Next NSYA book group meets on 2/21

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group will be meeting on Wednesday, February 21 at 7pm in the Robbins Library Conference Room.

We’ll be talking about The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. Here’s the description from Goodreads:

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself.

Copies are available at the front desk. Upcoming books are listed on our Book Groups page.

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group is a book discussion group for adults in which we read and discuss books written for teens. Newcomers are always welcome!

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Early 2018’s Upcoming Queer Events

We’ve got a bunch of queer events coming up in January & February!

For January we’ve got Poetry In & Out, a queer poetry writing event with Arlington poet laureate Cathie Desjardins on Monday January 22nd at 7pm in the downstairs Community Room, a special Reel Queer screening of the documentary Suited on Tuesday January 30th at 6:30 in the downstairs Community Room, and QBG/Social’s game night on Wednesday January 31st at 7pm in the 4th floor Conference Room!

A little more about Suited:

“Are we what we wear?  How do you find clothes when the ‘standard’ 2 genders don’t fit you?

Suited is the story of people creating fashions as unique as they are.  In the process they move from self-discovery to self-realization, and express an outward appearance that at last mirrors their inner reality.

Please join us for this unique exploration of gender, self-expression, and creativity!”

February brings a Reel Queer screening of the classic documentary The Celluloid Closet on Thursday February 15th at 6:30 in the downstairs Community Room, and QBG’s next book discussion – we’re reading Improper Bostonians compiled by The History Project, foreword by Barney Frank – on Wednesday February 28th at 7pm in the 4th floor Conference Room.  Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk!

Flyers are below!  Hope to see you around!



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NSYA Book Group Meets on 1/17

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group will be meeting next week on Wednesday, January 17 at 7pm in the 4th floor conference room. We’ll be talking about Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson and I’m sure it will be an interesting discussion!

Copies of the next book, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes, are on their way and should arrive in time to pick up at the meeting.

We do need to pick more books though, so next week we’ll be voting on upcoming books for the next few months. Once they’ve been chosen, they’ll be listed on the book group page here.

The Not-So-Young Adult book group is a book discussion group for adults in which we read and discuss books written for teens. Newcomers are always welcome!

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2017 Best Books from Robbins Library Staff

Happy New Year!  Here are the Robbins Library librarians’ top picks of 2017!

Fall was a particularly amazing season for books in 2017, and YA books especially: the genre-bending Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, and the long-awaited Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman were all absolutely top-notch. In adult literature, The Power by Naomi Alderman was incredibly thought-provoking, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman had one of the most unique narrators ever, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee was a sweeping multi-generational epic of a Korean family, and J. Courtney Sullivan was back in top form with Saints for All Occasions, about two Irish sisters who move to Boston and how their lives diverge. In adult nonfiction, there were true stories from The Moth in All These Wonders, an incisive examination of how sexism is present even in the lives of women who are at the top of their respective industries in Anne Helen Petersen’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, and Roxane Gay’s new memoir Hunger, which I still need to read! My to-read list for 2018 is pretty long already…

A Different Pond by Bao Phi: A picture book for all ages about a family of Vietnamese immigrants. Father and son get up early to fish at their local pond (it’s a true Father/Son bonding theme but with the added complexity that the team is fishing because they have to, not for recreation). Father tells tales about the family and they meet all sorts of other neighborhood fisher-people. Warm and thoughtful and comforting but with a tinge of sadness.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This teen novel is very similar to Jason Reynolds “All American Boys” in that each have a protagonist who witnesses a police officer shooting a black man. In “The Hate U Give”, Angie Thomas spends some more time allowing us to get to know Starr. Starr is divided between her predominantly black home neighborhood and the social structure of the majority white day school that she attends. When she witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a white police officer, her whole divided world comes tumbling down. The story is warm, effectively, thought-provoking, scary, sad and at times, funny.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: The story of the black women mathematicians who worked on the space missions in the 1950s and beyond. The book explores personal histories as well as professional challenges and triumphs. Amazing!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill: The winner of last year’s Newbery Medal, it made it onto my reading list this year. A perfect and lovely fantasy with a cast of magical and fun characters. Just read it.

Bluefishing by Steve Sims

I bought this book as the business book selector for the library because it contains an intriguing entrepreneurial perspective. When the book came in, I checked it out, took it home, and read the entire book in one Saturday afternoon; there were so many brilliant insights, I couldn’t put it down. My brain was blown in an amazing way; I am not sure if I learned anything brand new, but it completely changed my mindset around sales and marketing.

I took copious notes (which I almost never do even though I am a voracious reader) because the content was exactly what I needed to read.

The following things struck me the most:

1. Do not believe what people tell you. Most don’t have the ability to communicate effectively. All of their best information is unsaid, somewhere between the lines. Drill down for it. [Keep asking “Why?”]

2. Personalized Communication: Send a quick hand written note to let people know that you are thinking about them. Keep it simple.

3. Do a self audit, because things don’t magically get better. Take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses. Invest in the strengths and see what weaknesses you need to remove.

4. Try the Chug Test. If you want to know if someone is a good match for you (as a client, customer, vendor, boss, employee, friend) ask yourself: Would I chug a beer with that person?

5. My [Steve’s] meditation is different. It’s in riding a motorcycle or getting into the boxing ring. It’s that moment when you focus so much on something that everything else in your day and work and life falls away.
[Note from Sue: I personally experience this when powerlifting; moving meditation can be as powerful as or more than seated meditation.]

