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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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sensational Science Books for Kids

A few weeks ago, we brought you a post about great science books for teens. This week we follow up with recommendations for elementary school readers. - Eds.

April 22 is Earth Day, a reminder for all of us to take a break from our screens and go on a hike- or at least read a good book about Earth’s creatures. When library staff visit schools to promote books, we notice that amazing but true tales from science are among students’ favorites. Here are a few stand-outs for elementary school age.

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

Right now every single one of us has more microbes living on our skin than the total number of people on Earth. Microbes in us and on us outnumber human cells ten to one! But don’t worry, even though some microbes can make us sick, the ones that live on us all the time keep us well. Read this book to learn more about your billions of invisible friends.

Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating

This book will change the way you think about the color pink. Pink can be weird! Pink can be gross! Pink can be cool! Just ask the blobfish, the pinktoe tarantula, the pink fairy armadillo or the nudibranch. Help the color pink bust out of its stereotype as the color of princesses and posies by reading about these fabulous – and sometimes disgusting – pink creatures.

The Queen's Shadow: A Story about How Animals See by Cybele Young

A crime has occurred at the royal ball - someone has stolen the Queen's shadow! In order to find out “who dunnit,” we have to learn about each creature’s unique type of vision. The lancehead snake can "see" body heat in the darkness as an infrared glow. The mantis shrimp has trinocular vision, seeing objects from three different angles for extra depth perception. The pigeon can see many more colors than humans can. You'll never "see" things the same way after you read this fun science mystery!

When Lunch Fights Back by Rebecca Johnson

All over the animal kingdom, almost every creature on Earth has to worry about becoming some other creature’s lunch. Each has ways of avoiding that, some as common as camouflage or speed, and others more… unusual. The peacock shrimp has the strongest punch of any creature on Earth; it can punch with a force thousands of times its body weight. The horned lizard has a spooky defense – it shoots blood out of its eyes. Read this book for tales of self-defense by slime, vomit, projectile poop and dagger-like bones.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

9 Books Library Staff Can't Put Down

Curious which books have library staff excited this spring?  Take a look at our What We're Reading: Spring 2017 page to find some titles to spruce up your reading list. And let us know what books you just can't put down!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Every Week is Teen Tech Week at the Library

Last week, Fairfax County Public Library and many libraries across the country celebrated the Young Adult Library Services Association’s (YALSA) Teen Tech Week. There were coding classes, robot and 3-D printer demonstrations, a Sphero robot obstacle course and even mini drone quidditch. If you missed the fun last week, don’t worry. There are tech events happening year round. Check out the library’s Maker Events, or drop by the library's booth at the 4th annual Nova Maker Faire in Reston on March 19, 2017.

If you can't make it to an event, check out one of these books to get started on your own tech projects, from coding games and websites to building robots.

Beginners can get an introduction to Minecraft and Lego coding, Python and several other coding languages with the Kids Can Code series by Patricia Harris or the Kids Get Coding series by Heather Lyons.

Learn all things Scratch, from the basics to creating your own games with Coding Projects in Scratch or Coding Games in Scratch by Jon Woodcock.  

Is Scratch too easy for you? Take it up a notch and dig into HTML, for creating web sites, and JavaScript with Max Wainewright's How to Code.

And if hardware is your thing, try building your own gizmos, machines and simple robots using Making Simple Robots by Kathy Ceceri or The Robot Book by Bobby Mercer.

--Rebecca Molineaux, Kings Park Library

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Super Science Books for Teens

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to track gila monsters by microchip or develop IQ tests for octopuses? Find out in one of the books in an amazing nature series called Scientists in the Field. Targeting middle and high school students, the series is informative enough for adults too. Many of the books in this series have won multiple awards. 

Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard, Mary Kay Carson

This book is about scientists who do research in our national parks – such as putting GPS collars on grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park to find out where they hibernate or collecting DNA samples from salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains Park to study population genetics. Find out how the work of park scientists benefits wildlife.

Inside Biosphere 2: Earth Science Under Glass, Mary Kay Carson

Biosphere 2 is a three acre mini-Earth under a dome that scientists have created in the Arizona desert. It took four years to build and includes ocean, desert and rainforest ecosystems. It’s like an immense lab that helps scientists study our environment and factors that may impact it such as climate change.

