Monday, August 6, 2018

Needle Recommends 'The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons' by Sam Keane

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery by Sam Keane

“Above all, we know that there’s a physical basis for every psychological attribute we have: if just the right spot gets damaged, we can lose just about anything in our mental repertoire, no matter how sacred.”

In my last review of a nonfiction book, I wrote that I rarely read nonfiction. Recently, however, books like this one have helped reduce the internal stigma I held toward nonfiction reading. I started this book for school, but only needed to read the 3 chapters for the assignment. Originally, I read the three required chapters then cast the book aside and moved on to other assignments, but I found myself wanting to finish it on my own time.
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons is an examination of the human brain and the connections between the physical aspects of our bodies (lobes, neurons, muscles, etc.) and the less tangible aspects of our existence like our thoughts, personalities, and our free will (if it exists at all...). Keane uses many different historical cases and patients to explore the various ways that the brain can be damaged and/or changed, be it through disease or injury. Some of the cases he talks about are pretty well known, like Phineas Gage, who is often called the father of modern neuroscience ever since a massive pointy rod went through his head and he exhibited no obvious symptoms -- he didn’t even lose consciousness -- except mysterious changes in personality visible only to those closest to him. Many of the people he talks about, though, are fascinating examples of how intricate and mysterious the brain really is.

Keane’s writing is compelling and colorful, which really helped me stay engaged. His voice shines through in almost every page, and there is an extensive appendix offering extra information and funny additions to the text at the end. Although there is a lot of sciencey speech, he makes most of it familiar enough that normal people can follow along and have at least a pretty good idea of what he’s talking about. I really liked how the book was based around historical anecdotes and personal stories, because it helped me get into the book in the same way I would with a work of fiction. I recommend The Tale of Dueling Neurosurgeons to anyone interested in learning or thinking about how we, as humans, think and behave, as well as fans of more niche characters in history. This book is probably best for fans of science since there is quite a bit of scientific language and concepts, but even if you don’t like science this book will probably still interest you with its quirky and mysterious stories.

Are you interested in reviewing for the Robbins Library? Check out our How to Volunteer Page!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Needle recommends 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

“If you wanted to be cheerful, or melancholic, or wistful, or thoughtful, or courteous, you simply had to act those things with every gesture” (182).

Throwback Thursday! (or whatever day you might be reading this on)! Patricia Highsmith, author of The Price of Salt (the book that was later turned into Oscar nominee Carol) wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1955 yet unlike some books that are over 60 years old, this one felt barely dated. It is well written and not overly old-fashioned in style, so it’s not difficult to read in any way. 

The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller/mystery about a young man, Tom Ripley, who is asked to visit an old acquaintance in Italy and convince him to return to the US. Charmed by his friend, a wealthy and spoiled man named Dickie Greenleaf, Tom’s intrigue turns into infatuation which quickly turns into a terrifying obsession. Threatened by Dickie’s girlfriend and the notion that Dickie may be growing tired of him, Tom falls deeper into his obsession and his desire for living the lavish life that Dickie leads. 

The book is told from Tom’s point of view, although he is hardly a protagonist. In fact, the most interesting thing about this book is that the story is told from such a clearly unreliable narrator, but his reasoning, no matter how flawed, is honest and his emotions are true, despite the fact that they lead to… well, I won’t spoil it. 

There are plenty of mystery books out there, and if you’re looking for a truly suspenseful story where you have no idea what happens next, this may not be the book for you. There is suspense and mystery, yes, but the real charm of the book is observing the twisted, horrifying inner workings of the narrator’s brain and thinking about how easily his mundane feelings of jealousy, greed, and infatuation, which are all relatable to some extent, turn horribly, horribly sour. Thematically, this book reminded me heavily of A Separate Peace because of the corrupting power of the narrator’s jealousy and admiration toward a more successful, more handsome peer. If you liked A Separate Peace or if you’re just a fan of mysteries and psychological stories, definitely check out The Talented Mr. Ripley.  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


We've had a few questions via email regarding this weekend's DRAG PROM! We can't believe its finally here! At any rate, we've put together a list of what we think may be questions you have or have already asked us! 
  1. Q: Do I have to pay to come to the event? 
    • A: No, like most things that happen at the library, this is a FREE EVENT.
  2. Q: Is it required that attendees dress in drag? 
    • A: No, you can absolutely come as yourself! If you change your mind, we'll have plenty of materials to fit the persona-clothes and makeup, you envision. 
  3. Q: Do I have to be queer/LGBTQIA+ identifying to attend the prom? 
    • A: No, as long as you're a teen from 12 to 19, that respects and considers yourself an ally to the queer community, you're more than welcome to attend! 
  4. Q: Will there be food and drinks at the event? 
    • A: Yes, we'll have food and drinks for people to enjoy. 
  5. Q: Can I come to the event late? 
    • A: Yes, you can show up late, but you cannot leave and come back to the prom. 
  6. Q: Are middle schoolers welcome to attend? 
    • A: Yes, middle schoolers are more than welcome to attend! 
  7. Q: Are teens outside of Arlington allowed to come to prom? 
    • A: Yes, absolutely! We want teens to meet new teens and enjoy an alternative prom experience. 
  8. Q: Will there be adults at the prom? 
    • A: Yes, there will chaperones that have had background checks for the event. 
  9. Q: Where is Drag Prom being held? 
  10. Q: Will the Drag King and Queen do a number for everyone? 
    • A: Yes! They will do an opening sequence as well as a performance during the prom.
  11. Q; Can I just come to dance? 
    • A: Yes, absolutely. We've got a solid DJ to help you have a fantastic time! 
  12. Q: Will there be a photographer? 
    • A: Yes, there will be a professional photographer that will be there to take 'prom pics' for teens! The pics will be uploaded to a private online gallery.
  13. Q: Will I need to bring a date?
    • A: No date necessary! You're more than welcome to come stag or with friends! 
If you have other questions, please feel free to reach out and contact us! We'll be here, and we're happy to make this queer prom season wonderful! 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Needle SORT OF Recommends 'Jaya and Rasa' by Sonia Patel

