Books Set In Texas: Texas Novels
This epic list of books set in Texas accompanied me on a recent trip to Dallas. As the largest of the contiguous states, there is a huge range of literature set in the region. And while the following list of books set in Texas my seem quite long, it’s only the beginning – covering just a small selection of the incredible local reads available.
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Books Set In Texas: Introduction
Larry McMurtry has written over 30 novels that are mostly set in and around the Old West and contemporary Texas, so it’s hardly a surprise that he dominates this list! Many of his works been adapted into films and television shows, including Lonesome Dove, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Some of his other most popular titles include Terms of Endearment, The Last Picture Show and Streets of Laredo.
You’ll also find multiple titles by authors such as Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men), Susan Wittig Albert (Thyme of Death, Witches’ Bane), Mary Karr (The Liars’ Club, Cherry), Joe R. Lansdale (Mucho Mojo, The Two-Bear Mambo, The Bottoms, Sunset and Sawdust), Oscar Cásares (Brownsville: Stories, Where We Come From) and Attica Locke (Bluebird, Bluebird, Heaven, My Home).
Books Set In Texas: The Shortlist
If you’re short on time to browse the much longer list below, these are my personal picks for classic books set in Texas:
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
- All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
- The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
- The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan
- Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington
- Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares
Books Set In Texas
1. Giant by Edna Ferber, 1952
When larger-than-life cattle rancher Jordan “Bick” Benedict arrives at the family home of sharp-witted but genteel Virginia socialite Leslie Lynnton to purchase a racehorse, the two are instantly drawn to each other. But for Leslie, falling in love with a Texan was a lot simpler than falling in love with Texas. Upon their arrival at Bick’s ranch, Leslie is confronted not only with the oppressive heat and vastness of Texas but also by the disturbing inequity between runaway riches and the poverty and racism suffered by the Mexican workers on the ranch.
2. Tales Of Old-Time Texas by J. Frank Dobie, 1955
It is for good reason that J. Frank Dobie is known as the Southwest’s master storyteller. With his eye for color and detail, his ear for the rhythm of language and song, and his heart open to the simple truth of folk wisdom and ways, he movingly and unpretentiously spins the tales of our collective heritages. This he does in Tales of Old-Time Texas, a heartwarming array of twenty-eight stories filled with vivid characters, exciting historical episodes, and traditional themes.
3. Goodbye to a River: A Narrative by John Graves, 1959
In the 1950s, a series of dams was proposed along the Brazos River in north-central Texas. For John Graves, this project meant that if the stream’s regimen was thus changed, the beautiful and sometimes brutal surrounding countryside would also change, as would the lives of the people whose rugged ancestors had eked out an existence there. Graves therefore decided to visit that stretch of the river, which he had known intimately as a youth.
4. Horseman, Pass By (Thalia, Texas #1) by Larry McMurtry, 1961
Horseman, Pass By tells the story of Homer Bannon, an old-time cattleman who epitomizes the frontier values of honesty and decency, and Hud, his unscrupulous stepson. Caught in the middle is the narrator, Homer’s young grandson Lonnie, who is as much drawn to his grandfather’s strength of character as he is to Hud’s hedonism and materialism.
5. Leaving Cheyenne (Thalia, Texas #2) by Larry McMurtry, 1962
Leaving Cheyenne traces the loves of three West Texas characters as they follow that sundown trail: Gideon Fry, the serious rancher; Johnny McCloud, the free-spirited cowhand; and Molly Taylor, the sensitive woman they both love and who bears them each a son. Told in alternating perspectives over sixty years, Leaving Cheyenne follows their dreams, secrets, and grief against a changing American landscape.
6. The Last Picture Show (The Last Picture Show #1) by Larry McMurtry, 1966
This is one of McMurtry’s most memorable novels – the basis for the film of the same name. Set in a small, dusty Texas town, it introduces Jacy, Duane and Sonny, teenagers stumbling towards adulthood, discovering the beguiling mysteries of sex and the even more baffling mysteries of love.
7. Moving On (Houston Series #1) by Larry McMurtry, 1970
Moving On centers on the life of Patsy Carpenter, one of his most beloved characters. After calmly finishing a Hershey bar alone in her car, a restless Patsy drives away from her lifeless marriage in search of a greater purpose. In “precise and lyrical prose” (Boston Globe), McMurtry reveals the complex, colorful lives of Pete, the rodeo clown; high-spirited cowboy Sonny Shanks; and impassioned grad student Hank.
8. All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers (Houston Series #2) by Larry McMurtry, 1972
Danny Deck is on the verge of success as an author when he flees Houston and hurtles unexpectedly into the hearts of three women: a girlfriend who makes him happy but who won’t stay, a neighbor as generous as she is lusty, and his pal Emma Horton. It’s a wild ride toward literary fame and an uncharted country, beyond everyone he deeply loves. All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers is a wonderful display of Larry McMurtry’s unique gift: his ability to re-create the subtle textures of feelings, the claims of passing time and familiar place, and the rich interlocking swirl of people’s lives.
