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Non fiction only. Whatcha got?

 

Just finished The Longhorns by Dobie... while not completely all about Texas, it was a great background read on one of the icons of this state

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"God Save Texas - A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State" was recently released by Lawrence Wright.  Haven't picked up a copy yet, but will soon.  

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7 hours ago, Native Horn said:

"God Save Texas - A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State" was recently released by Lawrence Wright.  Haven't picked up a copy yet, but will soon.  

I just heard a great interview with him on Fresh Air.  The guy spoke to my vision of Texas, and he's in my parents generation.  I'm looking forward to reading the book.  Especially since I just got done watching "The Looming Tower" and was very impressed.  He discussed that a bit on Fresh Air as well.

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Posted this on TOS.  Strange Peaches by Bud Shrake is a great read.  Thanks to Barnes's SWLit at Texas for turning me on to this one.

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6 minutes ago, Chad Fuck said:

 Hell yeah.

Graham's SWL class got me to that one.  

That's right!  It was Graham.  Don't know where I got Barnes. 

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On 4/24/2018 at 7:49 AM, Native Horn said:

"God Save Texas - A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State" was recently released by Lawrence Wright.  Haven't picked up a copy yet, but will soon.  

Just started it. I've read his other books so I'm looking forward to it.

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On 4/30/2018 at 11:35 PM, BillyGoatHill said:

+1 on this.....Great read.

Same here.  Great book and a must read for anyone with even half an interest in the topic.

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He knows how to write. I wished he would have been able to write about Harvey or Sutherland Springs. Deadline came before that.

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6 hours ago, NIUHuskies said:

He knows how to write. I wished he would have been able to write about Harvey or Sutherland Springs. Deadline came before that.

Both are in the audible version I'm listening to or I have a brain tumor.

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On 5/22/2018 at 9:51 AM, NIUHuskies said:

He knows how to write. I wished he would have been able to write about Harvey or Sutherland Springs. Deadline came before that.

Haven't finished my hard copy, but it definitely has Harvey in there.

As a fellow libtard who grew up in and loves Texas, I am enjoying it.

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On 5/2/2018 at 5:06 PM, MAROON said:

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This is outstanding.  As a kid we spent a lot of time at Lake Whitney so it was fun to read about the Brazos before all the dams went in.

 

Another river book I enjoyed:

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Just finished the audio book of "The Son".  Terrific book. The narrators were top notch.  I work in oil and gas, so it was cool to hear a story with that subject mixed in to the fabric.

 

Highly recommend.

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Started doing audio books a few weeks back. I've done Michener's "The Eagle And The Raven" and am about to finish up "The Last Picture Show" in another hour or so. "God Save Texas" is on deck. 

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I really liked The Last Picture Show.

The Chronicle put this out a few weeks ago:

Spoiler

The 30 most essential books about Texas

Andrew Dansby picks his favorite titles - 15 fiction, 15 nonfiction - that most convey the spirit of the Lone Star State on the printed page.

 
Andrew Dansby May 30, 2020Updated: June 2, 2020, 2:08 pm
 
 
 
 
 
 
Photo: Nadya Hassan

Tasked with putting together a list of great Texas books, I should’ve retreated to a smaller state with fewer great writers. But here we are, slowly coming out of our shells during a pandemic, with the possibility of more inside time ahead of us. I’ve allotted some of that time for TV, some for music, some to do jigsaw puzzles with the family, and quite a bit of it reading.

So here are 30 books — 15 fiction, 15 non-fiction — that in some way tell a unique bit of this state’s sprawling story. In putting it together, I set a few specs and ground rules.

No two books by one author. No career anthologies. I tried to throw as wide a net for variety of authors, regions, subjects and eras. Doorstop histories were excluded, while focused histories were welcome — the idea was comfortable readability, which I realize is subjective. And, no, they’re not ranked in any definitive way, because ranking books is like ranking weather. Some degree of inclusivity and favoritism put them in the order they appear.

BEST TEXAS MOVIES: Here's out list of the best films about the Lone Star State.

