Now You’re Cookin’

Whether you’re a pro in the kitchen or a total amateur, our librarians have you covered with these cookbook recommendations!

My go-to cookbooks are The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (otherwise known as “the big red binder one”), The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (and blog) by Deb Perelman, and Flour by Joanne Chang. I’m also a fan of Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce and Martha Stewart’s Cookies. I love the scientific approach of the ATK books; they’ll tell you exactly what they were looking for in a recipe and how they got it, so in addition to having a recipe that really works, you know where you can tweak it and take shortcuts (and where you can’t). Smitten Kitchen’s results are always delicious, but usually take a long time to prepare. Flour has my all-time favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, among others. Good to the Grain is a good introduction to different types of flours, and I love the peach ginger muffin recipe, though it’s more work than I’d usually put into making muffins. Martha Stewart’s Cookies has the best table of contents I’ve ever seen: organized by type of cookie (light and delicate, soft and chewy, etc.) with photos of each cookie right there.

I forget where I learned these, but my two best kitchen tips are: (1) if a piece of eggshell gets into your mix by accident, the best way to get it out is with another piece of eggshell, and (2) chill your cookie dough, unless the recipe specifically says it should go right into the oven. It really does make a difference!

Baking is science for hungry people!

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible (Available to request through the Commonwealth Catalog!) – Have an indulgent time with the kinder side of the former dynamic-duo of the Great British Bake Off! Mary Berry is more than sweet in this full-color look at her favorite bakes! As someone without an extreme baking background and little cooking experience, I can tell you that Mary’s Bible is foolproof. The blend of classic British bakes is brilliant! This includes flapjacks, fairy cakes, and hot puddings! Don’t worry, she also tackles more established favorites, including cheesecakes, classic cakes, scones, and even baking for children! This baking bible is classic just like Mary Berry. Long-live the queen of British baking!

PS. My favorite recipe in the bible is the Coffee and Walnut Cake! The flavor is fantastic, and the icing is so easy to make! 🙂

 My all time favorite is All About Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art by Molly Stevens. It’s my go-to during the cooler months for delicious roasted meats and vegetable sides. Not only are the recipes outstanding, her review of the science (and art!) of how meat cooks is informative and has made me a more confident cook. Stevens provides pan sauce recipes and carving technique tips to ensure the finished product is excellent.  There is a chapter on roasted vegetable sides to round out the meal. I’ve used my copy so much the binding has broken, the pages are splattered, and it opens up right to my favorite recipes. The 150 recipes cover everything from classic simple roasted chicken and meats to more fanciful meals. I can’t wait for cooler weather to start using it again!

I am not a baker. I enjoy cooking more, as it seems more forgiving. The preciseness of baking scared me off for many years. Until I found Baking Illustrated : A Best Recipe Classic from America’s Test Kitchen. I’ve borrowed this from Robbins so many times I should just buy a copy.  America’s Test Kitchen is a great resource for any baker or chef, no matter the experience level. However, for newbies in the baking department reading about why things work and the science behind baking helped me understand my ingredients and the various techniques. In fact, I need a blueberry muffin recipe, so off to grab it! 

Although I’m not paleo, I’ve been enjoying Nom Nom Paleo, which shows recipes in cartoon form, plus they are delish!

I love eating, but I don’t like cooking, so most of my cookbooks are for simple and straightforward everyday fare. My two go-to cookbooks are Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (which includes a lentil soup recipe I make several times each winter) and How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (a favorite is the Hot and Sour Braised Tempeh.) I’ve gotten a ton of use out of my copy of the less comprehensive but super delicious Vegan With a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I love the Mashed Potatoes with Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy, and the Beet, Barley, and Black Soybean Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons is another winter favorite. The only specialty cookbook I have is Wild About Greens by Nava Atlas, which was totally worth the price just for the Kale Salad with Dried Fruits & Nuts and the Spinach and Mango Smoothie, both of which I eat regularly. Before investing in any cookbook, I always grab a copy from the library and try out a couple of recipes to make sure it’s worth paying for and taking up space on my kitchen shelf!

