Books

Cover of "Christmas in Austin"
Petra Mayer / NPR

Take it from someone who's lived in the capital of Texas for 15 years: There are worse places to spend Christmas than Austin. You don't have to worry about getting snowed in; there's never too much distance between you and a bar; and you can always amuse yourself by playing games like "Is that guy walking down Guadalupe Street dressed like an elf because it's Christmas or just because this is Austin?"

From Texas Standard:

In 2014, she was the first Latina to create, produce, write and star in her own network sitcom. And in 2017, she debuted her Netflix special Lower Classy. Now San Juan, Texas, native Cristela Alonzo can add author to her list of accomplishments.

Back in February, a future Austinite named Dan wrote into our ATXplained project, asking for recommendations for books about Austin and Texas to help orient him to the city.

Kevin Wheeler/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

What does it mean to be a Mexican living in America? Alfredo Corchado explores this question in his new book, a blend of memoir and political history called "Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican American Migration." It’s a story that explores the last 30 years of Mexican immigration into the United States through Corchado’s experience as an immigrant and a Mexico border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard.

“Young people get arrested for two reasons: they do not know what the law is, and they do not stop to think about the consequences of their actions.”

That bit of wisdom comes from the back cover of a book called “What Every Teen Should Know About Texas Law.” Originally written in the early 1990s by the late L. Jean Wallace, an attorney in Lubbock, the book was recently updated by a new author.

U.S. Air Force photo/Stephen Najjar

From Texas Standard.

One of the staples of elementary school library shelves across Texas is Hank the Cowdog – the dog who fancies himself the “head of ranch security” at the M-Cross Ranch in the Panhandle. Since 1983, Hank has solved mysteries, fended off coyotes, and pined for the affection of the ranch’s collie, Beulah.

Photo courtesy of David and Chelle Neff

From Texas Standard:

A new book makes the case that Austin continues to prevail as Texas’s weirdest city. Weird Home Tours founders David and Chelle Neff highlight Austin’s strangest homes and homeowners in their new book “Weird Homes: The People and Places That Keep Austin Strangely Wonderful.” The book, filled to the brim with colorful photos, takes you into the homes you thought only existed in dreams.

"Him" book cover
Casey Cheek/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

In the fall of 1888, Jack the Ripper wreaked havoc in the London community of Whitechapel. The killer targeted prostitutes. No one was ever prosecuted for these particularly gruesome crimes. A similar set of killings happened during the same era, right here in Texas.

In 1884 and 1885 in Austin, an unknown killer targeted maids. Several of them were African-American. The killer was tagged with the moniker, The Servant Girl Annihilator.

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.”

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT

In our ATXplained project, we answer your questions about Austin.

Now it's your turn to answer a question. 

Listener Dan Brooks is looking for the best books about Austin (or Texas) for newcomers to the city. So we're asking you for your recommendations. 

Shelly Brisbin/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Put aside the current occupant of the White House for a moment and ask yourself: When was the last time a president delivered on all that was promised? If you can’t remember, then ask: Is this the fault of the candidate?  

 

Leslie Abbott Photography

Author Jeff Abbott’s latest novel, Blame, is a mystery-thriller that takes place in an Austin suburb and is centered on Jane Norton, a high school student who gets in a serious car crash with her friend David.

The crash kills David and causes Jane to forget the past few years of her life. A suicide note written by Jane and found at the scene has many blaming her for David’s death.

Courtesy UNC Press

From Texas Standard:

Much has been made over the past few years about the potential shifting of political tides in Texas – from the "sleeping giant" of the Latino vote to Donald Trump's slimmer-than-usual margin of victory in the presidential race.

Texas remains largely Red, and at times it feels like it's always been that way. But progressive undercurrents in a state known for "cowboy conservatism" are not a new phenomenon.

Unsplash/Pexels (CC0)

From Texas Standard:

The strip mall parking lot’s yellow lights are the first greeting on the way to Imagine Books and Records. Tucked between a San Antonio city councilman’s office and an intimate goods store, the small shop can be difficult to spot.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Susan Combs, former Texas Comptroller, is unsatisfied with the treatment and position of women. She was the state’s top money manager for close to a decade, serving as Comptroller until last year. Before that, she was Texas Agriculture Commissioner and a state representative.

prettyinprint/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Willie Nelson may have sung it best :

I saw miles and miles of Texas, all the stars up in the sky

I saw miles and miles of Texas, gonna live here till I die

Courtesy Cinco Puntos Press

From Texas Standard:

When a major publisher taps you on the shoulder, that's a big step for an author. When a school district adopts your books as recommended reading, that's big too. But when kids start asking for your books by name, you're onto something.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

He’s cleared out one joint six times in just the past few months. In one video captured by a homeowner, he wore gloves. And he often doesn’t bother to close doors behind him. 

