books | KERA News


Evan Agostini / Associated Press

Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey didn’t want to write an ordinary celebrity book.

Marci Pritts / United Way of Denton County

Schools in Denton County just received a $17,000 grant that will re-stock library shelves at 42 low-income schools and childcare centers. The program called the OMG Book Grant will put almost 5,600 new volumes into circulation.

If you’re looking for suggestions for page-turners to read by the fire — or you’d simply like to learn a little more about some of the people who get the news on the radio and web every day — please enjoy these 5 book recommendations from KERA journalists. 

Editor's note: This review includes racial epithets that appear in the book.

In her foreword to America Is in the Heart — Carlos Bulosan's classic 1946 novel about Filipinx and Mexican migrant workers on the West Coast — the Filipina American novelist Elaine Castillo asks readers, "Do you remember how old you were when you first read a book that had a character who looked and lived like you in it?"

In 1908, three riders from Hawaii came to compete in the biggest rodeo in America — Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Their abilities stunned spectators unaware of Hawaii’s cattle culture.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The country's top young spellers battle next week in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Last year’s champion, Karthik Nemmani, is from McKinney.


That's right, they're not looking for you and your overdue books anymore. 

The Dallas City Council amended an ordinance Wednesday that eliminates fees on overdue books. Previously, an overdue book cost 30 cents a day.

From Texas Standard:

When there's a vacancy on the Supreme Court, a president has the opportunity to fill that slot with someone who shares his or her political perspective and values. As a result, the president cements a legacy. But nominations can spark backlash from a opponents, which happened when Lyndon Johnson nominated Abe Fortas for chief justice as Johnson was finishing up his term as president in the late 1960s. Some conservative senators vowed to prevent the lame-duck president from pushing through his nominee. This happened more than 50 years ago, but it's an echo of what's happening today with our current president, his Supreme Court nominees and Congress.

From Texas Standard:

Energy is the invisible driver of nearly everything we do. It gets us to work, lights our homes – it even powers the equipment we use to broadcast Texas Standard. Energy – and access to it – determines the wealth, health and growth of societies. Michael Webber explores how energy has shaped civilization in his new book “Power Trip: The Story Of Energy.

Webber says he became interested in the topic during an undergraduate history class at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1980, writer David Dillon posed the question in a commentary published in Dallas magazine: "Why is Dallas architecture so bad?"

At the time, Dallas was at the height of a building boom, but in Dillon's eyes, new construction in the city did not have the best interests of the public at large at heart. The article launched Dillon's career as a critic of Dallas architecture for the Dallas Morning News, shaping the city's conversation about itself and in so doing, reshaping its landscape.

When the kerfuffle over the impending release of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman was cluttering up my news feeds in 2015, I confess that I didn't pay much attention.

Ask a reporter "what book shaped your life?" and you're likely to hear about more than one.

That was the case with four of our radio journalists — Sam Baker, Stella Chavez, Rachel Osier Lindley and Jerome Weeks — who recently got a chance to chat about exactly that.

Samantha Guzman / KERA News

Summer is the perfect time to dive into a good book, whether you're reading one on the beach or on your lunch break.

At KERA, our friends at Think read and research countless books to prepare for the show. Host Krys Boyd interviews seasoned storytellers and up-and-coming voices in the literary world every week. 

So, the team dug into the archives from this year to recommend a few novels for your summer reading list.  

From Texas Standard.

Maybe you haven’t considered Abilene for a weekend excursion, but this prairie town has a lot to offer – including some of the best little guesthouses in the state.

If you're the type who dreams of being surrounded by piles and piles of books, you would love the Think Tank, the corner of the KERA building where the Think crew prepares each show.

The Book Concierge is back and bigger than ever! Explore more than 350 standout titles picked by NPR staff and critics.

Open the app now!

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit

From Texas Standard:

It's not unheard of for an obituary to be published by mistake. A few years ago, put up an obit for actor Kirk Douglas, who – at 100 – is still alive.