Picture books

Plume by Isabelle Simler. Gorgeous illustrations, a playful premise, and a surprise ending.

Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim. A cross between picture book and graphic novel. A thoroughly entertaining adventure with beautiful illustrations which are a cross between manga and folklore.

Green Pants by Kenneth Kraegel. A little boy faces the existential question of how to balance his individuality and the conformity required of him. Adorable!

Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan. I love reading this one in story time.

Children’s fiction

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. I loved re-entering the richly imagined, mysterious and complicated world of Philip Pullman.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy. Possibly the most fun I had this year while listening to an audio book. Witty, funny, with exhilarating action, a great female protagonist and dastardly bad guys – a total romp of horror! And horror is not usually my favorite genre.

The Goat by Anne Fleming. I loved this story of a goat living at the top of an apartment building in NYC.

Children’s graphic novels

Anna & Froga: Completely Bubu by Anouk Ricard. Quirky and hilarious.

Lucy & Andy Neanderthal: The Stone Cold Age by Jeffrey Brown. Funny and surreptitiously informing.

Adult graphic novels

My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris. Really personal horror/historical fiction. Compulsively readable, with amazing illustrations.

Adult fiction

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It was so much fun to read about this eccentric character, a woman of precise language and manners, who has absolutely no understanding of social cues. Her difficult past is revealed over the course of the book and we get to cheer as she finally confronts it.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. I loved this story of immigration and assimilation, and of women searching for meaning and joy.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny. Reading Louise Penny is like putting my head into the hands of a master – I get to completely inhabit this familiar world of beloved characters and new bad guys and believe in the power of hard work and true conscience.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Quite beautiful and original.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Elizabeth Arden

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer

The Boy on the Bridge by Mike Carey

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey

This story about three astronauts participating in a very realistic training simulation, is an incredibly engrossing work of character-driven science fiction.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This teen book is on lots of “best of” lists this year, and with good reason. A thoughtful, complex, well-crafted book about race and one teenage girl’s experience of feeling caught between communities and trying to decide when to speak up about injustice. The audiobook is excellently narrated by Bahni Turpin.

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

An experience during a law internship brings up difficult issues from the author’s own life, and she writes about all of it eloquently, balancing crime story with memoir.

Touch by Courtney Maum

A trend forecaster predicts a return to person-to-person contact in this thought-provoking near-future work of satire that’s close enough to our current reality to be believable.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

A teen girl becomes fed up with the way girls are treated at her school, and decides to fight back by starting a zine and inspiring other girls to action. Wonderfully feminist, fun, and full of characters you’ll wish were your friends in high school.

My favorite picture book of the year was School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson– Funny, sweet, and perfect for this whole family! I think my most recommended picture book of the year was the book Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. America is a complicated place, but this beautiful and joyous book written by an immigrant and illustrated by an African-American really shows America off in all of it’s full-color joy.

I listened to my favorite novel of the year rather than reading it. Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders’ book about life, death, and Abraham Lincoln was narrated by 166 actors. I’m not sure if I would have liked it as a novel, but I loved it as an audiobook! For non-fiction, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Dr. Willie Parker moved me deeply.

One of my favorite stories this year that wasn’t a book. The podcast Earhustle, produced by incarcerated men at San Quentin Prison was beautiful, sad, hopeful, and heartbreaking. New episodes will air in March of 2018 so right now is the perfect time to catch up on this amazing collection of stories about life inside.

Of course, I missed a lot of great 2017 titles as well. How is possible that I never got around to Roxanne Gay’s Hunger? Or Righteous, the second mystery about Isaiah Quintabe, known in his neighborhood as I.Q? Oh well, time to set my reading goals for 2018!

The Black Tides of Heaven & The Red Threads of Fortune by J. Y. Yang – These companion novels take place in an Asia inspired fantasy setting.  When children are born, they are not assigned a gender – rather they get to declare their gender when they’ve figured it out.  These stories follow a set of twins born to the Empress and the divergent paths their lives take after one twin discovers they have the power of prophecy.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu– Vivian is sick of the sexism she sees at school & decideds to secretly create a Riot Grrl inspired zine to do something about it.  This book has so many amazing characters & a powerful, but fun, story.

The Backstagers by James Tynion IV, Illus. Rian Sygh – A delightful romp through a theater’s magical backstage area at an all boy’s school.  Beautifully illustrated with saturated colors and populated by compelling characters, this is a series I’m excited to see more from!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – An incredibly emotional story about Starr, a girl who watches her best friend get murdered at the hands of a police officer.  Starr has some of the best parents I’ve ever seen in any work of fiction, but even with that kind of support, navigating doing the right thing and protecting herself are never easy.

Jem and the Holograms: The Misfits by Kelly Thompson, Illus. Jenn St. Ogne – The Misfits get their own reality show & each of the members of the band gets their time to shine.  It’s so great to get to dig a little more into each of their backstories, since so much of the original Jem comic focuses on the Holograms.  The Misfits backstories are inspired by the original cartoon, while modernizing them to make it fit better in the contemporary world.  Gorgeous, punchy artwork, as I always expect from this series.

The Power by Naomi AldermanThis novel is brilliantly written. The story follows 4 main characters, and a few minor characters, through a massive change in the world. Girls suddenly have the power to deliver electric shocks via touch. The novel is framed as a historical novel, and is capped off by conversations between the male author of said historical novel and a female author he’s asking to give feedback. These endcaps do a fantastic job of really hammering home the ridiculousness of our current ideas about gender – with such gems as the female author saying she loves stories about “boy gangs” and how sexy such things are.

