As a special feature of this year's summer reading newsletter, we have invited Texas writers from around the state to share their recommendations with our readers. The result is a wide-ranging menu, including novels, nonfiction, poetry, and short stories, both new and old, for you to explore by browsing the list below.

View of Alpine by José Moya del Pino, a mural for the Alpine Post Office commissioned in 1940 by the U.S. Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts.

H. W. Brands

H. W. Brands is a UT Austin historian and author of many books including Reagan: The Life and Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Mark Twain, Roughing It

How Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain, and how fact faded into fiction and then into myth.

H. W. Brands

Albert S. Broussard

Albert S. Broussard teaches history at Texas A&M. His books include Expectations of Equality: A History of Black Westerners and Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the West, 1900–1954.

Eric Foner, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad

I recommend Eric Foner's Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, published in 2015 by W. W. Norton. Eric Foner demonstrates why he is widely regarded as one of the leading American historians of my generation, as he reconstructs slave society in New York, the home of the nation's largest free African American community. Following a tip from a former graduate student, Foner draws liberally upon the detailed accounts of Sydney Howard Gay, who emerged as one of the key organizers of New York's Underground Railroad. His moving account illuminates how New York's free blacks worked with both white and black abolitionists to assist runaway slaves and to undermine an institution that is universally regarded today as inhumane. Along the way, Foner exposes his readers to a fascinating cast of characters who risked their safety and prison terms to right a morally bankrupt system of forced labor.

Albert S. Broussard.

Norma Cantú

Norma Cantú is a scholar whose most recent book is Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera. She also edits the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Culture and Traditions book series at Texas A&M University Press.

Luis Alberto Urrea, Into the Beautiful North: A Novel

I just finished reading Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. He says he wrote it as a "beach book," but it turned out to be a literary book after all! It is on the National Endowment for the Arts list for the Big Read. It is indeed funny and wise, full of memorable characters who find themselves in improbable but definitely possible situations.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

Benjamin Alire Sáenz won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Clubit is a collection of short stories brilliantly executed with humor and passion set in El Paso/Juárez. The stories take you to the Juárez bar so it feels familiar, even if you have never been inside the Kentucky Club.

Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel

I also read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler and found it typical Tyler: wry humor, intelligent, brilliant structure, and most of all, memorable characters. I recommend it highly.

Norma Cantu.

Sarah Cortez

Sarah Cortez's books include Cold Blue Steel, Goodbye Mexico: Poems of Remembrance, and Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston.

Mark Doty, Deep Lane: Poems

Mark Doty is that remarkable breed of writer who generates volume after volume of stunning prose and poetry both. His latest title, Deep Lane, will appeal to all writers due to its careful attention to diction and its insights into the mysterious borealis of the human condition we all must contend with.

Sarah Cortez.

Elizabeth Crook

Elizabeth Crook's latest book, Monday, Monday: A Novel, is set in Austin, where she lives.

The Paris Review and Philip Gourevitch (introduction), The Paris Review Interviews, I

These interviews make perfect bedtime reading. All four volumes are wonderful. If you feel like reading a civilized conversation, you can read the interview with T. S. Eliot. If you don't mind being disconcerted, read the one with Hemingway. Capote and Vonnegut are fantastic. Robert Gottlieb tells the best stories of all. And that's just the beginning.

Elizabeth Crook.

Nan Cuba

Nan Cuba, professor and author of Body and Bread, is the founder of Gemini Ink in San Antonio.

Joan Silber, Fools: Stories

Fools is a collection of stories connected by reappearing characters and their associations with anarchy. Each story captures the essence of a lifetime, scooting through time yet accomplishing a novel's reach, demonstrating how our choices define us. A man of questionable morals finally articulates what he's learned. A woman rejects her anarchist youth, unable to appreciate her friend, Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Fools was longlisted for the National Book Award and should have won it.

Norma Cantu.

Gregory Curtis

Gregory Curtis is the former editor of Texas Monthly and author of The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World's First Artists and Disarmed: The Story of the Venus de Milo.

