All posts by Jessica FitzHanso

Start your New Year off right at the Chelmsford Library!

Coming up in January, we have a whole host of new programs aimed at getting your 2018 resolutions off to a winning start! Are you planning a new diet? Hoping to finally make headway in your cleaning and organizing? Looking for some practical tips to remove stress and find peace in your life? Join us for a great line-up of programs at the library this month! All of these programs are free and open to the public:

Healthy Body, Healthy Planet: Want to improve your eating habits to help prevent heart disease and diabetes, help manage your weight AND benefit the environment, all at the same time? Certified Plant-based chef Tracie Hines will join us at 2PM on Sunday, January 7 to instruct attendees on the basics and benefits of plant-based nutrition. She’ll also handout recipes to try at home and have a better chance of success!

The Importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle: On Wednesday evening at 7PM January 17, join Dr. Renee Barille, registered dietitian and nutrition professor from the UML College of Health Sciences for a presentation sharing tips and tricks that will help you to begin and continue a healthier lifestyle this year, and make your resolutions a reality! This program brought to as part of the Chelmsford Board of Health’s Wednesday Wellness Series.

Friday Fiction, Best of the Year Edition:  Are you joining a New Year’s reading challenge or just planning to spend more time reading this year? Join us for Friday Fiction on January 19 at 10:30AM! We’ll highlight some of 2017s best reads and also suggest some new and upcoming titles to build your 2018 TBR list!

Mindfulness and meditation workshops: Be mindful with us this year! Learn to remove stress, meditate, be more present and improve overall health and wellness in a dramatic way with these two workshops. Attend both and achieve a greater chance of success!

Career Workshops: Thinking about changing, or starting, and new career path this year? Come to a new series of career workshops, beginning January 23, from 6:30-8 PM.  Chelmsford Public Library is hosting this series put on by the Lowell Career Center. If you’re a job seeker, these workshops are meant to help you get the edge you need to complete in your job search. January’s workshop will focus on LinkedIn and the steps needed to have a successful LinkedIn campaign.

Clutter Control 101 with Dave Downs: Tackle that clutter and get all of that “stuff” under control once and for all in 2018 using the tips from this engaging and informative program presented by humorist Dave Downs! Guaranteed to leave you with new ideas, methods and hints to reverse the tendency to bury yourself in treasures!

Let the Chelmsford Library help you reach your goals in 2018!

Friday Fiction – Holiday Book-Buying edition!

Here we are in the thick of another holiday season trying to figure out which books are going to be favorites for the people on our list. Well, scratch the task of matching books to readers off your to-do list! We’ve put together this list of our fiction favorites from the last 12 months that will make great gifts this year.

Check out all of the complete lists on our Reading room page, and, while you’re there, check out our other blog posts, like this one, for even more recommendations. And of course, contact us directly, in the library or through our Bookwise service for reviews or recommendations anytime!

Great books to give if they like:

Science Fiction: Back to the Future: The Martian:             
Black Mirror: The Handmaid’s Tale: Stranger Things:
Gone Girl:
Mean Girls:                      Stories from the city: 
Holiday classics:
Celebrity Tell-Alls: Historical Fiction:  
Hollywood scandals: Foodie culture: Cooking shows:       
College adventures:

Much ado about nothing:
Political scandals:
Hockey:                Puzzles:                        
Stories about strong young people:
Funny, quirky characters:
Romance in France:
National Parks:
Texas noir:           Alaskan Wilderness:
Snow and micro-brews: 
Humor and heartbreak: Bio-Terror:       
Dance:          Dark Fairy tales:
Edge-of-your-seat thrillers:       33155777

Chelmsford Library’s Annual Apple Pie Contest is here!

Do you make the best double crust in town? Do butter and brown sugar blend with the cinnamon and Cortlands so that each bite of your pie evokes the most perfect crisp fall day? Do you sometimes entertain thoughts of quitting your day job and baking for the rest of your life? Well, now’s your chance to show everyone what’s in your oven – enter our annual apple pie contest!
Here are the rules: Pies are to be homemade, with that famous homemade double crust. Filling is to be just apples (no raisins, cranberries, etc.) and the recipe must include the type of apple(s) used a.k.a. your winning combination! Contestants must pre-register online and prepare a printed copy of your recipe to submit with the pie, or submit your recipe in advance via email to Jessica at Pies must be brought to the library on the day of the contest (Sunday November 5) by 1:30 pm for judging.
And not to put too much pressure on the situation, but our judges this year are some of the most knowledgeable around, including Candy Liu, owner and manager of the Java Room in Chelmsford; Jennifer Gryckiewicz of Sugar Coated Bakery in Dracut, MA; Kathy Munro, Food Service Director at the Senior Center in Chelmsford; and Andrea Grant, Chelmsford librarian and our resident cooking and baking expert (read some of her food writing here.) It’ll be a tough job, but they are up for the challenge!
So find your favorite pie dish and start perfecting your recipe because the contest is just 2 weeks away. Teens are encouraged to enter too if they are interested, or maybe it could be an inter-generational project! Entry is free so go to to review the rules and enter today.
Pie lovers are welcome to come and feast on the hard work of others once the judging is complete, beginning around 2:30 pm. Visit for contest times and details. 

