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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

David Sedaris at Wolftrap

It is a bibliophile’s thrill to have a favorite book signed by its author. For the second year in a row, thousands of David Sedaris fans had the opportunity to hear him read at Wolftrap, and those willing to stand in line before or afterwards could meet the author and have their books signed. Sedaris read from his latest book, Theft by Finding, derived from his diary entries of 1977-2002. He also read some new stories that have yet to be published.

The author revealed information about his work in progress, such as the title for the second volume of his diaries, still a couple of years from being published – Carnival of Snackery. Inspiration came off the menu of an Indian restaurant in London. Sedaris often chooses titles based on absurd phrases he happens upon- a curation habit that aligns with his knack for documenting pithy occurrences of everyday life.

The question and answer period uncovered more tidbits about the author’s life and work. Sedaris was asked about Carol, the semi-tame fox that lived near his home and would walk beside him. Sadly, Carol was killed by a neighbor- “because he used to have chickens” the author fumed. When asked for advice about public speaking, Sedaris explained that he always takes time to talk with his readers during book signings before shows. This enables him to get a feel for his crowd, and he pictures those people he’s met in the audience as he speaks.

Sedaris fans often ask him for book recommendations, and August 19th was no exception. He recommended Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible. The latter is a collection of stories he describes as simply astounding in an unassuming way, without show-offish turns of phrase. 

He reported that he listens to many audiobooks while completing several miles per day of walking. Recently he was amused by a Joan Crawford memoir on audio, My Way of Life, read by the author (not owned by FCPL). He also let drop that any short story by Lorrie Moore is the first thing he’ll read in The New Yorker. Quirky and clever, Sedaris doesn’t disappoint in person. Whether or not you were able to catch Sedaris, be sure to enjoy some of the free upcoming author visits at Fairfax County Public Library and Fall for the Book.

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trickster Tales from Latin America

Every culture has its own version of the trickster tale: the wily rabbit who manages to outwit the bear and fox or the fool who isn't as foolish as people assume. For Hispanic Heritage Month, consider sharing some of these wonderful new and old trickster tales from Latin America with the young people in your life.

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale, Carmen Agra Deedy
In this Cuban version of a popular folktale, it is time for lovely Martina the cockroach to give her leg in marriage. Many animals come forth to court her, but do they really have her best interests at heart? Martina’s wise grandmother has given her an idea. She “accidentally” spills a little coffee on each suitor’s shoe to see how he reacts when angry.

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book and Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book, Yuyi Morales
When Senior Calavera comes to call at Grandma Beetle's house, she puts him off with "just a minute" while she counts down the preparations for a fiesta with her grandchildren. In the follow-up book, Senior Calavera decides to give Grandma Beetle a birthday gift for each letter of the alphabet. Both award-winners boast colorful illustrations evocative of Mexican Day of Dead folk art. See also the author’s website for online and printable extension activities:

Moon Rope/Un Lazo a la Luna: A Peruvian Tale, Lois Ehlert
Fox wants to go to the moon. Mole prefers to keep all four feet on the ground- preferably underground in his tunnel. But when Mole is convinced that the moon is full of succulent worms, he agrees to attempt the journey. This book tells the classic Peruvian folktale in both English and Spanish with Ehlert’s popular collage-style illustrations.

Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale, Marisa Montes
Juan Bobo and the Pig: A Puerto Rican Folktale, Felix Pitre
Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

There are many Puerto Rican folktales about the boy Juan Bobo. Juan Bobo tries to do everything his mother asks him to do, but sometimes he follows her advice a little too literally. In the tradition of the wise fool, Juan Bobo’s silly mistakes often lead to chaos but sometimes manage to teach everyone a lesson in the process.

--Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Newbery Medal Winner - Fairfax Librarian Will Help Choose Winner!

The 2017 Newbery Winner.
Which book will Sondy
choose to win in 2019? Stay tuned!
Our colleague, Sondra Eklund, youth services manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library, is on the prestigious Newbery Medal Award Committee. The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  

We asked Sondy a few questions about this special honor.

What does being on this committee entail?

I’ll be reading as many books as I possibly can that are published in 2018 in the United States by American authors for children ages 0 to 14. At the start of 2019, I will meet with 14 other people in a locked room, and we will choose the winner of the John Newbery Medal. We will also decide if we want to name any Honor books which are also distinguished.

