All posts by Becky Herrmann

About Becky Herrmann

Becky has been the Library Director since March of 2001. View Becky's complete profile.

Book Discussion -The Splendid Table’s: How to Eat Supper





Cooking and eating fans met this past week for the premiere of our evening and morning sessions of the Bibliobites Cookbook Club. The featured book “The Splendid Table’s How to Cook Supper” by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift was enjoyed by all. The book is both a primer for weekday cooking – providing quick, delicious and nutritious recipes – and a commentary on how we eat, cook and shop these days.  Short essays and foodie tips are interspersed with easy-to-follow recipes, designed to inspire your weekday cooking without taking up a lot of your precious time. Our group members thought that the recipes and variations were interesting and a good jumping off point for creative cooking. Some thought recipes were too basic. Critiques of the book included frustration with the changing font size and colors -”I felt like the book was shouting at me, at times!” and a desire for the “Building the Library” – (additional cookbook suggestions) feature to be compiled at the end of the book.

Recipes that we tried included the Dark and Moist Gingerbread with Apples and Candied Ginger –(yummy – even when one chef forgot the egg), the Little French Fudge Cakes –(like a warm brownie, be careful not to over bake for that fudgy texture) – Pineapple-Ginger Sorbet (quick and delicious) and  Oven-roasted Chicken Cacciatora –  the original and lemon-oregano versions (a snap to put together and very flavorful.)

Our discussions ranged from how our supper menus have changed over time  – to what our favorite comfort foods are – to what we planned to make for supper that night. Members also shared the tips they gleaned from the cookbook and added a few suggestions of their own – these included:

  • Massage your kale to break up the fibrous texture
  • Prosciutto is not cooked but dried.
  • Olive oil doesn’t age like wine so buy it young
  • Small heads of radicchio are not early ones but old heads with the dead leaves peeled off
  • Soak raw onions in ice water for 20-30 minutes before using- they will cause less heartburn
  • To make frozen shrimp more flavorful and less mushy, cook a halved lime in water for 10 min, then add frozen  shrimp and bring to boil, remove from heat, partially cover for 15 minutes – shrimp will taste fresher
  • Instead of the flat of your knife, use a rock to smash garlic
  • Save all of your old parmesan-reggiano cheese rinds – freeze and add to spaghetti sauces and soups for more flavor
  • Salt beans at the end not during cooking otherwise they get mealy
  • It is best to heavily salt your pasta water so it tastes like the ocean  – do not salt after cooking – save a cup of the pasta water to thicken your pasta sauces
  • Brown eggs come from chickens with red earlobes, white eggs come from chickens with white earlobes – (raise your hand if you knew that chicken had earlobes…)
  • Opened tamarind concentrate lasts for a year in the fridge – no need to toss it after a few weeks.
  • Cacciatora is not the name of the chicken dish but the name of the “hunter’s salami” that you use in the recipe.
  • Store yeast and spices in the freezer for longer shelf life

Favorite recipes shared and unusual foods we would like to try:

Bakeries, Restaurants and Markets mentioned: 

Mirabella’s in Tewksbury –

Burton’s Grill –

Tuscan Kitchen in Salem, NH – (also an Italian market) –

Idylwilde Farms –

Global Flavors –

Food and Fashion   –

Sai Baba

Olive Tree Market –

M & H Oriental Food Supermarket, Summer Street, Chelmsford

Also worth exploring: – all things vinegar – specialty spices by jar or bulk – fresh local eggs – Local CSAs

The next meetings are February 27th at 7 PM and February 28th at 11 AM – February’s featured book is The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman – pass the word along to your friends!


Join a Book Group at the Library

Book group meetingDo you enjoy reading and then discussing what you thought of the book with others? Come join one of the library’s book groups!