Jaya and Rasa: A Love Story by Sonia Patel

This retelling of Romeo and Juliet is about two teens living in Hawaii. Rasa is of mixed race, the daughter of a neglectful prostitute and forced to delve into prostitution herself after she was raped at a very young age just to keep her and her younger siblings alive, and when she and her siblings are put into foster care, she ends up under the control of a manipulative, violent pimp. Jaya is an Indian, transgender boy from a wealthy family that, despite looking like the perfect family from the outside, is being destroyed by his father’s cheating and his mother’s eating disorder. The characters meet and feel an instant attraction, are kept apart by their families/pimps, you get the idea.  

Jaya and Rasa is one of those books that’s just chock-full of diversity: while many authors (and especially filmmakers) seem to believe that “diverse traits” can only appear one at a time and are mutually exclusive, this book does NOT have that problem. Now, I’m about to start talking about what I didn’t like: if you already are planning on reading this book, please do and skip along to the last paragraph. I’m almost afraid to jinx it by typing this but… I think Patel went just a little TOO above and beyond with her diversity quota. The story feels rushed and the characters underdeveloped: they are supposed to be 16 or 17 but unfortunately Patel’s immature writing ends up portraying them in an unsophisticated and immature light. In my opinion, she would have done her characters more justice by focusing less on making her book a poster child for diversity through tons of cliched, textbook situations of abuse, mental illness, and general bad situations. Instead, I wish she’d taken the time to develop her characters as people, as teenagers, with more original, nuanced, and deep representations of the effects of horrible life situations.  

But the truth is, I don’t want to bash this book and I still think you should read it. Unfortunately, we still struggle to see tabooed real-life issues in media, and it’s incredibly important to have book and movie characters that help reflect issues that teens all over might face, and start the conversation about these topics that will hopefully lead to support and understanding for victims of abuse, sex trafficking, neglect, racism, homo- and transphobia, eating disorders, and the many other problems people still fight against daily but are rarely discussed in the media. So yes, Jaya and Rasa was far from perfect as a novel, but I still support it because of the topics it deals with and the ever-present need for more books that aren’t afraid to deal with hard topics. 

WARNINGS: This book is very dark and deals heavily with sexual and physical abuse, rape, homo- and transphobia, eating disorders, attempted suicide, and neglect. If you are particularly sensitive about these things this book might not be for you. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018


First come, first serve! Want to learn more about CHOCOLATE?! Experience the world of chocolate with special guest, Kim Larkin! You’ll learn about the history of chocolate, partake in some chocolate trivia, and last but not least, MAKE and TAKE your CHOCOLATE creations home! This event is for grades 6 to 12.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


In keeping with National Poetry Month, Thursday, April 26th is Poem In Your Pocket Day! Poem in Your Pocket Day intends to unite people in a day of celebration for poetry! Stop by the Poem Display on your way in the Robbins Library where you can pick up a poem to place in your pocket! Take a printed poem or write your own poem to keep or share!
Want to know what poem I'll have in my pocket?!


Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

While the poem is definitely about the sadness of life ending, it always reminds me to appreciate the natural world as well as the brevity of life. Jane Kenyon lived in my hometown and was married to National Poet Laureate, Donald Hall. There's a Bill Moyers PBS documentary on the couple from the early 90s. CHECK.IT.OUT. As with her later poems, this one took a darker turn as she succumbed to her leukemia.

The nerdy part regarding this poem pertains to our middle-high school band playing an arrangement of this poem. Like the poem, the musical arrangement was sad but accepting of the circumstances of life. Feel free to hit up youtube for some sound middle school arrangements!

Jane's work has been compared to Sylvia Plath's and has been praised for its use of rural description, which was no doubt inspired by her Northern New England surroundings!

Let Evening Come stayed with me over the years, and that's why it'll be in my pocket!



PS. What poem will/would you put your pocket?!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Celebrate National Poetry Month with BLACKOUT POETRY

Blackout Poetry
Wednesday, April 25th

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm 

Teen Area 

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we’ll be providing pages to make your own unique erasure poetry! With existing text, blackout poets isolate then piece single words or short phrases to create poems and in some cases, magnificent artwork! While the initial pages of text won’t be unique, the framing and creating of your personal poem and artwork will be! Be loud and be heard! Happy National Poetry Month!