Thomas Thompson, Blood and Money: A True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power

Blood and Money was an immense best seller when it was published in 1976, and the intervening almost forty years have done nothing to diminish its narrative power. In 1969, the wife of a prominent plastic surgeon dies mysteriously in Houston's posh River Oaks. Many, including the woman's father, thought she had been murdered by her husband. Then, three years later, the plastic surgeon is murdered in his doorway in front of his wife and son. Thompson traces the case through its many twists and turns. He is equally at home describing the lives of Houston's wealthy horsey set as he is in the seedy beer joints and cheap motels of Texas's petty thieves and career criminals. Thompson understands how a prosecutor puts together his case and how a defense attorney orchestrates his wooing of a jury. The result is better than Capote's In Cold Blood.

Greg Curtis.

Tracy Dahlby

Tracy Dahlby teaches journalism at UT Austin and is the author of Into the Field: A Foreign Correspondent's Notebook and Allah's Torch: A Report from Behind the Scenes in Asia's War on Terror.

Thomas McGuane, Crow Fair: Stories

Foreign correspondents of a certain age notoriously teethed on the works of Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad, and so discovering other masters of the short story has, for me, been both a career-long joy and a sort of busman's holiday from deadlines. One big regret is that I didn't start reading Thomas McGuane until I dipped into his new collection of Montana-centric stories some weeks ago. I can't remember reading an author more adept at limning man's (as in men's) unerring capacity for outsmarting himself in shrewd ploys that backfire with such abrupt, joke's-on-you twists—turnabouts that reveal the pathos that's been percolating under the surfaces of mordant humor all along. "What kind of idiot puts a casserole in a lunch pail?" asks the sclerotic husband of "The Casserole," after he learns his wife of twenty-five years is leaving him to stay on at her parents' ranch and his mother-in-law hands him a heavy meal for the long drive home.

Ron Rash, Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

Then there are the fine, laconic stories of Ron Rash. This latest volume is a sort of greatest-hits compilation, and typically the stories sparkle with clean, elegant sentences that cast light on the dark edges of life in Rash's Appalachia. Very impressive is the author's gift for time travel—in one story he'll be writing about the wages of the Civil War; in another, about characters today caught up in rural America's crystal meth epidemic. In a favorite, "Hard Times," about life on a hardscrabble, Depression-era farm, the luckless farmer shows mercy to a thief but doesn't dare tell his sullen wife as he climbs into bed next to her. "Jacob closed his eyes but did not sleep. Instead, he imagined towns where hungry men hung on boxcars looking for work that couldn't be found, shacks where families lived who didn't even have one swaybacked milk cow. . . . He tried to imagine a place worse than where he was."

Edna O'Brien, The Love Object: Selected Stories

What talk of short stories would be complete without the touch of an Irish master? And, as luck would have it, Edna O'Brien has come out with new collection, too. I'm enjoying it very much. In "A Scandalous Woman," O'Brien skewers the pecking order and baked-in attitudes toward women in "a land," she writes, "of strange sacrificial women." Her sentences bristle, stylishly, with a sense of outrage at the sin of injustice and the injustice of (the allocation of) sin, in a lush, descriptive tongue. There's the posture of a vulpine swain waiting for his lover, "his face forward, his head almost as low as the handlebars of the bicycle, and he surveyed us carefully as we approached." And the young bride who, after her shotgun wedding, looks to make her escape: "When they came to leave Eily tried to dart into the back of the car . . . just like an animal trying to get back to its lair." In short, it's poignant, beautiful stuff that unwinds at a stately pace.

Tracy Dahlby. Photo by Rebecca Davis.

Steven L. Davis

Steven L. Davis is Curator at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University and author of Dallas 1963, Texas Literary Outlaws: Six Writers in the Sixties and Beyond, and J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind.

Gerald Duff, Blue Sabine: A Novel

In this beautifully written, wondrously told novel by Gerald Duff, one family's personal history merges with the larger currents of Texas and American history, creating a twisting, turning narrative that is as aesthetically satisfying as it is historically resonant.

Blue Sabine follows several generations of the Holt family, from their arrival to the Sabine borderlands in 1867 until the present day. The story is told by a succession of voices, most often the women of the Holt clan. The ultimate effect is to illuminate the social history of this corner of Texas, from a time when scattered remnants of the Native American population still wandered the forests, through the worst of the Jim Crow years, until today, when, as Duff writes, you can "feel that bite" of "petroleum and chemicals in the air."

Blue Sabine makes clear that kinship ties run deep in the Sabine bottomlands, and the power of story is paramount. It is in the telling of tales, the ability to use the right words, that the people of the Holt clan—and perhaps all Texans—secure their identity, along with their relationships to each other.