Recommendations from readers in your community!

Sometimes, it’s great to sit back and let you do the recommending! As part of our Adult Summer Reading program this past summer, we let the participants do just that. Below is a list of books they recommended as part of their entries. Read through their reviews  – maybe one of them will appeal to you too!

The House at the End of Hope Street, by Meena Van Praag: My new favorite book – It’s about women who need hope in their lives, and a special house (and the special people) that help them find it.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston: It is set in Florida in the early 1900s and is the story of Janie’s journey in life – surviving an arranged marriage , the husband’s death, a younger man and a hurricane – Super Read!
Blankets, by Craig Thompson: I did not like the book as it did not seem to flow well together. The beginning was funny. Synopsis: Loosely based on the author’s life, chronicles Craig’s journey from childhood to adulthood, exploring the people, experiences, and beliefs that he encountered along the way.
Always, by Sarah Jio: Kailey is engaged to be married to Ryan. 10 years ago the love of her life, Cade, disappeared with no trace. She sees him living as a homeless man who doesn’t remember his past life. She gets him help and now she must choose between her new life with Ryan or the life she could have had with Cade.
The Shack, by William Paul Young: I love this story. It is real love, but with a twist, forgiveness and healing after a family’s worst nightmare-a kidnapped child. I reread this every year over the summer.
Wonder by R. S. Palacio: I think this is a book everyone needs to read. Great example for young adults and older adults. Such a great message, “Never judge someone based on what they look like.”
Little White Lies, by Robert Parker: “I feel somewhat traitorous to Mr. Parker but I am enjoying the Ace Atkins “Spenser” novels as much as the original series. He does a great job of the quick repartee that is hallmark of all the Spenser books.”
Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher: “It is not really a plot driven book, but the characters are so well-drawn that you could go on reading about them forever. And it was a long book, but I would have been happy for t to go on.”
Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the House of Dread Desire, by Neil Gaiman: a writer is horribly bored with writing books about real life – real life is living in a dark house in a dark forest with ghosts and goblins in the basement mysterious faces staring out of the mirrors. He keeps adding sarcasm and humor to his stories. He’s advised to write fantasy and scifi. No no! he says – I only want to write about real life. Finally, he gives in, writing about businessmen, stock brokers, a blonde housewife burning the toast while husband is immersed in the newspaper. HIs non-real life fantasy book is wildly successful!
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon: I’ve read it 3 times!Time travel, standing stones, Scotland in the 1700s. In the third book of the series is one of the greatest scenes in literature where they meet after twenty years. I’ve re-read these few pages over and over again and cry every time – just thinking about the scene makes me cry! And yes, the tv series is good too, but not as good as the book.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey: Phenomenal characters and plot. Big Book, but a guaranteed page-turner! I felt for every single person, even Nurse Ratched!
Knuckler, by Tim Wakefield: I am an avid Red Sox fan and it was fun to read about the player’s during Tim’s time with the red socks.
The Patriot Threat, by Steve Berry, It was a very good story with an excellent mix of characters, past history, modern events, facts, fiction and intrigue. I enjoy finding out at the end what parts are facts!
The Photograph, by Beverly Lewis: It’s about an Amish Family whose parents died leaving 3 girls on their own. The youngest girl runs away and the story follows the search to bring her back to the Amish life.
Perfect Strangers, by Roseann Sdoia. We also got to hear her speak at the library! The book reminded me of the goodness of people and showed how – in spite of horrific tragedy and sorrow – people can support each other and carry each other through.










New Programs in October

We’ve always tried to design new and innovative programming that meets the needs and desires of our community. This fall, we’re debuting a new line-up of programs, in new time-slots. Of course, we have had programs after-hours, but four after-hours programs in a season, including a coffee house with live music, a jazz night, a trivia night and a live-action board game inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft? How about a fantastic series of discussions on science led by real experts in their fields on timely topics such as climate change and radiometric dating? How about workshops on tasting chocolate, preserving fruits and veggies, or brewing beer?

Many of these programs will require registration, so check the individual details on our calendar.

And we still plan and enjoy all our traditional programs you’ve come to love too. We have great book groups, and lectures, fun and interesting gardening and nature related programming, story times for babies and children, tech help and art receptions and more that continue to be popular. Not to mention all of the fantastic Teen programs, like Haunted Halloween Cupcake Wars. Check our complete calendar for all that is happening at your library!