The characters were well rounded, realistic, and likable. Roxy is from a crime family in the UK, Tunde is an amateur journalist from Nigeria, Allie is an orphan who hears the voice of God in the US, and Margaret is an US politician. None of them felt like stereotypes and each of them surprised me over the course of the book in unexpected ways that still stayed true to their core character. I really enjoyed jumping between the different narrative threads and seeing how all of their stories were interwoven together.

The novel is a study in gender, yes, but more of a study in power and what power does to those who have it than anything else. The author imagines a world that’s almost the exact mirror of ours and clearly believes that power ultimately corrupts. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that assertion, I personally feel that any marginalized group wouldn’t so readily marginalize their oppressors *in the exact same way that they were oppressed* and that’s where I feel like things could have been explored more. I do acknowledge though, that there are certainly pros to exploring the exact inverse of our current society – mainly that it so elegantly points out absurdities with the current society.

I highly recommend the audiobook; narrated by master of accents Adjoa Andoh, who also narrated Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.

Paul Takes The Form of A Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor – Paul is a queer shapeshifter & this book follows him as he breezes through life from city to city, love to love, & conquest to conquest. Usually books that meander and don’t have a strong plot drive me crazy, but in this book it completely worked. It was super atmospheric, slice of life, and weird – kind of like a book version of a Sophia Coppola movie. I loved Paul as a character, loved the window the book gives into 90’s queer culture, & loved the way it makes you think about gender & sexuality & relationships.

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld, Illus. Alex Puvilland – Something weird happened in Poughkeepsie, NY.  Officially called “The Spill”, nobody knows if it was a nuclear accident, a hole opening up from another dimension, aliens, or something else entirely.  Addison wasn’t there that night, but her family was.  Only her sister survived and she hasn’t spoken since.  Addison makes ends meet by sneaking into her now  quarantined hometown and photographing the surreal and dangerous oddities she finds there.  The story here is incredibly layered and the artwork that accompanies is is stunning as well.  This book is a textbook example of masterful use of color – the artist uses realistic colors outside the Spill Zone and switches over to a lurid, neon-infused color palette for inside the Zone.  Volume 2 can’t come quick enough – I’m itching to know what happens next!

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February Cookbook Club and Potluck

Cookbook Club flyer for February 12, 2018

Registration is now open for the February meeting of the Robbins Library Cookbook Book Club! This group is open to all, but registration is limited to 20 people for each event, so sign up soon if you’re interested! (Likewise, if you sign up but are unable to attend, please cancel your reservation.)

At our February meeting, we’ll be cooking and baking from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Copies of the book will be available for checkout at the circulation desk at Robbins starting next week.

*New registration process* Once you’ve picked up your book and selected the recipe you’d like to make, e-mail me ( to claim your dish for our potluck – this will serve as your registration. I will confirm your reservation and recipe choice, or let you know that the recipe has been claimed (you can choose another) or that the event is full (you can choose to remain on a waitlist).

I hope to see you on Monday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the Robbins Library Community Room, to share our dishes and and discuss while we taste!

Please, no alcoholic beverages (even if there’s a recipe for one in the book!). And, as per Massachusetts state law regarding potlucks, please be advised: Neither the food nor the facilities have been inspected by the state or by a local public health agency.

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Best Video Games of 2017

2017 was a great year for video games!  Here’s my roundup of my personal favorites of the year!

Tales of Berseria (PS4, PC) – I’m a huge Tales series fan & Berseria is probably my favorite of them all.  The story is a bit deeper & more dark than previous titles, without losing the levity that’s a hallmark of the series.  We also get our first solo female protagonist in Velvet.  (I’d argue Milla was the real protagonist of Tales of Xillia, but she technically shared the spotlight with Jude.)  Velvet’s brother Laphicet is killed and she teams up with a crew of pirates to embark on a vengeance fueled journey to punish the man who’s responsible.  The gameplay is a great balance between old school RPGs & more modern action/adventure and fighting games – you have random encounters with enemies you can see on the overworld, but combat is entirely in real-time.  This game is great for local multiplayer, for those of you that live with someone else who enjoys playing RPGs!

Persona 5 (PS4) – There were almost 10 years between when Persona 4 & Persona 5 came out, but it was well worth the wait.  I loved the characters of Persona 3, but felt the story lacked a little depth.  I loved the narrative Persona 4 wove, but didn’t find the characters as compelling.  Persona 5 is the best of both worlds, with improved gameplay & slick visuals to boot.  You assume the role of a teenage silent protagonist who ends up leading a team of magical bandits called The Phantom Thieves as they steal the hearts of the corrupted adults in their lives.  Gameplay switches between slice of life high school gameplay, where you can forge bonds with your classmates and others around Tokyo, & turn-based combat in the dangerous dungeons within the hearts of your targets.  The ending dragged on a little longer than I’d have liked, but that barely detracted from the overall outstanding experience.

Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) – I put off playing this game for most of the year because I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the gameplay.  The post-apocalyptic world & robotic animals intrigued me, and after a friend offered to lend me their copy I decided to give it a go.  Set in post-apocalyptic Colorado/Wyoming, technology had advanced much farther than what we have now before society’s demise.  You play as Aloy, an outcast from the Nora tribe who seeks the truth behind her birth & what exactly happened to the forgotten world. Boasting an expertly crafted narrative, gorgeous visuals, and a protagonist who is equal parts snarky & compassionate, this game blew me away.  You’ll want to play the expansion DLC, The Frozen Wilds, as well – it really helps round out the story & gives you some extra time inhabiting this world & uncovering its mysteries.  Some of the design & language choices are questionable & I wish the design team had consulted with Native American communities on the many elements of their culture that they pulled inspiration from.  But all in all, an incredibly enjoyable game who’s world I hope to see more of in the future.

Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4, Xbox One) – I don’t care what anyone says about the facial animations & other minor bugs.  This game was great.  Not perfect, by a long shot, but wholly enjoyable & populated by likable characters.  You play as one of the customizable Ryder twins as they lead a crew of Milky Way residents into the Andromeda Galaxy, on the run from the conflict that was brewing in the original Mass Effect series.  You don’t need to have played the original trilogy to enjoy this, but the bits and pieces of lore and info that hearken back to the original trilogy are present enough for those that did.  I wish that more of the ramifications of the Milky Way species showing up in another galaxy uninvited were explored.  It was also a little disappointing that we only got two new alien species, and that they were essentially the “good” welcoming aliens & the “evil” antagonistic aliens with no redeeming qualities.  The overarching narrative was compelling & the gameplay was compulsively playable – an upgrade over the original trilogy in every way.  Don’t believe all the haters – despite a few minor qualms, I say give it a shot!

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (PS4 digital download, PC) – A short, but powerful, game.  Players control Senua, a Pict woman with schizophrenia who’s lover was killed by the invading Northmen.  (Northmen = Vikings)  She embarks on a quest to the Northmen’s underworld, Helheim, to bring him back from death.  Senua experiences visual and auditory hallucinations throughout the game and this is incorporated into the gameplay in an incredibly clever way.  The voices she hears sometimes support, other times demean.  Sometimes they offer help in combat, other times they mislead you.  The developers actually consulted with individuals with psychosis and organizations that support them – often times directly taking consultants’ personal experiences and incorporating them into the game.  There is combat in the game, but puzzles make up the bulk of the gameplay.  This game truly shows off what video games, as a medium, are capable of as an art form.

Pyre (PS4 digital download, PC) – A game I never thought I’d want – it’s part visual novel, part  magical soccer in a sort of western/fantasy setting.  Sound weird?  It most definitely is, but in the most delightful way.  You play as The Reader, who’s been banished from the Commonwealth into the Downside and left to die.  You’re discovered by a crew of participants in a mystical ritual known as the Rites (a.k.a. magical soccer that grants you your freedom from the Downside) who take you in & make you their leader.  You travel across the Downside in a covered wagon, competing against other teams of banished former citizens of the Commonwealth vying for freedom.  The story is incredibly engrossing and the decisions you make effect the course the narrative takes.  You periodically compete in Rites where the freedom of one of your party members is at stake – win and they are removed from your team.  But sometimes you care so much about these characters that granting them their freedom is worth this cost.  The narrative ultimately takes a surprising course & brings up questions of whether personal freedom or the freedom of many are more important.

Absolver (PS4 digital download, PC) – Another strange sounding game, Absolver is basically a fighting MMORPG?  Kinda?  There’s not a whole lot of story or lore to pick up on – you create a masked character, pick a martial arts based fighting style, and begin your journey as a Prospect trying to attain the title of Absolver.  There’s little in the way of tutorial or instruction and you’re forced to figure things out largely by trail & error.  This sounds frustrating, but it’s actually pretty addictive once you get started.  There’s a main overworld populated by both NPCs and PCs, and it’s here you can find the Marked-Ones – enemies you need to defeat in order to become an Absolver.  There’s also 1v1 and 3v3 play available outside the overworld, where you can fight against other players to level up & earn gear.  You learn new combat techniques when enemies use them on you, making this the kind of game you can’t just power your way through with brute force.  Defense & strategy are key.  It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I like so much about this game – it has a lot of mystery & charm.  I hope the developers continue adding new content through 2018 to help keep things fresh & exciting.

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Arlington’s Favorite Things in 2017

We posted about our top e-books & e-audiobooks of 2017 earlier this week and that made us wonder…  What physical media was popular in Arlington?  How does it differ from the e-content?  Check out the results below!

Adult Books:

  1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
  2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  4. The Trespasser by Tana French
  5. Maine by Courtney Sullivan
  6. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
  7. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  8. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  9. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  10. Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt

A lot of repeat titles from our e-book top 10, including Hillbilly Elegy, The Underground Railroad, Commonwealth, and A Man Called Ove.  Our 2017 community read Becoming Nicole also managed to make the list at the #10 spot!

Teen Books:

  1. Rules by Cynthia Lord
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2 way tie)
  3. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (2 way tie)
  4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (3 way tie)
  5. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo (3 way tie)
  6. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (3 way tie)
  7. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock
  8. Gabi, A Girl In Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  10. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Hunger Games trilogy stays strong with all three books in the top 5.  The Hate U Give comes in at #9 in Arlington – this book has spend 41 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for Young Adult fiction, and a good number of those weeks were in the #1 spot!  It seems like some of our book groups, like the Not-So-Young-Adult Book Group (NSYA) and Queer Book Group (QBG) had an impact on our teen list.  If I Was Your Girl, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, and Gabi, A Girl In Pieces were all book group picks this past year.