Something similar happened to Dallas-based Half Price Books chain, Austin’s BookPeople and independent bookstores across the country when the first e-reader made its debut. The death knell never rang so loud.

But it turns out bookstores aren't dead after all, at least not some of the best-known ones in Texas.

The first book of the Harry Potter series went on sale in the U.K. 20 years ago today. It offers a convenient excuse to reacquaint yourself with a world before anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of muggles, horcruxes or pensieves, before tourists would crowd into London's Kings Cross railway station simply to peer wistfully at the space between Platforms Nine and Ten.

Here's the first story NPR ever aired about Harry Potter — a wonderful piece by the late Margot Adler, from All Things Considered in 1998.

Some gems, from that bygone era:

Adriane Dizon / (cc) flickr

It’s Banned Books Week. The national weeklong event celebrates the freedom to read and open access to information. The week also serves as a reminder that many great works of literature — books like "The Great Gatsby," "1984," "The Bluest Eye" — were once deemed unfit for public consumption and censored.

KERA's Think just wrapped a week of broadcasting in Austin with two Texas Book Festival authors who relish the hard copy's preciousness.

Update, Feb. 5: Meg Bakich, the Highland Park mom who made headlines last month by challenging to the book The Working Poor: Invisible in America​, apparently is backing off. On Thursday, the Highland Park school district sent an email announcing the withdrawal  of the protest against David Shipler's non-fiction book. The Dallas Morning News has more details.

A Better Way To Opt Out Of Required Reading

Nov 25, 2014
Dianna Douglas

A recent dispute in the Dallas suburb of Highland Park over requiring students to read the book The Art of Racing in the Rain was settled today—a committee of teachers, parents and students reviewed the book and found that it can be taught in the classrooms. One thing the debate in Highland Park has shown is that parents and students who object to certain books are also often unhappy with their options for alternative assignments. Some Texas schools have made that process smoother.

Highland Park Teens Speak Up For Their Books

Nov 19, 2014

The required reading at Highland Park High School is still in flux. Some parents convinced administrators to remove books with adult material  -- then other parents, alumni and teachers petitioned the administration to reverse that decision.

Mostly missing from the public debate has been the voices of teenage students whose classes have been affected. As part of the KERA Yearbook project, we hear from three students about what English class has been like this fall.  

patpitchaya / Shutterstock

The Highland Park school district has reversed its decision to suspend seven books from the classroom after parents had concerns about sex, abortion and rape references. 

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum/National Archives and Records Administration

It's the last day of Banned Books Week, when American Library Association calls attention to the freedom we have to read what we want. An exhibition at the Dallas Holocaust Museum reminds us that freedom hasn’t always existed in the world, and it's still being challenged here.


UPDATE, Sept. 26: Highland Park has restored one of the seven suspended books to its approved reading list. In an email blast, the district says the person who challenged A Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls withdrew that challenge on Wednesday. 

Frank Huster

The Highland Park school district has attracted attention after seven books were suspended from classrooms last week. Those books are under further review, which could take several months. One of books suspended is called The Art of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein​. The story is told from the perspective of a dog named Enzo, and it was on the district’s class syllabus for the fall.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor, is releasing a memoir Tuesday that’s already making headlines. In it, the mother of two reveals she twice terminated pregnancies because of health issues. 

On a recent episode of KERA's "Anything You Ever Wanted to Know," a listener new to Texas asked for suggestions of books that would help him to learn about the Lone Star state. So we polled the smartest audience in radio, and here are the 12 books listeners recommended the most.

Jerome Weeks / KERA News

Today: how the little guy is changing what you read, watch and eat. We know Dallas wants to be seen as a world-class city. For years, that’s been the stated priority. One young Dallasite has an idea for getting there: it’s more about communication than competition with other places. He’s just started a company to publish English translations of books from France, Russia and Mexico. Jerome Weeks talks to Will Evans of Deep Vellum. We'll also hear from Dallas native Doug Mankoff about his time in Hollywood, producing films like Nebraska.