Steven L. Davis.

Carrie Fountain

Carrie Fountain is an Austin poet whose collections include Instant Winner and Burn Lake.

Antonya Nelson, Funny Once: Stories

When I was the lowliest of undergraduate misfits at New Mexico State University, secretly writing poems and stories while impersonating a theater major, I'd sometimes see Antoyna Nelson at my father's bar, where I was a (terrible) cocktail waitress and where she, a titan of the creative writing department, would sometimes come after workshop with her graduate students. One night, standing beside me behind the bar, my dad shoved me. "Why are you staring at that woman?" he asked.

"I want to be her when I grow up," I answered.

I've been devouring Nelson's stories and novels since I was nineteen and my feelings about her writing have only increased. She is a writer of such immense talent she makes it look effortless, rendering the knottiest, most absurd truths about the strange experience of living in a way that is at once very funny and very painful. It's a winning combo. I've long heard Nelson called "the Chekhov of the red states." I didn't quite understand this analogy until recently, when I became more familiar with Chekhov. I thought, Yes. I get it. But for me Chekhov was the Nelson of Russian literature. 

If you've never read Antonya Nelson before, start with this book. It's as good as it gets. Your path to hero worship begins with Funny Once.

Carrie Fountain. Photo by Matt Valentine.

Margaret Lewis Furse

Margaret Lewis Furse is the author of The Hawkins Ranch in Texas: From Plantation Times to the Present.

Horton Foote, Farewell: A Memoir of a Texas Childhood

Horton Foote's Farewell: A Memoir of a Texas Childhood (1999) is full of charming descriptions of events and people during the Depression years in a small Texas town. Wharton, Texas, was Horton Foote's hometown, which, in spirit, he never left and from which many of his plays like The Trip to Bountiful and Dividing the Estate take their plots and characters. This memoir and any of his plays would be fine summer reading.

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front     

Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) is one of the great novels of World War I, the one hundredth anniversary of which has just past. A front line soldier and his buddies use every tactic they can to survive both on the battle field and during rare times of rest when they scheme to steal a farmer's goose and cook a makeshift feast. The hero, in the middle of the exploding battlefield, seeks shelter in a big shell hole. He is shocked to find a wounded enemy soldier already there and determines to kill him. After the deed is done, he examines the man's papers and learns the details of this man's life—that he is a baker, a husband, a father. Then an overwhelming feeling of sympathy sweeps in. Remarque's language in describing this scene is exact and powerful.

Margaret Lewis Furse.

S. C. Gwynne

S. C. Gwynne's books include Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson and Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History.

Hampton Sides, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

I strongly recommend Hampton Sides' In the Kingdom of Ice. It is just a brilliant narrative about arctic exploration that reads like a thriller. A great book and one of the best such adventure stories of the past ten years.

S. C. Gwynne. Photo by Corey Arnold.

Stephen Harrigan

Stephen Harrigan's most recent books are The Eye of the Mammoth: Selected Essays and Remember Ben Clayton. He is presently writing a history of Texas.

Brian Switek, My Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs

This is a book I've been looking for for a long time: a casual, personable survey of our current knowledge about dinosaur origins, species, behavior, and extinction scenarios, combined with an efficient historical round-up of the role dinosaurs have played in scientific theorizing and in pop culture since their discovery in the nineteenth century. Sometimes the language is too self-consciously jaunty, but that's a small annoyance compared to the wealth of understanding the book painlessly delivers. For the dinosaur-inclined reader who, like me, has some catching up to do, I can't think of a breezier summer read.

Stephen Harrigan. Photo by Kenny Braun.

Sibyl Avery Jackson

Sibyl Avery Jackson is a screenwriter, film producer, and author of Degree of Caution.

Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, is one of my all-time favorite childhood books. When I learned the Pulitzer Prize-winning author would be releasing Go Set A Watchman this summer, which takes place twenty years later with some of the same characters, I was delighted! And, I cannot wait to curl up on the sofa and catch up with my "old friends."

Sibyl Avery Jackson.

Nicolás Kanellos

Nicolás Kanellos is the author of A History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States: Origins to 1940 and founder and director of Arte Público Press.

