Weird Science

I have very little background in science.  I am, however, curious about the world.  Most of my questions arise as I’m doing simple, everyday tasks.  I wonder how air neutralizers work as I spray air freshener in a musty room.  I question why hair turns gray as we age when I look in the mirror.  I’m curious how batteries were invented—and why are the batteries at my house always dead?

Several years ago, I stumbled across the book Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.  Mary Roach is a science writer who is very upfront about the fact that she is not a scientist.  I loved how she addresses questions about how things work, why things are developed, and  how they are studied.  Her explanations are clear easy to understand.  She is willing to ask those “dumb” questions that we all have, like “What happens if an astronaut is sick while wearing a spacesuit?”  I find her books insightful and hilarious.

One of my favorite aspects of her research is that she is hands-on.  She backs everything up with plenty of research from science journals and scholarly articles. Ms. Roach actually goes to visit labs, training grounds, and other areas that are off-limits to most people.  Her interviews with scientists, researchers, businesses, and politicians are candid and she is willing to ask the uncomfortable questions.  She asked Jim Lovell, the Apollo 13 astronaut, if the dandruff and dead skin cells that shed, but have nowhere to go during space flight made it feel like a “snow globe” inside the space capsule.

She observes and often participates in testing and experiments.  In her latest book, Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War, she describes smelling the World War II nonlethal malodorant “Who me?” in great detail, giving detailed accounts of not only the physical outcome, but also her thoughts and emotions as she smelled the stink bomb.

If you have a curious mind, like to laugh, and don’t mind a few squeamish descriptions here and there, give Mary Roach’s books a try.

Jennifer Bekker
North Branch Library
gruntbonk gulp my-planet packing-for-marsspookstiff


Texas Library Association Lariat Reading List


Exciting news for adult readers who are looking for titles that are a pleasure to read.  The Texas Library Association has a committee dedicated to putting together a list of outstanding fiction.  Each year the committee puts together a list of titles that merit special attention for adult readers.  These are book that have been published within the past 2 years.  The current brochure features titles from 2015-2016.  Readers are able to view previous lists dating back to 2009.

The Lariat Adult Fiction Reading List was started in 2008 when Corinne Hill approached TLA to start a list for adults that would be a “pleasure to read.”  Former TLA President, Melody Kelly, bestowed the name, “Lariat.”  The Lariat Task Force was started on April 3, 2009.  Since then, the selection of 25 outstanding fiction titles of the year have been carried out in various ways.

Current Titles Include

Armada~Cline, Ernest
Zack cannot wait to finish high school and work at the local video gaming store, but unfortunately his plans are ruined when he has to go fight the aliens who plan to blow up the world. His family and his favorite game, Armada, might be the key to the Earth’s defense.

Black-Eyed Susans~Heaberlin, Julia
This thriller is alternately told by present day Tessa and her 16 year old self, Tessie, the only survivor of the “Black-Eyed Susan” killer in Fort Worth, Texas. Her original testimony sent a man to death row, but the real culprit might still be out there. Tessa teams up with experts who work to free wrongfully convicted death row inmates. The suspense builds as Tessa discovers devastating secrets from her past.

The Book of Speculation~Swyler, Erika
Simon Watson receives a package from a distant bookseller that seems to hold his family’s history, especially that of his mother. It turns out that there’s a spell on the women in his family that threatens to take away Enola, his sister and only family left. Can he save his sister and stop history from recurring?

The Bookseller~Swanson, Cynthia
Kitty Miller lives her carefree life as a single woman running a bookshop with her best friend Frieda until the dreams begin. In her dreams, she is Katharyn Andersson, a loving wife and mother. The lines between what is real and what is imagined begin to haunt her.

The Buried Giant~Ishiguro, Kazuo
Battling a magical forgetfulness, aging Britons Axl and Beatrice are determined to travel to see their son. Though filled with all the trappings of fantasy, this exquisite tale of distantly remembered battles, past wrongs and relentless change offers intricate layers of story, metaphor, reality and dream.

City on Fire~Hallberg, Garth Risk
Meet the Hamilton-Sweeney heirs, Regan and William, and many other characters of this 1970’s epic in the small town that is New York City. Their stories, including a shooting in Central Park and the 1977 blackout, intertwine the characters as they long for love and connection.

Fates and Furies~Groff, Lauren
Told from the point of view of the husband and of the wife, this novel examines not only both sides of their marriage, but also how each person’s perception affects their lives.

The Fishermen~Obioma, Chigozie
A small town Nigerian family struggle with the outcomes of a prophecy made by a madman that threatens to tear them apart.  A fascinating coming-of-age story of four brothers in the 1990’s, the story spirals into tragic consequences and the near unraveling of a family.