9. The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton, 1973
To the ranchers and farmers of 1950s Texas, man’s biggest enemy is one he can’t control. With their entire livelihood pegged on the chance of a wet year or a dry year, drought has the ability to crush their whole enterprise, to determine who stands and who falls, and to take food out of the mouths of the workers and their families. To Charlie Flagg, an honest, decent, and cantankerous rancher, the drought of the early 1950s is a foe that he must fight on his own grounds.
10. Terms of Endearment (Houston Series #3) by Larry McMurtry, 1975
An Oscar-winning story of a memorable mother and her fiesty daughter who find the courage and humor to live through life’s hazards and to love each other as never before. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove created two characters who won the hearts of readers and moviegoers everywhere – Aurora Greenway and her daughter Emma.
11. The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson #1) by Robert A. Caro, 1982
The Path to Power, reveals in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy, and urge to power that set Lyndon Johnson apart. Chronicling the startling early emergence of Johnson’s political genius, it follows him from his Texas boyhood through the years of the Depression in the Texas hill Country to the triumph of his congressional debut in New Deal Washington, to his heartbreaking defeat in his first race for the Senate, and his attainment, nonetheless, of the national power for which he hungered.
12. The Gay Place by Billy Lee Brammer, 1983
Set in Texas, The Gay Place consists of three interlocking novels, each with a different protagonist – a member of the state legislature, the state’s junior senator, and the governor’s press secretary. The governor himself, Arthur Fenstemaker, a master politician, infinitely canny and seductive, remains the dominant figure throughout.
13. Lonesome Dove (Lonesome Dove #1) by Larry McMurtry, 1985
A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, Lonesome Dove is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic, Lonesome Dove is a book to make us laugh, weep, dream, and remember.
14. Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy, 1985
An epic novel of the violence and depravity that attended America’s westward expansion, Blood Meridian brilliantly subverts the conventions of the Western novel and the mythology of the “wild west.” Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, it traces the fortunes of the Kid, a fourteen-year-old Tennesseean who stumbles into the nightmarish world where Indians are being murdered and the market for their scalps is thriving.
15. Texas by James A. Michener, 1985
Spanning four and a half centuries, James A. Michener’s monumental saga chronicles the epic history of Texas, from its Spanish roots in the age of the conquistadors to its current reputation as one of America’s most affluent, diverse, and provocative states. Among his finely drawn cast of characters, emotional and political alliances are made and broken, as the loyalties established over the course of each turbulent age inevitably collapse under the weight of wealth and industry.
16. Texasville (The Last Picture Show #2) by Larry McMurtry, 1987
Set in the post-oil-boom 1980s, Texasville brings us up to date with Duane, who’s got an adoring dog, a sassy wife, a twelve-million-dollar debt, and a hot tub by the pool; Jacy, who’s finished playing “Jungla” in Italian movies and who’s returned to Thalia; and Sonny – Duane’s teenage rival for Jacy’s affections – who owns the car wash, the Kwik-Sackstore, and the video arcade.
17. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria E. Anzaldúa, 1987
Anzaldua, a Chicana native of Texas, explores in prose and poetry the murky, precarious existence of those living on the frontier between cultures and languages. Writing in a lyrical mixture of Spanish and English that is her unique heritage, she meditates on the condition of Chicanos in Anglo culture, women in Hispanic culture, and lesbians in the straight world. Her essays and poems range over broad territory, moving from the plight of undocumented migrant workers to memories of her grandmother, from Aztec religion to the agony of writing.
18. Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger, 1988
Return once again to the enduring account of life in the Mojo lane, to the Permian Panthers of Odessa – the winningest high school football team in Texas history. Odessa is not known to be a town big on dreams, but the Panthers help keep the hopes and dreams of this small, dusty town going. Socially and racially divided, its fragile economy follows the treacherous boom-bust path of the oil business. In bad times, the unemployment rate barrels out of control; in good times, its murder rate skyrockets. But every Friday night from September to December, when the Permian High School Panthers play football, this West Texas town becomes a place where dreams can come true.
19. Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros, 1991
A collection of stories by Sandra Cisneros, the winner of the 2018 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. The lovingly drawn characters of these stories give voice to the vibrant and varied life on both sides of the Mexican border with tales of pure discovery, filled with moments of infinite and intimate wisdom.
