Charles Backus, Edward R. Campbell '39 Press Director, Texas A&M University Press, College Station

Linda Moore-Lanning, Waiting: One Wife's Year of the Vietnam War

"This is a consensus choice among editorial and marketing staff at the Press. It depicts the Vietnam War through the eyes and angst of a spouse at home. This engaging story of a year spent waiting for a husband under fire in Vietnam, including his graphic descriptions of combat, speaks not only to those with memories of that war but also to those who wait for warriors in the present conflicts."

Charles Backus. All photos courtesy of subjects.

Philip C. Bobbitt, Herbert Wechsler Professor of Federal Jurisprudence, Columbia University, New York, and Senior Fellow at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin

J.P. Donleavy, The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B.  

A humorous tale of the existential journey of a young Paris-born aristocrat who is sent to boarding school in Britain and later matriculates to Trinity College in Dublin. 

"I recently read this 1960s novel for the first time and found its rich language and heartbreaking pathos every bit as vivid as when I saw the stage production in the early '80s."

Philip C. Bobbitt.

John Boles, William Pettus Hobby Professor of History, Rice University, Houston

Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.

"This deeply researched, beautifully written book is neither a sensationalist attack on Thomas Jefferson nor a hagiographical defense, but instead a careful, sensitive, nuanced, and persuasive analysis of his relationship with Sally Hemings and much more as well. It also reveals the complicated story of the entire multiracial family that begins with the founding matriarch, Elizabeth Hemings. As such, the book sheds perceptive light on slavery, plantation life, and the complex interpersonal relations between white and black actors of both genders. Here one sees an immensely talented historian at peak form, with explicit attention to her reasoning and assumptions. Although one might not accept every conclusion, this is a bracing work of history that is as compelling as it is readable."

John Boles.

Albert S. Broussard, professor of history, Texas A&M University, College Station and HTx board

Edward P. Jones, The Known World.

"This beautifully crafted novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2004 as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award, is about a subject that few Americans of any race know anything about: African American slaveholders in the antebellum South. This evocative work reminds me of Toni Morrison's best fiction, and the characters are unforgettable. Jones's gift, like Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, or Toni Morrison, is that he is also a great storyteller."

Albert S. Broussard.

Walter L. Buenger, professor of history and department head, Texas A&M University, College Station

Charles Freeman, The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason.

"I recently took a busman's holiday and read something outside my field: Charles Freeman's The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason. Having just completed a lengthy essay on what has changed in Texas history since 1990, I really needed a break. I will say, however, that some very impressive work has been done lately on Texas and the surrounding area. Studies of Indians and their role in the development of the Southwest are a particular strength of recent years and I can recommend three as must reads: Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands (2007); Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (2008); and Brian DeLay, War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War (2008). You will never think about Indians and Texas in the same way again after reading these three books.

"But back to The Closing of the Western Mind. This is a great sweeping history written for an informed general audience. It covers from roughly 500 BCE to 600 CE and focuses first on the rise of scientific thought and inquiry and then its displacement by the merging of religion and the state. The argument is not so much that religion always blocks out scientific thought and advancement, but that when religious orthodoxy and right thinking were increasingly enforced by the state, the opportunity for scientific thought and discovery vanished. Once the doctrine of the Trinity and other tenets of orthodoxy were imposed and enforced by the state in the 4th century, freedom of thought and the ability to argue about anything lessened and was in sharp decline by the 7th century. As the state became increasingly threatened, it sought further stability and an end to all controversy. I do not know enough about this period of history to offer a professional judgement on this book, but it is based on extensive source material and is written in an engaging style. I know of no other author who could make the endless debates about the Trinity in the 4th century interesting and compelling. I recommend this book to anyone who wants something broad-gauged and outside their normal reading pattern."

Walter L. Buenger.

John Burnett, Austin-based correspondent for National Public Radio

Hampton Sides, Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin.

"I just finished this story of James Earl Ray's improbable planning and murder of King, which is told with the flair of a tightly paced CSI thriller. In the telling, we get glimpses of J. Edgar Hoover as the megalomaniacal FBI chief, a frustrated MLK at the end of his life, and a lonely, racist prison escapee drifting through cheap hotels across North America toward his encounter with infamy. The search for Ray was, at the time, the largest manhunt in FBI history and the crime file on him is voluminous. Sides unearthed a trove of rich details to bring us this engrossing story of an American sicko."

