Category Archives: Books

Choosing to read (for pleasure)

How will you use the extended break between the fall 2022 and the spring 2023 semesters? This time can be used productively, preparing for coursework next semester, or learning a new language (try the Mango Languages database. NOVA librarians recommend that you choose to read for pleasure.

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Why read for pleasure

Research  frequently explores the positive effects of reading for pleasure for children and adolescents; fewer studies address the emotional, social, and psychological benefits derived by adults who regularly choose to read for pleasure. Adults attribute increased vocabulary and general knowledge, better text comprehension, improved grammar and writing abilities, and greater self-confidence to their regular reading habits. Beyond this, research  shows that reading reduces stress and relaxes. It’s why many doctors encourage adults to turn off their screens and curl up with a book to feel calm, reduce depressive thoughts, and get a well-earned rest at the end of the day. Also, reading can increase your empathy for others around you.

What to read

Choosing what to read can be daunting, but there are places to turn that can assist you. During the fall of each year, various organizations announce the authors winning awards for their work, including:

  • The Nobel Prize for Literature is arguably the most prestigious of annual awards.  
  • The Booker Prize for the best novel published in English and published in the UK or Ireland is better known for the “shortlist” of books announced to be in contention for the annual award.
  • The National Book Foundation awards is the premier American prize recognizing literary excellence.

Various institutions use the possibility of gifting books at Christmastime to announce lists of the “best” books of the year. Each organization has its own way of selecting what’s “best” or otherwise limiting their choices by subject. For example:

  • Libraries rely on Publishers Weekly for announcements of publications they should include on their shelves. The publication compiles a list each year, so check out their list of the top 10 in each category (fiction, mystery/thriller, poetry, romance, SciFi/fantasy/horror, comics, nonfiction, religion, etc.).
  • Throughout the year, the New York Times publishes lists of the best-selling books of the week in their weekly Book Review section.  On November 29, the Times will announce their annual 10 Best Books in two categories (fiction and nonfiction) plus 100 Notable Books of 2022.
  • The Washington Post’s selection of the “top ten.”
  • Lifelong learning site Headway Media has a blog for books categorized in unusual ways: Best books for men to read, CEOs, Strategy books, self-improvement, building confidence. Surely one of the many lists will interest NOVA students.
  • The New Yorker
  • NPR (formerly known as National Public Radio) compiles lists of books by subject, including comics/graphic novels, art, history, music, sports, historical fiction, love stories, mysteries/thrillers, nonfiction, SciFi/fantasy, science, short stories/essays/poetry, young adult, and more. If you’re still undecided about what to read, the NPR book review team polls the organization’s staff for their recommendations. Surely, one title will be perfect for you!

The NOVA librarians use these lists to verify their selection of books acquired throughout the year, so you’ll find many of these titles on our shelves already. If you’re still uncertain, check with a Reference Librarian on your campus for advice!

Editor’s Note: For additional ideas about “best books” or “great reads,” check out last December’s blog, How to find a book to read

What books are you reading during inter-session?


September 18-24, 2022, is Banned Books Week! This Year’s Theme: “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”

In 2021, there were 729 attempts to censor library resources, targeting 1,597 books.” In the first eight months of this year, the American Library Association (ALA) “documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources, and 1,651 unique titles were targeted.”

Public officials and parent organizations have compiled lists of books they want off the shelves of school and public libraries. In the past, these groups targeted textbooks; today, the target are young adult books often featuring LGBTQ+ protagonists, Blacks, Indigenous people, or Persons of Color. As a result of these divisive campaigns, libraries across the country are closing.

Several communities have voted to defund public libraries, “putting a moratorium on library purchases.” School librarians have resigned after being “harassed and intimidated” by local boards and parent groups. The Brooklyn Public Library’s Books Unbanned program offers a unique solution, making e-books and audiobooks available to teens around the country for free.

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign celebrating the freedom to read. Launched by the American Library Association and Amnesty International in 1982, Banned Books Week brings together all who value free and open access to information, including librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers. The week is intended to draw attention to banned and challenged books. Many organizations hold in-person and online events during Banned Books Week that highlight the ramifications of book banning.

The top 10 challenged books in 2021 were:

  1. Gender Queerby Maia Kobabe
  2. Lawn Boyby Jonathan Evison
  3. All Boys Aren’t Blueby George M. Johnson
  4. Out of Darknessby Ashley Hope Perez
  5. The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie
  7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girlby Jesse Andrews
  8. The Bluest Eyeby Toni Morrison
  9. This Book is Gayby Juno Dawson
  10. Beyond Magentaby Susan Kuklin

Lists of Challenged and Banned Books over the past decade are available on the ALA website. PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans (July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022) is available via Google Docs.