We have several options for book groups – morning and afternoon sessions at both the main library and at the MacKay branch. Here’s a brief breakdown on each one:

  • Evening Book Group
    Run by Library Director Becky Herrmann, this group meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month, and has been going on for about 7 years. It’s an informal and talkative mix of men and women with ages ranging from mid-thirties to mid-seventies. They read a mix of fiction and non-fiction (with a heavier emphasis on fiction). Check out their list of upcoming books or sign up for email meeting reminders.
  • Morning Book Group
    The Morning group is run by Technical Services Librarian Vickie Turcotte, and meets at 10 a.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. This group is mainly women, primarily elderly folks but still a mix, and they read mainly fiction. Check out their list of upcoming books or sign up for email meeting reminders.
  • History Book Group
    This is a relatively new book group, meeting at 7 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month. It is run by one of our volunteers, and focuses on books that are historical in nature. Check out their list of upcoming books or sign up for email meeting reminders.
  • Mystery Book Group
    This group meets at the MacKay Branch Library at at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month. They have been meeting for about 20 years, and they focus on several authors each month rather than particular books – these are die-hard, mystery fans who have read extensively in the genre. Check out their current authors list.
  • “Novel Conversations” Book Group
    This popular daytime book group meets at the MacKay Branch Library on the first Friday of each month at noon. This group reads fiction with the occasional biography or memoir thrown in. Check out their list of upcoming books.
  • Now… It’s Your Turn
    This is a seasonal readers advisory program (designed with baby boomers in mind but suitable for all adults). Each season, Becky Herrmann and Mayleen Kelley highlight a group of mostly new books, to keep people reading for a few months. Attendees are also welcome to suggest titles. As this group meets sporadically, check our events calendar for dates, and also previous suggestion lists.
  • Readergirlz Teen Book Group
    This is a book group for Teens, led by Tricia Moore, and meets from 4-5:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month. At each meeting participants will complete a craft or activity related to the book. Refreshments will be served. Pick up a copy of this month’s book at the circulation desk.
  • “Cinema Night Out” Film Discussion Group
    A “book group” for movie buffs, led by Teen Services Librarian (and film aficionado) Tricia Moore. The film starts at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, with discussion to follow – and refreshments are provided. Due to our public performance contract, film titles are only announced a few days in advance, but you can check the online listing or sign up for email notification.

All of our groups are open to the public, and all are welcoming new members. Each group meeting will be listed on the library’s events calendar, and many of the groups send email reminders.

If none of these groups quite meet your needs, a variety of other book groups are listed on and LibraryThing Local.

Food and Music are the Keys to Memory

Do I need help? I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and talking about food.

As I ponder the benefits of using Meyer lemons over your basic supermarket brand, I wonder at times what matters of consequence I could be contemplating instead – the pros and cons of health care, the meaning of life or perhaps why the sky is blue. But no, I would prefer to think about food. It is part of my genetic make-up – when planning family get-togethers, the first question any of my sisters asks is, “What can I bring?” (meaning food, of course…).

I think I have been obsessed with meal planning since I made my first dinner from the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook – homemade “Shake and Bake-style chicken, a bunny salad (pears with cottage cheese tails) and molasses crinkles for dessert.

Food stimulates my sense memories – it is how I navigate my history. I even recollect visits from friends by what I served them for dinner – “Ah yes, I remember it well, that was the night of the roasted tomato and goat cheese appetizer.” “No, I think you are wrong – I distinctly recall we had the porcini mushroom risotto.”

Food is my memory trigger. It starts with the recollection of the meal, leads to remembered conversations – a shared laugh and a visual journey down memory lane. Food memories are how I orient myself. I even give directions in the Boston area using restaurants as my compass points – they are just around the corner from Redbones; they live half a block from Dali; you won’t miss their place, they are right next to Rosie’s Bakery.

Music is the other trigger for me – a familiar provocation for most. Rickie Lee Jones’ “Chuck E.’s in Love” sends me to a spring day, hanging out on a dorm roof in my first shorts of the season. “Truckin” by the Grateful Dead brings me to Harvard square on a summer evening, listening to the street musicians. Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of your life)” has me back in an auditorium seat watching the Senior class video as my daughter graduated from high school. And it is not always your favorite songs that elicit the memories – “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas was my senior high class song. I am sure that is what made it pour that day.

