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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

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