My pick is “Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook” ‘written’ by one of the characters from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  Nanny Ogg is one of the witches of Lancre, and she has a very robust personality.  The book is written as if she sent her recipes in to be published, with notes from the editors discussing the submissions.  She has such recipes as “Bananana soup surprise” which involves half a banana placed upright in the bowl with the soup poured in around it, and “Celery astonishment” which is a stuffed whole celery stalk served with suggestively placed potatoes ;).

There are also many recipes that have been mentioned throughout the Discworld books, and a section on Discworld etiquette (mostly fun ways to deal with all the different groups and species).

All in all, a very fun read, with a bunch of tasty recipes mixed in.

Do you have a go-to cookbook?  Let us know in the comments!

Posted in Books | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Readers’ advisory: Connecting readers with books

“Readers’ advisory” is a term that no one out outside of the library profession probably uses. Most of us don’t really like it either – it kind of sounds like we’re warning people away from books, when in fact it’s the opposite; we’re giving advice based on readers’ individual preferences to help connect people with books we think they’ll love. But we have yet to come up with a replacement term, so “readers’ advisory” it is. (Please, if you have a better idea, leave a comment!)

NYPL What would you like to read?


While the name might be uninspired, the different approaches can be wildly creative. Here are a few methods of readers’ advisory we’ve found other libraries or bookish websites offering:

As you may have gathered by now, most librarians are book lovers and we really, really enjoy helping people find books they will love. However, we can’t help you with the next problem…too many books, too little time!


Posted in Books | Tagged | Leave a comment

Adult Summer Reading Challenge going strong

Lego blocks with the words Build A Better WorldOver 100 people have signed up for the “Build A Better World” adult summer reading challenge at the Arlington libraries. If you’re one of them, well done! If you’re not, don’t worry, there’s still time!

Sign up online or in person at the library to collect your bingo sheet and start checking off boxes. You earn a raffle ticket for each box you complete; some examples are “recycle” (simple! you’re probably already doing this at home), “read a dystopian book,” “watch a TED Talk,” and “Check out a Thing from the Library of Things.” Some boxes, like “listen to an audiobook,” “read a book set in another country,” or “watch a documentary,” you can do more than once; these say “1 each.”

Collect your raffle tickets at the reference desk, write your name on the back, and drop them in the prize boxes on the display table. The “Build A Better World” challenge continues through Labor Day weekend, so there’s still more than a month to go. Sign up now if you haven’t already!

Learn more on our Summer Reading page.

Posted in Programs, Summer Reading | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Browse the Robbins Library Art Print Collection online

Our new Library of Things has proved popular, from the spiralizer to Settlers of Catan (original Library of Things blog post | update with new items added). But we’ve been lending “things” for a long time – namely, art prints! Most of the framed art you see around the library is part of our art print collection. You can take it right off the wall, check it out at the front desk, and try it out on your walls at home.

A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard

A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard

Until now, the only way to see which art prints we had was to come into the library and flip through the binders on the second floor, or wander through the stairwell (where many of the art prints hang) or look through the bins on the second floor (where the rest of them reside). You can also look up “art prints” in the library catalog and see a list of the prints (artist/title), but there are no visual images of the art prints in the catalog.

Now, however, we have created an online visual gallery of our art print collection on our Flickr page! This album includes images of nearly all of the 250+ art prints patrons are able to check out from the Robbins Library. Browse online, then come in person to pick out your art! Art prints have a six-week checkout period, and you can check out two at a time.

Flickr album header: Robbins Library Art Print Collection

Each image in the album is named by artist and title, so the album is arranged alphabetically by the artist’s last name, from Ansel Adams to Andrew Wyeth. There are many prints of photographs and paintings, including Impressionists like Monet and Renoir and more modern artists like Pollock and Rothko, but there are also movie posters (Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, La Dolce Vita), local artists’ work, and other miscellaneous prints. In other words, something for everyone!