The Girl on the Train~Hawkins, Paula
Alcoholic, unemployed Rachel rides the daily commuter train past her old home where her ex-husband still lives with his new wife. She makes up an imagined life about another couple a few doors down, but then sees something unexpected. The next day the woman vanishes. As Rachel gets involved in the investigation, the suspense builds. Things are not what they seem, with many twists and turns in this page turner of a thriller.

Girl Underwater~Kells, Claire
A major plane crash leaves Avery and four others stranded in the harsh wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in late November. After their rescue, she is emotionally torn between coping with what happened in the mountains and fitting back into normal life. Already in a relationship, she must also face her feelings for another man: fellow survivor and teammate, Colin Shea.

The Gods of Tango~De Robertis, Carolina
An Italian woman is married by proxy when her fiancé sends for her to join him in Argentina. At the port, her husband’s friend informs her that she is a widow. Deciding not to go back home, she masters the violin and tries on her husband’s clothes, finding that they and a man’s lifestyle suit her.

The Good Neighbor~ Banner, A.J.
Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, and good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. All too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. One October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

The Marauders~Cooper, Tom
What do drug dealers, shrimpers, a BP oil representative and petty criminals on community service have in common? Told from each of their perspectives, their lives converge in the swampland of Jeannette, Louisiana, five years after Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry~Backman, Fredrik
Seven year old Elsa, precocious, different, and bullied, is buoyed by her relationship with Granny, her superhero, and by Granny’s stories of a fairytale kingdom where being different is good. When Granny dies, Elsa carries out “quests” for Granny – delivering letters of apology to people Granny wronged. In the process, Elsa learns much about life, her family and friends, and Granny’s “stories.”

My Sunshine Away~Walsh, M.O.
The adult narrator recalls being a suspect in the rape of his neighborhood friend and crush Lindy Simpson when they were teens in 1989 Baton Rouge. In beautiful prose and with a strong sense of place and time, the story unfolds by alternating between past and current timeframes. Did the narrator commit this terrible act?

The Nightingale~Hannah, Kristin
Vianne and Isabelle live in German occupied France during World War II. Through them, we experience their different ways of living the war’s horrors and hardships. We witness the courage and strength of everyday people to do the impossible and what is necessary to fight for survival, ideals, country, and loved ones.

Paradise Sky~Lansdale Joe R.
A former slave named Willie flees home to the Old West, followed by his enemies and father’s killers. See him become Nat Love, aka Deadwood Dick, a masterful gunslinger who comes back to avenge himself for all that he has lost.

The Scribe~Guinn, Matthew
Thomas Canby is brought back to Atlanta to vindicate his name and help solve a gruesome murder spree that threatens to ruin the 1881 International Cotton Exposition. The “Ring” that pushed him out of town may somehow be involved. Alongside him is Cyrus Underwood, Atlanta’s first African American detective. The murders seem to be racially motivated, but there is more than meets the eye when the killings take a turn in another direction.

Seveneves~Stephenson, Neal
The moon has suddenly exploded, leaving the inhabitants of Earth to face their imminent demise. Is there a way to ensure the survival of humanity? Is genetics the key to the solution?

Sofrito~Diederich, Phillippe
Frank Delgado’s restaurant is in financial trouble. He hears of a fabulous secret chicken recipe, stolen from his uncle by the government of Cuba, his parent’s homeland.  Frank travels to Cuba with the dangerous task of trying to steal back the recipe. Amidst espionage, intrigue, love, and discoveries of family secrets, Frank falls in love with the Cuba of his parents’ youth.

The Stranger~Coben, Harlan
“Don’t talk to strangers.” A stranger approaches Adam and divulges a dark secret about his wife, Corinne. After he confronts her, she disappears. Working with Chief Johanna Griffin to unfold the stranger’s mysterious words, Adam learns that the most familiar may be more dangerous.

Sweet Damage~James, Rebecca
Tim Ellison feels lucky to find a cheap room to rent in a mansion close to his work in Sydney. The only condition is to look after the mysterious owner, twenty year old Anna. He slowly learns about her past and her crippling fears. Tim feels uneasy as odd, mysterious things begin to happen, but he is also strangely attracted to Anna. What’s really going on?

The Truth According to Us~Barrows, Annie
During the Depression, pampered Senator’s daughter, Layla Beck, is cut off from allowances and is sent to work as a writer for the WPA’s Writer’s Project in little old Macedonia, West Virginia. Soon she comes to like the small town and her work. She discovers dark secrets that some want to stay hidden, and she finds that people have different versions of the truth and of the town’s history.