Unite Against Book Bans

There are many ways to voice your opposition to censorship and book banning. Unite Against Book Bans offers suggestions that include a Toolkit with talking points and contact information for expressing your views to state and local officials and media.

Resources to help librarians, educators, and students understand the consequences of book bans include posters, handbooks, manuals, discussion guides, and censorship action kits.  The last few resources on this webpage offer places for individuals and organizations to report censorship.

Events around the country advocate for the freedom to read in various ways, including virtual events. You can find a roundup of thought-provoking webinars during which you can learn how to fight for inclusive education and defend your right to read in this Banned Books Week calendar of events.

How to find a book to read

Students are assigned textbooks and other reading for their courses, but sometimes you just want a good book to read. It could be a recently published novel, or you might be working your way through a “Great Books” list. Here are some ways you can find a book in almost any genre you desire.

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End-of-year wrap-ups

Many newspapers and magazines use the end of the year as an excuse – as if they needed one – to publish their “must read” lists or the Best Books of <insert year here>. While NPR releases news about books, book reviews, and interviews with authors throughout the year but handpicks great reads each year.

The New York Times also publishes book reviews throughout the year. Each November, the paper releases its list of 100 Notable Books, followed by a live event identifying the 10 Best Books of <YEAR> selected from that list.

Publications issuing annual “best book” lists are terrific sources of inciteful book reviews throughout the year. Some of my favorites include:

Watching an interview with an author is another way to determine whether a book might interest you. Fresh Fiction can help you identify books and authors featured in national media. In addition to occasional appearances by an author on a newscast, authors are interviewed regularly on BookTV .

If you’re unsure whether you’d like a book and want to read a selection before you purchase the title (or visit the library to borrow it), you might consult BookSpot First Chapters. Don’t forget to use the left-hand navigation bar to identify other resources for book reviews and awards by genre.

Literary prize winners (and runner ups)

You might also turn to entities that award prizes to authors for their works each year. Don’t limit your search to the “winners” of this year or prior years’ as the finalists can sometimes be even better. Here are a few of the entities awarding authors for their works:

  • The Pulitzer Prize for Books includes fictional works, history, biography, poetry, and general non-fiction.
  • The Man Booker Prize is awarded to the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.
  • The National Book Foundation celebrates American literature with its National Book Awards.
  • Each year, the National Book Critics Circle presents awards for the finest books published in English (in the USA) in six categories: Fiction, nonfiction, biography, autobiography, poetry, and criticism. encourages browsing for titles by genre, such as biography, classics, fiction, graphic novels, historical fiction, horror, memoir, nonfiction, romance, science fiction, thriller, and travel. There is also a list of Goodreads Choice Awards for the year’s best books in each genre. Then there’s Kobo with its best books, eBooks and audiobooks that define the year.

Book club choices

Book club online discussion groups are a great resource for finding new titles to read and assessing how others have enjoyed them. Some even include guides for conducting group discussions about the book that can be helpful for thoughtful readers. From FreeBookNotes, you’ll be able to link to study guides from SparkNotes, CliffNotes, BookRags, and more to help you understand the book you’ve selected to read.

Book review sites consulted by booksellers and librarians

Detailed abstracts, book summaries, or even a sample chapter may be available on:

  •, featuring detailed book reviews from many genres, including science-fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and more.
  • includes reviews, previews, “behind the book” backstories, author interviews, and research guides. Click the Read-Alikes tab in the top navigation bar. If you find a book you like, the editors will suggest books you are probably going to like equally as well.
  • contains book reviews and author interviews.
  • The Complete Review ( highlights “books in the news,” books “most worthy of your attention,” and foreign books not yet translated into English.
  • Curled Up with a Good Book ( includes reviews of fiction and non-fiction books, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, graphic novels, and audiobooks.
  • lets you download 10% of the text before purchase.
  • Shelf Awareness ( is a twice-weekly e-newsletter containing detailed abstracts and reviews of 25 recommended titles scheduled for release that week.
  • Ron Hogan’s blog ( often features new authors.
  • Track New Book ( helps you find new books related to the websites you visit, sending you an email as new books are published by authors you track (
  • Lovereading UK ( has online tools to help you choose your next read. The free membership site includes 10-15 page opening extracts and samples of audiobooks. Personalized newsletters cover the latest book recommendations in fiction and non-fiction.
  • Gnooks ( uses a Gnod engine to learn what an individual might like to read. Enter three authors you like and Gnooks will suggest what you should read next.
  • Complete the statement, “I’ve just finished reading __________ by _______” and The Book Seer ( will supply the answer.
  • WhichBook ( offers choices based on mood/emotion, plot shape, type of main character (by age, race, gender), or country in which the book is set.
  • FictionDB ( has extensive author bibliographies for the authors you like and want to read. You can even set up a “wish list” for future reading

Finding book reviews using online databases available at NOVA Libraries

NOVA students can access book reviews published in major newspapers and magazines. Use the “Find Journal” link on the library homepage and type the title of the work you seek. For example, the New York Times Book Review. Another tab will open featuring the databases where this title is available, including ProQuest Global Newsstream, for example.