New picks from the Chelmsford Library staff!

Here’s the latest list of books staff are recommending for readers in these waning days of summer. This one’s all fiction – stay tuned for great nonfiction selections in a couple of weeks!

Wes: Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman (Funny, Science-Fiction, Adventure, Superheroes): When Doctor Impossible, an evil genius and ambitious wannabe world dominator, launches a new plot to seize control of the world, Fatale, a woman built by the NSA to be the next generation of weaponry, joins a group of misfit superheroes in their quest to destroy Doctor Impossible.              
Danny: The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks (Action, Epic Fantasy, First book in the series): In a world where color is the basis of all magic, Kip has yet to realize his powers, but he soon begins to learn the truth behind the great rift between his father–Gavin Guile, the current Prism–and his uncle, Javen, and discovers that time is running out for the world.
Lisa: Lock In, by John Scalzi (Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction, Near Future): When a new virus causes one percent of the population to become completely paralyzed in body but not in mind, America pursues a scientific initiative to develop a virtual-reality world for victims, with unexpected consequences. By the Hugo Award-winning author of Redshirts.
Heidi: Jazz, by Toni Morrison: (American classics, Historical fiction, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Lyrical, Haunting) Jazz compels the reader to the Harlem of the 1920s in a novel framed by the story of Violet and Joe Trace, married for more than 20 years, and how they deal with the fact that he has recently shot his lover, a girl of 18.
Jess: The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen: (Historical Fiction, Pulitzer Prize Winner, suspenseful, spies, Southeast Asia and California) A spy for the North Vietnamese goes from exile in Los Angeles to working on a film set in the Philippines before finally being caught and imprisoned back in Vietnam. Told through a series of confessions after capture, he relates his own struggle and that of his country during and after the ugly conflict in Vietnam. I listened to this one on audio book, and the voice of the reader really captures the sardonic tone of the narrator.


Adult Summer Reading Ends 8/25!

Playing Adult Summer BINGO this summer? Finish up you cards and turn them in by August 25 to be entered into a raffle for prizes like literary themed coffee mugs, tote bags and reading journals. You could also win one of 2 gift certificates to the Friends of the Library Book sale in September!

If you haven’t picked up a Bingo card yet, there’s still time to earn an entry – though many of the programs have passed, lots of activities like “Read a book to a child,” or “Read a book from a genre you think you don’t like” are available any time.  Use the link in this post to download and print one for yourself, or come into the library to pick one up at the Main desk.

And don’t forget, if you need recommendations, we’re always here to help!

Get back to the book

On Thursday July 20, an article by Philip Yancey was published in the Washington Post’s titled, The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul. In it he articulates a crisis that many of us can probably relate to, though we have not had the patience and insight to name it. He discusses the familiar problem of being too inundated with the digital world to take time for the acquisition of knowledge which largely requires the concentrated and sustained reading of books. This argument may sound condescending, but read his article, in which he frames the argument  in the context of his own personal dilemma, and you’ll find it surprisingly relateable.

In his article, he identifies a number of texts he remembers from his heavy reading days, as well as a number of books which have helped him to sort out this dilemma and formulate a plan to return to the reading he loves. We’ve collected many of the titles he mentions here, with links to our catalog so you can read them for yourself.

Shakespeare’s collected plays
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains, by Nicholas Carr
The Gutenberg Elegies: The fate of reading in an electronic age
A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor
The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
 Poetry of George Herbert
Poetry and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins
 The Benedict Option

Staff Picks at the Chelmsford Library

If you’re wondering what to read next, or wandering the aisles wishing someone could just hand you something good, we now have a rotating collection of staff picks for you! The section is comprised of books from many of our collections, read and recommended by our wonderful readers on staff. Here are a few of the books recommended so far, but come in to check out our latest picks on display!

