere and beyond that again the memory of milk.”

So, all the children run. Far. And Rosaleen, now a widow, anchored in the family home, Ardeevin, muses about their ingratitude. To bring her straying flock home, she invites them to Christmas, with the hook that she is going to sell the homestead. Suddenly, all roads lead to home.

Christmas becomes the quintessential formula for dysfunction in a hilarious confluence of grocery shopping, gifts, decorations, food, togetherness. Enright laughs at their foibles, while holding them close in a most loving embrace. At the height of the disruption, Rosaleen flees to the Green Road in despair but finds in the end, among the stars, her children’s love.

Though the book has Irish lens aplenty, the story is brilliantly universal and Rosaleen ends by saying “I should have paid more attention to things.

And we all would do well to pause at that particular pot of gold.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Comic Con fun for all!

What do stormtroopers, an award winning author, board game enthusiasts and food truck aficionados have in common? They all gathered this past Saturday at Chantilly High School and geeked out at Fairfax County Public Library's first ever Library Comic Con.

This free event was a great success and welcomed hundreds of participants. Author and illustrator Gene Luen Yang signed tons of books, and fans and librarians alike swooned over Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature and a MacArthur Fellow.

Yang with many of his fans

Attendees played a variety of board games, learned how to craft cosplay costumes, tested their wits with nerd jeopardy and checked out the many vendors selling games, books and delicious treats.

Check out more photos at Fairfax County Public Library's Flickr page. Were you there? Would you like to see the Library Comic Con become an annual event? Tell us in the comments!

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

5 Yummy Picture Books for Asian American / Pacific American Heritage Month

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched the culture of the United States. What better way to explore cultural diversity than through stories, art and delicious food?  Most of these fun illustrated books for children include recipes, so you can try cooking the food from the stories at home.


Hot, Hot, Roti for Dada-Ji, by F. Zia

Aneel’s grandfather, Dada-ji, amazes him with tall tales of the feats that he could accomplish in his boyhood fueled by the power of his mother’s delicious roti. Motivated by his grandfather’s stories, Aneel decides they simply must make some of this traditional Indian fried bread right away.

A young girl wonders why her mother’s garden doesn’t look like the neighbors' gardens, which are blooming with pretty flowers. Mother explains that they are growing something better than flowers - these odd-looking Chinese vegetables will make the most delicious soup. This book includes a pronunciation guide and a recipe for “ugly vegetable soup.”

Bee-Bim Bop, Linda Sue Park

An eager girl helps her mother make the traditional Korean rice dish Bi-Bim Bop. From a shopping trip for ingredients to setting the table and eating, the story is written in upbeat rhyming text that is ideal for group storytimes. The book also includes the author’s own recipe.

Cora Cooks Pancit, by Dorina K. Lazo

Garbed in her grandfather’s red apron, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama's assistant chef and help make pancit, her favorite Filipino noodle dish. Family and food are intertwined in this charming tale about the trials of being the youngest and smallest family member.

Dumpling Soup, by Jama Kim Rattigan

Set in Hawaii, this story weaves together a variety of cultural traditions as Marisa helps her grandmother make their family’s traditional dumpling soup to celebrate the new year. The dumplings she forms with her novice fingers look a little funny, though – will they taste as good as she remembers? 

Do you have a favorite book that would help people learn more about your culture?  Let us know in the comments field.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Fact-Checking Ourselves

Fact checking. Information Literacy. Research. To a librarian, these words and phrases mean essentially the same thing.

Psychologists have been studying the way humans think and why we do what we do in all kinds of situations – from conflict resolution (or lack thereof) to shopping trips to politics – for a long time, both in the lab and in real life. They have found that subtle biases affect the way we interact with information at all levels. Our biases affect what information we take in when learning something new, who we trust and what information we choose to surround ourselves with in the first place, and, ultimately, what we do with the information we have taken in – in both simple and complex situations. Do you understand how your own mind works?

