The Drug Hunters: The Improbable Quest to Discover New Medicines

By Donald R. Kirsch
Star Rating

Rated by Brian O.
Apr 6, 2020

From Ötzi the Ice Age hunter-gatherer to billion-dollar pharmaceutical research and development labs people have been looking for substances to ease pain, cure disease and prolong a healthy life.

In The Drug Hunters we follow along the circuitous paths drugs can take on their way to the pharmacy shelf. One antifungal drug that was researched as a cure for athlete’s foot is now used in anti-rejection therapies. The birth control pill started with Swiss dairy farmers' efforts to keep their cows producing milk. We also learn how the earliest synthetic dye companies transformed into modern-day

May 20, 2019

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you jumped into a black hole? Or maybe you're curious about what would happen if you traveled to another planet, like Jupiter or Venus? Could this book kill you while you're reading it and, if so, how? And Then You're Dead examines these and dozens of other scenarios to offer a scientific explanation for how you would meet your demise in these unlikely and unlucky ways.

Yes, on the surface this book sounds depressing. The authors bring a dry sense of humor to each scenario that effectively balances out the cringe effect of rather gory descriptions

I Contain Multitudes: the Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

By Ed Yong
Star Rating

Rated by Courtney S
Oct 19, 2017

When it comes to nonfiction science books, I definitely have a "type." (I blame Mary Roach for this.) And when I heard that  I Contain Multitudes could teach me something about the world around me with engaging clarity and humor, I needed to read it. In it, Ed Yong explores the interconnected web of life that's built on microbes--long thought to be a threat to life, but now known to be a key part of it. Through this lens, we learn to look at ourselves not just as the static result of a specific set of DNA, but as evolving communities of interdependent organisms. Much has been written about

Lab Girl

By Hope Jahren
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 3, 2017

Do not believe the title of this book. Jahren has a dog, but he isn’t a Labrador. (Coco is actually a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.) But read it anyway! You’ll learn so much.

There’s the harsh reality of how scientists procure funding, which Jahren explains eloquently. You’ll learn what a scientist does in the field, and how, with a dash of why. And how red tape can render that work all for naught. You’ll learn what true friendship looks like, and you might understand mental illness a little bit better.

Not to mention the trees, their leaves, and how they grow, drink, survive and reproduce. Best

The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You

By Clare Walker Leslie
Star Rating

Rated by LeeAnn B.
Feb 15, 2016

In The Curious Nature Guide, author Clare Walker Leslie uses beautiful photographs and exquisite illustrations to entice us to rediscover the wonders that surround us in the natural world. Filled with easy-to-follow prompts and exercises, Walker inspires readers to reduce stress by spending time in nature.  Her book includes simple suggestions for reconnecting with the outside world.  

A quote from a postcard in the book serves as motivation; “There is no Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection.” After reading this book, I’m inspired to notice (and journal about)

The Martian

By Andy Weir

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Jun 27, 2015

The Martian follows an American Mars astronaut who is mistakenly left for dead on the red planet after an abnormally bad sandstorm causes NASA to scrub a month long mission after six days. The extremely long flight, preparation time and resources required by NASA for such a voyage means this astronaut’s life depends on some creative means of seriously extending his supplies until the next mission is sent—and that means lots of math! 

Originally self-published, The Martian retains some hallmarks of a text that doesn’t conform to more traditional edits which is a nice change of pace in my view

Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks

By Ben Goldacre
Star Rating

Rated by Heather B.
Jun 25, 2015

Ben Goldacre is a British doctor who has a major bone to pick with science done badly, and with the media that often misuses, misunderstands, or distorts scientific concepts (intentionally or not). His catchphrase is the pithy, "I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that." In his book Bad Science, he takes on multiple cases of ideas and practices that have, he argues, been propped up either by bad science or bad communication about science, such as homeopathy and the anti-vaccine movement. Lest you think he's a paid shill for the pharmaceutical industry, as he is often accused

Weird Frogs

By Chris Earley
Star Rating

Rated by Diane H.
Apr 4, 2015

This was one of the shortest and most fun books I’ve read in a long while. The pictures of the frogs and toads are gorgeous. The pictures are why I picked up the book in the first place.

While I can’t pretend that I’ll remember all the facts (the Latin names have already slipped through my mind), I doubt I’ll forget the wide variety, rich colors, and sheer awesomeness of the amphibians on display throughout the book. Weird Frogs reminded me of Rebecca Johnson’s science books for kids, such as When Lunch Fights Back, Zombie Makers, and Chernobyl’s Wild Kingdom. All these books impart

When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses

By Rebecca L. Johnson
Star Rating

Rated by Diane H.
Jan 29, 2015

Teeth, claws, horns. These are animal defenses we’re familiar with. What about slime? Toxic explosions? Blood shooting from an eye? Learn about these and other totally cool and utterly gross ways that animals protect themselves in Rebecca Johnson’s When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses.

This is a short, intriguing book for older children and anyone interested in fun (and rather disgusting) facts about animals.

Rebecca Johnson has written numerous science books for children that are entertaining as well as informative, such as Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead a

What If

By Randall Munroe

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Dec 24, 2014

What would happen if you had a mole of moles?  Or if everybody on planet Earth decided to jump up and down at the same time?  How high up would you have to drop a steak for it to be cooked by the time it hit the ground?  Former NASA scientist Randall Munroe has been amusing the internet with his stick figure drawings since 2005, mostly on the popular website, but the popular comics website is also home to a column where he answers hypothetical (and very often insane) questions about physics, space, chemistry and just about everything else.  