Sea Turtle Scientist, Stephen R. Swinburne

Sea turtles have existed for 110 million years. But in the past 500 years, all seven species of sea turtle have become either threatened or endangered, largely due to human activity. Scientists are working on St. Kitts Island in the Caribbean to preserve leatherback turtles and their nests. Learn about some creative ideas scientists developed to help them.

The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk, Sy Montgomery

Octopuses don’t live long, but scientists are discovering how clever they are- especially considering they don’t have much time to learn! Octopuses can solve puzzles and individuals will find unique ways of solving problems. They can distinguish between faces of scientists wearing the exact same uniform. Peer inside the mysterious minds of these mollusks.

More recent titles in the series include:

Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt, Mary Kay Carson
Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Brightest Bird, Pamela S. Turner
The Great White Shark Scientist, Sy Montgomery
The Call of the Osprey, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

- Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Seven Brave Women, Seven Great Books for Young Readers

March is Women’s History Month, and we have a few suggestions to introduce even the littlest readers to the accomplishments of great women.

Me… Jane , Patrick McDonnell (preschool & up)
This appealing picture book introduces young children to the work of primatologist Jane Goodall– starting with her favorite childhood toy, a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee.

Queen of the Falls, Chris Van Allsburg (K & up)
Annie Taylor, a sixty-two year old widow, resolved to find fame and fortune by being the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. This story of bravery is masterfully enhanced by an award-winning illustrator.

Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero, Marissa Moss (grades 1 & up)
Sarah Emma Edmonds dressed as a man and joined the Army during the Civil War to fight the Confederates. She also worked as a nurse on the battlefield and served as a spy.

Maggie L. Walker, Moira Rose Donohue (grades 2 & up)
This great Virginian of African-American ancestry became the first female president and founder of one of the oldest banks for Black Americans in the late 1800s.

I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai (grades 5 & up)
This young reader’s version of the famous teenager’s memoir tells of a decision Malala made when she was only ten years old to fight for peace and democracy in her country. As an advocate for education, she became the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Ida M. Turnbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business- and Won!, Emily Arnold McCully (grades 6 & up)
This award-winning book tells one of the first investigative journalists whose articles on the Standard Oil Trust, run by John D. Rockefeller, revealed to the public the unethical, even illegal, practices that led to Rockefeller's success.

Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly, Deborah Noyes (grades 6 & up)
Also known for circling the globe in a record 72 days, this book describes one of Nellie Bly’s audacious feats of journalism. Feigning insanity, she had herself committed to a notorious asylum to investigate and expose abuses of human rights.

Do you have a favorite book about an amazing woman? Please let us know in the comments field.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Books We Love: Staff Favorites

2017 got off to a good start when staff members from the City of Fairfax Regional Library were invited to the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia to talk about our most cherished subject – great books! We welcomed the opportunity to share books on almost any topic simply because we adore them. Our favorite recent titles include novels and short story collections as well as nonfiction titles in biography and memoir, history, horticulture and cuisine. See our choices below; perhaps one of them will be your next great escape or avenue to adventure.


Monument Wars: Washington DC, the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape, Kirk Savage 133.1 M 2015


Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees in the Urban Cityscape, Jill Jones 635.977 J 2016


My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life, Ruth Reichl 641.5 R 2015


Biography and Memoir

Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter, Nina MacLaughlin B MACLAUGHLIN 2015

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League, Jeff Hobbs B PEACE 2014

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs, Sally Mann B Mann 2015


Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, Lucia Berlin FIC BER

Out Stealing Horses, Per Petterson FIC PET

Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez FIC HEN

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Hamid Mohsin FIC HAM

Our Souls at Night, Kent Haruf FIC HAR

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson FIC ATK

The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver FIC KIN

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein FIC STE

Have you read something recently that you loved? Let us know about it when you stop by the library, or in the comments field below. We are always interested to hear what readers are excited about so we can share those suggestions with others.