John Burnett.

Vicki Vinson Cantwell, civic leader, museum collection advisor, and HTx board, Fort Worth

Edward Dolnick, The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece

"There are dozens of books on museum intrigue, art theft, and art forgery, ranging from the historical, such as The Art Forger and The Forger's Tale, and the sublimely ridiculous, such as The Art Thief, which is poorly written but still a good airplane read. Somewhere in between are books by Thomas Hoving (False Impressions, etc.) and Peter Watkins (The Caravaggio Conspiracy–great restaurant and menu recommendations in London and Florence). From this voluminous genre I think I own at least one copy of all, and multiples in some cases, as I learned recently while unpacking books I had in storage. I unpacked a copy of The Rescue Artist and decided to read it again—it is a fun summer read."

Vicki Vinson Cantwell.

Larry Carver, Doyle Professor in Western Civilization at The University of Texas at Austin and HTx board member

Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science.

Gawande, a surgical resident and staff writer for the New Yorker, explores issues in medical ethics in this debut collection of essays.

 "In vivid case studies—the concluding 'Case of the Red Leg' will provoke one's thought for a very long time—Gawande explores with compelling insight human nature, its fallibility, mystery, and uncertainty."

Larry Carver.

Ernesto Chavez, professor of history, The University of Texas at El Paso

Margot Canaday, The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America.

"This is an amazing book that shows us how the state, via immigration legislation and practices, military policy, and social welfare programs, helped craft our notions of homosexuality. Canaday provides fascinating, albeit often tragic, examples of how ignorant and invasive federal officials defined, controlled, and punished lesbians and gays for simply trying to live honestly."

Cynthia E. Orozco, No Mexicans, Dogs, or Women Allowed: The Rise of The Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.

"In this long-awaited study, Cynthia E. Orozco charts the development of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in precise detail placing it at the vanguard of Mexican American civil rights struggles. Orozco also shows how fundamental gender—both notions of masculinity and femininity—played in the organization's formation and subsequent work. By concentrating on LULAC's Texas roots, Orozco re-envisions the Lone Star State's history centering its emancipatory efforts."

Ernesto Chavez.

Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of The University of Texas System

Thomas E. Starzl, The Puzzle People: Memoirs Of A Transplant Surgeon.

"The Puzzle People by Tom Starzl is a book I very much enjoyed reading. It demonstrates the importance of education, curiosity, and research in overcoming incredible barriers to benefit the health of mankind. Finally, when the vision is so right, one must not stop persevering no matter how many challenges and critics confront you."

Francisco G. Cigarroa.

Ellen Riojas Clark, professor of bilingual education, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Last Night I Sang to the Monster.

"Favorite book is always the last good one read. Yet, Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2009) will remain an unforgettable book. It’s a heartbreaking, lovely, wrenching, touching, and consuming coming of age novel. Although written for young adults, I guess because of the topic of a teenager with difficult issues (alcoholism, drug use, and family dsyfunctionality), it becomes riveting reading for adults. Literally, I could not put it down. The issue of finding self at the core is uniquely expressed though Zach's self-talk. So poignant when Zach says: 'I have it in my head that when we're born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people's hearts he writes happy and on other people's hearts he writes crazy … genius … angry …winner … loser. When it came to my turn, he wrote sad.'"

Ellen Riojas Clark.

John Crain, president, Summerlee Foundation, Dallas

Reviel Netz and William Noel, The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist.

"I have just completed a fascinating book entitled The Archimedes Codex. This work is two works in one: a detective story on the acquisition of a medieval prayer book that just happened to have the oldest surviving copy of Archimedes's (287–212 B.C.) manuscript from 975 A.D. and a thorough study of the impact of Archimedes on the world of mathematics."

John Crain.

Nan Cuba, professor of English at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and HTx Award Winner

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping.