Books selected had to be readily available via click and credit card or curbside pickup from a local retailer. Much as I’d love to include “Sig Byrd’s Houston” and Jan Reid’s “The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock” — the latter ranges from $39 to $499 on Amazon. This exercise wasn’t designed to be a treasure hunt. I’ll leave lost mines and buried treasures to J. Frank Dobie.

Interlopers were welcomed. I don’t think somebody has to be a native to write about Texas any more than they have to be from Texas to sing Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues.” This is a place full of opportunities for reportage and also fertile ground for a personal reinvention.

What’s not included

I made a last-minute decision, though, to cut “Libra,” a book by a guy from the Bronx about a guy from the Bronx who did a horrible thing in Dallas. Even now, though, I feel like Don DeLillo’s probing novel about the Kennedy assassination feels pertinent today. Thirty-two years after the book’s publication and nearly 60 years after the events that informed it, we’re still wrestling with the idea that fiction so quickly permeates historical fact. “Libra” is a book with global tendrils whose nasty nematocysts left an ageless burn on a Texas city. Even now I’m considering restoring it.

Other rules: any book included has to be something I’ve read. Perhaps it’s a desire to sidestep a list that proclaims definitive or exhaustive status, but with a subject as broad and touchy as writing, I’d really rather vouch for texts myself. I’m confident every volume of Robert Caro’s accounting of the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson is part of a definitive whole. I’m a dabbler, though, and have made it through but one.

What’s missing? Plenty. More than I could read with my remaining years. As someone who has written about music for 30 years I hated not having something music-related in here: “Adventures of a Ballad Hunter” by John A. Lomax or Michael Corcoran’s beautiful new “Ghost Notes.” I loved the voice struck by songwriter Rodney Crowell discussing his loving/squabbling parents in “Chinaberry Sidewalks.” I didn’t find space for food, even though Robb Walsh’s “Legends of Texas Barbecue” has called to me for years. Too many to include, too many to read.

Also I wish for the sake of this list my favorite James Crumley novels weren’t set in Montana.

BEST TEXAS MUSIC: Here's our list of the 50 greatest Texas musicians.

That said, I welcome favorites and suggestions from you. And yes, I know Terry Southern was from Texas, and I’ve read brilliant work by Larry L. King. This is meant to be something different.

There’s a remarkable list to be made of works just by white men — but believe me, those already exist. There’s a strong list to be made by one white man: Larry McMurtry. That list exists, also. He was a difficult one with which to tangle, though. M

McMurtry’s public commentary about his work created a little tension between me and “Lonesome Dove.” Of course, if you’re going to pick a single volume of McMurtry’s you take his grand — and he would say failed — attempt to demythologize the West. But he thought he wrote several books better, one of which — “Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond” — I’d have included on the non-fiction side of this list. But then this would be a list without “Lonesome Dove.” And it is not.

So, with another summer beach-read season upon us, let’s get started.

Fiction

 
lonesome dove Photo: Getty Images
 

Author Larry McMurtry

Photo: JOE STEFANCHIK/TPN

“Lonesome Dove,” Larry McMurtry (1985): McMurtry wanted to demythologize the West. But 1985 was in the middle of a boom time for American mythology. Get into the pages, though, and the brutish story is far from romantic. He thinks he has written better books. I wouldn’t argue with him. He hasn’t written a bigger book, though.

 
Photo: Vintage
 
Author Cormac McCarthy Photo: COURTESY PHOTO

“No Country for Old Men,” Cormac McCarthy (2005): Borders: They serve as perfect backdrops and metaphors for stories about actions/reactions, good/evil, heads/tails. “Call it.” Back when I felt more hopeful, I thought McCarthy’s “The Road” was the better book. This is a nasty story about America, then and now.

 

Brownsville native Oscar Casares published his second novel, Where We Come From, in May 2019.

Photo: Joel Salcido

“Where We Come From,” Oscar Cásares (2019): Brownsville and Houston serve as two very different spaces for a story about family and country and secrets in the pink house out back. A richly conceived and devastating book about the border.

