12 Best Books About Texas Update 05/2022

Books About Texas

For the writing and research of my new novel, which is set in Oklahoma and Texas, I was forced to read a wide range of books about the region—novels and histories; biographies of Texas notables and deplorables; books on architecture, flora, and fauna; as well as books on Texas’s founding and military men and women. To my mind, a great book about Texas should not only include historical facts, but it should also give readers an impression of the Lone Star state—its scents, sights, and sensations—as well as what it feels like to be a human being of fragile flesh and blood in that vast, brutal, and beautiful land…

The Son by Philipp Meyer

The Son by Philipp Meyer

Meyer’s epic novel, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is the best book about Texas, fact or fiction. Comanche raiders kill Eli McCullough’s family in 1851, and the 13-year-old is captured and raised as one of the tribe. As a Comanche warrior, he will eventually learn to hunt, fight, and love like the Comanche, but when tragedy strikes and he is forced to return to Anglo civilization, Eli sets out on an 80-year journey to conquer his enemies using the ways of the Comanche to conquer his adversaries, leaving a trail of sons in his footsteps.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

This masterwork by McCarthy tells the story of a young man named “the child” who runs away from home in Tennessee in 1849 and ends up in Texas. John Joel Glanton, a former Texas Ranger, leads a group of Apache scalp-hunters. McCarthy’s work is lit by the black light of a figure dubbed Judge Holden, an erudite and ruthless seven-foot member of Glanton’s gang. McCarthy’s book is a chronicle of crimes against humanity. Additionally, the Judge is a professional violinist as well as an artist, chemist, philosopher (in the vein of Nietzsche), botanist, archaeologist, and historian (he might also have been an actual historical figure, as was Glanton and several of the gang members). It is McCarthy’s prose that elevates Blood Meridian to the level of a work of art.

Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans by T. R. Fehrenbach

It’s the best single-volume history of Texas, with chapters covering everything from Spanish conquistadors through the republican government of Texas, as well as economic upheavals of the 20th century. Lone Star, which was first published in 1968, is the gold standard by which all other histories of Texas are measured.

Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas by Stephen Harrigan

Harrigan provides regular updates. As expected, Fehrenbach’s history of Texas lives up to its predecessor’s high bar. Harrigan’s focus on underprivileged communities, particularly indigenous peoples and African Americans in Texas, is particularly engaging.

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

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

“Anglo-Texans Taught to Fight the Comanches” is a historical nonfiction account of the legendary Quahadi-Comanche war king Quanah Parker and legendary Texas Ranger Jack Coffee Hays. In Gwynne’s hands, the account of the Comanche People’s rise and fall is a riveting and terrible tale.

The Searchers by Alan Le May

A former Texas Ranger’s search for his stolen niece in 1869, which inspired John Ford’s 1956 film, is a gem as well, a heartbreaking and disturbing study on identity, race, civilization, and obsessiveness.

The Evolution of a State, Or, Recollections of Old Texas Days by Noah Smithwick

A first-person story of Anglo colonization of Texas, the Revolutionary War, and the lean years of the Republic as narrated by pioneer Noah Smithwick to his daughter. After Lincoln’s election, Smithwick went on the campaign trail, delivering speeches in favor of the Union and against the Confederacy. Smithwick led a wagon party of Unionists out of Texas and all the way to California after Texas seceded notwithstanding. In terms of historical accuracy and an understanding of frontier dialects in the mid-19th century, there is no better book than this one.

Texian Illiad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution by Stephen L. Hardin

Readers are taken through every fight of the Texas Revolution, from a battle over a broken gun in October 1835 to a stunning and improbable victory over Santa Anna’s army at San Jacinto, in April 1836, through this military history of the Texas Revolution. Houston, Davy Crockett, William Travis, and Jim Bowie are just a few of the show’s colorful cast members.

The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr

The Liars' Club by Mary Karr

A staple of creative writing schools since its 1995 release, Karr’s memoir is a mixture of humor, heartbreak, and adrenaline. At times, you’ll be both laughing and crying at her tales of growing up in a small oil town in the east of Texas.

Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

An essential read for anybody curious about what the New World was like before Europeans arrived, this book by Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca—who was shipwrecked off the Texas coast on modern-day Galveston Island in the 1520s—is sometimes referred to as Castaways.

“Big, Hot, Cheap and Right: What America Can Learn From The Strange Genius of Texas” by Erica Grieder

The following is an accurate description: “Texas is arguably the most divisive state in the United States. Death row is the busiest in the country and is dominated by evangelicals. Millions of people live in poverty. Outsiders who are skeptical of the state’s politics and attitude have found a lot to be outraged by. The United States has much to learn from Texas, though, according to journalist Erica Grieder (who is also a Texan).”

“The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes” by Bryan Burrough

The following is a description of what you’re “The Big Four: Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson, all swaggering Texas oil tycoons who owned enormous ranches and interacted with presidents and Hollywood stars, are brought to life in Burrough’s multigenerational sagas. Only a writer with Burrough’s talent and Texas heritage could create “The Big Rich,” which seamlessly charts their collective growth and fall.”

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