"Marilynne Robinson's first novel, Housekeeping, won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. This book is not only thirty years old; it's not an easy read. It is, however, an exquisite example of classic literature. The language is complex and lyrical. Imagery and music abound. Some scenes and characters are humorous, but the tone is melancholy, haunting, and the style magically resists conventions. The story involves two sisters, Ruth, the narrator, and Lucille, who are cared for by their eccentric Aunt Sylvie, who usually lives as a transient. Themes include feminist resistance to societal roles, a transcendental connection with nature, an acceptance of disruption and change, a conscious elimination of personal need, and the recognition that absence expands and focuses that which is remembered. This is an artistically perfect book."

Nan Cuba.

Lee Cullum, contributing journalist to the Dallas Morning News and public radio commentator

E.M. Forster, Howard's End.

"This elegant novel is rich with meaning on many levels. It centers on the marriage of Margaret Schlegel, a bright, cultivated young intellectual, and Mr. Wilcox, an older businessman. Mr. Wilcox, wrote Forster, 'saw the world steadily, while Margaret saw the world whole.' To read this book is to have both perspectives."

Lee Cullum.

Gregory Curtis, author and editor, Austin

William Faulkner, Light in August.

"Summer is the best time to read those big, classic books you've always promised yourself you would read but still haven't gotten around to doing so. I hadn't read Light in August since my freshman year in college, when it was assigned in an English class. All I remembered was that there was a pregnant woman wandering around, there was a character named Joe Christmas, and Faulkner used the word 'avatar' (which I'm still not sure I understand). Reading the novel again after such a long time was electrifying. The characters, the atmosphere, the tension, the violence, and the thrilling language all take this book into a realm that is convincing and familiar and uniquely Faulkner's. For instance: one short night at a country dancehall. That may not sound like anything exceptional, but read Light in August and see how dangerous and horrifying and transcendent such a night can be."

Gregory Curtis.

Maceo C. Dailey Jr., associate professor of history and director of African American Studies, The University of Texas at El Paso, and HTx board

Paul Robeson, Jr., The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: Quest for Freedom, 1939–76.

The second volume of Paul Robeson, Jr.'s biography of his father, the musician, athlete, and human rights activist. "A fitting family coda to clear up much confusion about an amazingly talented Black man who stood resolute on the American landscape."

Maceo C. Dailey.

Jesús F. de la Teja, professor of history, Texas State University, San Marcos

David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America: The Brief Edition.

"If you read one book this summer on the Spanish presence in North America (what is now the southern half of the U.S.), try David J. Weber's The Spanish Frontier in North America: The Brief Edition (Yale, 2009). It is available for under $20 through Amazon and is worth the price just for the amazing bibliography. The last chapter, "The Spanish Legacy and the Historical Imagination," provides very balanced insights into how our culture has been affected by the real and imagined aspects of the early Hispanic experience in the U.S. Lots of material for lesson plans in that chapter alone."

Jesús F. de la Teja.

Virginia Dudley, civic leader and Humanities Texas board member, Comanche

Stephen Fried, Appetite for America.

"Appetite for America, by Stephen Fried, is the story of Fred Harvey and the growth of his railroad hospitality career. I enjoy traveling in the western states and have always been interested in their development and socialization. This entertaining and informative book tells how a visionary English immigrant brought civility to the West.

Kathleen Flinn, The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry.

 For 'foodies' who have always wanted to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Kathleen Flinn's The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry is a fun read. It takes you through the famed culinary institute without the stress of deboning trout or guinea hens."

Virginia Dudley.

Robert M. Edsel, founder and president, Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art and 2007 National Humanities Medal recipient, Dallas

Slavomir Rawicz, The Long Walk.

"Rawicz is a hero for Poland and all those who value freedom. It tells the most incredible but true story of survival of the author, who after being imprisoned by the Soviets in 1939, managed to escape and walk almost all the way from Moscow to Siberia, then through the Gobi Desert and across the Himalayas into India and freedom. It is as remarkable a human triumph as any I've come across. I couldn't recommend any book more highly."

Robert M. Edsel.

