National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2017

NaNoWriMo shield logoNational Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) provides the “structure, community, and encouragement” for a challenging and fun creative writing venture: during the month of November, participants aim to write a novel (50,000 words). That’s right – write a novel in a month! (You can edit it later.)

The library is pleased to support NaNoWriMo participants in Arlington. This year, we are hosting two events, both of which are open to teens and adults:

Ready, Set, Write! NaNoWriMo Planning Event & Kickoff, with writing instructor Lynette Benton
Monday, October 23, from 6-7pm, in the Robbins Library Community Room
If you’re interested in doing NaNoWriMo, it’s time to get planning! Come to our prep session with author and writing instructor Lynette Benton. She will help you prepare for the challenge (50,000 words in 30 days!), learn strategies for what to do (and what NOT to do), and discover resources that can help you. You will also learn about library resources, and you can pick up a free word count calendar and NaNoWriMo bookmark! Light refreshments provided.

Pencils Down! NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up
Tuesday, December 5, from 4-5pm, in the Robbins Library Community Room
If you gave NaNoWriMo a try, come share your experience with other participants! Whether you wrote a sentence, a chapter, or you accomplished the incredible 50,000-word goal, there is so much to discuss: what worked for you and what didn’t, what you learned, whether you’ll do it again next year, what you’d do differently, who was the best character you invented, what your best plot idea was, how your story changed as you wrote, what to do with your draft now….Come talk with other writers to relive the challenge and talk about the future! Light refreshments provided.

Come Write In round logoBetween the planning and the recap, of course, comes the writing…and you’re welcome to “Come Write In” to the library anytime we’re open. Use your own laptop or check out one of ours; find quiet space on the second floor, group work space on the third floor, and wifi everywhere! You can also use our books about writing (in the 800s on the third floor), our databases for research, our history and travel books (900s, also on the third floor) if you’re writing historical fiction, and our librarians at the reference desk for any odd question that may pop up. We think NaNoWriMo is amazing, and if you’re giving it a try, we think you’re amazing too!

See NaNoWriMo blog posts from previous years

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October is Fine Free Month at Robbins and Fox Libraries

Do you have a stack of library books at home or in the car? Have you been worrying about the fines on those items?

Worry no more! October 2017 is Fine Free Month at Robbins and Fox Libraries. Please bring those overdue materials back, and as a thank you any overdue fines will be waived. This applies to materials that may be a week overdue to a two months or even two years. Two decades? That’s okay too! Just bring them back!

This includes most items item checked out from the library: books, audio books, music CDs, magazines, DVDs, large print  There are some exceptions. Fees for lost or billed books, DVD rental charges, and late fees on equipment like laptops will not be waived.

If you account has fines on it, simply present your library card or ID and any old fines will be deleted.


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Books on the bright side

Here’s a question we get at the library fairly often: someone is looking for a book to read, “nothing too dark…but not fluff.” Maybe this has been you! If so, you’re in luck – we’ve just put together a list of “Books on the bright side,” inspired by a similar list called “Books that aren’t a bummer,” compiled by our friends at the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington.

Fictionsun and cloud illustration from pixabay

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (heartwarming)

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (clever cozy mystery)

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (romance)

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (quirky)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman (fantasy/fairy tale)

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (pop music and romance)

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman (quirky romance)

Cover of Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn (delightfully British)

Life of Pi by Yann Martel (inspiring, creative)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (friendship and romance)

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine (modern Sense & Sensibility)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (quirky, funny)

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple (funny)

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (hopeful)The Storied Life of AJ Fikry

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson (heartwarming)

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (romance, funny)

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (modern Pride & Prejudice)

Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan (coming of age)

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (charming)

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (funny, feminist)


Check out the loooong list of nonfiction books we put together last spring. Here are some more:

Candyfreak by Steve AlmondThe Almost Nearly Perfect People

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong search for a new best friend by Rachel Bertsche

The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi KleinThe Happiness Project

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (a mostly true memoir) and Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

You may also like one of our September readalike books, which center around the place of food and cooking in our lives.

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Next Not-So-Young Adult Book Group Meeting

The next meeting of the NSYA Book Group will be on Wednesday, October 18 at 7pm in the 4th floor conference room. We’ll be discussing Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Here’s the description from Goodreads:

“Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.”

It’s even weird than it sounds. This is sure to be a good discussion!