Children’s Books:

  1. My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems
  2. Elephants Cannot Dance! by Mo Willems
  3. Let’s Go For A Drive! by Mo Willems
  4. The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
  5. I Really Like Slop! by Mo Willems
  6. I Will Take A Nap! by Mo Willems
  7. I Love My New Toy! by Mo Willems
  8. Smile by Rania Telgemeier
  9. I Am Invited To A Party! by Mo Willems
  10. Pigs Make Me Sneeze! by Mo Willems

All we  can say about this list is… wow!  Arlington really loves Elephant & Piggie!  Shout out to Smile for being the only other book to make the children’s list!


  1. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
  4. Pimsleur Spanish I A & I B: The Complete Course
  5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (tie)
  7. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (tie)
  8. Matilda by Roald Dahl
  9. Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  10. Pimsleur Spanish II: The Complete Course

We were surprised to find that no Harry Potter titles made our top e-audiobooks, but that’s because Arlingtonians apparently prefer to listen to those on CD!  Learning Spanish via Pimsleur is the other standout on our audiobook list.  Check out Mango & Rosetta Stone online if you’re interested in a more interactive language learning experience!  Free for Arlington patrons – you just need your library card & password to access them from the comfort of your own home!

Graphic Novel series:

  1. Chi’s Sweet Home
  2. Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures
  3. Fairy Tail
  4. Saga
  5. Fruits Basket (tie)
  6. Case Closed (tie)
  7. Fullmetal Alchemist
  8. InuYasha
  9. Soul Eater
  10. Dragon Ball Z

Manga was big in 2017 – especially classic titles like Fruits Basket, Case Closed, Fullmetal Alchemist, InuYasha, & Dragon Ball ZSaga is the only title from the adult graphic novel collection to crack the top 10, and Chi’s Sweet Home tops the list as the only children’s title in the bunch.


  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. La La Land
  3. Moana
  4. Moonlight
  5. Arrival
  6. Hidden Figures
  7. The Secret Life of Pets (tie)
  8. Rogue One (tie)
  9. Fences
  10. Game of Thrones Season 6

The Massachusetts based & Oscar winning Manchester by the Sea takes the top spot for DVDs.  Oscar winner for best picture Moonlight only manages 4th place in Arlington. (Maybe a lot of Arlingtonians saw it during one of the two theatrical runs it had?)  The 6th season of Game of Thrones squeaks onto to list at #10 – the only TV series to manage this feat!

Video Games:

  1. Super Smash Bros (WiiU)
  2. Splatoon (WiiU)
  3. Super Mario Maker (WiiU)
  4. Mario Party 10 (WiiU)
  5. Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
  6. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
  7. LEGO Batman (Wii)
  8. LEGO Harry Potter Years 5 – 7 (Wii)
  9. Wii Sports Resort (Wii) (tie)
  10. Mario Kart 8 (WiiU) (tie)
  11. Pokken Tournament (WiiU) (tie)

Family friendly Wii & WiiU games dominated the top 10, despite the Switch coming out in March this year.  Did you know that you can check out a Switch console from the Children’s Room DIY collection? (Even if you aren’t a child & have no children!)  You wouldn’t know it from this top 10, but we’ve also got video games for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, & Switch that you can check out across our adult, teen, and children’s video game collections!

Music CDs:

  1. Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  2. 25 by Adele
  3. Moana soundtrack
  4. The Lion King (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (tie)
  5. X by Ed Sheeran (tie)
  6. Frozen soundtrack (tie)
  7. Now That’s What I Call Disney Princess
  8. A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay (tie)
  9. Disney Icon Volume 1 (tie)
  10. Disney Icon Volume 2 (tie)

Hamilton tops our music CD list, which is otherwise mostly populated by Disney music.  Adele was the biggest pop artist this year in Arlington at #2, followed by Ed Sheeran & Coldplay.

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15 Sci-Fi Books To Read After Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Craving more sci-fi after seeing Star Wars?  Are Rey & Leia your favorite Star Wars characters? Bummed we still haven’t had a woman direct one of the Star Wars movies? Inspired by Shondaland’s list, we created our own list of 15 sci-fi books written by women!  (Some overlap does occur.  What can we say?  They made a great list!)

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (2015):Binti embarks on an interplanetary voyage to Oomza Uni, the galaxy’s supreme institution of higher learning. As the first of her people offered such an opportunity, she leaves home without even warning her family of her departure. When the vessel is attacked by the alien Meduse, Binti’s only hope of survival is a pot of native clay-and her exceptional intelligence. Equal parts thriller, adventure, and quest, this work also serves as a timely parable about the power of educating girls. In spite of every possible obstacle, Binti is a girl determined to succeed, whose acute intellect will save her world.” – School Library Journal

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (2013):An ill-fated encounter has forced Breq, the AI commanding the Radchaai troop carrier Justice of Toren, to take up residence in a single commandeered human body, impressive but mortal and no more powerful than any other person. Now this sorry wanderer searches the galaxy for a legendary weapon that may be able to do the impossible: grant Breq revenge on Anaander Mianaai, the many-bodied, immortal ruler of the brutal Radch. A double-threaded narrative proves seductive, drawing the reader into the naive but determined protagonist’s efforts to transform an unjust universe. Leckie uses familiar set pieces-an expansionist galaxy-spanning empire, a protagonist on a single-minded quest for justice-to transcend space-opera conventions in innovative ways.” – Publishers Weekly