 
Photo: Flatiron Books
 

Carrie Fountain

Photo: Courtesy

“I’m Not Missing,” Carrie Fountain (2018): Fountain’s YA novel packs a lot of thistly thematic content into a story with romance and mystery. It’s equal parts lovable and thrilling in telling a story about the complications of first love.

 
Attica Locke's "Bluebird, Bluebird" Photo: Mulholland
 

Writer Attica Locke

Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images, Contributor / Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

“Bluebird, Bluebird,” Attica Locke (2017): Locke is working on a series of detective novels that run along Highway 59, an arterial piece of road that pumps life into a lot of Texas. Her protagonist is a fascinating mess, and her stories are richly realized and deliciously labyrinthine. This is my favorite, but “Heaven, My Home” is also wonderful.

 
Photo: Vintage
 
Author Joe R. Lansdale Photo: Karen Lansdale/xx

“Savage Season,” Joe R. Lansdale (1990): No fiction writer delves into the Big Thicket as assuredly as Lansdale. He’s a prolific writer with numerous recommendable titles. But this introduction to his Hap and Leonard characters — an unlikely and imperfect duo dealing with worse folks doing worse things — is a great introduction.

 

Lot: Time Magazine called Bryan Washington’s debut novel “a dynamic portrait of Houston and the people who live there." You can find it on Amazon for $15.87.

Photo: Amazon
 

Bryan Washington writes about growing up in Alief in his acclaimed collection of short staires, "Lot."

Photo: Courtesy / Courtesy

“Lot,” Bryan Washington (2019): Washington’s short story collection is set in Houston, but the intricacy and inter-connectivity of the stories could convey the imaginary borders that appear throughout any urban center.

 
"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," a 2012 novel by Texan Ben Fountain. Photo:
 

Ben Fountain

Photo: Thorne Anderson

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” Ben Fountain (2012): Fountain’s novel delves deep into the cost of war, presenting a conflicted character struggling to deal with friends and family and attention after he returns from the Iraq War and is pulled into a halftime show at a Cowboys game.

 
Photo: Houghton Miflin Harcourt
 
Wins Texas Institute's Award. The editors of "Who's Who of America Women" have cited 13 women for outstanding achievement including Katherine Ann Porter, literature. Photo: UPI

“Pale Horse, Pale Rider,” Katherine Anne Porter (1939): This novella is an outlier in that it’s set in Denver. But Porter is a major American writer from Texas, and this story touches on the flu pandemic of 1918, lending it a deep resonance today. Also it’s packaged with “Noon Wine,” set in Texas, and “Old Mortality” (I don’t recall the setting) and the three pieces nestle together perfectly.

 
The Time It Never Rained, a novel by Elmer Kelton about the drought of the 1950s. Photo: Glenn Dromgoole
 
Elmer Kelton, 83: American Western novelist Photo: CAMERON YARBOROUGH/AP

“The Time It Never Rained,” Elmer Kelton (1973): Years ago, I worked at the publisher who put out Kelton’s books when the western was all but dead as a genre. It wasn’t a great time for his books. But years later, his books project an effortlessness that almost obscures how beautiful and informed the writing is. This is his drought novel, which feels timely every few years.

 
Photo:
 

"Tears of the Trufflepig" author Fernando A. Flores

Photo: Eric Morales

“Tears of the Truffle Pig,” Fernando A. Flores (2019): A dystopian near-future novel in which farming as we know it has changed dramatically. I can’t improve on this from the Los Angeles Review of Books: It’s “a narcocorrido for the Island of Dr. Moreau.”

 

"News of the World" by Paulette Jiles

Photo: Fort Bend County Libraries
 

Hill Country author Paulette Jiles

Photo:

“News of the World,” Paulette Jiles (2016): Jiles has staked a formidable claim to historical fiction in Texas from the 1800s. She has a new one with “Simon the Fiddler,” but this travel story about a captain trying to return a girl to her aunt and uncle after her family is killed is the best entry point into her work.