20. Thyme of Death (China Bayles #1) by Susan Wittig Albert, 1992
Susan Wittig Albert’s novels featuring ex-lawyer and herb-shop proprietor China Bayles have won acclaim for their rich characterization and witty, suspenseful stories of crime and passion in small-town Texas. Now, when China’s friend Jo dies of an apparent suicide, China looks behind the quaint facade of Pecan Springs. Though she finds a lot of friendly faces, China is sure that one of them hides the heart of a killer.
21. All the Pretty Horses (The Border Trilogy #1) by Cormac McCarthy, 1992
All the Pretty Horses tells of young John Grady Cole, the last of a long line of Texas ranchers. Across the border Mexico beckons – beautiful and desolate, rugged and cruelly civilized. With two companions, he sets off on an idyllic, sometimes comic adventure, to a place where dreams are paid for in blood.
22. Streets of Laredo (Lonesome Dove #2) by Larry McMurtry, 1993
An exhilarating tale of legend and heroism, Streets of Laredo is classic Texas and Western literature at its finest. Captain Woodrow Call, August McCrae’s old partner, is now a bounty hunter hired to track down a brutal young Mexican bandit. Riding with Call are an Eastern city slicker, a witless deputy, and one of the last members of the Hat Creek outfit, Pea Eye Parker. This long chase leads them across the last wild stretches of the West into a hellhole known as Crow Town and, finally, into the vast, relentless plains of the Texas frontier.
23. Witches’ Bane (China Bayles #2) by Susan Wittig Albert, 1993
The second China Bayles mystery. Herb shop owner China is shocked when Halloween hijinks take a gruesome turn in Pecan Springs, ending in a brutal murder. And China is even more shocked when her friend Ruby, a New Age expert in tarot and astrology, becomes the prime suspect after a minister accuses her of witchcraft.
24. Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale, 1994
Inheriting one hundred thousand dollars and a small hiccup of a house in a dilapidated district is not so bad, and Uncle Chester made a nice gift of it to his nephew Leonard – though the clean-up is intensive, the floor is rotten, and the neighbors are something from a nightmare. It is one thing to renovate a house to sell it. It is another to cut down the walls and risk discovering hidden skeletons.
25. Armadillos and Old Lace (Kinky Friedman #7) by Kinky Friedman, 1994
The Kinkster is back and in top supersleuth form. In Armadillos & Old Lace, the hip, witty, cosmically cryptic poet returns to once again ponder the imponderables and disentangle a mystery or two, and this time he’s temporarily forsaking the mean streets of Manhattan for his old Texas stomping grounds. When Kinky Friedman decides it’s time to take a break from big-city murder and mayhem, he transports himself and his cat to Texas to get back to his roots, to commune with his dad, to play with his pet armadillo, and to blow the city soot from his fevered brain.
26. Dead Man’s Walk (Lonesome Dove #3) by Larry McMurtry, 1995
As young Texas Rangers, Gus and Call have much to learn about survival in a land fraught with perils: not only the blazing heat and raging tornadoes, roiling rivers and merciless Indians but also the deadly whims of soldiers. On their first expeditions – led by incompetent officers and accompanied by the robust, dauntless whore known as the Great Western – they will face death at the hands of the cunning Comanche war chief Buffalo Hump and the silent Apache Gomez. They will be astonished by the Mexican army. And Gus will meet the love of his life.
27. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr, 1995
When it was published in 1995, Mary Karr’s The Liars Club took the world by storm and raised the art of the memoir to an entirely new level, as well as bringing about a dramatic revival of the form. Karr’s comic childhood in an east Texas oil town brings us characters as darkly hilarious as any of J. D. Salinger’s – a hard-drinking daddy, a sister who can talk down the sheriff at twelve, and an oft-married mother whose accumulated secrets threaten to destroy them all.
28. The Two-Bear Mambo (Hap and Leonard #3) by Joe R. Lansdale, 1995
Florida Grange, Leonard’s drop-dead gorgeous lawyer and Hap’s former lover, has vanished in Klan-infested Grovetown while in pursuit of the real story behind the jailhouse death of a legendary bluesman’s blackguard son. Fearing the worst, Hap and Leonard set out to do the kind of investigating the good ole boy cops can’t – or won’t – do. In Grovetown they encounter a redneck police chief, a sadistic Christmas tree grower, and townsfolk itchin’ for a lynchin’. Add to this a dark night exhumation in a voodoo graveyard, a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions, and flat-out sudden murder.
29. Comanche Moon (Lonesome Dove #4) by Larry McMurtry, 1997
Texas Rangers August McCrae and Woodrow Call, now in their middle years, continue to deal with the ever-increasing tensions of adult life – Gus with his great love, Clara Forsythe, and Call with Maggie Tilton, the young whore who loves him. Two proud but very different men, they enlist with the Ranger troop in pursuit of Buffalo Hump, the great Comanche war chief; Kicking Wolf, the celebrated Comanche horse thief; and a deadly Mexican bandit king with a penchant for torture.