There is nothing I like better than to invite friends over, try out a few new recipes and put on some of my favorite music. Here are two cookbooks I have recently admired and a few CD’s that are worth checking out.


The Conscious Cook -Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change Your Life by Tal Ronnen – A vegan cookbook that puts protein at the center of the plate and creates satisfying meals for both meat-lover and vegetarian palates. 75 creative and diverse recipes accompanied by beautiful full-color photographs (and they taste good too!).

Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch – A local girl, self-taught chef Barbara Lynch was raised in the projects of South Boston, where she ate mostly processed foods. She was introduced to cooking by her high school home economics teacher and fell in love with the craft. Since then, she’s opened a cooking school, a cookbook store, a deli, a butcher shop and several award-winning restaurants including No. 9 Park. She has also given us this gorgeous cookbook filled with mouth-watering recipes including a few of her restaurants’ signature dishes.


Theresa Andersson, Hummingbird, Go! – Raised in Sweden and based in New Orleans, Andersson got her start recording quirky harmonies in her kitchen. Influenced by both folk music and Motown, her voice is reminiscent of a contemporary Dusty Springfield.

Big Star, #1 Record and Radio City – With the untimely passing of Alex Chilton, it is time to look back at the pop band, Big Star – a cult-level band that followed Chilton’s stint as the lead singer of the Box Tops. Big Star was said to combine elements of the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks and the Byrds. Bands like R.E.M., the Replacements and Wilco have helped Big Star to gain its mythic stature, citing the band as influential on their music (watch for these two CDs, soon to be in our collection).

XX, The XX – This young Indie quartet from London sings candidly about relationships and makes music that’s simple and raw, but very captivating. I suspect that this is a band to watch.

Neil Young, Sugar Mountain Live at Canterbury House, 1968 – Neil Young was just 22 when he took the stage at the Canterbury House in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was nervous and had to be coaxed from his hotel room. The concert was an intimate performance combining new material and familiar Buffalo Springfield tunes. Forty years had to pass before we could hear this concert in its entirety – but it was worth the wait.

Declutter Your Life

I could use a second laundry basket. I’d also like a maid. But I’ll settle for the second laundry basket for now. The first one is full of the mismatched socks that accumulate every few weeks. I store the basket right beside my drawer of lidless Tupperware and my boxes of photos to be dated and sorted. Librarians sure are organized. We alphabetize our spice racks and we color code our kid’s underwear. You betcha, we sure do.

The sorry truth is we are just as hapless as the rest of the world and librarians could use some help too. Is one of your New Year’s Resolution’s to de-clutter your life? Fortunately the library is a great place to start.

You can Throw out fifty things: clear the clutter, find your life with Gail Blanke. Or you could Eliminate chaos: the 10 step process to organize your home & life with Laura Leist or perhaps you would like to Simplify your space: create order & reduce stress with Marcia Ramsland.

Are you feeling the love yet? No? Ok – try How to cheat at organizing: quick, clutter-clobbering ways to simplify your life by Jeff Bredenberg. Still not doing the trick? Well then – When organizing isn’t enough: shed your stuff, change your life with Julie Morgenstern. It is all a matter of perspective.

As Sarah Susanka, celebrated architect and the author of the best-selling Not so big house says – we need to embrace The not so big life: making room for what really matters. But perhaps you are not yet ready to embrace change? Perhaps you believe that your household chaos is actually harmonious? Or fostering creativity?

If so, then you might want to read Eric Abrahamson’s and Avid Freedman’s book A perfect mess: the hidden benefits of disorder: how crammed closets, cluttered offices, and on–the-fly planning make the world a better place. But beware – if we are not careful, Leslie Caine tells us in her mystery novel, we could be Killed by clutter and that would be a real crime.

Books for Parents of Teenagers

When I couldn’t see the apple on the picnic table, I knew I was in trouble. I was twelve. It was the school-wide eye exams. The tests involved looking through a device somewhat like the old Kenner toy projectors – the ones with the removable slides. As you gazed, the nurse would ask, “Is the apple on the picnic table or is it off? On, off, I could barely see the apple – never mind its placement. Four Eyes – I thought dispiritedly, they are going to call me Four Eyes. I needed glasses and I was not looking forward to it.