That seems like a lot of work, is there a way others can help you?

There are thousands of children’s books published in America every year. I’m going to read as many books as I can, and other committee members will read as widely as they can. There is a nomination process during the year, so committee members will formally nominate, from our reading, which books we will consider in the final deliberations. But in case some good books get overlooked, if you or your children read an especially good children’s book published in 2018, I hope you’ll let me know! Just stop by any library branch and ask a youth services librarian to tell me.

How are members selected for the Newbery committee?

Eight of the fifteen committee members are elected by the membership of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. The chair and six other members are appointed by the ALSC president. I was elected to the position.

Tell us how you were elected for the Newbery committee.

I became a librarian as my second career. I began writing a website of book reviews in 2001. As I was getting my Master’s in Library Science (2007), the ALA Annual Conference came to Washington, DC. I went to the conference, attended the Newbery/Caldecott Awards Banquet and heard Susan Patron give her acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal given to The Higher Power of Lucky. That was when I realized serving on the Newbery committee might be a possibility in my new career.

2007 Newbery Winner. Patron's acceptance speech inspired Sondy
to seek a spot on the award selection committee.

I next applied to attend the Bill Morris Invitational Seminar on media evaluation to learn how the award committees work. It took three tries, but I was accepted to attend the seminar in Dallas in 2012.

At the seminar, we heard from past chairpersons from various award committees. They advised us to get involved in other ALSC committees and to put our name into the hat for award committee service.

I put my name in, and got on the ballot in April 2013 to be on the 2015 Newbery Committee. But missed being elected by 15 votes! (Out of about 800 ballots cast.) It was already too late to get on the ballot for the following year, so I very sadly gave it a rest and worked on other ALSC committees. In the meantime, I applied for and got to be a Cybils judge five years in a row. I gave my name for consideration to be on the Newbery Award Committee ballot again in March 2016. This time, I made a web page with my qualifications, printed cards to pass out at ALA Midwinter Meeting and the ALSC Mini-Institute that happened a couple months before voting. This time I got the news on April 12, 2017, that I was indeed a member of the 2019 Newbery Award committee!

How do you feel about being a committee member?

I am thrilled by this dream come true! I’m proud to have this important responsibility. And I’m clearing my schedule for a lot of work! I’ll have my nose in a children’s book every chance I get in 2018.

Thanks Sondy! We are so proud of you. Good luck with all your reading in 2018. -The Editors

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

So Long, Summer

August is at an end, kids are back at school and About Books is taking a break to finish the last of our summer must read pile. And cheer the end of another fun summer reading adventure! (It’s not too late to turn in reading logs – September 2nd marks the official end of the program.)

We’ll be back next week with recommendations of new books read, FCPL services to highlight and other bookish news that has caught our eye.

-The Editors

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

If You Like... Game of Thrones


Political intrigue. Deception. Adventure. Humor. Disguises. Blackmail. Revenge. Alliances. Last minute escapes. More intrigue. Gold. Breaking alliances. Family. Betrayal. Did I mention intrigue? These are the kinds of things that are familiar to fans of George R.R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’re like me, you probably don’t think George is working quickly enough on books 6 and 7. You might even be a fan of the TV series. Read these four books with the same feel as The Song of Ice and Fire to keep yourself busy until he unleashes The Winds of Winter on us.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms – George R.R. Martin

The easiest book to recommend to fans is this prequel of sorts to A Game of Thrones. Though the adventures of Dunk and Egg take place 100 years earlier, the world of Westeros will immediately seem familiar. You will recognize the families, the places and the feuds all accompanied by Martin’s familiar mix of adventure, humor and world-building. It doesn’t hurt that Dunk and Egg are some of the more likeable and honorable inhabitants of Westeros.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

In the past, I’ve described The Lies of Locke Lamora, first book of the Gentleman Bastards series, as a mix of the orphans and thievery from Oliver Twist and the fantasy world-building, tone and feel of A Game of Thrones. It has all the traits of Martin’s series, and it had me thinking with a few tweaks it would be possible that all the action was taking place in one of the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea from Westeros.