Copies are available now at the front desk.

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

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Book Lists for Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15, 2017 through October 15, 2017 is Hispanic Heritage Month! Want to read some great books by Hispanic & Latinx authors or featuring Hispanic & Latinx characters?  Look no further!

Remezcla has 10 books to help you get through the dog days of summer here:

NBC has some summer reads for you as well:

Latinas4LatinoLit collect some recent award winning children’s books here:

Mamiverse has an larger list of kid’s books here:

YA Interrobang has a list of teen books here:

PopSugar has 50+ books they recommend every Latina read, but the list is full of great books for all to enjoy:

Huffington Post also has a list here:

Lastly, #WeNeedDiverseBooks  has some resources on where to find books by Latinx authors here:

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Meet Cathie Desjardins: Arlington’s newest Poet Laureate

In August, the Board of Selectman confirmed Cathie Desjardins to be the next Poet Laureate of Arlington. In her role as the Poet Laureate Cathie will be the “leading poetic voice and an ambassador for poetry, encouraging the reading and writing of poetry across
Arlington, advancing the literary arts, enriching the community, and recognizing the
literary achievements of Town residents.”

Robbins Library is pleased to support the initiatives of the Poet Laureate, by hosting the Bee Hive Table Poets on the Third Floor. Stop in to meet other area poets and work on your craft.

Follow Cathie on her Facebook page or drop her an email or see her at an upcoming event at Kickstand Cafe.


Now our interview with Cathie!

We hosted a program with you last year, before your appointment, where you walked participants through several poems, and engaged the audience asking for their emotional responses. I found it helpful, as sometimes poems feel like riddles that need solving.  What is a good entry point for people who are new to poetry?

It helps to listen to lots of poems. People saying they don’t like poetry is, to me, like saying they don’t like food. Maybe you don’t like lots of kinds of food, but there’s something you like. To find poems you like, you can, for instance, get a poem a day in your inbox, from or you can listen to Garrison Keillor’s daily Writer’s Almanac. Those broadcasts and websites have podcasts, links to thousands of poems, poems grouped by topics or author, interviews with poets, many, many resources.

Poems are dense: I recommend listening to a poem at least twice, ideally out loud. Before you start thinking about the poem, consider it the same way you might a dream: what is the affect, the emotional tone of the poem? What in the poem brings you there? I don’t think you need to literally understand everything in a poem to be moved by it. “Bring the North” is a poem by William Stafford that I adore, but  I don’t pretend to literally understand it; it’s mysterious and wonderful. 

Arlington is a very literary community, and poetry has a special place for readers. The Library has hosted the Bee Hive Poets for the past two years.  What kind of programming are you interested in?

I’d like to honor what’s been going on and also innovate. I’ve added a new time on second and fourth Wednesdays (1:00-2:30) when I’ll be at the Beehive table on the third floor of the library and I hope new people will come. I’ll be there first and third Thursday evenings 7:00-8:30, and Beehive regulars may also be meeting on their own second and fourth Thursdays.  Regulars have said they’re interested in  coming at their previous meeting times on Tuesdays when I’m not there. We’ll see how it evolves, with the goal of including everyone who’s interested, new poets as well as the ones who have been coming over the last two years.

I want to do outreach with younger people as well, starting with what I call Kneebaby poems, a session with people’s earliest favorites done with babies and toddlers at the library. I’m hoping to do a session with LGBTQP—P for Poets, too, at the library.  I’ll work with any group that will have me. I’m hoping to get out in the schools. I don’t go anywhere as an expert, a talking head. But I believe in the power of authentic language to move anyone and I want to create an arena for that to happen, reading and, if possible, writing, poems, especially with people who don’t think of themselves as usually enjoying those things.

How was the internet and social media impacted poetry?

The internet makes so many resources available.  For instance, maintains a statewide calendar of almost daily poetry events as well as interviews, poems, links. Thousands of poems are instantly accessible to us now and you can track poems down with just a keyword or two. 

Social media is important in publicizing groups and events: I got a dedicated email and Facebook page as poet laureate. But I think it’s tricky: Wordsworth said poetry originates in  “emotion recollected in tranquility,” and, to me,  social media doesn’t promote tranquility. It often promotes a culture of distraction and distractibility.

Who are your favorite poets? 