Some of us remember when Jan Brady got her glasses. Marcia may have had to wear the braces, but she still got Davy Jones and her date for the dance turned out to have braces too — it was Jan who we really worried about. The path from clear-eyed to bespectacled can be rough. Adolescence can be a road filled with bumps where self-image is a sensitive issue.

Navigating your child’s course through these years can be challenging. Many parents have turned to books like Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, and Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michal Thompson. These two books came out in the 90’s but are still relevant and helpful today. Another updated and popular title is How to Talk so Teens Will Listen – and Listen so Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber – its original version was directed at younger kids and came out in the eighties.

If you are mystified as to why your child went from being a chatterbox to responding in monosyllables, then Not Much, Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers by Linda Perlstein might give some insight. And if you want to hear what kids really think – in their own words – try Real Boys’ Voices by William S. Pollack or Ophelia Speaks by Sara Shandler. Both feature the unfiltered voices of adolescents talking about their struggles and passions.

Books to hand to your teens directly include Am I Weird or Is This Normal? – a girl’s 411 on what happens to your body, feelings and relationships during adolescence by Marlin S. Potash or The Teenage Guy’s Survival Guide by Jeremy Daldry – a humorous but practical guide on everything from shaving to peer pressure and why girls make guys crazy.

For fictional titles that deal with self-esteem and self-image in these formative years, some oldies but goodies include One Fat Summer by Robert Lipsyte and The Goats by Brock Cole. More recent titles include: What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones, Just Listen by Sarah Dessen and Peter Cameron’s Someday this Pain Will be Useful to You. These titles and others are all available at the Chelmsford Public Library. Check out our website at for a complete list.

Dig In At The Library!

Chelmsford Library Educational GardenLast night my daughter shared a list that she wrote when she was five. (She is closing in on 13 now…) It was a list of the things she loved best about her mother. She loved that her mom gave her lots of hugs and kisses. She loved that her mom made her good dinners. She loved that her mom laughed at the movies with her. Ok, I said to myself; that all sounds positive – She thinks that I’m a pretty good mother!

But number one on her list was that she loved that her mom had a green thumb. I read it again. A green thumb – not a black one. “Iris” – I said, “Are you sure this is your handwriting? Do you still think I have a green thumb?” She began to laugh -“Um, no Mom, you kill the hanging plants on the porch every year.” “Then why did you say it when you were five?” “Oh,” she said, “I’m sure all the other kids were saying it about their moms and it sounded good at the time…”

Hmmph. While it may be true that plastic plants have a better chance of surviving under my not so watchful watering eye – it is not that I don’t appreciate the art of growing beautiful plants. And as an enthusiastic cook, I especially appreciate the art of growing edible plants. I just don’t happen to have a talent for growing things.

But fortunately at the library we have a group of people who do have that talent. On a recent Saturday, the Country Lane Garden Club, along with family and friends, gathered to dedicate the Heritage Garden in front of the Adams section of the library building.

You may have noticed it… it is the beautiful garden that embraces our flag pole (see photos of the Garden). We think of it as our circle of generosity. The garden was first started with seed money from the Country Lane Garden Club and the Friends of the Chelmsford Public Library. The Friends also donated the big granite sign. The flagpole was donated by the Rotary Club of Chelmsford and the granite benches encircling the garden were donated by friends and family in memory of Steve Maloney, our library trustee who passed away in 2006. Our thanks to all who gave to make the Heritage Garden possible!

This organic garden was designed by Chelmsford resident Sue Spicer, a landscape design specialist and it is lovingly taken care of by the Country Lane Garden Club. It features native New England plants that were growing at the time the Adams Library was built in 1894. While it is a 19th century-style garden, it combines historic character with an eye to the contemporary advantages of sustainability. Plants were chosen that were low maintenance and the old-fashioned method used to plant the garden – preserving the sod and building a new garden’s soil up in soil layers – is especially beneficial to the environment.