The Once and Future King – T.H. White

White’s epic retelling of the tales of King Arthur is something any fan of Martin should read. As you read it, you will recognize the thoughts and behaviors of many characters in The Song of Ice and Fire books.  This is a classic for a reason, and I believe it’s the grandeur, adventure and humor (much of the humor coming via Merlin) that Martin fans will embrace. It seems Medieval England and Westeros are not too different from each other.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas

The three preceding books are either pure fantasy or have elements of fantasy, and, therefore, will feel right for anyone reading this blog post. This one is a little bit more of a stretch, but bear with me. The political intrigue, deception, adventure and humor that I mentioned earlier are here in spades. Young Edmond Dantes finds himself soon to be married and the captain of a ship until a few jealous “friends” get him locked in a dungeon as a so-called Bonapartist conspirator.  Sounds like time for revenge. The best part is at 1,200 pages it’s only a few hundred more than A Dance with Dragons, so I know you’ll breeze right through it.

-James Cullen, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

While You Wait for Louise Erdrich's New Book...

Editors Note: We are big fans of Louise Erdrich and can't wait for her newest book Future Home of the Living God to come out this November. The library has pre-ordered copies, and you can place a hold on this title. In the meantime while you wait, About Books suggests you read Erdrich's earlier book Plague of Doves.

A crying baby in a blood-spattered room quiets when the murderer plays a poignant violin solo on the gramophone while fixing his jammed gun. That scene sets the stage for generations of turmoil as the victims and perpetrators try to forget. Louise Erdrich takes the above horrific scene - where five family members perished and a group of innocent Native Americans were hanged in a measure of “rough justice” – as a vehicle to illustrate the deep tangle of lives where land, heritage and nationalities are all braided together in one misshapen strand.

Stories abound. A husband stages his wife's kidnapping to legitimize a ransom to take care of his lover’s child. An Indian judge secretly courts a white doctor to preserve the visible blood lines. A young college student working in a mental institution stumbles upon her own sexual senses during an encounter with a lesbian patient. Sister Mary Anita Buckendorf has a visage that emulates Godzilla but a wide heart of understanding and can pitch a mean ball in the recess pickup game. Billy Peace returns from Viet Nam and plows his frustrated energies into establishing a cult of spirit-filled devotees whom he molds ever more tightly into his maniacal, sensual mission of power. His wife eventually turns to snake-handling, stroking her bed-time beauties for comfort and finally milking their venom as a ticket to freedom, taking her two young children across the finish line as she imagines Billy’s "spirit crawling slowly toward heaven."

And threading the stories with haunting melody are the dancing, soothing, sobbing, joyous and devastating violins. Shamengwa, a child with an arm disabled by a cow, takes up his father’s violin in secret to deal with his family’s sadness and through the years lightens everyone’s burdens with his exquisite music. Corwin, a schoolyard bully, eventually steals the violin and as punishment Judge Coutts makes him learn to play. Years later, his haunting music strikes a death knell to the murderer in the initial scene.

Some attempt revenge, some atonement. All strive not to snap the taut band of truce. But “every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware.”

The doves descend early, smothering all - historically, biblically and politically. And to this day, the survivors work out their complicated salvation.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

If You Like...Wonder Woman

Are you a fan of the beloved and iconic superhero, Wonder Woman? If you particularly liked the movie that came out this summer, you can relive the experience on the page with Nancy Holder’s official novelization, newly acquired here at Fairfax County Public Library. But whether your Wonder Woman love comes from comic books, graphic novels, television or film, this book list is for you!

Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore [741.5 L 2014]

This is the first book to tell of Wonder Woman’s origins and the people, situations and culture that influenced and shaped both her story and her character. Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore examines both the life of Wonder Woman as a fictional character and the lives of her creator, William Moulton Marston, and his family, as well as how her story was affected by and, in turn, affected the feminist movement.

Water Song – Suzanne Weyn [YFIC WEY]

For those who appreciated the historical setting of the Wonder Woman movie, this story is also set in Europe during WWI. Unlike Diana, Emma Pennington is no superhero. She has no superpowers or even a hint of magic, but she is beautiful and wealthy, accustomed to living comfortably despite the war that rages abroad. But the war unexpectedly touches even her life and teaches Emma many lessons about love and humanity.