I started to make a list and got to dozens and dozens pretty quickly. I  love many of the traditional poets but I also like newer, innovative poets. I’ve been reading a very quirky poet named Alice Oswald who’s as odd and original as Emily Dickinson and recently I’ve been enjoying a talented but relatively unknown black poet who died a decade ago, Christopher Gilbert.  

Where do you draw inspiration for poems? 

Well, I’d like to go to the literal meaning of the word inspiration, which is— an inhalation, a drawing in of breath. Because anything can be a topic for a poem—a vegetable, a board game; John Donne wrote a poem about a flea. What turns something into a worthwhile subject for a poem goes back to Wordsworth’s tranquility. There needs to be a drawing in of breath, which really means noticing, observing what’s in front of you. So writing to me depends on that kind of calm attention, receptivity, paying attention to something and asking someone else to look at it with you too. 

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye  says she asks herself “What’s the poem in the room?” wherever she goes. Because if you are paying attention, there is a poem there. I think we need poetry now more than ever, need that kind of observation and  reflection, especially kids being brought up in a culture of distraction. Poetry means really looking at a thing instead of just taking a selfie with that thing in the picture with you. 


Thank you, Cathie! We enjoyed speaking with you about poetry.

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Banned Books Week 2017

Words Have Power Read A Banned Book ALA graphic

During Banned Books Week, we celebrate the freedom to read. As you can imagine, this is most librarians’ favorite theme week; after all, as our code of ethics states, “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.” But you don’t have to be a librarian to enjoy Banned Books Week – all you have to do is read!

You can read whatever you like – that’s the point! – but you can take special pleasure in reading one of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books:

Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2016 ALA infographic

ALA Infographic: Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2016 and Book Challenges By the Numbers

Here are links to those books in our library catalog:

  1. This One Summer
  2. Drama
  3. George
  4. I Am Jazz
  5. Two Boys Kissing
  6. Looking for Alaska
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread
  9. Little Bill (series)
  10. Eleanor & Park

Challenges create a chilling effect for authors, readers, teachers, and librarians, so even if the book ultimately remains available, there is harm done. And for all the challenges you hear about, there are many other “silent” challenges that go unreported.

ALA OIF graphic of public challenges, reported challenges, and silent challenges

Under-reporting is an issue: Many challenges are not reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.

You can read our blog posts from previous years’ Banned Books Week here.

Banned Books Week is September 24-30 this year. What will YOU read?

Our Right to Read ALA graphic

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September readalike: What She Ate

New readalike logo: If you liked this book...why not try a readalike?While August’s readalike on death and dying offered an array of choices for those wishing to face mortality, September’s readalike, What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro, provides more palatable fare.

In fact, it pairs nicely with a list we’re developing, “Books on the bright side,” based on a list created by a librarian at the Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, just next door, called “Books that aren’t a bummer.” That list is coming soon, but in the meantime, let’s read about What She Ate!

Cover image of What She AteCulinary historian Shapiro’s new book covers six women, some of whom have more name recognition than others, but all of whom have “a powerful relationship with food”: Dorothy Wordsworth, Rosa Lewis, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eva Braun, Barbara Pym, and Helen Gurley Brown. Shapiro “presents six crisply written, ardently researched, and entertainingly revelatory portraits of very different women with complicated relationships with eating and cooking….A bounteous and elegant feast for hungry minds” (Booklist).

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (2014): Reichl is the former editor of Gourmet magazine and author of a few food-related memoirs, including Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires. Delicious! is her first novel, about an intern at a magazine that is shut down; she is the only person not laid off, for it is her responsibility to ensure the “Delicious guarantee” for each recipe. Meanwhile, she uncovers a trove of letters between a 12-year-old and James Beard.

Relish by Lucy Knisley (2013): If you’ve never read a graphic novel before but you love food and memoir, you must dig in with Relish! Booklist writes, “In this collection of memories studded with recipes, [Knisley] explores how food shaped her family life, friendships, travel experiences, and early career as a cartoonist.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane (2013) *and* Typhoid Mary: an urban historical by Anthony Bourdain (2001): The novel Fever takes Mary Mallon, a.k.a. Typhoid Mary, as its protagonist: she’s an Irish immigrant who loves cooking and makes her living cooking for others. When authorities tell her she is a carrier of typhus, and responsible for several deaths, she doesn’t believe them – and indeed, the theory of carriers was quite new. Mary is a sympathetic character and Keane brings historical New York to life. For a slim, very readable nonfiction volume on Mary Mallon, try Anthony Bourdain’s Typhoid Mary.