Victor Villaseñor, Rain of Gold

The perfect page-turner for vacation reading is Victor Villaseñor's sprawling saga, Rain of Gold, a fascinating family autobiography that takes the reader into the tragic uprooting of the author's progenitors during the Mexican Revolution and follows both the patriarchal and matriarchal lines through generations of migration, deprivation, starvation, but ultimate prosperity. The tour de force is populated by scores of memorable characters, from Native Americans in communion with the spirits to heartless lawmen and daring card sharks and bootleggers, to cowboys, farm workers, and homemakers—with the women often wisely guiding the families to survival in the face of adversity.

Rain of Gold garnered some two hundred gushing reviews across the country, when it was published and became a bestseller; nevertheless, author and film/TV producers have disagreed for years on its adaptation to feature film or mini-series. But someday, this Roots-like saga that explains so much about the formation of Mexican American life and culture will become a part of American popular culture.

Nicolas Kanellos.

Jeffrey Kerr

Jeffrey Kerr is the author of Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas.

Robert Harris, Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome

I have read a lot of historical fiction novels over the years. Imperium is my favorite. The plot concerns the great Roman orator Cicero and his successful defense of an innocent man being framed by a rich and powerful governor, Verres. Cicero must overcome the greed, ambition, and corruption inherent to the Roman society of his day using only his intellect and the power of his voice. Suspenseful intrigue, gripping courtroom drama, and a powerful conclusion kept me up nights turning pages as fast as I could read them. There is no more fascinating figure of ancient Rome than Cicero and no better fictional treatment of his life than this book.

Jeffrey Kerr.

James Magnuson

James Magnuson is director of the Michener Center for Writers at UT Austin and author of Famous Writers I Have Known: A Novel, Windfall: A Novel, and The Hounds of Winter.

Geoff Dyer, Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence

I'd like to recommend Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer. A book that defies classification. A book about not being able to write a book about D. H. Lawrence that somehow becomes one of the best books about Lawrence ever written. Also one of the greatest books ever written about procrastination. 

James Magnuson.

Manuel F. Medrano

Manuel F. Medrano is a UT Brownsville historian and author of Americo Paredes: In His Own Words, an Authorized Biography.

Gary Jennings, Aztec

I highly recommend Aztec, the historical novel by Gary Jennings. Told through the words of Mixtli-Dark Cloud, it takes the reader on the historic Aztec journey from greatness to conquest. Reviewers call it remarkable and vivid.

Manuel F. Medrano.

Steven Mintz

Steven Mintz is executive director of the UT System's Institute for Transformational Learning and author of The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthood and Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood.

William Deresiewicz, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter 

Part memoir, part literary criticism, and partly a philosophical reflection on love, friendship, and the ethics of human relationships, this book is a striking example of non-fiction at its most compulsively readable. Deresiewicz, the ideal guide to Austen's novels, underscores literature's transformative power, its extraordinary capacity to alter our sensibilities, and its ability to cultivate psychological self-understanding.

Steven Mintz.

Bill Minutaglio

Bill Minutaglio's books include Dallas 1963, City on Fire: The Explosion that Devastated a Texas Town and Ignited a Historic Legal Battle, and Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life.

Chris Fuhrman, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys

The book, not the movie. It's a hilarious tribute to spontaneous anarchy, told in an intimate style but served up without "writerly" preening. It zips like a bouncy wooden roller coaster ride at a familiar park where they shoot off fireworks on aching, warm, summer nights. You might enjoy it even more if you had spent twelve years, like me, locked inside a Catholic education . . . the most challenging in the world . . . for many, vastly different, reasons. And you might read it twice even if you are not Catholic—because it's fun, chaotic in a good way, and imbued with that sense of being invited along to be part of the "cool kids"—the ones smarter than the teachers, parents, and all the other overly competitive, stressed-out authority figures. Hunter Thompson, Molly Ivins, and Timothy Leary would have read this if they were in a book club together—and so would anyone who ever had a "Jesus Was a Teenager Too" T-shirt. It's a tribute to raising your middle finger and laughing as the "grown-ups" try to out-Jones each other.

Richard Fariña, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me

I revisited this college campus comic novel not long ago, when my best friend in the world passed away. He was a brilliant Greek guy, a bartender and the smartest person I have ever known. And though he had no higher education, he deeply admired this book's rascally hero, a mercurial undergraduate (who happens to be Greek) grooving with the magic and smoke at a 1960s-era university. It's an Odyssey on an American campus saga, and the anchor is a sly seeker in search of higher meaning by any means necessary. He has an exceptional ability to read people—but is also deeply aware of his own rather substantial flaws. It's ultimately a very funny assault on folks who layer themselves in pretensions as they claw their way through their own eternal, only-the-strong-survive, winter. In other words, if you relish that Eternal Summer notion some of us Italians have—"dolce far niente," or the sweetness of doing nothing—then you might grin at how the hero shimmies and shakes his head at the folks rushing to join The Big Hamster Wheel.