EBSCO Academic Search Complete databases includes journals and magazines with book reviews. To find them, use the Advanced Search page; under Document Type, choose Book Reviews.

Two databases in the NOVA Libraries that specialize in literature are the GALE Literary Index and JSTOR. To reach these titles, begin on the library homepage and click All Databases (A-Z):

  • Click “G” and select GALE Databases; then click the link to GALE Literary Index and begin your search.
  • Click “J” and select JSTOR. To find book reviews, use the Advanced Search page. Type the title of a book or keyword and Narrow Your Search, Item = Review.

Have you got a favorite way of finding books to read? Use the Comments section to let us know.

Freedom to read (#BannedBooksWeek)

The last week in September is Banned Books Week when publishers, booksellers, librarians, teachers, and readers concerned with the freedom to express ideas share stories concerning censorship. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), censorship is “the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. ” Banned Books Week is a time for individuals to consider how best to respond to these types of attacks on freedom.

Most banned books of 2020

The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to materials and services in 2020. Of the 273 books challenged last year, the books most often targeted for removal from library shelves, along with the rationale used by communities to restrict their being assigned in schools , include the following:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
    Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

Where to learn more

Join like-minded individuals interested in preserving the freedom to speak, read, and learn at various digital Banned Books Week events sponsored by the Banned Books Week Coalition, PEN America, and libraries around the country.

Reading free ebooks while social distancing

Among other topics, our March 23 blog post, Finally, a Coronavirus-less message from your library! (, featured a how-to for finding eBooks in the NVCC library. There are resources for free ebooks that are not limited to NOVA students. For example, “HathiTrust is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries” that have digitized more than 17 million items, including books that are out of copyright (

The Internet Archive’s ( Open Library ( allows ebooks to be borrowed as one would from a traditional library. Individuals can sign-up for free and then log in to search for the books they might wish to borrow.

One of the earliest sites for free ebooks, Project Gutenberg ( allows users to search for a specific title, browse the catalog, or limit by book category (e.g., classics, children’s books, crime, education, fine arts, geography, history religion, science, social sciences). In addition to English, there are bookshelves for books in German, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

Several sources exist for downloading PDFs of “the classics, ” including ManyBooks (, PDFBooksWorld ( and Feedbooks ( – Click “Public Domain” in the top navigation bar.

Two databases are a product of the OAPEN Foundation, a Netherlands-based not-for-profit organization: Directory of Open Access Books and the Open Access Publishing in European Networks
(OAPEN) Library.

• The Directory of Open Access Books ( strives to increase the discoverability of Open Access Books. It includes academic, peer-reviewed books, meaning that it limits its collection to open access publications that meet academic standards.

• The OAPEN Library ( is a collection of freely accessible academic books, primarily in the humanities and social sciences, developed under a 30-month grant, 2008-2010. During the grant period, OAPEN worked with publishers to build a quality-controlled collection of open access books and digitally preserve the content.


Our March 25 blog post, Working from home: wfh (, shared with you the good news that NOVA students have access to textbooks via VitalSource ( Another vendor, Red Shelf (, has negotiated with publishers to open their digital textbooks to college students. Use your NOVA email address to sign-up and you can access up to seven free ebooks, textbooks included, before May 25, 2020.

Your NOVA librarians are compiling a list of good reads. If you’re reading an interesting book, please let us know the title and why you think it’s a good book to recommend to others. We’ll add it to the list and share it in the NOVA community. Simply complete the form below.

National Emergency Library

The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has recently announced the  National Emergency Library, a collection of books that supports emergency remote teaching, research activities, independent scholarship, and intellectual stimulation while universities, schools, training centers, and libraries are closed. Learn more.

Signing up for an Internet Archive account is free and open to the world.  Please visit

Does the National Emergency Library have textbooks? They have older textbooks that have been donated from libraries, but not any recent materials.

If you need a textbook for your course, contact the NOVA Bookstore for information about the VitalSource digital textbook borrowing program.

Banned Books Week 2018

If you haven’t already, stop by and take a look at the Banned Books Week 2018 display in the Loudoun Campus Library, LC 302.

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

The books featured in our display have all been targeted with removal or restricted in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.

Banned Books Week offers an opportunity for readers to voice censorship concerns, celebrate free expression and show their communities the importance of intellectual freedom.

Fight censorship, keep books available in libraries, and promote the freedom to read!

The display was curated  by library staff member Maddie Quick with  commentary provided by students from Professor Shirley Nuhn’s ESL 52 class. 

2016 End of Year Staff Picks!

Howdy y’all,

If you’re like any of the librarians here at Loudoun Campus Library, you’re probably looking for a good book to read while the college shuts down for Winter Break. Well, look no further! Here are some picks from our staff members for you to peruse. Some of the selections were published in 2016, and some were simply read in 2016, but all of them are mighty good reads.

If you’re intrigued, click on the image to be taken to the catalog record in the NOVA Libraries system, where you can place a hold on the book!

Happy Holidays! Happy Winter Break! Take a Load Off! Cheers!

Chrystie Greges, Collection Development Librarian

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

My favorite read this year was Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things. One of the main characters is a brilliant woman who dedicates her life to the study of moss, and she develops a theory of evolution along the way. Amazingly this makes for a beautiful and adventurous page turner. Trust me. It is glorious.


Courtney Hunt, Reference Specialist

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

For fans of the stalwart Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (or just interested parties), this is a must read. Coming out of a blog project paying homage to Ginsburg’s lengthy law record, the two authors of this book gathered personal recollections, photographs, and a solid biographical history of RBG. It is a quick read and immensely interesting. It also offers a good perspective on what it may be like to work with those who don’t necessarily agree with you, as well as sheds light on the operations of the Supreme Court. Recommended reading for sure!


Eliza Selandar, Librarian

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This was a quick, lovely read. It’s a memoir of sorts—written by a neurosurgeon dying of lung cancer who also had advanced degrees in philosophy and literature—as well as a meditation on meaning, life, God, family, time, work. Everyone dies, he muses, but everyone has some life. How much life, we don’t know. Make it mean something.

When Breath Becomes Air

Julie Combs, Emerging Technologies Librarian

Girl in the Dark: A Memoir by Anna Lyndsey

A fascinating memoir about a young women who succumbs to living in darkness after developing a painful and debilitating sensitivity to light.

Girl in the Dark

Marion Karol, Circulation Specialist

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons  by Sam Kean

Through the misfortune of head wounds, strokes, addictions, and other horrendous accidents Sam Kean pulls the reader into a world of medical oddities that have changed the way that we understand the brain. Kean explains how the brain is supposed to work and how it can malfunction, how it is altered after trauma, and how the medical oddities have influenced the scientific discoveries made today. The book is witty, fun, and a fast read that you won’t want to put down.

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery

*All images were taken from the GoodReads website, where you can read more reviews on each of these books.

LGBT History Month and Welcome to Our Blog!

Hello Loudoun Campus Library users! This is the new blog for your library. You can follow us here for longer updates than you might find on social media.

To get us started…this month is LGBT History Month, and today’s post is featuring some books on LGBTQ  artists that you can find right here at your campus library!

LGBT History Month & Robert Mapplethorpe
Loudoun Campus Library celebrates LGBT History Month during October. If you’re interested in this book on the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, click on the image to request it!

LGBT History Month is put on by Equality Forum every year, and if you are interested in learning more about the official month, you can visit their site here.

For us at Loudoun Campus Library, LGBTQ History Month is simply about celebrating the diversity our community! We have put together a display on the 3rd floor of some LGBT artists, musicians and writers and those who have dealt with those themes in their work. Please feel free to come peruse and check one out today!

Here are some of the titles on display…click on the thumbnail to request the item or see more information! The images were found on GoodReads, where you can also go to find numerous reviews of each item.

Image result for annie leibovitz at work
Annie Leibovitz is a photographer best known for her photographs of high profile celebrities and politicians. In this book, she describes the history of her career and some of the events that helped to shape it.
Romaine Brooks was an artist considered part of the Symbolist movement working in France in the early twentieth century. She was famously a lesbian whose arguably most important relationship was to a woman named Natalie Barney. This book chronicles that relationship and the time in which these women lived.
Interested in cinema? This book might be for you! As the title states, this book is a history of gay and lesbian film in America. Some sample chapter titles include “Hollywood and the Sexual Revolution” and “A Matter of Life and Death, AIDS, activism, film and video” among several others.

There are many more from where that came from! Come visit the library to check out the display anytime during October.