I invite you to drop by, pick out a book, and go read it on one of the benches outside while you breathe in the scent of thyme and chives. Perhaps these culinary herbs will entice you to read something like Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs, a humorous novel about a celebrity chef turning fifty and not loving it. Or the serenity of the spot might inspire you to pick up a copy of Stanley Kunitz’s The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden or The Gardens of Emily Dickinson by Judith Farr. You could also puzzle your way through a gardening mystery – check out titles by Janis Harrison and Ann Ripley.

The beautifully layered composition of the garden might inspire you to dig a few holes and put in a few plants yourself. (On your own land, not the library’s…) You might want to check out one of the recent gardening books we added in honor of the garden. Try Lasagna Gardening with Herbs : Enjoy Fresh flavor, Fragrance, and Beauty with No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! by Patricia Lanz or Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation by Leopold Donald Joseph. For a list of these and other garden-inspired titles, check out our website at Happy reading and sowing!

Learning How to Grow Old Gracefully can Happen at the Library

I wore a trendy little jumper to work the other day with a jaunty black cap and a co-worker complimented me on my outfit, saying I looked “cute.”

I asked my 12 year old daughter – “So, what do you think, can someone approaching 50 still look cute?” Her response? “Sure, Mom, I think old people are cute.”

Aargh, between the hot flashes and the AARP mailings (awfully premature, if you ask me, I am NOT quite 50 yet…) – I have enough reminders of my approaching senility. I don’t need my almost-teenager chiming in… Besides – age (as they say) is “a state of mind” – and the state of my mind is decidedly young.

So if you are feeling a little creaky in your joints or you find yourself enjoying a nap on the couch more than a night out on the town or if you are constantly misplacing your keys – don’t blame it on getting old! Stop fretting and Get a Hobby – Tina Barseghian’s information packed guide gives you 101 different hobbies to explore. It has everything from beachcombing to needlework to growing bonsai.

You Can Do It! – The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-up Girls by Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas will also get you up off the couch. Whether it is running a marathon, trekking to Nepal or learning to sing on stage, this book celebrates your dreams and tells you it is never too late to start! It is all up to you. You, Staying Young: The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty is just the ticket for fighting the effects of aging. It includes a 14 day plan to help you stay young, along with information about the biological factors in growing old.

If you are still worried about crow’s feet and flabby arms, join the club. We all say I Feel Bad about My Neck along with the comic author Nora Ephron and many of us ask Martha Weinman Lear’s eternal question Where Did I Leave My Glasses? Lear’s aptly-titled book about the what, when, and why of normal memory loss reassures us that a certain amount of forgetfulness in middle-aged folks and the young elderly is normal. It is not necessarily a harbinger of Alzheimer’s. We should also take our cue from the likes of Ben Bradlee, Lena Horne and Carl Reiner, octogenarians who say they have never felt so young. They are featured in 80: Eighty Famous People in Their Eighties Talk about How They Got There and Live There by Gerald Gardner and Jim Bellows.

As we grow older, many of us find that we are becoming Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist argues that human behavior is often anything but rational – that thoughts are not random, but instead are systematic and predictable. Or perhaps you find yourself thinking that your life is Not Quite What I Was Planning? This newly-published illustrated collection of six-word memoirs is alternately humorous, sad, and strange. It includes authors Jonathan Lethem and Richard Ford and comedians Steven Colbert and Amy Sedaris.

Ultimately though it is important to heed the advice of Nobel Prize winner James D. Watson and Avoid Boring People. Watson’s lessons from a life in science include an account of his early work in discovering the structure of DNA along with secrets he has found to getting along in the world. It is a witty and instructive memoir. You can embrace Watson’s teachings and Keep Your Brain Alive with Larry Katz and Manning Rubin’s 83 neurobics exercises designed to increase mental fitness. Start thinking hard today!