Check out the books below to learn more, along with advice on how to sort through what’s true, what’s partly true and what’s false in the things we know to be true - whether they’re things we have learned ourselves or things others have taught us.

Thinking Fast and Slow - Daniel Kahneman

This book breaks the thought process down into two systems – one a faster, intuitive and more emotional response system and the other a slower, deliberating and more logical system – and explains how these two systems shape the way we understand and respond to information.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - Malcolm Gladwell

This book focuses on the decisions that people make in what seems like an instant and why some people are better at making good choices in those split-second decisions than others.

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You - Eli Pariser

Pariser looks at how sites like Google and Facebook customize results for the individual user based on what they think that user is most likely to click on and how this practice can strengthen biases and keep people from other information.

Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload - Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel

Kovach and Rosenstiel examine how journalists think and try to get at what’s true, to help readers better understand and navigate today’s Internet news sources.
The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives - Shankar Vedantam
This book examines the cognitive and emotional processes that occur in the unconscious part of the brain, how those hidden responses can be manipulated without conscious awareness, and what individuals can do to compensate for their blind spots.

There are also many great resources here at Fairfax County Public Library that you can use to learn about new subjects and viewpoints and conduct your own fact-checking research. A few that we recommend include:

The Facts on File Guide to Research – Jeff Lenburg
This book explains how to do thorough and accurate research using general research methods and both physical and digital information resources. It includes detailed lists of resources and how to properly cite sources.

The Opposing Viewpoints Series

The many books in this series cover a large quantity of controversial topics, offering both pro and con opinions for each side, selected from respected sources.

The Very Short Introduction Series

The pocket-sized books in this series offer a thorough but short and readable introduction to many different, often challenging, topics.

CQ Researcher [Online resource] Use your Fairfax County Public Library card to login to this searchable collection of articles on current issues. Articles include resources for further research, including a pro/con feature.

-Denise Dolan & Sarah Souther, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Listening to S Town? Now Read These.

Here at About Books, we are big fans of the podcast S-Town and maybe love it even more than we did Serial. This interview (warning contains spoilers!) with the show's creator Brian Reed explains why it's no wonder the podcast appeals to us. S-Town was intentionally released like a book with chapters, not episodes, and released all at once, unlike the weekly releases of most podcasts. As Reed explains:

"I guess I wanted to signal to the listeners that this is the kind of story this is. It’s going to feel a little literary and a little more like a novel than a TV show, maybe. Some podcasts feel a little more structured after serialized TV; this is more like a book you might sit down to read over the course of a week or two."

Or devour in three days. But however long it takes you to finish S-Town, if you'd like reading suggestions that remind you of the podcast, here's a great list put together by NoveList's Book Squad.

--Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Holocaust Fiction

Have you noticed how many stellar books and movies from the past few years have been set during the Second World War? They take the spotlight off of soldiers and spies and focus on ordinary individuals coping with extraordinary circumstances. If you enjoyed The Zookeeper's Wife, All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, you won’t want to miss any of these new arrivals in Holocaust fiction. These stories, most based on extensive research or actual family histories, open heart-wrenching windows into the traumatic experiences of wartime.

Mischling by Affinity Konar

Pearl and Stasha narrate their experiences in 1944 in the Auschwitz concentration camp through the dreamlike prism of their shared world as twins. The prose is never graphic, yet hauntingly depicts both the despair and hopes of the young inhabitants of Dr. Joseph Mengele’s “Zoo.”

Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

Two young women, both carrying dangerous secrets, have found refuge from the Reich in the Circus Neuhoff. As the German troupe journeys to France to perform, the two women must hope that the fragile bonds of friendship will protect them from discovery.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

When the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland tears apart three generations of the Kurc family, its members must each find their own path of escape. Their struggles to survive, resist and ultimately reconnect take the reader across the globe, from the ghettos of Poland to the gulags of Siberia and even the nightclubs of Paris.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Three women, a wealthy New York socialite, a German doctor and a poor Polish Catholic teenager, appear to have nothing in common on the eve of the second world war. Yet their lives will ultimately be connected by Ravensbruck, a notorious concentration camp for women.

Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert

When Jakob mistakenly destroys a train loaded with Jews destined for the ovens at Auschwitz, six-year old Gretl and her sister Elza are the only survivors. Jakob sends Gretl far away for her own safety but is haunted by his memories of the girl from the train.

-Rebecca Wolff, George Mason Library

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Celebrate National Library Week with Us

Libraries are more about doing than borrowing – more about connecting than simply plugging in – and your local librarian is your expert guide. Whether you want to get involved in your community, find a job, start a business or build your digital literacy skills, your library is the key to your transformation. Visit Fairfax County Public Library April 9-15 during National Library Week, or visit

Connect with us all week. Visit your local branch - we love seeing your smiles! - or follow this series all week long to get an inside glimpse of how Fairfax County Public Library serves our community.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

If You Like...Satires

Many in literary circles know that April is National Poetry Month as well as the anniversary month of both the birth and death of William Shakespeare. But did you know that April is also National Humor Month? I suppose it makes sense with April Fool’s Day leading it off. At the end of the month, two memoirists will be visiting two Fairfax County Public Library branches and bringing with them humorous as well as heartfelt accounts of serious chapters in each of their lives. Local author Martha Carruci, speaking about her book Sobrietease, will be at Sherwood Regional Library on Wednesday, April 26th, and, the next day at Pohick Regional Library on April 27th, David Winters will be offering humorous anecdotes and advice from his book Sabbatical of the Mind. In the meantime, keep laughing all month long with these excellent satirical works of fiction!

My Man Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse

Anyone else remember when used to be the Ask Jeeves search engine in the late 90s and early 00s? My Man Jeeves is just one in a series of books that contain the stories of the original butler with all the answers. These stories provide a humorous look at the life of an engagement-prone British upper class gentleman, his friends and his clever butler who gets both him and his friends out of all kinds of legal and social trouble, particularly with women. Luckily, this Jeeves knows all.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

It’s probably pretty safe to say that this book is a satire of life, the universe and everything. Adams makes frequent use of heavy sarcasm and the hilariously unexpected to tell the story of Arthur Dent and his friend, Ford Prefect. Arthur's home--along with life as he knows it-- is on the chopping block to make way for a freeway – and Ford is an alien who easily passes for human in appearance, but is actually from a small planet near Betelgeuse, much to Arthur’s surprise. A hilarious ride through the galaxy!

The Discworld series – Terry Pratchett

This series is very similar in tone to the above Hitchhiker’s Guide. It has the same satirical quality about it, and Pratchett, too, makes good use of the hilariously unexpected and a wry sort of humor. But then, what can you expect, really, when one of the most memorable characters in the first in the series, The Colour of Magic, is a suitcase with teeth?

Austenland – Shannon Hale

Feel free to judge this book by its title - Austenland, in many ways, is exactly what it sounds like. The main character, Jane, is a single woman gifted with the opportunity to vacation at a resort that takes living and breathing Jane Austen to the next level, despite the lack of Colin Firth appearances. This is a light and quick read poking fun at Darcy enthusiasts and those of us who rather like the idea of living within a book.

The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

This book is the first in a series that defies being labeled by a single genre, mixing literary fiction with mystery and crime fiction, along with healthy doses of science fiction and fantasy. Meet Special Operative Thursday Next, a literary detective, tasked with tracking down forgers, resolving disputes over Shakespearean authorship and generally protecting society’s great works from those who would harm it, even to the point of the more rare and dangerous cases like literary homicide. Jane Eyre may never be the same.

The Princess Bride – William Goldman

The Princess Bride is a beloved tale, both by its readers and by the viewers of its 1987 movie adaptation-- a story that arguably earns the right to be called a fairy tale, while unabashedly satirizing the classic fairy tale genre at the same time. This book tells the story of Westley and Buttercup and the adventures and obstacles their true love must overcome for their tale to end in happiness, alongside a cast of truly unforgettable characters.

Have other recommendations for those who love to laugh? Leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library