All posts by Jessica FitzHanso

Special Friends of the Library Book Sale, 12/1-12/10!

Find the perfect gift for the holidays, thanks to the Friends of the Library!

Across from the Main Desk, we’ll have a table full of like-new items, perfect for that special someone on your list. Each item will be individually priced and supplies may be limited! In addition, the usual sale carts with hardcovers, paperbacks, DVDs, and CDs will also be fully stocked! The sale starts today and continues through December 10.

It is with the fundraising efforts of the Chelmsford Friends of the Library that we are able to fund collections and programs, including our Annual one Book Chelmsford Celebration. Please consider supporting the Friends by shopping at the sale this year. To learn more about the Friends activities, and how to join, visit or find the Friends on Facebook!

Help us plan for future library programs!

Take our brief survey to help us plan for in-person, hybrid, and virtual programs. We would like your thoughts, even if you have not attended a virtual event in the past year and a half. Your responses are anonymous, and will be immensely helpful as we move forward.

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While You Are Waiting for… STATE OF TERROR

It’s finally here, the latest blockbuster pairing of an author and a political figure. The hotly anticipated new book, State of Terror, pairs Louise Penny and Hillary Clinton for a breakneck, plot-driven, political thrill-ride that is sure to have you turning pages deep into the night. Secretary of State Ellen Adams and her childhood best friend Betsy Jameson are in a race against time to stop a cabal of terrorists from turning the US into a satellite state of Russia. It’s a political thriller penned by women, starring women, but likely anyone that picks it up is sure to be captivated.

So, as there are currently over 200 holds on this book, you’re going to need something to read while you wait for your turn. Here are a few I can recommend:

American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson: Like Penny and Clinton’s decision to place two highly professional and intelligent women in opposition to a world of corrupt and egotistical men, so too does Lauren Wilkinson challenge the genre by writing a woman of color, and a mother, into the role of international spy during the Cold War in the 1980s. The narrative is told in the form of a letter from our spy, Marie Mitchell, to her sons, revealing her activities as a CIA operative employed to develop relations with a charismatic, intensely popular Marxist president of Burkina Faso, a country that sits in opposition to US interests. Marie learns to negotiate her world in a way that only she can, all the while keeping in mind the contradictions and the nuances of being an African-American female spy for the US against an African Country fighting against western dominance. It’s a refreshing take on a traditional genre. For another great cold war spy thriller featuring a compelling female protagonist, try Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews.

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams: Want more fiction from a political superstar? Stacey Abrams’ recent thriller centers on the dealings in the Highest Court in the Land. Avery Keene’s boss, the infamous Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn, has fallen into a coma, at the very same time he is expected to rule on a highly controversial case for which he would be the swing vote. Avery must go on a chase to uncover  corruption, a path that leads through very powerful corridors. Will Avery unravel the conspiracy in time? For a first effort at a legal/ political thriller from a very busy woman, this is a very entertaining read.

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete unless we did include a classic entry in the political thriller genre. Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series, beginning with American Assassin from 2010, casts his CIA assassin against all sorts of political nemeses and terrorists, foreign and domestic. Rapp often has to be “creative” in his thinking and actions, and work around common protocols to get the job done. Other notable political thrillers include Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath series, Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series and Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller novels.


Vote Now for One Book 2022!

Each year, the Chelmsford Library selects One Book that brings the Town together through reading, discussion, and programming.  For 2022, we’re asking for you to help us decide what to read! We have picked four books that have been popular, are well-written, tell great stories and lend themselves well to issue-oriented discussion and programming.

Read through the descriptions of the four here, and then cast your vote anytime through the month of October, either in the library or online, to help us decide!

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born. That history, whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam, serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but under-girded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

Why read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous?: Winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction and nominated for the National Book Award, this is a novel about self-discovery and the redemptive power of storytelling.

There, There, by Tommy Orange
A novel that grapples with the complex history of Native Americans, with an inheritance of profound spirituality, but also of addiction, abuse and suicide, follows 12 characters, each of whom has private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. As we learn the reasons that each person is attending—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—momentum builds toward a shocking yet inevitable conclusion that changes everything. Jacquie Red Feather is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind in shame. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle’s memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will perform in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss.

Why read There There? : A finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize, this is a rich novel that highlights a complex and painful part of American history – one we all should know.

Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Why read Kindred?:In this classic of American science fiction, Butler, a multiple recipient of the Hugo and Nebula awards grapples with the legacy of slavery and the struggle to reckon with generations of trauma.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy
Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny’s history begins to unspool—a passionate love affair, an absent family, a devastating crime—it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. When Franny’s dark secrets catch up with her, how much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption?