The Lost Sisterhood – Anne Fortier [FIC FOR]

Everyone knows the legendary Amazon tribe is just that: a legend. But Diana Morgan has spent her academic career trying to prove that the Amazons actually existed, an obsession that began with her grandmother’s claim to be an Amazon herself. And she may just have stumbled upon the break she needs when a mysterious foundation invites her to decipher an unusual inscription they have uncovered in North Africa.

Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons [JFIC YOL]

Glimpse Wonder Woman’s legendary mother as a child in this novel. It is said that a second son born of an Amazon Queen must be sacrificed in exchange for Artemis’ protection or else he’d bring about the destruction of the Amazons. But when Hippolyta’s mother, Queen Otrere, bears a second son, she cannot sacrifice him and is stripped of her title and imprisoned. It’s up to Hippolyta to save her mother and brother, her people and herself.

Phoenix and Ashes – Mercedes Lackey [SF LAC]

This book is the third in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, a fantasy series that does not have to be read in any particular order. It tells the story of Eleanor, a 20th century Cinderella whose father dies during the Great War and leaves her under the thumb of a stepmother engaged in the darker blood-fueled side of Earth magic, and Reggie, an ace WWI pilot and Elemental Master of Air, scarred from his own experiences in the War.

The Foretelling – Alice Hoffman [YFIC HOF]

Like Diana, Rain is the daughter of an Amazon Queen, a powerful daughter training and preparing to be an Amazon Queen herself one day. A daughter who brings great sorrow to her mother, though through no fault of her own. A daughter who, unlike Diana, desires love and approval from a mother who can barely look at her, let alone speak to her. A warrior who begins to see a different future for herself than how she was raised.

Wonder Woman: Love and Murder – Jodi Picoult

At this time, you’ll need to take advantage of the reciprocal agreements Fairfax County Public Library has with Arlington County, Loudoun County or the City of Alexandria, or make use of our interlibrary loan service to get your hands on this one, but the extra effort will be worth it! In this graphic novel, Jodi Picoult shares a Wonder Woman struggling to understand both what it means to be human and who she is. Her name is Diana Prince, special agent of the Department of Metahuman Affairs. Her assignment: the apprehension of Wonder Woman.

Have other recommendations for others who love Wonder Woman? Don’t forget to leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Recent Nonficiton Titles - Dealing with Mental Illness

How do family dynamics change when a parent or child struggles with mental health issues? This question has long been a topic of fictional writing – most recently with the excellent Imagine Me Gone (a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize). But a spate of nonfiction accounts has caught my eye lately. Although they approach the topic from different angles, and the subject is naturally difficult, it is a positive trend that mental health and the American health care system can be discussed in such an open and frank manner.


No one Cares about Crazy People by Ron Powers - Tragedy is the only way to describe how mental illness manifested itself in journalist Ron Powers’s life. His younger son began showing signs of schizophrenia while at college and sadly committed suicide. Not long after, Powers’ older son developed the disease as well, though so far he has responded well to medicine. Powers’ courageous book is family memoir woven into a history of how mental illness has been treated in America and how the modern healthcare system often fails those same families.

A Really Good Day: Microdosing by Ayelet Waldman Waldman, well known for her 2009 memoir Bad Mother, has a history of writing controversial nonfiction. This book is no different. It’s an illuminating account of her mood disorder and experimentation with LSD to alleviate her anxiety and make her house a happier place to live. It’s also a probing look at why the justice system has criminalized this drug particularly harshly.

The Splendid Things We Planned by Blake Bailey - Award winning biographer Blake Bailey turns his lens onto his own family in this hard-to-read but equally hard-to-put-down memoir. His older brother’s battle with addiction and self-destructive behavior and how his parents try to hold his family together make for an unforgettable read. When I saw David Sedaris at a reading last summer, he couldn’t recommend this book highly enough, and he was right.