Cheryl L. Fleming, operatic soprano, director, producer, poet, songwriter, North Zulch, and former dean of the Margaret Petree School Music & Performing Arts in Oklahoma City

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

In this epistolary novel, a writer creates a book based on the experiences of the inhabitants of Guernsey Island during the occupation of World War II. "In our era of instant communication, this book uses the fine art of letter writing to unfold its tale. Written by two authors, each creates the unique and distinct 'voices' of the characters through letters and telegrams. The use of language is delightful. As the story of World War II in the Channel Islands progresses, humor and historical fact blend to keep the reader engaged."

Cheryl Fleming.

George M. Fleming, founder and managing partner, Fleming & Associates L.L.P., and HTx board, Houston

Winston Churchill, Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat: The Great Speeches. Edited by David Cannadine.

A collection of speeches by the British statesman edited by a renowned historian of British history.

The Honorable William Royal Furgeson, Jr., U.S. district judge, Dallas

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.

"On the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, I re-read the novel and happily concluded that it has stood the test of time. Its compelling story about racism, the law, and a lawyer true to his oath resonates as much today as it did fifty years ago."

The Honorable William Royal Furgeson, Jr.

Michael L. Gillette, executive director, Humanities Texas, Austin

Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815.

"Travel back in time to the first years of the American republic. Meet the founders whose clashing ideas are interwoven in the fabric of government. Witness the events that shape the nation's destiny and the forces that give rise to the American political system. Our tour guide is the distinguished Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon S. Wood. His splendidly written new book, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815, draws from a lifetime of extraordinary scholarship."

Michael L. Gillette.

Julius Glickman, managing partner at Glickman & Hughes L.L.P. and HTx board chair, Houston

H.W. Brands, Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"This book presents the political and economic side of the Roosevelt years."

Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The American Homefront During World War II.

"This book reveals the marital and personal aspects of the Roosevelt presidency."

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking and Not Thinking and Outliers: The Story of Success.

Gladwell, a staff writer for the New Yorker, examines the factors that contribute to success. "These two books help us understand success and behavior."

Julius Glickman.

Barbara Renaud González, writer, journalist, social worker, and activist, San Antonio

Duong Thu Huong, Paradise of the Blind.

"I was shocked to realize a week ago that I've been reading about a book per week—for us writers, it is always summer. I forget titles and names of protagonists but never a good story or a poem that takes away our breath like fine tequila. I tend to read what I like when it comes to me. In the next week, I'm re-reading Paradise of the Blind by the Vietnamese writer Duong Thu Huong, her fourth novel banned in Vietnam, where she lives. At once, it is a story of family and dreams with the secrets of injustice paving the twisted road on the way there. Like any great artist, Thu Huong writes with feverish beauty and grace. This kind of novelist, like Clarise Lispector, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Barbara Kingsolver, who I've been reading lately, helps me see beyond the illusions of our so-called borders."

Barbara Renaud González.

H. Palmer Hall, director of Pecan Grove Press and library director at St. Mary's University, San Antonio.

Dave Oliphant, Harbinger of Books to Come: a Texan's Literary Life.

"I have been reading Dave Oliphant for a long time and for a variety of reasons: partially because we both had some of the same teachers at what is now Lamar University, but primarily because he's such a good writer. Harbinger of Books to Come is a memoir/autobiography that gives readers a rare glimpse into both the literary life of a fine Texas poet and into the state of Texas literature during a much underrated but wonderful fifty-year period. I have learned much about Texas literature from this book and have thoroughly enjoyed the journey Oliphant takes his readers on. The literary autobiography has been fascinating, not just because he was there and has so much to tell us about the writing life in Texas, but also because he writes about it so beautifully."

H. Palmer Hall.

Dwayne Jones, executive director, Galveston Historical Foundation

Edmund White, City Boy.

"White, who teaches creative writing at Princeton, reflects on his life in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s. I know it's recent history, but it continues White's series of memoirs and sometimes autobiographical writing of his life. The book introduces a new side of a number of major literary and historical figures of the late 20th century. A quick and light and thoughtful read about friends."

Joseph R. Krier, counsel at Bracewell & Giuliani L.L.P. and HTx board, San Antonio

Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.

An account of a few individuals who foresaw the collapse of the derivatives market and bet against it. "A fascinating analysis of the '08 stock market turndown that led to the current recession."

Joseph R. Krier.

Robert Kruckemeyer, attorney and HTx board, Houston

Stendhal, The Red and The Black.