But if today is one of the days that you have a brain cramp and you still haven’t found your keys or your missing glasses – have someone drop you by the library and enjoy some of our programs. Upcoming events include a program on financial fitness, lunch box seminars, a poetry slam, a salon-style discussion group and an art reception. Join us! For more information, check out the website at

aging, book, books, growing, older

Summer Books for Eating, Thinking and Loving

Betty or Veronica? Ginger or Mary Ann? These are the burning philosophical questions I chose to ask my husband on a recent vacation. Not Does God exist?, Are we really free?, or Do you believe in life after death? My queries are a little more basic than that. And apparently I am not alone.

I have been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” – a perfect summer book that is part travelogue, part memoir, part philosophy but mostly pure fun. This tale of one woman’s journey from Italy to India to Indonesia on a post-divorce self-help spree is told in an original voice and filled with self-deprecating humor and sensual memories of places, friends and sumptuous meals. But it is also a book that points out that no matter our situation – and no matter how smart we think we are – we are still mostly navel-watching. (Spoiler Alert: If you don’t click with Gilbert’s voice or sense of humor, the self-absorption in this book can be a little tiresome…)

But one truth that seems to bear out is that the only endlessly fascinating subject for most mere mortals is our love lives. Gilbert relates an example where a psychologist friend has been asked to counsel Cambodian boat refugees who have lived through war, strife and famine. When they sat down with the counselor to discuss their problems, guess what the majority wanted to talk about? Love triangles in the refugee camps! I believe it…

Taking a cue from Elizabeth Gilbert, summer is a great time to eat well, contemplate the meaning of life and fall in love. Here are a few books to recommend for each of those activities.

For eating, read: “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver for a look at how one family existed for a year on only home-grown and locally grown food. Enjoy “Julie and Julia” by blogger Julie Powell who for one year resolves to cook her way through 524 recipes in Julia Child’s tome “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” but not in a professional kitchen – in one tiny New York apartment. And don’t miss two light-hearted looks at food, Italy and love in “The Food of Love” by Anthony Capella and “Last Bite” by Nancy Verde Barr.

For contemplating the meaning of life, read: “Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith” by Anne Lamott, “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time” by Greg Mortenson , “The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew: Three Women Search for Understanding” by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner and “Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery” by Karen Armstrong. You might also want to listen to the National Public Radio feature “This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman – available both as a book and on CD. And lastly, if you think fiction will facilitate contemplation the best, try the Pulitzer-prize winning “Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson, in which a Reverend in failing health writes a letter to his 7 year-old son meditating on fathers and children, on faith and on the flawed nature of man.

And if love is your subject (and you don’t insist on happy endings…) choose classics such as “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte or “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. Historical fiction with a love theme could include: “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier, “March” by Geraldine Brooks and “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden. More contemporary love stories include “Little Children” by Tom Perrotta,, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger, “History of Love” by Nicole Krauss and “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen. Happy summer reading!

There’s a book club for everyone

One Book Chelmsford LogoOnce upon a time a book group sat in a semi-circle surrounding a fireplace. The book group leader inquired, “Well, what did you think of the book?” “I liked it,” said one gentleman. “I liked it too,” said the woman beside him. “What did you like about it?” the leader asked. “I liked the plot and the characters and the ending.” “I did too,” said another book group member.

And they all agreed that they liked the book. The End.

Not a very exciting story is it? But that is what a book group often can be like if everyone agrees. A good discussion needs strong opinions and the occasional disagreement. So, are you contrary, irascible, stubborn? Will your epitaph say, “I may not have always been right, but I was never wrong?” A book group may be just the niche you have been looking for.

As folks have been reading Richard Russo’s Empire Falls – the community reading book chosen by Chelmsford voters last fall – they have been voicing their opinions.

And those opinions have been varied.

“I don’t like the ending.” “I thought it was hilarious.” “I didn’t think it was funny at all.” “I felt hope at the end.” “I thought the whole book was sad.” “I loved the characters; they felt just like people I know.” “I don’t know anyone like the people in that book.” “I don’t get why this book won the Pulitzer Prize.” “I can see why this book won the Pulitzer, the writing is great.”