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Exploring the World, One Mystery at a Time

Dreaming of exotic destinations overseas while you swelter in humdrum Washington summer heat? Try reading one of these great mysteries set in another country. You’ll get a chance to experience a whole new culture, with enough thrills and twists to keep your attention riveted no matter how high the thermometer climbs. If you’re in the mood for a classic mystery series, you can explore Venice with Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti, visit Sweden with Henning Mankell’s Inspector Wallander, or tour Ireland with Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad. You can see Botswana through the eyes of Precious Romotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency or stick a little closer to home with Louise Penny’s French-Canadian Inspector Gamache.

If you’d like your adventure destination a little more off the beaten trail, try one of the mysteries below. Just sit back with a cool drink and explore the world, one mystery at a time.

The Dry by Jane Harper
“Luke lied. You lied. Be at the funeral.” When his childhood friend kills himself, his wife and son on their family farm, federal agent Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his drought-stricken Australian hometown. Old secrets and animosities resurface as Falk investigates the truth behind Luke’s death.

The October Killings by Wessel Ebersohn

October 21st, 1985 is a day Abigail Bukula, chief director of the South African Department of Justice, has tried to put behind her. To help the soldier who saved her life 20 years ago, however, Bukula will have to confront a dark moment in the apartheid struggle to see justice done today. 
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

An intellectual high school mathematics teacher, who secretly admires the single mother living next door, helps her cover up the murder of her abusive ex-husband. This best-selling Japanese crime novel delivers an intricate plot interwoven with a moving examination of love, sacrifice and devotion.


The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat

When wealthy Toronto businessman Christopher Drayton dies in a fall, it seems surprising that an inspector in charge of a community policing unit is called into investigate. When Inspector Khan realizes Drayton may have been a notorious Serbian war criminal in hiding, he must determine whether Drayton’s past had finally caught up with him.

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

Inspector Erlendur is called in when a long-buried human skeleton is discovered near Reykjavik on a construction site. The author weaves a tragic story of World War II and the inspector’s own bleak family history with Erlendur’s attempts to uncover the truth of that lonely grave.

-Rebecca Wolff, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Books I Haven't Finished. (Yet)

Maybe you're like me and were a little too ambitious with your summer to-read list. And you put far more books on hold than you actually have time to read.

Confession: I didn’t get through any of these books. But the first chapters were all intriguing; I can guarantee you! I’ve already placed them on hold again and am looking forward to their return.

The North Water – A dark thriller set aboard a 19th century whaleship. I have to pick this up again to find out what happens to the evil character introduced in chapter one.

Dead Letters –A clever debut novel and suspenseful mystery involving twin sisters and family secrets that one critic called a “literary scavenger hunt that you never want to end.”

The Idiot – Another debut novel. The humor in this book caught me by surprise. Selim is beginning her freshman year at Harvard in 1995. I can’t wait to see what the year holds for her.

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Monday, July 10, 2017

Forgotten Classic - Ethan Frome

In the bleak mid-winter,
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron
Water like a stone…”

Thus Christina Rossetti‘s poem of the late 19th century begins, and she could have been channeling Edith Wharton’s future Ethan Frome. This slim, little book contains a truly desolate tale, but its heart spans the universe.

Set in the early 20th century in rural Massachusetts, when economic conditions boomed for those on the cutting edge of invention and shriveled for those hard-scrabble folk who worked the land in remote places, we are introduced to one Ethan Frome. He appears tall, with a careless power, “in spite of a lameness checking each step like the jerk of a chain.” He is gaunt, remote, and silent. A visiting engineer observes him and wonders what caused his striking appearance. Bit by gleaming bit of information from various neighbors the tale tumbles together revealing a stunning portrait of a life gone horribly awry.

It is an old story, worn at the edges, blurred by tears. Ethan, a man of principled duty, left his first love - studying for an engineering degree- to return to the family farm after the death of his father. Once there, he attempted to save the business while attending to his grieving mother as she gradually lost touch with reality. Zeena is hired to help with the nursing, and he is dazzled by her efficiency. When his mother dies, rather than face the specter of the long harsh winter alone, he marries Zeena. And while there were now two bodies to face the cold winter, they remain isolated in spirit. Zeena, in her disillusionment, begins imagining all kinds of ailments and gains notoriety for pursuit of their cures. Ethan grows more and more silent in the face of her querulous complaints, setting the stage for a life of quiet, inevitable desperation.