Why read Migrations?:  An excellent addition to the “eco-lit” genre, this novel is an ode to a vanishing world, but still ultimately hopeful and beautiful.

While You Are Waiting… A Slow Fire Burning, by Paula Hawkins

A Slow Fire Burning is the latest tale of psychological suspense from the author of the blockbuster bestseller Girl on the Train. A young man, Daniel Sutherland, has been gruesomely murdered, and it turns out there are a number of people that could have wished him dead. Daniel is the twenty-something year old son of Angela, who died under mysterious circumstances a few years before, and through the inner testimonies of the other characters, we come to see that Daniel was extremely troubled, and had a mostly negative impact on each suspect. Also weaving through the narrative is a novel within a novel, a suspense tale penned by one of the suspects, Theo Meyerson, a novel that may have been plagiarized from the very real, unpublished memoir of another suspect, Miriam. Moving in and out of the main plot is Laura, a challenged young woman, who, besides ending up as the chief suspect in the murder, has her own tragic backstory.  With so much packed into this intricate plot, it’s no wonder there are over 200 holds!

So, put yourself in the queue if you haven’t already, and while you’re waiting for your turn, try one of these similar titles, sitting on our shelves right now:

The Girl Before, by JP Delaney: In The Girl Before, a young woman named Emma moves into a strikingly-designed, architectural masterpiece of a house. As much as she loves the house and the comfort it brings her, she must adhere to the increasingly restrictive, borderline oppressive rules of the house’s architect. When Emma dies suddenly and mysteriously, the house welcomes a new tenant, Jane, who unknowingly follows the same horrific path as her predecessor. Like A Slow Fire Burning, the plot unfolds through the alternating perspectives of the characters, twisting and turning around the central mystery that readers won’t see coming. For another great thriller where elegant living arrangements come at a twisted, possibly deadly cost, try Peter Swanson’s Her Every Fear.

The Furies, by Natalie Haynes: A combination of past trauma and the claustrophobic atmosphere of a high school in Edinburgh, Scotland causes one drama teacher to descend slowly into madness. This novel is an excellent example of the unreliable narrator which features prominently among the characters of Hawkins’s novels. In the midst of the cold, dark Scottish winter, Alex, the teacher, begins to suspect that her students, a group of troubled teens, are playing a dangerous game with her, but is it really just all in her head? For more Campus lit, thrilling and otherwise, check out the current display in the library, or our recommendations, here.


Disclaimer, by Renee Knight: As with A Slow Fire Burning, Disclaimer has a book within a book, ostensibly of the fictive variety, except to one character for whom the mysterious book tells a story that hits way too close to home. Documentarian Catherine Ravenscroft discovers the novel on her nightstand, though she has no recollection of how it got there. Even more mysterious, the novel seems to be telling her story, an accounting of a secret from her past that if revealed would certainly spell the end of her seemingly perfect life. For another great twisting psychological thriller that uses the book within a book motif, put yourself on hold for The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz.




While You Are Waiting for… Malibu Rising

This Summer’s blockbuster book is Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and if it proves to be as entertaining as her previous novels, it should be worth the hold-queue wait. The novel begins by introducing us to the adult Riva children, in the early 1980s, getting ready for a massive bash at their Malibu mansion. By this point, all of the children are pretty successful, and all of their success comes through their connections to Malibu’s surf culture, even though they are also the children of mega rock star Mick Riva. The story flashes back to the mid-50s, when Mick meets June, their mother, in the days before his career really took off. Mick and June’s romance is all encompassing and they quickly marry and have the first two children. Mick then abandons the family for another woman, though not before landing June with the other woman’s child. June breaks down, becomes overly dependent on alcohol, and the children are left to more or less raise themselves. Nina, a beauty, becomes a model in order to support the family and raise the younger children, and her success means the younger children are able to thrive despite the abandonment. There are many other secrets and joys along the way, leading up to the novels main focus, the day of the party. The ensuing evening of celebrity and party madness will result in the total destruction of the mansion by fire (this is not a spoiler, by the way, but to reveal the cause would be). The main plot covers just a 24-hour period, and the book is atmospheric and propulsive, and lots of fun to read.

