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!