"This classic French novel that follows Julien Sorel, an ambitious young man who tries to find his way into the upper reaches of French society through hard work, deception, and hypocrisy. When he is about to reach the pinnacle he is betrayed by his own passions. It has been described as the first realist novel."

Robert Kruckemeyer.

Celeste Guzman Mendoza, author, poet, and playwright, San Antonio

John Phillip Santos, The Farthest Home Is in an Empire of Fire: A Tejano Elegy.

"Santos's second memoir is the yin to the yang of his first memoir, Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation (Penguin: 1999). Whereas the first book explored the indigenous and Mexican heritage of his father's family, this second memoir strives for the narrative of his other side, the maternal link to Spain—the culture that brought ranch life to North America. Comparing the two books is much like comparing the lineage of many Tejanos—one is about the Mexican culture (indigenous and Spanish mixed) while the other is about the less ethnic Spanish roots. Though Mexican literary and cultural history does exist in Mexico, much of the history of Spanish settlers, especially those in Texas, is mostly held in private, not public hands and is difficult to access. So Santos invents a time traveler, Cenote Seven, that takes the reader through an imagined yet no less intriguing and emotionally honest narrative about the history of Spanish settlement and the 'discovery' of a new world. And yet the book is less about history as it is about the future of borders and how these geographical boundaries will continue or cease to define our nationalistic allegiances."

Celeste Guzman Mendoza.

Monica Perales, assistant professor of history at the University of Houston and HTx board

Helen Thorpe, Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America.

"A beautifully written true story of four friends coming of age in Denver. They share many of the experiences, hopes, and aspirations of the average American teenager, but one thing divides the girls: two of the friends are undocumented. Examining the messy issue from all sides, this book illuminates the profoundly human face of the present immigration debate."

Monica Perales.

Dianne Powell, president, Texas State Historical Association, San Antonio

James L. Haley, Sam Houston.

"James Haley's biography of Sam Houston is a striking and engaging book. What better way to catch up on your Texas history as we prepare for the 175th anniversary of Texas independence? Haley unravels many of the mysteries of the first president of the Republic, peeling away the layers to Houston's soul. Walking a carefully researched line between myth and reality, Haley not only reveals the essence of Houston, the man, but also gives a refreshing review of the forces that shaped our state. One of my all time favorite books."

Dianne Powell.

Raúl Ramos, professor of history, University of Houston

Laura Gomez, Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race and Jovita Gonzalez and Eve Raleigh, Caballero: A Historical Novel.

"I'm deeply interested in how American society changed over the nineteenth century. In many ways, our nation is still coming to terms with the incorporation of Mexican and indigenous peoples as part of American westward expansion. If we look closely at the period of annexation, we can see how and when ethnic and racial beliefs and attitudes begin to take form. These two books, one fiction and the other non-fiction, give us a window into that time.

"The novel Caballero, written in the 1930s by Jovita Gonzalez, takes us inside the home of a landed Mexican family in the years after Texas statehood. Gonzalez shows us how difficult it was to become neighbors in the years immediately following the war. For Gonzalez, women feel the changes most and provide the key to survival in the future. Historian and law professor Laura Gomez also takes on annexation by demonstrating how it redefined American race relations. Neither fully Black nor White, Mexican people made a new category that came out of the conquest of New Mexico and other Mexican territory. Gomez's very readable history has even more meaning given current debates around American culture."

Raúl Ramos.

Priscilla Rodriguez, executive director, Brownsville Historical Association

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground.

"I always read Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky at least once a year. It is my favorite book. The Underground Man has to be one of the most tragic and hilarious characters ever written. He despises authority, and I imagine we all have a bit of the Underground Man in all of us.

Lawrence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

"The other book I like to periodically pick up and read is The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne. This book is great if you just want to pass the time and want an exercise in absurdity. The best part about it is you can read it from beginning to end, from the middle, read the chapters out of order, or backwards and it is likely that you will be just as confused. I would argue that it is the first modern novel, before the 'modern novel' existed."

Priscilla Rodriguez.

John Phillip Santos, author and media producer, San Antonio

Jaime Javier Rodriguez, The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War, Narrative, Time and Identity and Paula Rebert, La Gran Línea, Mapping the United States-Mexico Boundary, 1849-1857.