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

9 Books to Read for Black History Month

“For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.” -James Baldwin (Sonny’s Blues)

February is here, and we’re a little excited about all the options available to commemorate Black History Month in this area! Start by checking out one of the Black History programs offered at library branches around Fairfax County. You can also explore a Smithsonian Museum Black History Heritage Month event,  tour the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, or pick up a same-day ticket to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Catch one of the many films by black actors and creative artists nominated for an Academy Award this year. Then round off your cultural experiences with a book. If you haven't already read Colson Whitehead's 2016 National Book Award Winner, Underground Railroad, that is a great place to start. Browse our collection of African-American history for more options or try one of our suggestions below. airlines&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Imagine life today if Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated on the way to his inauguration., james&srchfield2=AU^AUTHOR^AUTHORS^Author Processing^Author&searchoper2=AND&thesaurus2=AUTHORS&search_entries2=AU&search_type2=AUTHOR&special_proc2=Author Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Author and social critic James Baldwin is the subject of Raoul Peck’s riveting new documentary, I Am Not Your Negro. figures&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

This true story of female NASA mathematicians is the basis for the award-winning film."Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain"&srchfield1=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper1=&thesaurus1=SERIES&search_entries1=TI&search_type1=TITLE&special_proc1=Title&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Stand-up comedian and WNYC podcaster Phoebe Robinson  authors a sharp-witted collection of essays.{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER

Nikki Grimes pays homage to the Harlem Renaissance with her poetry and artwork from leading African-American illustrators.^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

This family saga traces the descendants of two sisters, separated by slavery, through seven generations., john&srchfield2=AU^AUTHOR^AUTHORS^Author Processing^Author&searchoper2=AND&thesaurus2=AUTHORS&search_entries2=AU&search_type2=AUTHOR&special_proc2=Author Processing&searchdata3=march&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Relive the civil rights movement with Representative John Lewis’s award-winning graphic novel series March.^AUTHOR^AUTHORS^Author Processing^Author&searchoper2=AND&thesaurus2=AUTHORS&search_entries2=AU&search_type2=AUTHOR&special_proc2=Author Processing&searchdata3=mothers&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

This compassionate debut novel follows  the troubled lives of three young people from a African-American community in Southern Californian. house&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Experience the complex hopes and dreams of one family living in  East Detroit in this National Book Award finalist.
-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Forgotten Classic: Death Comes for the Archbishop

In Death Comes For the Archbishop, Willa Cather takes her readers softly by the hand and leads them through the lives of two Jesuit priests as they traverse the mountains and mesas of the Southwest in the mid 1800s, ministering to the people of those golden realms.

Feeding on a long-time friendship, Father Latour and Father Valliant leave the comforts of their childhood parishes and seek their way through the maze of rugged terrain and the ancient traditions of the Native American and Mexican people.

The story is framed by the ringing of the Angelus on an early morning in Santa Fe as Father Latour, upon awakening, hears the bell, "full and clear with something bland and suave, each note floating through the air like a globe of silver." The sound reverberates with echoes of Rome and of the Moors, yet is knit to the white-washed walls and adobe shades of his current abode, and he smiles in the sweet spot of his enduring faith.

The book is constructed like a memoir, a series of vignettes. The two priests, so different in nature but bonded by a deep reverence for humanity and an abiding sense of justice (as well as a wicked sense of humor), weave their way through the lives of their sprawling congregation. Father Latour is reflective, aristocratic, intellectual and cautious with social structures. Father Valliant, ever the extrovert, hops to each new challenge with gusto and a wagon that is filled with an altar, supplies, rosaries, medals and unflagging optimism. Both thrive on the belief that "where there is great love, there are miracles." Father Latour explains that divine love refines our vision to see potential that seems extraordinary but was present always.

Their travels take them through sandstorms, sleet, snow, wind, rain, treacherous ravines and mesas. Father Latour is saved by his Spanish guide, Jacinto, by sheltering in a dark, looming cave that seemed steeped in mystery with the roar of a great underground river in the distance, the smell of decay and whispers of ceremonial, secret sacrifice.

The novel glitters with stories of corrupt priests who gamble, drink, oppress, father children and harvest the powerless after years without ecclesial supervision. In a drunken rage, Balthazar throws a goblet at the head of a clumsy servant killing him and gets deposed by the natives by being heaved over the side of a cliff. A swift, clean end to years of oppression!

Suffusing all these stories is Cather’s passionate painting of the landscape with lush, loving tones of sepia and green, taking us through canyons and pueblos, smelling the juniper and tamarisk, feeling the wind and sky, with a vast sweeping sense of peace.

Cather writes, "It was the Indian manner to vanish into the landscape and not stand out against it." So it was, when death finally comes to Father Latour, he goes quietly surrounded by locals, traders, clergy - the human family, undistinguished by class or creed, drawn together in lines of simple faith and love.

It was the death of a man who lived well a life of service and was finally released "into the wind, into the blue and gold, into the morning, into the morning."

Thank you, Willa Cather.

--Lois Glick, Great Falls Library