American Requiem, by James Carroll: “An intense yet highly readable memoir by our own Boston Globe Columnist James Carroll. This book brings together the personal and political histories of a family and the nation in a beautiful way!” – Courtney
Hark a Vagrant, by Kate Beaton: “Kate Beaton’s irreverent comics are hilariously off-beat and witty!” – Nicole
Everything you want me to be, by Mindy Mejia: “I give this book 5+ stars. It’s an excellent book with lots of surprises. The story revolves around three characters, and the main character is a little mysterious. I couldn’t put this book down once I started, and I had to read every single word. And I loved the ending.” – Trupti
Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey: “A YA debut by a fantasy veteran, this book deserves so much more love than it gets. File under Hidden Gem. In a futuristic world where monsters of myth and legend have returned to destroy human society, capable mages must use their bonded hounds to keep the last human settlements safe. With plenty of action and intelligent, angst-less protagonists, Hunter is sure to delight fans of fantasy, mythology and dystopia alike.” – Danny
Locke and Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: Stephen King’s son Joe Hill crafts an intriguing horror story that Gabriel Rodriguez’s art brings to life. Visually stunning and a great narrative. – Nicole
A Natural History of Dragons: a memoir by Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan: “The places on display have clear origins in our own world, and Isabella’s world is like an alternate Victorian era Britain, making this a very Jane Austen-dragon scientist. Plus, if you like this book, the next four are of equal or greater quality!” – Danny
Netherland, by Joseph O’Neill: “New York is a place made up of people from everywhere else. This is a story of two of those people. One a dutch financier who suddenly finds himself alone in his adopted city. The other a Trinidadian cricket fanatic and “entrepreneur” whom the Dutchman befriends. O’Neill tells the story of these two men navigating the gauntlet that is trying to find “home.” a stunningly well-written book.” – Jess
To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey: “The vastness and intrigue of the Alaskan wilderness, in the late 1880s, is vividly described by Ivey. Married couple Colonel Allen Forrester and Sophie are so likable, devoted, and willing to live outside gender norms that I wished I could invite them over for coffee when I finished reading this captivating survival and adventure novel. One of my top picks from 2016!” – Lisa
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood: “I became completely absorbed by Margaret Atwood’s terrifying dystopia. So thoroughly imaginative and haunting, the sensation of reading has stuck with me for years after. You can’t help but be pulled in to Snowman’s story of power, madness, and genetic engineering out of control. Read it and heed it’s warning. It will alter your worldview, as many of Atwood’s novels do.” – Jess

The Name and War, by Jill Lepore: “Excellent local History of King Phillip’s War and how it has been remembered. Learn about Meta com, the Algonquins and the myth of the “Noble Savage” in US History.” – Courtney

Woman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki: “A fun and quirky read – with plenty of oddball characters!” – Eileen
“A gripping story of human trafficking. Chilling, unforgettable and suspenseful. Very well written story of two orphans in India. The subject matter was very sad but unfortunately it is a fact of life. Very intense and scary, but a good read.” – Trupti


Henry David Thoreau turns 200!

Henry David Thoreau, one of our most important and treasured local authors, would have been 200 years old on Wednesday July 12. Numerous events and celebrations are taking place in and around Concord to commemorate his life and legacy. His works are always relevant to our understanding of the environment and nature and our role as citizens of the world, but perhaps his guidance has never been as crucial as in recent times (Read Douglas Brinkley’s essay in Sunday’s NYT Book Review for more on that.) I’ve highlighted some of the important works below. Pick one up and head down to Walden for a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.

Walden, or life in the woods: Thoreau’s most well-known work accompanied by beautiful full color photographs and annotations, published to commemorate the work’s 150th anniversary (2004).

Cape Cod: A perfect book for a New England summer, Cape Cod chronicles Thoreau’s travels along the “bare and bended arm,” complete with full color photographs of many of the features Thoreau observed.


A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Thoreau’s first work describes a trip Thoreau took with his brother in 1839 from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord, New Hampshire by boat. In addition to poignant descriptions of the nature observed along the way, Thoreau weaves in discussions of culture, religion, personal relationships and his philosophy.

On Civil Disobedience: Thoreau’s famous treatise on the rights of citizens to resist peacefully in the face of injustice by government institutions. The text of this essay if free to read online courtesy of the American Studies department at the University of Virginia.

Other works of fiction and nonfiction displaying Thoreau’s influence:

A Fugitive in Walden Woods, by Norman Lock (Adult Fiction): Samuel Long escapes slavery in Virginia by traveling the Underground Railroad to Walden Woods, where he encounters Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Lloyd Garrison, and other transcendentalists and abolitionists. While Long will experience his coming-of-age at Walden Pond, his hosts will receive a lesson on human dignity, culminating in a climactic act of civil disobedience
Walden Warming: Climate Change comes to Thoreau’s woods, by Richard B Primark (Adult nonfiction): Scientist Richard Primark uses Thoreau’s texts to show the dramatic changes taking place in the environment since Thoreau’s investigations.

Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead (Young Adult Fiction): “Seventeen-year-old ‘Hank,’ who can’t remember his identity, finds himself in Penn Station with a copy of Thoreau’s Walden as his only possession and must figure out where he’s from and why he ran away.”


Thoreau at Walden, by John Porcellino (Children’s graphic novel): Perfect for budding Thoreauvians! This graphic novel, narrated in Thoreau’s own words, weaves together elements from “Walden,” “Civil disobedience,” “Walking,” and Thoreau’s journals to tell the story of his two years in the woods and of the night he spent in jail for refusing to pay a poll tax.