"In this time of mounting anxieties regarding the U.S.-Mexico border, I'd commend a summer reading of two books that help us to go beyond the headlines to a deeper understanding of the origins of frontera mania. University of North Texas professor Jaime Javier Rodriguez's just-published The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War, Narrative, Time and Identity (UT, 2010) is an insightful critical survey of the popular literature and journalism of the war, casting light on the cultural forces that cast many of the forms of Mexican and American identities that still haunt both nations and manifest in their direst ghostliness along the border. Paula Rebert's La Gran Línea, Mapping the United States-Mexico Boundary, 1849–1857 (UT, 2001) is a fitting companion beach read, refracting the cultural narrative of Rodriguez's book into the gripping tale of how American and Mexican cartographers, in the aftermath of the war, sought to serve their political masters by hammering down the borderline onto maps, thereby inscribing into history the incalculable enrichment of one nation and the impoverishment of another. We live today in the shadow of the line they created."

John Phillip Santos.

Max Sherman, former dean, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, Austin

John McQuiston II, Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living.

A modern prayer book that provides morning and evening devotions and uses language that reflects contemporary understandings of God and theology. "Several years ago, while serving on a Ph.D. committee, the candidate gave a copy of this book to each member of the committee. It has sat on my bookshelf all these years. Only recently did I discover it. Now that I have, I concur with this statement: 'Here's a book that [has] become a companion in [my] life, encouraging new insight each time [I] read it.' It is a book I have given to many of my family and friends."

Max Sherman. Photo courtesy of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Thomas F. Staley, director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Austin

Tom Lewis, The Hudson: A History.

"There is something wonderful about rivers. They can seem endless and are endlessly fascinating. The first word of James Joyce's last work, Finnegans Wake, is 'riverrun,' without a capital because it flows from the last words of the novel. 'Corso e recorso,' always changing, always the same. One of our greatest novels, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, takes place on the Mississippi. Another great river inspired America's first major art movement, The Hudson River School.

"The Hudson begins high in the Adirondack Mountains, in small streams running into Lake Tear of the Clouds, a small tarn, 4,293 feet above sea level. It continues its course through Albany and the Catskills, past West Point to Sing Sing, under the Tappan Zee bridge, over the Holland Tunnel, and finally to the great New York harbor and into the Atlantic. All along the river's path its banks have inspired artists for two centuries. It has been the scene of horrendous battles as well as a source of commerce and of pleasure. It has survived the many attempts of man to destroy it and the creatures who inhabited it. We have begun to learn just as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and many others that like all great monuments of nature it should inspire respect and care. Among the inspired is Tom Lewis, the author of this fine and detailed history of the Hudson. The Hudson, published in 2005 by Yale University Press, is a great tribute to this magnificent river and the people who fought, lived, and worked on it, but most of all were inspired by it. A good read for summer or anytime."

Thomas F. Staley.

Ann Stuart, chancellor and president, Texas Woman's University, Denton

Janice Y.K. Lee, The Piano Teacher.

A debut novel set in Hong Kong in the 1940s and '50s that deals with themes of war, love, survival, and colonialism. "Intriguing character development and fascinating history lessons of 1942."

Ann Stuart.

Carmen Tafolla, writer, poet, and faculty, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Gabriel Garcia Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

"If you've never read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, now's the time! (Nothing like a hot tropical jungle in Columbia to help us make it through our Texas summers!) And they have ants, too! But what really nails your attention in this book is the power of human beliefs to change the way the world is built, to create truth from magic, to rescue love from heartache, and to see with a fresh and newly empowered eye the magic of our everyday experiences. But warning: reading this book is addictive—you may forget the breakfast burning on your stove, the doorbell ringing, the bills to be paid, the doctor's appointment, the friend you said you'd meet for lunch. Time tends to stand still, as we fall into the deep well of its trance. But . . . isn't that what a good book is for?"

Carmen Tafolla.

Denise M. Trauth, president, Texas State University, San Marcos

Bryan Burrough, The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes.

Burrough, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, profiles the Big Four oil dynasties. 