A compendium of the answers has now been

Gulp. Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

By Mary Roach
Star Rating

Rated by Jed D.
Sep 4, 2014

If you’re not a fan of what happens to your food from one end of your body to the other, stop reading this review right now!  For those that are curious, Mary Roach’s Gulp is the book for you.  Roach humorously covers both silly and taboo topics: pet food taste-testers, internal deodorizers that keep bathroom odors away, resourceful prisoners who know just where to hide unbelievable amounts of contraband, and, yes, even the constipation that may have killed Elvis.  For me, the chapter describing an American surgeon in 1825 that used a wounded trapper as his own lab rat stuck with me long after


By Alejandro Amenábar

Rated by Library Staff (not verified)
Aug 15, 2014

Based in Roman Egypt, Agora is about a female professor and philosopher, Hypatia, who teaches young men about science. Encouraged by her father, she surrounds herself with information in the great library of Alexandria and is constantly testing new scientific theories. She is quite content to live her life researching but several men would like to marry her, including Orestes, one of the disciples that she teaches, and Davus, her slave. Love, however, is not the only thing that Hypatia has to worry about. Although their world seems calm and peaceful, an uprising by Christians begins to brew

What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night

By John Brockman
Star Rating

Rated by Michelle H.
Mar 27, 2014

Through his organization Edge Foundation, John Brockman asks academics and artists to respond to a provocative question about science that will bring something new to a discussion.

This year he asks: What should we be worried about? One hundred and fifty contributors – many well-known, others less famous – take us on short trips to a land of anxiety, detailing fears we might never have otherwise known existed.  Should we worry about the loss of humility, radio leakage, maniacal robots and the black hole of finance? Shouldn’t we also burden our worries with the worry about worry? What about

Wild Comfort

By Kathleen Dean Moore
Star Rating

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Dec 23, 2013

Perhaps the best essay in Wild Comfort is the piece that launches the collection, The Solace of Snakes.  It’s possible that it’s my favorite essay because of her cunning implementation of snake tins (sheets of metal) to give snakes a proper home in a cleared field.  Kathleen Dean Moore further explains her recordings each day as she carefully lifts the snake tins and examines the life beneath: “A large vole. . . dropping blind babies from her teats like ripe plums,” garter snakes, rubber boas, an alligator lizard – treasures of the dark that are suddenly revealed in the light of Moore’s simple

Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise

By David Rothenberg
Star Rating

Rated by Bryan V.
Nov 7, 2013

David Rothenberg's Bug Music is a highly readable  and eccentric investigation into an aspect of nature too easily taken for granted. Bugs produce very mathematical sounds based on natural cycles. What human ears are able to delineate is really only the tip of a very large iceberg connected to other icebergs. Delving deeply into the sounds of cicadas, crickets and katydids, Rothenberg is not afraid to suddenly go big-picture on his readers. He aims for nothing less than a direct connection between  a cricket’s chirp and jazz band’s rhythm section. There is a philosophical nature to Rothenberg

Sep 2, 2013

Equal parts science and history, Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon takes the reader on a journey through the periodic table of elements and the people who discovered them.  This quick and candid read is full of fun facts and asides—did you know that nineteenth century mercury laxatives have allowed historians to accurately trace Lewis and Clark’s path west? And that the myth of Midas might have sprung from the zinc deposits that made his kingdom flush with lustrous brass?  But it’s also full of tales from the darker side of chemistry, such as Fritz Haber’s drive to invent chemical warfare and

Wesley the Owl by Stacie O'Brien

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Aug 15, 2013

Wesley the Owl is a fascinating story about the 19 years Stacie O’Brien shares with Wesley, a barn owl.  Stacie, an employee at Caltech, is offered the opportunity to raise a barn owl.  She immediately accepts the offer and throws herself into the arduous but overwhelmingly poignant task of creating a happy and long life for her new feathered baby.  Wesley thrives in Stacie’s care, and Stacie, in return, becomes the best owl mother a baby owl could ask for.  At a very funny moment in Wesley’s life his relationship with Stacie changes, and he chooses her as a mate.  Because of The Way of the

Jun 5, 2013

I've been a massive fan of the TV show Doctor Who since I was 13. Even at its worst, the show excites me and inspires me like nothing else. Although principally seen as a science fiction show, it's always played a little fast and loose with real science. Or has it?

In The Science of Doctor Who, scientist and journalist Paul Parsons looks at much of the science presented in both the classic and the modern show, giving a basic introduction to contemporary scientific thought on time travel, faster-than-light travel, extraterrestrial life, alternate dimensions, robotics, cybernetics, genetics and

Free Will by Sam Harris

Rated by Michelle H.
Mar 17, 2013

Today we hear a lot about choice. We hear that it is within our power to make choices that benefit us and to take responsibility for choices that haven’t. Good messages, but are they true. Free Will argues that choice is an illusion. Author Sam Harris has degrees in philosophy and neuroscience, and he makes a convincing argument about how our brains and bodies are already choosing prior to our taking any action. In this small book, which was on a number of “best of 2012” lists, Harris asks us to consider how if we cannot consciously perceive choice are we free to follow its signal?


Aug 3, 2011

Those of us who are addicted to Public Radio know Kee Malesky as The Librarian. Her name is always acknowledged on NPR programs, which makes her one of a few librarians in the media to receive public credit for her work as a librarian.  Hearing her name on the radio makes us wonder what her first name is.

 As a librarian, I was interested in reading her book and getting a look into her work day full of fact checking, research, and her day-to-day  duties as NPR librarian. But unfortunately, this is not what All Facts Considered: The Essential Library of Inessential  Knowledge  is about.  The