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman (2010): Two sisters are living distinctly different lives: one is the CEO of a tech start-up about to go public in 1999; the other works in a used and rare bookstore, where she becomes intrigued by a woman’s mysterious collection of cookbooks. Library Journal writes, “[Goodman] is remarkably successful in creating rich, engaging characters and a complex story of love and identity that reads like life itself.

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell (2005) and My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme (2006): Julie Powell is in a rut, and she assigns herself a project: she will make all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. And of course, you’ll want to read My Life in France, if you haven’t already, to hear Julia’s marvelously unique, bold, funny voice directly.

Something from the Oven: reinventing dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro (2004): In an earlier work, Shapiro examines how American home kitchens changed after World War II, from packaged foods originally designed and produced to feed soldiers to the iconic Julia Child. Library Journal writes, “[Something From the Oven is] a well-researched history of the relationship between the American woman’s domestic role as family cook and the American food industry.

Salt: a world history by Mark Kurlansky (2002): “History is not always told by a chronology of dates or even a cavalcade of famous persons. In this case, the history of the world is told piquantly in this well-seasoned account of events that shaped the world’s history and that often revolved around salt” (Choice).

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000): Bourdain’s writing is as entertaining as the descriptions of his food are tantalizing. Kitchen Confidential is all about what really happens in restaurant kitchens, from a fish shack in P-town to Les Halles in New York. There are a few tips for practical diners, as well. A fun and eye-opening read!

See also our extensive list of nonfiction recommendations: “Nonfiction: Where to Begin?”

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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month!

September 15, 2017 through October 15, 2017 is Hispanic Heritage Month!  Come visit the library and check out our display featuring information & books by and about Hispanic & Latinx-Americans.

Here’s some information about the history & celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month:

“In September 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week, observed during the week that included Sept. 15 and Sept. 16. In 1989, Congress expanded the observance to a month-long celebration (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) of the culture and traditions of those who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.”

“The activities that take place during the month, particularly in cities with large Hispanic populations, focus on how Latin[x]s have made the United States a richer and more interesting place to live. They include performances by Latin[x] musical groups, lectures about Hispanic life, and special awards presentations to Latin[x]s who have made significant achievements in business, education, or the arts. In Washington, D.C., Hispanic members of Congress and other political leaders sponsor an annual dinner at which awards are presented.”
(The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style; accessed via the library database Credo Reference.)

What does Latinx mean?

“Latinx was originally formed in the early [’00’s] as a word for those of Latin American descent who do not identify as being of the male or female gender or who simply don’t want to be identified by gender.

Latinx is used generally as a gender-neutral term for Latin Americans, but it has been especially embraced by members of Latin LGBTQ communities as a word to identify themselves as people of Latin descent possessing a gender identity outside the male/female binary.”

On the difference between Hispanic and Latino/Latinx:

“Hispanic and Latino[/Latinx] are both widely used in American English in referring to a person of Spanish-language heritage living in the United States. Though often used interchangeably, they are not identical, and in certain contexts their differences can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word for “Spain,” is the broader term, potentially encompassing all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing the common denominator of language among communities that sometimes may seem to have little else in common. Latino[/Latinx]—a shortening of the Spanish word latinoamericano—refers more exclusively to persons or communities of Latin American origin.

Note that Hispanic and Latino[/Latinx] refer only to language and culture; neither term should be thought of as specifying racial makeup. It is worth remembering, too, that the growing Hispanic population of the United States is made up of people from many different national and ethnic backgrounds who do not necessarily compose a unified community. Depending on circumstances, using such terms as Mexican American, Cuban American, or Puerto Rican is often preferable to lumping people together as Hispanic or Latino[/Latinx].”
(The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style; accessed via the library database Credo Reference.)

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NSYA Book Group meets on 9/20

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group will meet on September 20 at 7pm in the 4th floor Conference Room. We’ll be discussing In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis. There are still a few copies left at the front desk if you haven’t picked one up yet.

Copies of the next book, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, will be available by Wednesday’s meeting.

At next week’s meeting we’ll also be voting on books for discussion at future meetings.

The Not-So-Young Adult Book Group is a book discussion group for adults in which we read and talk about books written for teens. Our discussions are informal and newcomers are always welcome!

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