Uprooted~Novik, Naomi
The Dragon, the wizard who protects the valley from the Wood’s evil encroachment, demands the most special village girl as payment every 10 years. Neither graceful nor beautiful, Agnieszka is shocked and terrified when the Dragon chooses her, but finds she has an aptitude for learning magic. Her adventures include a deadly quest, true friendship, and court intrigue.

The Water Knife~Bacigalupi, Paolo
After environmental catastrophes, Nevada and California wage a war for water rights. The American Southwest becomes a gritty world of big money, ruthless business and seedy undertakings. Angel, a “Water Knife” who gets water for his employer any way he can, and a journalist search for the elusive paperwork that is behind a slew of murders, while a teenage orphan refugee struggles to find a way out of Phoenix.


Black-Eyed Susans

The Book of Speculation

The Bookseller

The Buried Giant

City on Fire

Fates and Furies

The Fishermen

The Girl on the Train

Girl Underwater

The Gods of Tango

The Good Neighbor

The Marauders

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

My Sunshine Away

The Nightingale

Paradise Sky

The Scribe



The Stranger

Sweet Damage

The Truth According to Us


The Water Knife

Reka Reynolds
Emily Fowler Central Library

Need a Good Book?

Summer Reading Club has started off with a bang at the Denton Public Library.  Everyone is ready to enjoy the summer with some great books.

One question that keeps coming up every summer is “Can you recommend a good book?”  I wanted to share some tips on finding great reading materials for all ages that I frequently use when helping at the reference desk or looking for my next book.

First, start with something you like.  Think about some books you have liked in the past.  What are some common themes with those books?  Why did you like them so much?

Next, think about specific aspects of those books you are drawn to.  Were they serious or funny?  Did they fit into a particular genre: romance, science fiction, historical, mystery, etc?  Do you prefer non-fiction and biographies?  Do you relate better to certain types of characters?  Do you like long epics or short stories?

Once you have identified a few key things that you are looking for in a book, try one of these great tools to help you find the perfect book:

Novelist Select is available online for all Denton Public Library cardholders as well as on all library computers and catalogs in each of the three branches for anyone who visits the library.  This is my go-to book recommendation tool.  You can search by title, author, subject, or keyword.  Pre-made lists are available for all ages on popular and timely topics.  It also offers robust advanced search capabilities such as books by grade level, author’s nationality, number of pages, award winner, and more. is a popular book recommendation site with members submitting book reviews, creating suggested reading lists, and sharing their love of reading with the social media aspect of the site.  Recommendations are available for youth and adult materials of all types and topics.

Amazon’s Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought feature lets you see titles that others have also selected when purchasing a particular title.  It is easy to jump from title to title and get caught in an endless string of recommendations.  Simply search for a book you liked and scroll down to see other titles that shoppers have also selected to go with that title.

Your Next Read shares recommendations based on recommendations, recommendations and Your Next Read user recommendations.  Recommendations are presented in a bubble map, allowing you to visually move from recommendation to recommendation.  There is a separate tab for searching children’s materials.  Preselected lists are also available for easy browsability.

Of course one of the best resources to help you find a great book is the library staff.  Head over to the reference desk at any of our branches.  We are ready to help you connect with your next favorite book.  We’ll ask you some questions about your reading interests and come up with some great recommendations.

Enjoy your summer and keep reading!

Jennifer Bekker, North Branch Manager

Novels with Humor

Do you like to read humorous stories or novels?  I do.  Janet Evanovich is one of my favorite authors for humor.  Seven-Up, of the Stephanie Plum series, is still my favorite book. I still laugh hard when reading the book.  I love to see how Stephanie is going to get out of the scrapes she gets into and how her cars always seem to blow up.

Another author I read is Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I like to think of her writing as a cross between Nora Roberts and Janet Evanovich.  Sexy and funny.  The girl walking down the side of the road in a beaver suit in Natural Born Charmer had me in stitches.

You cannot leave out Dave Berry for humor. All his books leave you laughing. His novel, Tricky Business should not be read in a doctor’s office.  You will get funny looks as you try your hardest not to laugh out loud.  I speak from experience.  These are a few of my favorite humor authors.  Who are your favorite humor authors?

Carmen, Denton Public Library North Branch

Janet Evanovich          Susan Elizabeth Phillips          Dave Barry

Texas, Our Texas #1

We’re starting a new blog series featuring oddities, rarities, and interesting titles from our Texana Collection at the Emily Fowler Library. The title of it is as above, “Texas, Our Texas”, which we’re sure some of you are familiar with.

