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

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

If You Like Stephen King's The Dark Tower Books...

If you’re like me, you think of horror stories when you hear the name Stephen King and with good reason. Spinning tales of the frightening and horrific is one of King’s strengths. It is a talent that can be seen at play throughout his Dark Tower fantasy series - in his graphic descriptions, in the vivid details he employs, and in the horrific situations in which the main character, the Gunslinger, finds himself. Some of the books below have a similar writing style and descriptive choices; some, a similar setting or main character. See which ones may appeal to you and head over to your nearest Fairfax County public library branch to check them out!


The Dresden Files series – Jim Butcher [SF BUT]

If you like the character of the Gunslinger, Jim Butcher’s wizard and detective Harry Dresden may appeal to you. He may not spend his days crossing deserts and mountains on a quest that may or may not kill him and everyone he loves, but he is a character cut from a similar cloth. Dresden is a loner who trusts few and is strong and quick on the draw when it comes to wielding his weapon of choice, magic. You may also enjoy this series if you appreciate the way King approaches description. Storm Front is the first in the series.

The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho [FIC COE]

Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist is very different from the Dark Tower series in terms of plot and overall tone, but its desert quest to a mysterious object/destination may please those who enjoyed the first in the Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, in particular. Santiago, simply referred to through most of the novel as “the boy” travels from Spain to the Egyptian desert on a quest to treasure buried beneath the pyramids, facing numerous obstacles and obtaining help from a few interesting characters along the way.

Elantris – Brandon Sanderson [SF SAN]

Elantris used to be the city of the gods – and not just an unattainable city, far off in the distance physically or conceptually. Any person, be they beggar or nobleman, could be transformed by The Shaod at any time and move to the great city, being worshipped for the rest of eternity. That is, before this novel begins, at a time when The Shaod’s transformation results not in an eternity of greatness but rather a sentence of doom, as the victims are cast out of their homes and into Elantris to join the others who have fallen to the leprosy-like disease, with no hope of a cure. Can Raoden bring hope to the fallen?

Sandman series – Neil Gaiman [FIC GAI]

If you’ve been thinking about getting into graphic novels, Dark Tower fans may want to check out this series by Neil Gaiman. Like Dark Tower, this series blurs the lines between horror and fantasy, following the adventures of the Sandman, also known as Dream or Morpheus, as he returns to the world after being imprisoned for decades and has to gain back his power and deal with the nightmares that have been unleashed on the world in his absence. Preludes and Nocturnes is the first in the series.

The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien [FIC TOL]

In his introduction to the series, Stephen King acknowledges the ways in which Tolkien’s epic fantasy affected and inspired him, even going so far as to say The Dark Tower series was “born out of Tolkien’s” work. He is certainly not the only fantasy writer who found inspiration in this great work. The Lord of the Rings is well worth a reading, and even a re-reading, in its own right – but Dark Tower fans may appreciate the imagination that created the story, the sheer scope of the epic, as King did, and experiencing the world that inspired him. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first book in the series.

What other recommendations would you give to others who love the Dark Tower series? Leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library