According to at least four Austin residents, one man has not been playing by the rules of neighborhood Little Free Libraries. The man is said to have been emptying the book trade depositories throughout the city. The libraries, which often look like roomy birdhouses, are posted like mailboxes on front lawns. The idea is to encourage book sharing among neighbors. Passersby are encouraged to “take a book, return a book.”

Image via Hannah McBride/Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

In times like these, the arc of history is often invoked to make sense of the present. So the narrative goes, the so-called Islamic State arose in the vacuum left after America’s misadventures post-9/11.

Recently, Jon Meacham’s book has been in the news for revelations that George Herbert Walker Bush – Bush 41 – thought his son, W. – Bush 43 – was badly served by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. That’s news, especially since the narrative used to be that 43 was just doing his father’s bidding, retribution for an unfinished war.

 


Flickr/edenpictures (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

How many little kids – after watching movies like “Indiana Jones” or “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” – dream of growing up exploring little known parts of the world, risking life and limb in search of long lost treasure? How many people actually end up living that dream? Not many. But W.C. Jameson has lived that dream for six decades on and off.

Jameson is a Texas author, historian and treasure hunter, and he’s detailed some of his adventures in a book, “Treasure Hunter: A Memoir of Caches, Curses, and Confrontations,” he was willing to share some of his rich wisdom with the Standard.

Courtesy Penguin Random House

From Texas Standard:

By now, you've probably heard about the latest book – newly discovered and rushed to publication — by Dr. Seuss. It's been about as well-kept a secret as Harper Lee's "Go Set A Watchman," which came out a few weeks ago. We decided to call in our resident Texas expert on literature to find out whether you should get "What Pet Should I Get?"

Claiborne Smith is the editor-in-chief of Austin-based Kirkus Review.

Via Pixabay.

This story comes from Texas Standard.

There’s a popular kids book by Beverly Cleary titled Ramona Quimby, Age 8. It’s the sixth book in the Ramona series. In it, the struggling pre-adolescent protagonist proclaims that the best part of third grade is the time when you can “drop everything and read.”

Well that sentiment’s not just for precocious book characters or little kids, either.

This Sunday marks the first ever Drop Everything and Read Texas Day or “DEAR Texas Day” – for those of us who like acronyms.

Susan Doupé Photography

Every family has a history – but few have a history as tangled as the one in Garth Stein’s new novel, “A Sudden Light.”

The Riddell family is driven by regret and bitterness – even a hint of madness. One 14 year-old boy finds himself thrust into the middle of it all, on a summer trip to the family homestead.

Stein speaks with Texas Standard’s Emily Donahue about his newest novel, the controversy surrounding his previous novel, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” and what it was like to write a book spanning five generations of the same family.

Photo by Michael Thad Carter

Many fans of the HBO series Girls are eagerly awaiting today's doorstep delivery of producer, creator, and lead actress Lena Dunham's first book. In Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned," Dunham pens a series of essays that is part memoir, part advice book. 

Flickr user: Catherine Tam, https://flic.kr/p/5MuD6o

‘The Art of Racing in the Rain" is one of the seven books flagged for review after Highland Park ISD parents objected to the book's content, which some viewed as explicit. Author Garth Stein argues the book contains life messages for young teenagers, adding that the book came under fire because of a scene involving  molestation. 

The Texas Standard's David Brown recently spoke with Stein about the temporary ban.

With the dog days of summer in full swing and fall's slate of television premieres waiting in the wings, now might be the perfect time to kick back and crack open a book.

Luckily, the Texas Standard's got you covered. Kirkus Reviews' Clay Smith gives us some book recommendations that will, hopefully, keep your mind off the mind numbing heat until cooler temperatures prevail.

Bob Makela

When things get quiet at a bar, many turn to their cell phone as a way to escape that awkward feeling.

Bob Makela hopes to change that with Barstool Poetry.

The idea began at a bar called the San Francisco Saloon in California in 1992. Makela and his roommate were having trouble working up the courage to speak to members of the opposite sex.

facebook.com/HarnessMakersDream

The Kallison family name has resonated amongst Texans for generations.

It's the name of the department store in San Antonio crowned by a cowboy carrying a saddle on his right shoulder. It's also the of the Kallison Ranch, the place that brought Texas ranching into the 20th century.

"The Harness Maker’s Dream" recounts the story of Nathan Kallison, the Jewish Russian who escaped persecution and later became a successful rancher in Texas.

 

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Akashic Books

While Pulitzer Prize winner Larry McMurty described Dallas in Texas Monthly as “a second-rate city that wishes it were first-rate,” literary agent and editor David Hale Smith prefers a different description. This one’s found in the lines of Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s song “Dallas:"

Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eyes

A steel and concrete soul in a warm-hearted love disguise.

“It’s one of the great lyrics of all time. The song is a poem, but it really nails Dallas, and of course nails the essence of this book we put together,” Smith says. He sat down with KUT's David Brown to discuss that new book, “Dallas Noir." 

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