What is a “Texana” collection, you ask? Our definition is: items that cover all areas and aspects of Texas from its birth to current events. Our collection has been designated a Texas Heritage Resources Center by The Texas Historical Commission since 1982 and we strive to have a history for each of the 254 counties.

Interestingly, one cannot find an actual definition of “texana” in any dictionary! Not for the first or last time, Texans have apparently coined a term for a unique need and we aren’t going to argue with custom or The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas (maybe the premier collection in the state).

So, without further ado, our first book is Texas Women’s Hall of Fame by Sinclair Moreland. Published in 1917, it contains short biographical sketches and photos of notable Texas women, most of whom are addressed by their married name or title, ie; “Mrs. John Davis”. Also included following each entry are short quotes such as the following,

“When a woman works, she gets a woman’s wage; but when she sins, she gets a man’s pay-and then some.”


Below is Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who later became the first female Texas governor and the first elected female governor in the United States in 1924. Interestingly, this biographical sketch was written by one Katie Daffan who was the president of the Texas chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and namesake of the Denton chapter of that organization.


Keep your eyes on this blog for our next installment of Texas, Our Texas where we take a look at a book that discusses the Zapruder Film’s effects on modern visual culture.

Written by Chuck Voellinger at the Emily Fowler Library. Please contact me with any questions at




“Organizational health” and “page-turner” in the same sentence. Really.

When Patrick Lencioni was a boy, his father came home from work in the evenings and lamented all the dysfunction where he worked. Young Patrick listened. Really listened.

Interesting inspiration for Lencioni; decades later he is a best-selling author who The Wall Street Journal calls one of the most sought-after business speakers in America. He also is the founder of The Table Group, a consulting firm. And the currency behind all of his success is organizational health.

If you are not in management, you might think organizational health is as tasty as unsalted crackers. Not so, when Lencioni delivers a buffet of what he calls “leadership fables.” Lencioni creates fictional characters and tells how they prevail over organizational challenges. The most complex workplace issues inevitably are solved with a recipe of compassion, empathy and a lot of common sense.

The challenges that make up Lencioni’s settings are so common in the workplace that the stories will resonate with almost everyone. I read his Silos, Politics and Turf Wars on a flight from Dallas to Boston, cover to cover. I guess most of my fellow passengers thought I resembled a bobbing-head doll, because I was nodding in agreement in every chapter.

Management and business lessons often double as life lessons, because relationships are at the heart of every organization, including families, teams, and book discussion groups … you name it. In fact, I wrote a blog just a couple of years ago explaining how Lencioni’s Three Signs of a Miserable Job (which actually is a leadership fable about engaging employees in the organization’s mission) perfectly applied to Little League practice with a dozen 8- and 9-year-olds.

Take Lencioni for a test drive. Chances are, you will discover that the most daunting difficulties in your organization are surprisingly simple to navigate when the focus is on the outcome. The Denton Public Library includes six of Lencioni’s books in its collection. Find out how a successful, semi-retired entrepreneur found himself working in a small pizza joint among Colorado ski slopes … and turned the organization around. These are great stories, fun reads, and relevant:

Randy Simmans – North Branch Library

Learning Never Stops

You might think that just because you are out of school, you don’t need to learn anything. Wrong! You learn new things every day, and the library is a natural place to learn and try new things—a classroom for the community.

The library is full of books and classes and videos to learn to things. Want to finally fix up that old Ford Mustang that has been sitting in your garage? Check out our online Chilton catalogs, which provides step by step instructions.

PlayWant to learn how to teach your child? Visit one of our many classes, or just stop by the children’s area and play. Did you know that play is one of the key aspects in a child’s learning and development? That’s right. A child’s job is to play. Play is how children learn new things and how they make sense of the world. Have you ever listened on your child’s conversation while they are playing? They are internalizing a conversation they have experienced, and are making it real by acting it out with their toys.


Want to enroll your children in some STEAM classes…but aren’t really sure where to start? Check out the many Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math classes the library has to offer for all ages. The Forge, at the North Branch Library, is full of fun technology, including a 3-D printers, Raspberry Pis, and Arduinos. The South Branch Library recently started a STEAM Ahead program, which will focus on different aspects of STEAM. This month we had a Lego Challenge: create something that floats, build a tall structure, and assemble a word out of Lego blocks.

Want to learn more about your family history? The Emily Fowler Library has an entire department devoted to genealogy and family history.

The Denton Public Library has a never-ending list of learning opportunities, so do as our blog says and “Check it out!”

Youth Librarian, South Branch Library