My Librarian: Virginia Johnson

My booklists  |  My reviews & blog posts 

I've been interested in history and writing since I was a kid. Thinking of being the next Marion Ravenwood, I earned a degree in anthropology from William & Mary. Upon graduating, I somehow managed to finesse an entry-level job at the Smithsonian, having done summer study at a Roman fort excavation in Warwickshire.

Despite enjoying the chance to stabilize (carefully clean and box) artifacts from Captain Cook's voyages and ornamental Japanese swords and guns, it was clear this job had no career path. It was back to being a local tour guide (Mary Washington, Eliza Kortwright Monroe, and I are well-acquainted) for a bit until the library took me under its wing.

A stretch at the College of Library and Information Science at the University of Maryland taught me many things, including the way of the storyteller and how to do a bang-up job on a pathfinder about King Arthur. Since coming to CRRL, I've migrated from Youth Services to Research to the Web Team, where I do a lot of writing and editing.

I have a tremendous interest in Virginia history, probably as a result of growing up in "America's Most Historic City." I particularly enjoy the odder stories from history, historical novels, magical realism, multigenerational sagas, mysteries, British fantasy and humor (often combined!), psychological horror--or Gothic, if you prefer, and novels set in other cultures.

Drop me a line. I'll find something good for you!

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Recent Booklists

Reviews & Blog Posts

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - 2:02pm
Cover to Spice Dreams

Whether you consider it a melting pot or salad bowl, America’s culinary culture is rich with spices, both savory and sweet. Caraway seeds add piquancy to Jewish rye breads. Paprika, hot or mild, gives Hungarian stews and meats warmth and subtlety. Vanilla, theoretically the blandest of flavors, is intrinsic to many beloved forms of chocolate, cookies, cakes and even tea and coffee.  

Indian spice blends, named curries when made up for Europeans, vary from district to district, from mellow to fiery. In Ethiopia, a berbere spice combination may take a dozen different ingredients—typically including chiles, allspice, cardamom, and fenugreek—to create unforgettable flavor.

If you are interested in exploring new types of cuisine or want to learn more about these ingredients’ place in world history, books about spice can brighten your summer.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 2:55am
Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy

Twenty-five teen girls get to experience the wonder of a week at Camp So-and-So. The brochure says will be horseback riding, archery, boating, crafts, rock climbing, and performing Shakespeare under the stars. It’s all free, courtesy of a very rich philanthropist.

But this year, things have changed. As the only returning camper, Kadie was a little shocked at how much they seem to have changed. Instead of prime rib for the welcome supper, there are gray, greasy hot dogs. Everything seems rundown and kind of wrong. But, some things never change—such as The All-Camp Sport and Follies, where Camp So-and-So’s charity cases take on the rich kids at the posh camp nearby. If only Kadie can get the other dreamy, unfocused, or sarcastic girls in Cabin 1 psyched up for the competition!

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 2:51am
Cover to The Elements: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Periodic Table

DK Publishing and the Smithsonian Institution worked together to create a fascinating book for kids (and adults) who are fascinated by the world around them. The Elements: A Visual Encyclopedia of the Periodic Table makes what could be a dull subject very shiny indeed.

Sure, you have your basic periodic table for quick reference. But every element gets its spotlight, with truly interesting facts and many intriguing photos. Take iridium. It’s a shiny black metal that’s 22 times as dense as water. That’s heavy. You can find it in meteorites, compasses, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

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