Enter Mattie, a young cousin of Zeena’s whose family disintegrated. She has nowhere to go but to the Frome household as a companion and helper to Zeena. Gradually, Mattie emerges from her sorrow and being fresh, nubile, rosy- cheeked, and dreamy, she brings springtime to Ethan’s heart. And where there had been deep unhappiness, now there was promise - sudden sunshine pierced his darkest days.

What follows is timeless – tamped desire, the unwinding spool of jealousy, unshakeable puritanical standards of conduct, and consequences -this time in the form of a sled ride. Whether Wharton was being moralistic or cynical about illicit love being the only true love, she penned an exquisitely mirrored tale of a bleak winter’s discontent, paralyzing inaction and a shining moment of ecstasy shattered by an elm tree. And the jerk of the chain reaches down through the decades.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Celebrate Civil Rights Milestones

Summer offers a chance to reflect on key anniversaries of the Civil Rights Movement. July 2 is the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, August 2 marks the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and August 28 marks the anniversary of the March on Washington, the day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Discover more about the inspiring figures behind the Movement in the highly engaging March trilogy by Congressman John Lewis with co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell. The March trilogy is also an excellent introduction to the graphic memoir format.


March: Book One starts with Congressman John Lewis preparing to attend Obama's Inauguration and then flashes back to his boyhood growing up on a farm in Alabama where it was his job to tend the chickens. He took this responsibility so seriously he was unable to eat his own chickens because he knew them so well. As Lewis grew, his ambition to become a pastor eventually merged into an awareness about the need to advocate for civil rights. This book ends with his first forays into activism as a college student in the movement to desegregate lunch counters.

March: Book Two continues John Lewis' story from his involvement with the Freedom Riders to the March on Washington. Many famous men make cameos, including President Kennedy, Malcolm X and MLK. The reader begins to realize the Civil Rights Movement was meticulously crafted; little happened by chance or momentary inspiration. It's an inspiring example of how visionaries and regular people with courage banded together to create change.

March: Book Three begins with the church bombing in Selma, Alabama, that killed four young girls and ends with the famous March from Selma to Montgomery. President Johnson, MLK and Malcolm X make appearances, as well as Fannie Lou Hamer and some other key figures who were instrumental to the movement but are less widely recognized. Artist Nate Powell brings majestic scope to the imagery, belying the scale of the page.

The March trilogy is a compelling read for anyone over the age of twelve, and even some mature tweens may be ready for its message. Like the best graphic novels, this trilogy combines visual and textual storytelling in a manner that is uniquely moving and engrossing.

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Books About Books

In his latest ode to reading, Books for Living, Will Schwalbe writes about all kinds of books - thrillers, picture books, classics, religious texts. A book doesn't have to be a venerable tome to have meaning for the reader in the moment. A book is a medium to express ideas, and those ideas can entertain or instruct, warn or pay homage. Sometimes broad ideas are best communicated through humor or a fairy tale.

Usually, I have mixed feelings about books-about-books: typically I thumb through them with some interest, but they are not books I tend to read cover-to-cover. Books for Living was different in that once begun, I felt compelled to read every page. I got something out of each chapter whether I had read the book Schwalbe was writing about or not. Each chapter is not just about the book that inspired it but illuminates some facet of life, pulling in other books and authors, world events or personal experiences as references.

Schwalbe’s observations about books as a shared experience, even with someone who can no longer read, were especially moving. There is one segment about how we communicate with those we have lost by reading the books they read or wanted to read or would have enjoyed. One can't help being reminded of Schwalbe's earlier book The End of Your Life Book Club and the books he shared with his mother as she was fighting cancer.

Schwalbe also reminds us that reading is not just a passive diversion but is often the catalyst that spurs people to action. “Books remain one of the strongest bulwarks we have against tyranny- but only as long as people are free to read all different kinds of books and only as long as they actually do so. The right to read whatever you want whenever you want is one of the fundamental rights that helps preserve all the other rights.”

Below are a few other books about books that can be found at FCPL. If you have a suggestion that is not listed here, please add it to the comments field.

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason, Nancy Pearl

Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers, Nancy Pearl

Booknotes: Life Stories: Notable Biographers on the People Who Shaped America, Brian Lamb

Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books, Michael Dirda

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

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