12 Books By Texans That Speak To The Spirit Of The Lone Star State

In the wake of the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey, it's incredibly encouraging to see the strong, supportive spirit of Texas shine through. Even in the midst of some truly hard conditions, Texans across the state are doing whatever they can to help those around them, from providing shelter to taking boats out and rescuing people. As a native Texan, I know firsthand that this exemplifies the spirit of my state. When Texans get knocked down, they get right back up again, and lend a helping hand to someone else in the process. Texas has its own particular brand of kindness and strength, and I count myself lucky to be a part of it.

So, with Texas in all of our thoughts, I wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to all of the wonderful Texan writers who make the Lone Star State great. When you dive into Texas literature, you'll soon find that is as diverse and rich as the state itself. Not all of these books are centered around Texas —though many of them are. Yet, each of these fantastic reads captures the resilient, passionate spirit of Texans in its own way.

'The Underneath' by Kathi Appelt

Set in East Texas, this National Book Award finalist will pull at all of your heart strings. The story follows a pregnant stray cat who forms an unlikely connection with a hound.

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'A Love Letter to Texas Women' by Sarah Bird

Sarah Bird is an essential part of Texas literature. In this book-sized essay, Bird writes about the amazing women who make Texas shine.

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'Holes' by Louis Sachar

This classic is all about people doing remarkable things to make it through hard times. Stanley Yelnats is unfairly sent to Camp Greenlake, a detention center for boys, where he must dig a five-by-five foot hole every single day in the grueling Texas heat. But along the way, he uncovers some secrets that could force him to reexamine everything he thought he knew.

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'Words Under the Words: Selected Poems' by Naomi Shihab Nye

San Antonio-based poet Naomi Shihab Nye touches on themes of family, identity, and the wonders of the world.

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'Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories' by Sandra Cisneros

Best known for The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros, who also lives in San Antonio, details the lives of women living on both sides of the border in Woman Hollering Creek.

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'Everyone Says That at the End of the World' by Owen Egerton

Owen Egerton is a staple of the Austin lit scene. This book depicts what happens when the apocalypse hits Austin, which might sound like a little bit of a downer in light of recent events. But with lots of different characters, introspections about space-time, and chapters written from the point of view of a hermit crab, this book turns the end of the world into a crazy adventure, with Texas-sized amounts of heart.

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'The Boy Kings of Texas' by Domingo Martinez

A finalist for the National Book Award in 2012, thie book is a coming-of-age story set in Brownsville. As the author reflects on his boyhood, this book captures the unique lifestyle of South Texas.

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'The Gates of the Alamo' by Stephen Harrigan

Stephen Harrigan is the cream of the crop when it comes to good history writing. In this book, he dives into the lives of three people whose lives become entwined with the famous fall of the Alamo: naturalist Edmund McGowan, innkeeper Mary Mott, and her sixteen-year-old son, Terrell.

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'Bluebird, Bluebird' by Attica Locke

Houston-native Attica Locke is currently a writer on Empire, and her mystery novels are top-notch. In her newest novel, set in East Texas, Locke explores the racial tension that casts a shadow over the state, and some of the horrors that accompany Texas' unfortunate heritage. In the face of this, the book's hero, a black Texas Ranger, and his fight for justice make this a page-turner that brings Texas into sharp focus.

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'The Same Sky' by Amanda Eyre Ward

Alice Conroe is a Texas barbecue-owner, trying desperately to adopt a child. Carla Trujilio is a 13-year-old who embarks on a dangerous journey across the border with her four-year-old brother. In this searing read, Austin-based author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the stories of two women whose lives intersect in miraculous ways.

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'It's a Long Story: My Life' by Willie Nelson

I'll admit to being a huge fan of Willie Nelson's music. His memoir is a must for anybody who loves his songs, and it's fascinating to read about how he came to be the icon and legend that we know today.

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'The Valley/Estampas del Valle' by Rolando Hinojosa

In this classic piece of Chicano literature, Hinojosa paints a picture of the Texas-Mexico border through a series of vignettes. A rich canvas of characters is depicted in this collection, each piece bringing the region to life in its own way.

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