This online visual gallery includes most, but not all, of the art prints available, so if you’re interested in browsing the complete collection, be sure to check out the art print binders on the second floor, and wander around the library when you’re here – most art prints are in the bins on the second floor, hanging in the main stairwell, or around the fourth floor rotunda. (Some of the images online may be low-resolution, but rest assured the art prints themselves are crystal clear.)

Enjoy browsing our new online gallery, and come check out a print (or two) soon!

Posted in Library of Things | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Arlington Reads Together 2018: the short list

Earlier this month, the Arlington Reads Together committee met and selected 6 books for the the Arlington Reads Together 2018 short list. Committee members will read these titles over the summer and early fall, and one will be selected as the 2018 community read.

Each member of the committee nominates a title for consideration and we review public nominations as well. We reviewed a combination of nonfiction and fiction, new releases and older titles. Many factors go into consideration, including themes, literary merit, format availability and timeliness. These six titles explore contemporary issues, both in the larger world and at home in Arlington. Read along with us, as one of these books will be our 2018 Arlington Reads Together pick! The title will be announced in late October/early November.

Posted in Arlington Reads Together | Tagged , | Leave a comment

QBG Does Crafts!

Join QBG (Queer Book Group) on Wednesday July 26th at 7PM for a craft night!  We’ll have a craft (or crafts) available, but feel free to bring any crafts you’re working on (or have been meaning to get started on) at home as well!

Queer Book Group/Social reads great LGBTQ-themed books, both fiction and non-fiction, and hosts LGBTQ-themed social events. New members are always welcome! Come make some new friends & expand your community!

Posted in LGBT, QBG, Queer Book Group | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

July’s Readalike: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

New readalike logo: If you liked this book...why not try a readalike?

In the first six months of our “readalike” feature, we’ve had a thriller, a nonfiction book, young adult fiction, short stories, a historical novel, and literary fiction. This month, one of the most popular books is a political autobiography: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. The Booklist review begins, “This is a great book about politics. No joke,” and goes on to call it “compulsively readable.” In short, it’s seriously funny.

Cover image of Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al FrankenNot many books blend politics and humor this way, and there seems to be more humor on the left than the right; nevertheless, below you’ll find some humor and some politics on both sides.

This Fight is Our Fight and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren (2017 and 2014, respectively): Champion of the middle class and nemesis of the finance industry, Massachusetts senator Warren combines personal history with political experience in these two books.

Two Paths: America Divided or United by John Kasich with Daniel Paisner (2017): Governor of Ohio John Kasich’s book reflects on his presidential campaign and “the state of political discourse” today (NPR).

Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus by Matt Taibbi (2017): This collection of essays Taibbi wrote for Rolling Stone during the 2016 election campaign provides “a cohesive narrative arc” while at the same time showing “how even the harshest skeptic in the pundit class can be blindsided” (Kirkus).

Listen, Liberal, or, What ever happened to the party of the people? by Thomas Frank (2016): The author of What’s the Matter With Kansas? turns his attention to the Democratic party and produces “a tough and thought-provoking look at what’s wrong with America” (Booklist).

Citizens of the Green Room: Profiles in Courage and Self-Delusion by Mark Leibovich (2014): “Leibovich, the chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, who specializes in profiles of people and places, brings together under one roof some of his best and most noteworthy profiles of American political and media figures,” including Chris Matthews, John McCain, and Glenn Beck, and “unlike some journalists who write about high-profile people, he doesn’t seem to have a preset agenda” (Booklist).

America Again: re-becoming the greatness we never weren’t by Stephen Colbert (2012): TV comedian and star of The Colbert Report spins that personality into a “smart, funny and slickly designed” book; the text is filled with “the blowhard, nonsense pomposity that the author both embodies and skewers” (Kirkus).