One of the hallmarks of a book worth reading is the reactions it gets from its readers. And those reactions do not all have to be positive. A few Chelmsford residents erroneously believe that they should not come to a book discussion if they didn’t love the book. Don’t make that mistake! And if you love the book, as so many do, we need you to come tell us why! We need to hear your thoughts. And our discussions promise to be lively and interesting if there is some controversy.

Book discussions will begin in April. They will be held at both the center library and at MacKay, the Senior Center, Chelmsford High School, the Town Offices, restaurants, coffee houses, and churches and at senior citizen housing. Click on the One Book logo at for more information or drop by the library and pick up a book discussion schedule.

If you haven’t started reading Empire Falls yet, what are you waiting for? Books are available around town and in the library. Come and get your copy now!

One Book Chelmsford kicks off with “Tastings”

Lose weight. Stop smoking. Start exercising. — New Year’s resolutions –we all have them. This year, add one more resolution to your list -to read more. Not sure where to begin? The staff at the Chelmsford Public Library suggests that you pick up a copy of Richard Russo’s novel Empire Falls, the title chosen by Chelmsford residents for our first “One Book Chelmsford” community-wide reading program. Empire Falls is a tender and sometimes comic novel filled with colorful characters.

Richard Russo, a Maine resident, is familiar with the rhythms of a small New England town and he combines humor with empathy for his characters and their shortcomings. Empire Falls is an old mill town and its people struggle to deal with the realities and restrictions of living in a town abandoned by the logging and textile industries. Our town will have a chance to get to know the town of Empire Falls intimately as we all read this Pulitzer-prize winning novel together.

As many of you may have read, the town of Chelmsford received a $7500 federal grant to initiate a program that will bring the community together through the reading and discussion of a common book — in this case, Empire Falls. The Massachusetts version of the “One Book” program is titled “On the Same Page” and is part of a federal LSTA grant program that is administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The Chelmsford Public Library was one of seven libraries in the state chosen to receive the community reading grant. We will use the money to purchase multiple copies of Empire Falls in various formats – large print, recorded book, and on film. We will also use the funds to hire speakers and offer programs over the coming year.

In addition to traditional reading discussion programs, “One Book Chelmsford” will include a number of library programs to complement Richard Russo’s book. These will include a lecture on mill towns, a coffeehouse featuring folksingers who sing of blue collar life and mill towns, a river conservation program, and a community pot-luck featuring Down East Maine humor.

As a kick-off event, we will host an event specifically to pique interest in reading. Are you stuck in a reading rut? Do you find yourself reaching for the same author or genre each time you choose a book? Branching out in your reading taste would be a good New Year’s resolution but sometimes finding the right book can feel daunting. Our first community reading event will help with that dilemma. It will be called “Tastings” and will be held on February 2nd as the kick-off to Winterfest.

“Tastings” will have a little something for everyone — a community social with samplings of books, food, wine, beers, coffee etc. We will set up stations pairing books with beverages and finger foods. For instance, we might have Carlos Ruiz Zabon’s book Shadow of the Wind (set in Barcelona) with tapas, sangria and flan — we might have mulled cider and doughnuts with John Irving’s Cider House Rules or a chocolate station paired with Chocolat, Like Water for Chocolate or Death by Chocolate.

In addition to sampling stations, we will have book talks throughout the evening in the Adams part of the library by the fireplace. Lesley Vasilio from Random House — the publisher of Empire Falls — will be on hand to talk about titles that are new and upcoming. Library staff will be giving suggestions and I have even pressed my husband Michael Herrmann, owner of an independent bookstore and host of a book-related radio show into service. We will all be sharing some of our favorite titles and novels that are especially good for discussion.

We are still gathering ideas for book/wine/food pairings and would love community suggestions. We are also interested in hearing from folks who have been part of a reading group and might want to man a tasting station for a part of the evening. Send me an e-mail at if you are interested. In the meantime, keep checking our web page at and watch for flyers with more details of the upcoming events. Happy reading and Bon Appetit!