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch (2017):Yuknavitch’s latest book (after The Small Backs of Children) opens as the quintessential postapocalyptic dystopian nightmare. Life on Earth has been extinguished, and the survivors eke out an existence in the orbital habitat known as CIEL. These survivors, as the price of their entrance, get to live only 50 years. Forty-nine-year-old Christine tells the story of how the martyred hero Joan opposed the world domination of maniacal leader Jean de Men, which brought about the geo-catastrophe. The surviving humans have lost their hair, skin color, and sexual organs and have also developed a literary tradition of electrosurgical branding on skin grafts, of which Christine is a virtuoso. After news arrives that Joan, publicly executed years ago, is still alive on the wasted earth, the novel shifts to Joan’s point of view: she has supernatural powers and can even raise the dead, but only for a day. We learn her life story and watch as she joins with other rogue humans, regains power and influence, and unites with Christine in CIEL to combat evil. This ambitious novel encompasses a wide canvas to spin a captivating commentary on the hubris of humanity. An interesting blend of posthuman literary body politics and paranormal ecological transmutation.” – Library Journal

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (1993): “Hugo and Nebula Award-winner Butler’s first novel since 1989’s Imago offers an uncommonly sensitive rendering of a very common SF scenario: by 2025, global warming, pollution, racial and ethnic tensions and other ills have precipitated a worldwide decline. In the Los Angeles area, small beleaguered communities of the still-employed hide behind makeshift walls from hordes of desperate homeless scavengers and violent pyromaniac addicts known as “paints” who, with water and work growing scarcer, have become increasingly aggressive. Lauren Olamina, a young black woman, flees when the paints overrun her community, heading north with thousands of other refugees seeking a better life. Lauren suffers from `hyperempathy,” a genetic condition that causes her to experience the pain of others as viscerally as her own–a heavy liability in this future world of cruelty and hunger. But she dreams of a better world, and with her philosophy/religion, Earthseed, she hopes to found an enclave which will weather the tough times and which may one day help carry humans to the stars. Butler tells her story with unusual warmth, sensitivity, honesty and grace; though science fiction readers will recognize this future Earth, Lauren Olamina and her vision make this novel stand out like a tree amid saplings.” – Publishers Weekly

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (2012): “First in the Lunar Chronicles series, this futuristic twist on Cinderella retains just enough of the original that readers will enjoy spotting the subtle similarities. But debut author Meyer’s brilliance is in sending the story into an entirely new, utterly thrilling dimension. Cinder is a talented teenage mechanic and cyborg-part human, part robot-who has been living in New Beijing with a demanding adoptive mother and two stepsisters, ever since her late stepfather took Cinder in after a hovercraft accident. Several events abruptly turn Cinder’s world upside down: a chance meeting with the handsome Prince Kai has her heart racing; a plague pandemic threatens her beloved sister Peony; Cinder learns she is immune to the plague; and the evil Lunar Queen Levana arrives on Earth, scheming to marry Kai. Though foreshadowing early on makes it fairly clear where the story is headed, it unfolds with the magic of a fairy tale and the breakneck excitement of dystopian fiction. Meyer’s far-future Earth is richly imagined, full of prejudice and intrigue, characters easy to get invested in, and hints of what might await in future books.” – Publishers Weekly

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (2016): “The crew of the Wayfarer make a small living building wormholes to lessen the distances in interstellar travel. They are a diverse bunch, with one new addition: records clerk -Rosemary, who signs on just as the ship prepares to go into deep space to construct a wormhole for an alien race long hostile to the rest of the Galactic Commons. What could go wrong? Like so many great space opera novels, this is really the story of the ship’s crew as they band together in the face of danger. From Ashby, the affable human captain, to the marvelous extraterrestrial known as Dr. Chef (his two roles on the ship), there are many personalities here to love, and they all get a chance to shine. Rosemary, our newbie team player, predictably has a dangerous secret of her own… …this delightful debut space opera is less brisk in terms of action than is typical of the genre, but it is no less engaging.” – Library Journal

Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells (2014):Dr. Jane Holloway, an internationally respected linguist, has been asked to act as Earth’s ambassador on a journey to an apparently abandoned spaceship that’s on a collision path with an asteroid. The ship is far from abandoned, however, as Jane begins to communicate telepathically with a creature that insists that the fate of humanity (and beyond) is in her hands. But can she trust this creature that can only speak to her? And what will she do with a crew that’s becoming violent and mutinous? When writing science fiction, it’s easy to get so caught up in a plot that everything else falls by the wayside. Aliens are great, but things like good dialog and character development are necessary for a novel to transcend its genre. Author Jennifer Foehner Wells focuses as much on these details as she does on the stranded Ei’Brai and the space slugs, making Fluency a novel as interested in the complicated history of its characters as it is in fighting bloodthirsty aliens… …What might be the most impressive part of Fluency is the attention paid to each character, making them not one-note stock characters (there are no Red Shirts here!) but interesting, complicated individuals. We spend the entire novel questioning where our loyalties should lie, and this unreliability on the part of Ei’Brai and Jane makes for some wonderful tension in the novel. Her supporting characters are equally as compelling, and there are few (if any) that seem like an afterthought or, worse, nothing more than a sacrifice for an angry alien…..A smart concept, natural dialog and great character development make this a page-turner.” – IndieReader

Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Illus. Valentine De Landro (2015):In one of the most stunning works of satire this medium has seen in recent memory, DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and De Landro (X-Factor) craft a modern riff on pulp sci-fi exploitation novels that’s equal parts brutality and thoughtfulness. In a nightmarish future, “noncompliant” women are rounded up for minor infractions (or none at all) and sent to a prison planet. One inmate, Kamau Kogo, catches the attention of the Fathers and is put in charge of a doomed sports team designed to be annihilated in the name of compliance. Using her wits and raw strength, Kamau must turn adversity into an asset if she is to bring change to her world. DeConnick pulls no punches, crafting a relentless narrative that is hauntingly reminiscent of the misogyny facing women around the globe today; De Landro expertly supplies gritty inks, in-your-face colors, and a host of diverse character designs that underscore the book’s intersectional feminist message. The result is a must-read unlike anything else being published in comics.” – Publishers Weekly

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray (2017):The planet Genesis is at war again. With no warning, Earth has revived a conflict after a 30-year hiatus because it has destroyed its own resources and land. Its people are desperate to escape to a healthier planet, and they have chosen Genesis. But the residents of Genesis fear the effects that Earth’s policies will have on their planet. Noemi and her foster sister, Esther, are space pilots in the Genesis army, and they are caught in a surprise attack. Noemi boards a derelict ship in a desperate effort to save wounded Esther, but she finds the ship inhabited. Abel, a unique mech prototype, was left behind by his creator during the former war. Abel’s intelligence seems to have evolved during his long isolation, and Noemi reluctantly decides to team up with him in a dangerous attempt to help Genesis. Replete with rebels, bots, and battles, this top-notch space adventure features a well-developed plot and an unexpected, satisfying ending. The story also gives serious treatment to the ethical dilemmas around highly advanced robotics and artificial intelligence as well as the consequences of policies for unlimited development and the resulting wanton destruction of limited natural resources. This is a complex and well-told tale about loyalty, love, and the meaning of life.” – School Library Journal

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008): “Sixteen-year-old Katniss poaches food for her widowed mother and little sister from the forest outside the legal perimeter of District 12, the poorest of the dozen districts constituting Panem, the North American dystopic state that has replaced the U.S. in the not-too-distant future. Her hunting and tracking skills serve her well when she is then cast into the nation’s annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death where contestants must battle harsh terrain, artificially concocted weather conditions, and two teenaged contestants from each of Panem’s districts. District 12’s second tribute is Peeta, the baker’s son, who has been in love with Katniss since he was five. Each new plot twist ratchets up the tension, moving the story forward and keeping the reader on edge. Although Katniss may be skilled with a bow and arrow and adept at analyzing her opponents’ next moves, she has much to learn about personal sentiments, especially her own. Populated by three-dimensional characters, this is a superb tale of physical adventure, political suspense, and romance.” – Booklist

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (1996): When readers meet Father Emilio Sandoz, he’s a wreck, inside and out. His hands are maimed, his body bruised; he suffers from scurvy, anemia, and spiritual devastation. The year is 2059. Although Jesuit missionaries thrive on suffering, something particularly dire has happened to this skilled linguist. Four decades earlier, he proposed an expedition to discover the sentient beings whose strange yet beautiful music had been detected by radio telescope. As the only survivor of this spiritual odyssey to Alpha Centauri (the star system four light years from Earth), Sandoz was found dazed and filled with terror by rescuers who inferred that he had resorted to prostitution to stay alive. Returned to the Jesuit Order, Sandoz is forced to face truths about the godless alien societies on the planet Rakhat that he and his colleagues grew to know, love, and perish at the claws of. Miscommunications, misplaced trust, and tiny mistakes led to their downfall. The dense prose in this complex tale may at first seem off-putting, but hang on for the ride; it’s riveting!” – Booklist

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015):Humans struggle to survive on a ruined world in this elegiac, complex, and intriguing story, the first in the Broken Earth series from acclaimed author Jemisin (the Inheritance Trilogy). The Stillness is a quiet and bitter land, sparsely populated by subsistence communities called comms. Essun lived quietly in a comm with her husband and children until her secret got out: she-and her children-are orogenes, those who have the ability to control Earth forces. They can quell or start earthquakes, open veins of magma, and generally cause or rein in geological chaos. Authorities keep a brutal hold on orogenes, controlling everything about their lives, including whom they breed with. Those who escape servitude and seek safety in the comms face expulsion and execution at the hands of the fearful. Soon after Essun’s secret is revealed, her husband kills their son, and her daughter goes missing. Essun sets off to find the girl, undertaking a journey that will force her to face unfinished business from her own secret past. Jemisin’s graceful prose and gritty setting provide the perfect backdrop for this fascinating tale of determined characters fighting to save a doomed world.” – Publishers Weekly

The Power by Naomi Alderman  (2017): “Alderman’s sublime new novel posits a game-changing question: What if women suddenly manifested an electrical charge that they could control and use as a weapon? This new female power, the origins of which are attributed to a WWII chemical experiment, first becomes evident in teenage girls around the world in the present time. Roxy, the daughter of an English mobster, attacks the men who have come to kill her mother, while in America, foster-child Allie finds she has the ability to fight off her lecherous foster father. Teenage girls can somehow awaken the power in older women, as Margot, an American politician, learns when her daughter injures a boy in a fight. And in Nigeria, Tunde’s journalism career is launched when he observes a girl using her power on another boy. Alderman wrestles with some heady questions: What happens when the balance of power shifts? Would women be kinder, gentler rulers, or would they be just as ruthless as their male counterparts? That Alderman is able to explore these provocative themes in a novel that is both wildly entertaining and utterly absorbing makes for an instant classic, bound to elicit discussion and admiration in equal measure.” – Booklist