"Two years ago a good friend gave me a copy of this book. What a page-turner! From Spindletop to the 1980s, Bryan Burrough paints vivid pictures of four men and four families. A must read for anyone who was not born in Texas or who wants to understand the history and culture of Texas."

Denise M. Trauth.

Ron Tyler, director, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth

Barbara Kingsolver, Lacuna.

"A novel about 1930s and '40s Mexico, with Leon Trotsky, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo playing significant roles. The novel focuses on a young man who gets kicked out of an American military academy and spends his formative years in Mexico. Fascinated by ancient Mexican history, he returns to the United States to become a successful author of historical adventure novels. Kingsolver provides an interesting contrast between American and Mexican society during these years."

Collecting Texas: Essays on Texana Collectors and the Creation of Research Libraries, edited by Thomas H. Kreneck and Gerald D. Saxon and published by the Book Club of Texas.

"A series of essays about collectors who contributed to the growth of the state's special collections libraries, with an inviting memoir of collecting by San Marcos bookman Al Lowman. Included are essays on Everett DeGolyer (DeGolyer Library at SMU), Jenkins and Virginia Garrett (Garrett Library and Map Collection at UT Arlington), J. Evetts Haley (Haley Library in Midland), George A. Hill, Jr. (San Jacinto Museum), among others. In the same vein, Allen Gribben's account, Harry Huntt Ransom: Intellect in Motion, tells the story of the formative years of the modern University of Texas—both the University and the great library that bears Ransom's name. For anyone who has done research in these collections, it is fun to learn about the driven individuals who helped build them."

Ron Tyler.

Cliff Vanderpool, director, Panhandle Plains Historical Museum, Canyon

Sebastian Barry, The Secret Scripture.

This novel delves into the mysterious past of a centenarian mental patient in Ireland.

"The one book I'd most highly recommend for summer reading is The Secret Scripture. It's a great novel that addresses how people interpret the past and pursue the truth. As we know, though, memory is problematic and a true accounting very hard to discover. The novel is beautifully written and told from two perspectives."

Richard Russo, That Old Cape Magic.

Over two trips to the Cape and as many weddings, a middle-aged man copes with memories of his childhood, his parents' deaths, and a troubled marriage. "This book followed Bridge of Sighs, which was not Russo's best. That Old Cape Magic, however, is fantastic. Russo's command of conversation and personalities combined with his sense of humor make him one of my favorite novelists."

Cliff Vanderpool.

Fran Vick, 2009 Humanities Texas Award Winner and former HTx board, Dallas

Miranda Carter, George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I.

"What an eye opener! Very well written and fills in the gap of how the world changed enormously with the new century and the World War that followed. An incredibly researched book but one that reads easily in spite of its great length. Carter fills in what has been mainly passed over by historians, it seems to me."

Fran Vick. Photo by Humanities Texas.

Mary L. Volcansek, professor of political science at Texas Christian University and HTx board, Fort Worth

Cynthia Shearer, Celestial Jukebox.

"This is a moving story of a variety of people moving through a fictitious town in Mississippi, south of Memphis. The story is one of both joy and sadness, and even a bit of violence, but it is all held together through the metaphor of music Shearer is now a Texas resident."

Kate Lehrer, Confessions of a Bigamist.

"This novel is set in New York and someplace west of Fort Worth and tells the story of a woman who tries to deal with being in love with two men. A wonderful read!"

Mary L. Volcansek.

William P. Wright, author, photographer, civic leader, and HTx board alumni co-chair, Abilene

Norman Stone, The Atlantic and Its Enemies.

"I recommend the book I am presently reading: The Atlantic and Its Enemies by Norman Stone, a British historian. It deals with the end of World War II and the Communist overthrow of Eastern Europe, the Marshall Plan and the economic situation following the war. Much I didn't know about all the politics and political actors.

"Another book that is quite interesting: DC Confidential: The Controversial Memoirs of Britain's Ambassador to the U.S. at the Time of 9/11 and the Run-Up to the Iraq War by Sir Christopher Meyer. I also recommend 1491:New Revelations About the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann. This brings us up to date on many of the new theories of New World population routes and the amazing cultures here. You knew, of course, that the mathematical concept of zero was developed in the Americas. Hot stuff."

William P. Wright.