 
Photo: Dial Press
 
Author James Michener is shown in this 1987 file photo. (AP Photo) Photo: AP

“Texas,” James Michener (1985): A time-skipping story of explorers, settlers, dreamers and businessmen. Basically this is a Texas history book dressed up with poetic license in the form of a novel. Not well reviewed. Not an easy read. But to exclude it would be needlessly combative.

 
Photo: Arte Publico
 
University of Houston-Downtown professor Daniel Peña Photo: Courtesy

“Bang,” Daniel Peña (2018): Peña pulls no punches in this story about the drug trade and immigration policy. Mainstream publishers had ideas to mainstream it, so Peña took it to Houston-based Arte Público, who allowed the story to be told without concessions.

 

"Valentine" by Elizabeth Wetmore

Photo: Harper Collins
 

Elizabeth Wetmore, author of "Valentine"

Photo: Harper Collins

“Valentine,” Elizabeth Wetmore (2020): This one is new, so who knows if it’ll continue to circulate. But Wetmore creates a remarkable narrative tapestry allowing several characters to tell a story of an attack on a woman in a small oil town.

Non-fiction

 

'Isaac’s Storm’ by Erik Larson (1999)

Photo:
 

Erik Larson

Photo: copyright Benjamin Benschneider/Contributed Photo

“Isaac’s Storm,” Erik Larson (1999): Most of these non-fiction titles are better described by their subtitles than my descriptions. This one: “A man, a time and the deadliest hurricane in history.” Larson paces this story of the destruction of Galveston like a thriller.

 
Photo: Penguin Books
 

Mary Karr.

Photo:

“The Liar’s Club,” Mary Karr (1995): Karr’s tale of a childhood in East Texas spills authenticity in its details of big talkers, big drinkers and flawed folks trying to get by.

 
Photo: University of Texas Press
 
Writer, newspaper columnist J. Frank Dobie created the first class in the life and literature of the Southwest at UT-Austin. Photo: Joe Holley/Wittliff Collections at Texas State University

“Coronado’s Children,” J. Frank Dobie (1930): Subtitle: “Tales of Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of the Southwest.” The tales would have faded but for Dobie’s inimitable storytelling voice.

 

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream: Based on the series of the same name, it chronicles the true story of the Odessa, Texas, Panthers. The high school football team, to this day, has the best winning record in Texas history. You can read it on Amazon for less than $10 or watch it on Netflix.

Photo: Amazon
 
In 2004, H.G. Bissinger discussed the film "Friday Night Lights," which was based on his book but took generous liberties with the truth. Photo: Steve Ueckert/staff

“Friday Night Lights,” H.G. Bissinger (1990): Subtitle: “A town, a team and a dream.” You know the story. Football and dreams of getting out of town, which are renewed and dashed with each generation.

 
"Thursday Night Lights" is the work of Michael Hurd, a Worthing alumnus. Photo:
 
Photo: Courtesy

“Thursday Night Lights,” Michael Hurd (2017): Subtitle: “The story of black high school football in Texas.” A deep dive account of a story not told.

 

God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State: Bringing together the historical and the contemporary, the political and the personal, Texas native Lawrence Wright gives us a colorful, wide-ranging portrait of a state that not only reflects our country as it is, but as it may become—and shows how the battle for Texas’s soul encompasses us all. Readers have said it is not purely about Houston, but it does a good job at understanding the state. Find it Amazon for about $10.

Photo: Amazon
 
Author Lawrence Wright is a longtime Austin resident. Photo: Kenny Braun

“God Save Texas,” Lawrence Wright (2018): Subtitle: “A journey into the soul of the Lone Star State.” Wright tells stories and recounts histories that suggest a state that has always been purple.

 

Cover to 'Movies (And Other Things),' a new book about film by best-selling writer and San Antonio native Shea Serrano, with illustrations by Arturo Torres.

Photo: Arturo Torres
 

San Antonio native Shea Serrano returned there after years living in Houston, where he wrote the best-selling books The Rap Yearbook and Basketball (And Other Things). His third book was published in October 2019, Movies (And Other Things)

Photo: Josh Huskin

“Movies: And Other Things,” Shea Serrano (2019): Serrano’s “Rap Year Book” had great content on Houston’s Geto Boys, but his musings on movies reveal sweet moments about growing up in San Antonio.

 
Photo: Aunt Lute Books
 
Painting of Gloria Anzaldua Photo: Courtesy/Photo Illustration

“Borderlands/La Frontera,” Gloria Anzaldúa (1987): I was a latecomer to this book, so I can’t imagine how bracing it must have been upon release decades ago. It sits here in non-fiction, but honestly, it’s a genre of its own with a mix of Spanish and English, a mix of autobiographical prose and poetry, all stirred together to tell a story of self that resonates outside one body.

 
Photo: University of Texas Press
 
Photo: Pulitzer Prize

“The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston,” Marquis James (1975): This is the sort of bio that could be dense and impenetrable. Instead it’s an ode to a true Texas theme: the art of reinvention.

 
Photo: Berkley
 
Author Jenny Lawson, 1973 Photo: Buster Dean/Staff

“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” Jenny Lawson (2012): I slightly prefer Lawson’s next book about depression, “Furiously Happy.” But this one gets into the granular detail of growing up in a small town.

 
Photo:
 
Skip Hollandsworth Photo: Courtesy photo

“The Midnight Assassin,” Skip Hollandsworth (2016): Subtitle: “Panic, scandal and the hunt for America’s first serial killer.” Nobody does weird Texas crime like Hollandsworth, who tells an incredible story from Austin in the 1800s.“Goodbye to a River,” John Graves (1960)

 

Cover image of "Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History" by S.C. Gwynne

Photo: Scribner
 
Photo: scgwynne.com

“Empire of the Summer Moon,” S.C. Gwynne (2011): Subtitle: “Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history.” I can’t add much to that subtitle, other than to say, this book condenses a ton of history with brilliant efficiency.

 
Photo: Counterpoint
 
Photo: AP

“The Last Sheriff in Texas,” James P. McCollom (2017): Subtitle: “A true tale of violence and the vote.” The story of Beeville and trigger-happy Sheriff Vail Ennis was a narrative hanging curveball that touches on immigration, changing demogrpahics, antiquated police practices and other cultural debates. McCollom smacked it out of the park.

 
Cover for The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro Photo: xx
 
Photo: AP

“The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power,” Robert Caro (1982): Once I had two major reading goals: The entiretly of Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War” and the entirety of Caro’s LBJ series. I completed one. I stalled after one volume of the other. But I will say Caro’s “The Path to Power” displays remarkable research that is as much about Texas as it is about Johnson.

andrew.dansby@chron.com

 

Graphic for Texas Books story in Zest 05-31-2020

Photo: Nadya Hassan

 

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On 6/21/2020 at 2:02 PM, WBT said:

I really liked The Last Picture Show.

 

I was a bit too young when it first came out so waited 45+ years. It was alright. Only complaint might be the gratuitous use of the word "depressed". 

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I was a bit too young when it first came out so waited 45+ years. It was alright. Only complaint might be the gratuitous use of the word "depressed". 

Maybe it’s because I have family in west Texas and I spent my summers kicking up dust out there to the stories of my aunt and uncles describing life out there in the 30s, 40s and 50s, but to me the Thalia novels really nailed the vibe. According to my uncle Don, who was the most literate of the bunch, those novels are the way it was - except the women were far too “liberal.” In other words, he never nailed the coach’s wife.

Horseman, Pass By
The Last Picture Show
Leaving Cheyenne

In that order.

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2 hours ago, Chad Fuck said:


Maybe it’s because I have family in west Texas and I spent my summers kicking up dust out there to the stories of my aunt and uncles describing life out there in the 30s, 40s and 50s, but to me the Thalia novels really nailed the vibe. According to my uncle Don, who was the most literate of the bunch, those novels are the way it was - except the women were far too “liberal.” In other words, he never nailed the coach’s wife.

Horseman, Pass By
The Last Picture Show
Leaving Cheyenne

In that order.

Leaving Cheyenne will be the next McMurtry I read, sounds really good.

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The Son, though not nonfiction, is a hell of a book.  One of my all-time favorites.  I just finished Empire of the Summer Moon as well, though I did that one on AudioBook.  I love all things Larry McMurtry, especially the Lonesome Dove saga.  I just finished The Last Kind Words Saloon.  Not his best book, but a good, quick read.  I started God Save Texas on a trip to Phoenix in January, but left the book in the hotel.  I need to re-buy it so I can finish it.  

Back on the topic of nonfiction, I recently read The German Settlement of the Texas Hill Country by Jefferson Morgenthaler.  Though not a page-turner, it was a good read for someone with German roots in Central Texas.  My great-great-great grandfather came over from Germany and settled near Brenham, and a lot of what is described in that book parallels my family's history and migration westward through the Hill Country.  I'd recommend it to anyone interested in that stuff.

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On 4/25/2018 at 3:09 AM, Chad Fuck said:

51M2Q6nfcjL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Not sure if this was the first thread where I saw this rec; thank you if so. Great read.

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5 hours ago, Sam Lin said:

Not sure if this was the first thread where I saw this rec; thank you if so. Great read.

So this reminds me.  Since vacation is pretty much not a thing this year, I've been busy planning vacations for when we can actually be around one another without killing each other.  In that vein, I purchase this to plan out some TX road trips - such as visit to Fort Parker, etc.  This is NOT a road atlas, though its' maps often have current roads printed in light fonts behind whatever the historical data being presented is.  I have really found it enlightening and useful. 

9780806143071-us.jpg

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On 4/23/2018 at 1:46 PM, GreenspointTexas said:

Finished that one before I finished The Longhorns

 

 

Great read

Read this while serving in the gulf war. Moved to Texas and went to UT when I got out. Great book 

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On 7/29/2020 at 10:38 PM, NAVY said:

Read this while serving in the gulf war. Moved to Texas and went to UT when I got out. Great book 

pretty cool.  where are you from?

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Finished "Leaving Cheyenne" last night. Really liked it, probably my favorite McMurtry novel now though by the end I tired of his writing style. I think it's the 3rd one I've read this summer and it began to wear on me. Great story teller though and if you're from Texas and know farm and/or ranch folks it's easy to settle into. 5 stars, Joe Bob Diablo says check it out.

Not a Texas book but since he ended up dying in Austin I'll throw in my recent Michener read here too... "Tales of The South Pacific". I started it once 15 or so years ago but had never finished it for whatever reason. Made it all the way thru this time and a lot of the descriptions of the islands reminded me of my time in the Navy and hitting ports in the Pacific tropics. Good times, no war.

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On 8/1/2020 at 10:03 PM, futureman said:

pretty cool.  where are you from? 

Got into the best damn school in the state and have been in Austin 26 years now. Do some part time teaching there as a side gig these days. 

Was stationed in San Diego and grew up in N. Cal. Been a horn fan most of my life. Got here as fast as I could  
 

 

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I've been doing the audio books and started McMurtry's Rhino Ranch this week and goddammit the reader sucks ass, I can barely stand to listen to the fuckstick. I may have to bail on this one even though I like the storyline. Furk.

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21 hours ago, El Diablo said:

I've been doing the audio books and started McMurtry's Rhino Ranch this week and goddammit the reader sucks ass, I can barely stand to listen to the fuckstick. I may have to bail on this one even though I like the storyline. Furk.

why don’t you just read the goddamn book.

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I'm a fan of J. Frank Dobie.  I just re-read "A Vaquero of the Brush Country."  Great book and he makes the scene come alive with his writing.  What a bunch of candy-asses we all are compared to those bad-ass guys who settled and scratched out a living back then.

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11 hours ago, futureman said:

jerk off too much as a child?

An unfortunate confluence of puberty and the debut of "Charlie's Angels". 

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