Bill Minutaglio.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Naomi Shihab Nye is a San Antonio-based poet and author of many works including The Turtle of Oman, Habibi, and 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East.

Ron Rash, Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories

This summer for starters I'm reading Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories by Ron Rash (Ecco, 2014). Nick Almeida Miller, a great Michener Fellow currently living in Austin, urged me to read this book. The stories are gripping, haunting, and unforgettable.

It's a very thick book so I'm just a bit into it already but carried it to Ireland a few weeks ago and many people who saw me with it told me that he is a favorite writer of theirs in Galway and has visited them to read his work there. They remember that he even wrote in the car while en route to and from Dublin airport. The stores are set in Appalachia. Alice Munro of Canada, another favorite writer of mine, has said, "These stories are wonderful. They give me an ache in the heart and I have to sit and look out my window and think over and over again." I think summer sometimes feels like an ache in the heart. A sweetness, a tenderness stretching way back. . . . So, perfect book for such a time.

Naomi Shihab Nye.

Karen Olsson

Karen Olsson is a former editor of The Texas Observer, senior editor at Texas Monthly, and author of Waterloo: A Novel.

William Goyen, The House of Breath

This year marks the centenary of the birth of William Goyen (1915-1983), one of the best and weirdest writers Texas has produced. Goyen spent the first part of his childhood in Trinity, an East Texas sawmill town, and his work is haunted by memories of that place and echoes of its voices. I'd like to recommend his first and best-known book, The House of Breath, published in 1950. It's a beautiful, fraught fiction that Goyen called a series of "arias"—it gives itself over to a succession of narrators who share their recollections and visions of Charity, a town much like Trinity.

William Goyen, Come, The Restorer

I'd also recommend his 1974 book Come, The Restorer, an outlandish, funny, oversexed, and over-the-top novel set in an East Texas city and featuring a mysterious savior who falls into a coma (but retains a prominent erection), a tightrope walker, an oil king, unwitting incest, and a magical rattlesnake.

Clark Davis, It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of Writing

Finally, I wish that there were more books by English professors (or by anybody, for that matter) as readable and insightful as Clark Davis's It Starts With Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of Writing. Published this year by University of Texas Press, it's a compelling and sympathetic account of Goyen's life and work. 

Karen Olsson.

Jan Jarboe Russell

Jan Jarboe Russell contributes to Texas Monthly, and her books include The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II and Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson.

Sarah Bird, Above the East China Sea: A Novel

This novel by Sarah is exquisitely written and riveting. It tells the story of two young girls—an American and an Okinawan—who were born seventy years apart but share similar experiences of unendurable loss, cultural challenges and love. Sarah lived in San Antonio as a teenager—a military kid—and now she lives in Austin. Lucky Austin. 

Jan Jarboe Russell.

Frederick Steiner

Frederick Steiner is dean of UT Austin's School of Architecture and author of Design for a Vulnerable Planet and Human Ecology: Following Nature's Lead.

Anthony Doerr, Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World

Anthony Doerr received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in fiction for his wonderful All the Light We Cannot See. His gifts for observation of place and character are in full display in his earlier book. Four Seasons in Rome is an intimate journal of a year at the American Academy in Rome with his wife and infant twin sons. In Four Seasons in Rome, Doerr presents touching, funny, and insightful portraits of Rome, the American Academy, and his family. His domestic adventure occurs in the city where one can touch time and where urban nature supplies endless surprises.

Frederick Steiner.

Jeremi Suri

Jeremi Suri is a professor in the UT Austin Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. His books include Liberty's Surest Guardian: Rebuilding Nations After War from the Founders to Obama and Henry Kissinger and the American Century.