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (2015): “High-school students Kady and Ezra have just broken up with each other when Kerenza IV, their mining outpost planetary home, is suddenly attacked by a rival company using both traditional and biological weapons. In the scramble to get off the planet, they are separated, ending up with a waning number of Kerenza survivors on two different space vessels that are trying to outrun one remaining BeiTech dreadnought; however, Kady and Ezra remain united in their desire to escape destruction, exact revenge, and maybe give each other a second chance. Tightly woven and suspenseful, this is one long briefing report about the mining colony attack and its aftermath that makes innovative use of mission reports, e-mails, texts, ship schematics, dialogue, and other forms of communication with profanity cunningly redacted. Kaufman and Kristoff have created a fast-paced, quasi-political sci-fi thriller that is completely unique. Hints of romance and references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey interweave with the text, itself an arresting visual experience that weds form with expression and content: for example, a thin pinwheel of print reflects the chaos of a newbie pilot’s first deadly space battle.” – Booklist

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (1986): When Cordelia Naismith and her survey crew are attacked by a renegade group from Barrayar, she is taken prisoner by Aral Vorkosigan, commander of the Barrayan ship that has been taken over by an ambitious and ruthless crew member. Aral and Cordelia survive countless mishaps while their mutual admiration and even stronger feelings emerge.

“All in all, Shards is a worthy effort, and worth reading for any fan of SF romance.”–Analog

“Bujold mixes quirky humor with action [and] superb character development…[E]normously satisfying.”–Publishers Weekly.

“One of sf’s outstanding talents . . . an outstanding series.”–Booklist

“. . . an intelligent, well-crafted and thoroughly satisfying blend of adventure, sociopolitical commentary, scientific experiments, and occasional perils . . . with that extra spicing of romance. . . .”–Locus

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Top e-books and audiobooks in 2017

Recently, Bustle published a list of Audible’s most listened-to audiobooks of 2017, and I wondered if it matched up with library patrons’ use of audiobooks and e-books through Overdrive.

Here are the top ten most-checked-out titles at the Arlington libraries from January 1, 2017 to today:

Cover image The Girl on the TrainE-books

  1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  2. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  3. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  4. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
  5. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  6. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  8. My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  9. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  10. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

AudiobooksCover image of All the Light We Cannot See

  1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  3. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  6. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
  7. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
  8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  9. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  10. 1984 by George Orwell

What conclusions can we draw from the library lists compared to the Audible list? For one thing, library users have already read/listened to all the Harry Potter books. (Though Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, released in July 2017, was the eleventh most checked-out e-book, so it’s certainly not that we don’t love Harry…just that we probably have all the books committed to memory already.)

Did you use the library’s digital collection this year? Which e-book or audiobook was your favorite?

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Colonial times in Menotomy


Menotomy Schoolhouse

Come visit our amazing Menotomy Schoolhouse (replica) which  once stood in the area of the Old Burying Ground during the 1600s-1700s.  It’s just one piece of a historical display to discover while in the Library lobby during the month of December.  Other historical replicas  include a flint stone, colonial clothing, eating utensils, raw wool and cards (similar to the cards made at a factory that once stood near the Whittemore-Robbins House, a clay pipe, musket balls,  ribboned wooden hoops and sticks for playing the Colonial game Graces, and other items.   You are definitely encouraged to handle everything on display.

Here’s  a small sampling  of books you may find if you come…

Menotomy Romance of 1776 by Margaret L. Sears  (in-house use)

From resistance to revolution: Colonial radicals and the development of American opposition to Britain 1765-1776

Blacks in Colonial America

The Literatures of Colonial America

Woman’s life in Colonial Days

Colonial houses: modern floor plans and authentic exteriors for 16 historical colonial homes

Colonial game – Graces

For a brief overview of that historical period…

New England Colonies

from The Reader’s Companion to American History

Their opponents ridiculed them as “Puritans,” but these radical reformers, the English followers of John Calvin, came to embrace that name as an emblem of honor. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, England faced a gathering storm in religious life—the Puritan movement. Before the storm abated, the Puritans had founded the first permanent European settlements in a region that came to be known as New England.

The Puritans believed that God had commanded the reform of both church and society. They condemned drunkenness, gambling, theatergoing, and Sabbath-breaking and denounced popular practices rooted in pagan custom, like the celebration of Christmas. They deplored the “corruptions” of Roman Catholicism that still pervaded the Church of England—churches and ceremonies they thought too elaborate, clergymen who were poorly educated.

The refusal of English monarchs to attack these “besetting evils” turned the Puritans into outspoken critics of the government. This King James I would not endure: he decided to rid England of these malcontents. With some of the Puritans, known as the Separatists, he seemed to have succeeded.

The Separatists, a tiny minority within the Puritan movement, were pious people from humble backgrounds who concluded that the Church of England was too corrupt to be reformed from within. In 1608 one Separatist congregation at Scrooby decided to flee to Holland. That move afforded them religious freedom, but they found only low-paying jobs and were distressed by desertions from within their ranks to other religions.

Some decided to move again, this time to North America. In December of 1620, eighty-eight Separatist “Pilgrims” disembarked from the Mayflower at a place they called Plymouth on the coast of present-day southeastern Massachusetts. But misfortune followed the Separatists to the New World. The hardships of the crossing and inadequate provisions left many vulnerable to a “starving time” during the winter. The Plymouth colony would have failed entirely if the Pilgrims had not received assistance from local Indian tribes




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