Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Listening to S Town? Now Read These.

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

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

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

--Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Holocaust Fiction

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

Mischling by Affinity Konar

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

Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

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

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

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

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

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

Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert

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

-Rebecca Wolff, George Mason Library

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Celebrate National Library Week with Us

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

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

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

If You Like...Satires

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

My Man Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse

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

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

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

The Discworld series – Terry Pratchett

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

Austenland – Shannon Hale

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

The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

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

The Princess Bride – William Goldman

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

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

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library