Jeffrey L. Pasley, The First Presidential Contest: 1796 and Founding of American Democracy 

When George Washington announced that he would not seek a third term as U.S. president, his decision created the first and greatest challenge to the young American republic. Most revolutionary governments fail during their first leadership succession. Pasley's book examines the formation of the American two-party system, despite Washington's hope to avoid parties. Pasley also discusses how foreign policy debates were crucial to the emerging American electoral system and the evolution of the American presidency. The First Presidential Contest set the foundations for modern elections, leadership, and policy debates in the world's leading democracy. The book is a wonderful exploration of early American history, with strong contemporary relevance. Pasley brings personalities like Jefferson and Hamilton to life, and he shows how they combined extraordinary philosophical sophistication with the kinds of political partisanship we are accustomed to seeing today.

Jeremi Suri.

Lonn Taylor

Lonn Taylor served twenty years as a historian at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, and is the author of Texas, My Texas: Musings of the Rambling Boy.

Don Graham (editor), Lone Star Literature: From the Red River to the Rio Grande: A Texas Anthology

I recently picked up Don Graham's anthology Lone Star Literature (W. W. Norton & Company, 2003), trying to find Larry McMurtry's scathing statement about J. Frank Dobie's total incompetence as a writer (it wasn't in there) and discovered that I could not put it down. I was diverted for an entire afternoon by the feast of this book's contents. Some pieces took me straight back to Austin in the 1960s as I recalled the excitement of reading Américo Paredes's "The Hammon and the Beans" when it was published in The Texas Observer and Dave Hickey's "I'm Bound to Follow the Longhorn Cows" in The University of Texas literary magazine, Reata. I actually read Hickey's manuscript before the story was published as we were friends and next-door neighbors in those days, and we had sung the song that supplied the title of the story together. Some pieces are old standbys which I never tire of re-reading, such as John Graves's "The Last Running," about the crusty old cattleman Charles Goodnight and some of his Comanche friends, and the opening chapter of Bill Brammer's "The Gay Place," which contains the finest description of the geography of Texas ever written.

But the best part was discovering Texas authors I had never heard of, people who published during the twenty-five years that I lived away from Texas: Pat Carr, Rafael Castillo, Clay Reynolds, Jim Sanderson, Peter LaSalle, and Aaron Latham, are all writers of great talent and a delight to read. The last piece in the book, William Gruben's "The Last History Ever of Fatigue in Texas," was the best surprise of all. I knew Gruben in Austin, when he was a graduate student in economics at UT, and I knew that he had become a successful banker in Dallas, but I had no idea that he had a flair for humorous writing or that he had been published in The Atlantic Monthly.

Thank you, Don Graham, for bringing me some nostalgic moments, re-introducing me to some old friends, and showing me that new Texas writers do not always look backwards.

Lonn Taylor.

Chase Untermeyer

Chase Untermeyer, former US Ambassador to Qatar and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, is a lifelong diarist whose books include Inside Reagan's Navy: The Pentagon Journals and When Things Went Right: The Dawn of the Reagan-Bush Administration.

Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny: A Novel

I recommend The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. Published in 1951, it remains one of the great novels of World War II and of the sea. I read it almost fifty years ago, just before going into the Navy. At the time, I appreciated the book as an introduction to a world I would shortly enter. This year, when I re-read it, I could appreciate The Caine Mutiny so much more due to subsequent life on a naval vessel at sea and to life in general.

Chase Untermeyer.

Jason Walker

Jason Walker is Director of Research at the Texas State Cemetery and author of Texas State Cemetery.

Bill Madden, 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever

One of my favorite historical subjects has always been Negro League baseball. The early Negro League ballplayers were pioneers in the civil rights movement, even if they didn't realize it at the time. When Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947, he dramatically changed American society. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education integrated public schools, however, Major League Baseball broke the color barrier seven years earlier. By 1954, half of the Major League Baseball teams had at least one black player on their roster.

Bill Madden explores how baseball helped to integrate America by focusing on the 1954 New York Giants led by Willie Mays. The book is a fascinating look at how Mays was loved by his white Southern teammates and gained the respect of all big leaguers with his passion for the game. With America racially divided at the time, especially in the South, 1954 would be the first time that black ballplayers would win a World Series. It was a significant achievement in the civil rights movement. Bill Madden was able to bring this tumultuous year into perspective and show how baseball finally became America's pastime.

Jason Walker.

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of numerous books including Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, and The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

I'm reading Between You and Me, a droll and informative book about the many puzzles of English grammar, told by a copy editor at The New Yorker, Mary Norris. It's a great writing guide as well as a fond account of the magazine's eccentric culture.

Lawrence Wright.