The Party is Over: How Republicans went crazy, Democrats became useless, and the middle class got shafted by Mike Lofgren (2012): “A pungent, penetrating insider polemic” by a former staffer to John Kasich and Judd Greg criticizes actions and priorities on both sides (Booklist).

Dogfight: the 2012 election campaign in verse by Calvin Trillin (2012): “Sprinkled in between Trillin’s play-by-play analyses of both campaigns [Obama and Romney] are encapsulated poems borne from media headlines….An easy, breezy, pocket-sized slice of political humor” (Kirkus).

Making Government Work by Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (2008): Former Governor of South Carolina and six-term U.S. Senator draws on his fifty years of public service to describe various changes over several presidential administrations, and topics from the environment to budget battles.

Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast (2006): Palast is an investigative journalist with a background in economics, whose writing and reporting are based on research and fact. “At once scary, infuriating, fascinating and frustrating,” Armed Madhouse “covers almost all the controversial political territory of the new century” (Publishers Weekly).

America (the book): a citizen’s guide to democracy inaction by Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin, David Javerbaum (2004): Presented as a textbook with discussion questions and activities, the Daily Show’s version of American history mixes history and humor.

Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway by Dave Barry (2001): It may be more than 15 years old now, but this book by journalist and humor columnist Dave Barry will still elicit some chuckles, and maybe even a guffaw or two.

Or, if you really just want more Al Franken, try his older books: The Truth (With Jokes), Lies (and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them), Oh, The Things I Know!, and Why Not Me?

Posted in Books | Tagged | Leave a comment

Robbins Library Book Discussion Group: “Rules for Old Men Waiting” on 8/7

The Robbins Library Book Discussion Group will next meet on Monday August 7  at 7 pm in the Robbins Library Community Room.

The group discusses “Rules for Old Men Waiting” by Peter Pouncey. New members are welcome. Book will be available at the Circulation Desk after July 10.

Here’s the description from Novelist:

Retired to his home of Cape Cod, Robert MacIver, a Scottish former professor of history and rugby player who had commanded a destroyer in the British Navy during World War II, creates a list of rules by which he will live out his final days.
Posted in Book group | Leave a comment

Historical digitization has struck again — at Robbins Library



Robbins Library has just finished digitizing two historical collections:






 Town of Arlington Annual Reports  

1933 –  2015









Town of Arlington Street Directories

                                                            1869 – 1940              


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         These two collections are now live on the Internet Archive website.                                           Arlington Annual Reports & Town Directories

Search hint – best results with these terms:

arlington annual report

city directory arlington

These books were digitized by the  Digital Commonwealth

Both collections give snapshots of the town during any particular year in our history.  We have also digitized several other of our valuable collections, including historical postcards, photographs, high school yearbooks, and many others.    For more information on the Library’s digitizaation program,  talk to Ellen, a Librarian in Local History – or 781-316-3218.  Questions & comments always welcome!





Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Not-So-Young Adult Book Group Meeting

We’re on hiatus for the month of July, but will be back in August!

Join us on Wednesday August 16 at 7pm in the 4th floor conference room to discuss The Good Braider by Terry Farish.

Here’s the description from Goodreads:

In spare free verse laced with unforgettable images, Viola’s strikingly original voice sings out the story of her family’s journey from war-torn Sudan, to Cairo, and finally to Portland, Maine. Here, in the sometimes too close embrace of the local Southern Sudanese Community, she dreams of South Sudan while she tries to navigate the strange world of America: a world where a girl can wear a short skirt, get a tattoo or even date a boy; a world that puts her into sharp conflict with her traditional mother who, like Viola, is struggling to braid together the strands of a displaced life.

Terry Farish’s haunting novel is not only a riveting story of escape and survival, but the universal tale of a young immigrant’s struggle to build a life on the cusp of two cultures.

Copies are available at the front desk to check out.

See you next month!

Posted in Book group, Books | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment