Dan Brooks is moving to Austin from Philadelphia next week. But before he got here, he wanted some reading material.
“I like to know as much as possible about where I am, what community I’m a part of, where I’m living," he said. "It’s important for me to have an idea of the space that I’m occupying, and books are generally one good way to learn about a place.”
Dan asked our ATXplained project for some recommendations for books about Austin or Texas to help orient him to his new city. So, we asked our audience for ideas.
You delivered. We got almost 200 recommendations in three days.
We pared them down to the most recommended ones – and we landed on a list of 27 (just to keep it manageable) and put them in alphabetical order by title.
So, Dan: Happy reading!
A recollection of the history of the legendary music venue and its role in Austin's music scene. (Nonfiction)
"The book is an amazing assemblage of reporting about all the things that happened at the Armadillo, how they kicked it open, but more than that. The acts that came there, the musicians that played there, the whole culture during that period." – Forrest Preece
"This book covers a period of time in Austin history that basically created the world's live music capital." – Ranleigh Hirsh
A children's book highlighting the sights and culture of Austin, through each letter of the alphabet.
"It's full of fun facts about our beloved city with a little bit of history mixed in, and will surely be a welcome easy read for Dan amongst all of the great recommendations coming in. Plus, a few years down the road when Dan and his girlfriend have kids of their own, they'll be prepared to teach them the alphabet, Austin style!"- Lauri Johnston
A look at Barton Springs, the natural swimming area in Austin's Zilker Park. (Nonfiction)
"It is a beautiful rendition of the springs and the history of them, which we never talk about." – Elizabeth Overholser
Three-part series of the lives of two young men coming of age in the Southwest and Mexico, poised on the edge of a world about to change forever. (Fiction)
"[All the Pretty Horses] gives a good description of Texas back in the '50s, which gives you a good feel for people who were here before all the people moved to Texas." – David Stubblefield
A documentary of the early days of Austin's filmmaking scene, including the backstories for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Slacker, among other movies. (Nonfiction)
"Macor illustrates in very tangible ways how people with unique vision have been able to find receptive collaborators in Austin and to produce outside the Hollywood system some very compelling films" – Seth Johnson
Historical account of the 40-year-war between the Comanche Indians and the white settlers for control of the American West. (Nonfiction)
"It talks about why Texans think that they are so special, our history in the frontier, and the fight with Comanches to claim the Texas territory is gruesome and riveting and helps to understand what the whole country has been like before and what it's like now." – Sara Eatman
Three interlocking stories about a fictional Texas governor. (Fiction)
"It's a novel that has such a sense of place that as you read it and then as you travel around town and you start to recognize a few of the places that are still around from that book, it makes it feel like you've lived here since the 1950s." – Mark Grayson
The musician/humorist/politician's personal guide to his favorite city. (Nonfiction)
"Kinky Friedman is such a historic person in Texas that having him serve as kind of your guide to the city was pretty invaluable and let you see the city from his perspective." – Jeremy Erwin
A detailed tale of how a host of country, rock 'n' roll, blues and folk musicians came together and created the Austin music scene.
"I was here for sort of the genesis of a lot of the Austin music that's covered in this book by Jan Reid, and it kind of set the stage for Austin being what it is now, considered the live the live music capital of the world." – Aaron Ludeke
Based on Michael Barnes' columns in the Austin American-Statesman, a look at the changing city through the lens of people living here.
"Little snippets of essays that talk about different pieces of Austin history and really delves into all the different parts of the city. There's a whole big section about East Austin, its history...and he really talks about how the city has changed over the years, how different people have tried to save some of the old parts of Austin. And it's really fun because you can just pick it up, read a little snippet and put it back down." – Abby Fennewald, BookPeople
A team of researchers exposes the gap between rich and poor in Austin by exploring the lives of low-wage workers. (Nonfiction)
"This trenchant, sociological study shares stories of the working poor who provide essential services in tech-focused, liberal Austin yet struggle daily with environmental risks, substandard housing and inadequate public services and schools." – Austin Public Librarian Barry
A tour guide with more than 180 images of colorful places, people and doings. See the weird stuff fast, before it's gone!
"Keeping Austin Weird is a fantastical book. It's by a local author, Red Wassenich. He is also a librarian, a wonderful librarian, so who would know better?" – Tanda Rasco
A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in a frontier town, with a colorful cast of characters. (Fiction)
"Great view of old Texas in the 1800’s so he knows the bones of Texas!" – Stephanie Franks
"It's the quintessential, larger-than-life Texas story, and it captures all the great mythos of the cowboys and the Texas Rangers with a lot of harsh realities of what it's really like to live in Texas." - Andrew Crawford
A sweeping narrative history of a serial killer who terrorized Austin in 1885.
"The book paints a very vivid picture of Austin at the turn of the century. It's historical, accurate, and it's a page-turner." – Charles Gallatin
A history filled with personal incidents of the people, businesses, churches and schools that made up South Austin and how it compared to the segregated community across the river. (Nonfiction)
"A very well-written book that should be fascinating for anyone interested in early Austin, TX history. Emmett Shelton remembers many dirt streets, all the merchants along Congress Avenue, the schools, churches and lots of other interesting things about early Austin." – Bert Godkin
An insight into the growth of Austin over the past few decades from the perspective of a local architect and professor of architecture at UT-Austin. Seven short stories about the city’s swimming spots, growth, people and oak moss. (Fiction)
"My Beautiful City Austin is a quirky, interesting, short read full of insights into the growth of Austin over the past two decades from the perspective of a local architect and a professor of architecture at UT-Austin. ... Taken together, the stories in this book present an affection, candidate portrait of our beautiful city, Austin." – Kristina Olivent
The story of the founding of Austin and early political battles. (Nonfiction)
"Fairly recent book on how Austin became the capital, and that was not easy!" – Will
On Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman opened fire from atop the UT-Austin tower, killing 14 people and injuring 30 others before being shot by police. (Nonfiction)
"A nonfiction about what is obviously a very significant chapter in Austin's history." – Adam Jermstad
Two food writers tour the state to discover the traditions, recipes, stories and personalities behind one of Texans' all-time favorite food.
A multigenerational saga that chronicles the history, pride and culture of Texas. (Fiction)
"I really believe that Michener's book provides a great overview of not just where Texas is today, but also where Texas came from. It spans 400 years, and rather than just being a dry history book it really provides a great historical fiction narrative that is very powerful and makes you realize ... why Texas is such a great state and contains so many great different people." – Joshua Long
A "dictionary" of thousands of Texasisms.
"It's delightful fun and a great way for him to learn the language of his new community.' – Tia Rae Stone
Drawing on interviews, newspaper stories and memorabilia, Hurd introduces the players, coaches, schools and towns where segregated African-American football programs built championship teams during the Jim Crow era. (Nonfiction)
"At a time when 'Friday night lights' shone only on white high school football games, African American teams across Texas burned up the gridiron on Wednesday and Thursday nights. This book tells the inspiring, largely unknown story of African American high school football in Texas from 1920-1970." – Austin Library Director Roosevelt Weeks
A historical novel about America’s first recorded serial murders in 1885. (Fiction)
"It's a mystery novel set in early Austin, a retelling of the notorious servant girl murders, which were never solved." – Lorre Weidlich
The story of Texas politics told through a reporter who stumbles onto a political fight. (P.S.: The original name of the city of Austin was Waterloo.) (Fiction)
An exploration of how residents have tried to "Keep Austin Weird" as the city undergoes social, cultural and economic changes. (Nonfiction)
"It's mainly just interviews with locals and people who have lived here for generations and how they've seen the city change. It also focuses on how Austin tries to cling to this weird label when we're really not even a weird city anymore." – Isabel Boucher
The story of Gregorio Cortez Lira, a Mexican-American ranch hand who became a folk hero for evading authorities in the early 1900s. (Nonfiction)
"It was the first book that really revealed an alternative view of Tejano history that had never really been exposed before. Specifically, it told the alternative experiences of the Tejanos who were terrorized by Texas Rangers in Central and South Texas." – Paul del Bosque