While your waiting for your copy, here are some other favorites you might enjoy:

The first of these is Daisy Jones and the Six, Reid’s novel from a couple of years ago and another book loaded with cultural touchstones. Told in the form of a behind-the-scenes documentary, Reid collects the stories of the members of a fictional 1970s rock band. The members all have their struggles and resentments, particularly the two main figures of the band, Daisy and Billy, whose fire-and-ice romance has a heavy influence on the band’s success, as well as it’s ultimate dissolution. The book is full of the atmosphere of LA in the 1970s, and I couldn’t put it down. If you’ve already read that one, you might also try The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, by Dawnie Walton. Watch a review of that one here, in the second part of this Book Spots episode:

The next book I would suggest checking out, if you’re looking for another in which a family must contend with the fallout of a truly bad father, is All This Could Be Yours, by Jami Attenberg. The domineering patriarch of the Tuchman family has succumbed to a heart attack, and the rest of his family, his two children and long-suffering wife, are called to his bedside in his final hours. The daughter arrives, but the son, Gary, remains at a distance and instead his wife attends. Over the course of the brief but intensely sharp narrative, we learn the long held family secrets the members won’t reveal to each other, no matter how fervently they are urged. What drove the mother to stay with her abusive, criminal husband, even though he was making life so unbearable for his children? What brings Alex, the older daughter, back to the heat of New Orleans to be by his side, even though the wounds from her youth are still open? Even Gary’s wife, Twyla, seemingly innocuous, has secrets to be revealed. Jami Attenberg writes with poignant humor and treats her characters with grace amidst the pain. You might also try The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

If you’d prefer your family saga beach-side, try Elin Hildebrand’s recent Summer of ’69. Set in the year of the title, on the island of Nantucket, the Foley-Levins are gathered at their home, All’s Well. Each member of the family has their own issues to contend with. The eldest daughter is pregnant with twins and suffers under the depressive tendencies of her astrophysicist husband; Tiger, the only son, has been recently drafted to the War; and youngest sister Kirby, was recently arrested for protesting the war and is currently fleeing disapproval for an interracial relationship. Hildebrand weaves in many familiar markers of the tumultuous period, creating a portrait at once personal and culturally resonant. If you’d like to throw a little glamour into the mix, you could also try High Season by Judy Blundell.

Need even more suggestions? Check out our new library displays, our Reading Room Page, or join us for our next Book Brunch virtual book share!

While You Are Waiting…The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett

Though it’s been almost a year since it was published, Brit Bennett’s poignant exploration of race and identity across the generations of one family remains highly sought after from the library. And its popularity is likely to continue, as there are rumors of an HBO series based on the book, to be produced by Issa Rae’s production company Hoorae.

The Vanishing Half begins with the story of twin sisters, Stella and Desiree, growing up in a small southern black community with a peculiar racial history: the founders of the community favored African Americans with lighter complexions over darker and married to preserve the lightness of their bloodlines. The girls are inseparable as children, but when Stella finds that her light-skin causes her to be mistaken for white, she chooses to deny her roots, run away, and live a life in California as a white woman. Desiree, meanwhile, marries a black man from DC, who turns out to be very abusive, and she ultimately returns to her small hometown with a daughter that is looked down upon by the community for her darker complexion.

The story then picks up about twenty years later, when Desiree’s daughter and Stella’s daughter accidentally stumble into each others lives, and begin to learn the truth of Stella’s deception.

So, while you are waiting for your copy of The Vanishing Half, here are some other recent discussion-worthy titles about communities grappling with issues of class, race, and identity you might want to consider.

What’s Mine and Yours by Naimi Coster: What’s Mine and Yours also contains a story of “passing”. One of the mothers, who is white, hopes to help her half-Colombian daughters pass as white, and even instigates conflict in the community over a school integration plan. The other mother, African American, on the other side of the conflict, does what she can to raise her intelligent but recalcitrant son in the wake of her partner’s murder. The children will make every attempt to reject the truth of their pasts, but the bonds of family are stronger than they seem.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: The community of Shaker Heights thinks they’re doing just fine preserving their suburban charm and raising their children in privilege. That is until Mia and her daughter Pearl move in. Mia is intensely free-spirited and bucks against the rigidness of the community, which sends suburban queen Elena Richardson on a quest to uncover Mia’s closely guarded past. Will either of the two strong-willed women bend before disaster occurs?

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: For newlyweds Celestial and Roy, the future couldn’t be brighter. They live a happy life, enjoy their careers, and have warm family and friends. That is, until Roy is falsely accused of assault and arrested. Faced with this level of atrocity, both Roy and Celestial each become people they never thought they would be: mean, jealous, selfish. They are forced to reckon with the idea that they will never erase this moment and return to the life that was once promised to them.


Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane: In Ask Again Yes, the younger generation tries everything in their power to eliminate the tragic events that occurred between their parents in a suburban New Jersey town. The story incorporates the difficulties of family loyalty and the too common denial of mental illness.


Read This Next: Quick Reading Request Form

We know it can be hard for some people to be limited in the amount of time they have to browse the shelves and read new books in the library. But did you know that we have a quick online form that you can fill out to receive a list of new reading suggestions from real librarians at the library? The lists we send you will be full of books we’ve enjoyed that might appeal to you, based on your answers to a few simple questions. If you’d like to try the service, visit our Bookwise page and click on the link for the virtual request form.

Here are a few examples of books we’ve recommended so far:

Person one:

  • Category: New novel/ Bestseller, Fantasy, Upbeat/ Romance



Person two:



Person 3:

  • Category: New novel/ Bestseller, Historical fiction
  • Additional info: I’ve loved the fast reads, also short story collections. I love fiction that helps me realize some one else’s plight – makes it real for me.



Person 4:

  • Category: New novel/ Bestseller, Mystery/Thriller, Historical fiction
  • Additional info: I like all kinds of mystery and thrillers, so I am always looking for something new to try; I also like historical mysteries or fiction (or both!)




See? It’s just that easy – give our form a try next time you’re online!

Read This Next: Read with Our Book Groups!

If you’re a reader, you’ve probably been reading a lot lately, and perhaps this has depleted your TBR pile more quickly than past years. While we’re always ready to provide you with recommendations for new books, you might consider trying one of our book groups for an opportunity to read and share books you might not otherwise consider. While we’re not meeting in person, these groups have been very active virtually, connecting and sharing great books with each other while we’re all staying home. All of our groups are welcoming new members. Books for all the groups are available at the library’s Main Desk.

Read on to see just how many different reading experiences our groups accommodate. I have no doubt one will appeal to you.

Novel Conversations: Our Novel Conversations Group reads a variety of genres and subjects, and has well-informed and interesting conversations about their chosen titles. They typically meet on the first Friday of the month at 12:30 PM. Novel Conversations is meeting next to discuss Educated by Tara Westover on March 5, 2021 at 12:30PM.


Evening Book Group: The Evening Group challenges members to think beyond the standard discussion points by exploring diverse themes and subjects. The Evening Group meets on the first Monday of each month at 7PM. In March, they will be meeting to read The Engineers Wife, by Tracy Enerson Wood.

Knit-Lit Book Discussion Group: Are you a crafter as well as a reader? Then Knit Lit is the group for you! The members meet to discuss the chosen book and also to share the different projects they are working on. Knitters, crocheters, sewers, felters and anyone else engaged in crafting by hand are welcome. Knit-Lit meets on the second Friday of each month at 10:30AM. In March, they will be meeting to read The Oysterville Sewing Circle, by Susan Wiggs.

SoJust Discussion Group: Join one of our newest book groups to become more engaged and aware of the critical issues of social justice impacting our communities today. This group reads a chosen title and then meets to discuss the book and steps we can all take to help. The Social Justice Book Group meets every third Tuesday of each month at 7PM. In March, they will be meeting to discuss Evicted, by Matthew Desmond.

Wednesday Morning Book Group: Grab another cup of coffee and join this lively group on Zoom to discuss books from a variety of genres and subjects. The Wednesday Morning Book Group meets every third Wednesday of each month at 10:00 AM. In March, the group will be meeting to discuss The Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman


MacKay Mystery group: Calling all armchair sleuths! This long-standing group meets to discuss mysteries of all sorts, from cozies to noir; thrillers to chillers, the members meet to evaluate style, characters, setting, and of course, the solution. The Mystery Group meets every fourth Wednesday of the month at 2PM. In March, they’ll be meeting to discuss Bad Axe County by John Galligan.

History Book Group: If you love dissecting past events and discussing with deeply knowledgeable contemporaries, then the History book group is the group for you. The History group meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7PM. In March, the group will be reading The Race Underground, by Doug Most.


Bibliobites: Foodies rejoice – here’s a book club just for you! Bibliobites is our cookbook book club. Each month, members take home a cookbook, try out the recipes and then report on their experiences at the meeting. Bibliobites typically meets on the fourth Friday of the month at 10:30AM.  Check the calendar in March to see which book they’ll be testing next!


The Classics Book Group: If you have been wanting to read (or re-read) the classics and don’t have time for another Zoom on your calendar, then this book group might be the one you have been waiting for!  The discussion is online (through Goodreads), where you can post your thoughts and read what others in the group have to say, all on your own schedule.  The group is currently discussing Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.