30. The Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper, 1998
The Wake of the Wind, J. California Cooper’s third novel, is her most penetrating look yet at the challenges that generations of African Americans have had to overcome in order to carve out a home for themselves and their families. Set in Texas in the waning years of the Civil War, the novel tells the dramatic story of a remarkable heroine, Lifee, and her husband, Mor. When Emancipation finally comes to Texas, Mor, Lifee, and the extended family they create from other slaves who are also looking for a home and a future, set out in search of a piece of land they can call their own.
31. Holes (Holes #1) by Louis Sachar, 1998
Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment – and redemption.
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys “build character” by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake.
32. Crazy Horse: A Life by Larry McMurtry, 1999
Legends cloud the life of Crazy Horse, a seminal figure in American history but an enigma even to his own people in his own day. This superb biography looks back across more than 120 years at the life and death of this great Sioux warrior who became a reluctant leader at the Battle of Little Bighorn. With his uncanny gift for understanding the human psyche, Larry McMurtry animates the character of this remarkable figure, whose betrayal by white representatives of the U.S. government was a tragic turning point in the history of the West.
33. Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson, 1999
September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history – and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devastating personal tragedy.
34. The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale, 2000
The narrator of The Bottoms is Harry Collins, an old man obsessively reflecting on certain key experiences of his childhood. In 1933, the year that forms the centerpiece of the narrative, Harry is 11 years old and living with his mother, father, and younger sister on a farm outside of Marvel Creek, Texas, near the Sabine River bottoms. Harry’s world changes forever when he discovers the corpse of a young black woman tied to a tree in the forest near his home. The woman, who is eventually identified as a local prostitute, has been murdered, molested, and sexually mutilated. She is also, as Harry will soon discover, the first in a series of similar corpses, all of them the victims of a new, unprecedented sort of monster: a traveling serial killer.
35. The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan, 2000
A huge, riveting, deeply imagined novel about the siege and fall of the Alamo in 1836 – an event that formed the consciousness of Texas and that resonates through American history. The Gates of the Alamo follows the lives of three people whose fates become bound to the now-fabled Texas fort: Edmund McGowan, a proud and gifted naturalist whose life’s work is threatened by the war against Mexico; the resourceful, widowed innkeeper Mary Mott; and her sixteen-year-old son, Terrell, whose first shattering experience with love leads him instead to war, and into the crucible of the Alamo.
36. In the Midnight Rain by Ruth Wind, 2000
Ellie Connor is a biographer with a special talent for piecing together fragments of the past. Her latest project, though, promises to be her most challenging – and personal. Not only is she researching the life of a blues singer who disappeared mysteriously forty years ago, but Ellie is also trying to find the truth about the parents she never knew. The love child of a restless woman who died young and an anonymous father, Ellie has little to go on but a faded postcard her mother sent from a small East Texas town – the hometown of her latest subject.
37. Cherry by Mary Karr, 2000
This memoir of adolescence follows the earlier volume by Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club. In Cherry, we find Karr once again trying to run from the thrills and terrors of her psychological and physical awakening by violently crashing up against authority in all its forms, shuttling between the principal’s office and the jail cell. Yearning, like a typical teenager, for the ideal love or heart’s companion who will make her feel whole again, she throws in her lot with a varied and outrageous band: surfers, yogis and bona fide geniuses.
38. That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx, 2002
Folks in the Texas panhandle do not like hog farms. But Bob Dollar is determined to see his new job as hog site scout for Global Pork Rind through to the end. However he is forced to face the idiosyncratic inhabitants of Woolybucket and to question his own notions of loyalty and home. That Old Ace in the Hole is a richly textured story of one man’s struggle to make good in the inhospitable ranch country of the Texas panhandle, told with razor-sharp wit and a masterly sense of place.
39. Sunset and Sawdust by Joe R. Lansdale, 2003
In the middle of a cyclone, beautiful, red-haired Sunset Jones shoots her husband Pete dead when he tries to beat and rape her. To Camp Rapture’s general consternation, Sunset’s mother-in-law arranges for her to take over from Pete as town constable. As if that weren’t hard enough to swallow in depression era east Texas, Sunset actually takes the job seriously, and her investigation into a brutal double murder pulls her into a maelstrom of greed, corruption, and unspeakable malice. It is a case that will require a well of inner strength she never knew she had.
40. Getting Mother’s Body by Suzan-Lori Parks, 2003
Like a country quilt, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’s spellbinding first novel, Getting Mother’s Body, is pieced together from rags: short and slanted scraps of narrative recounted by various friends and members of the hard-luck Beede clan of Ector County, Texas. These sad, wily, bickering voices tell the story of Billy Beede – poor, unmarried, and pregnant – and her dead mother, the “hot and wild” blues singer, Willa Mae Beede, who may or may not have been laid to rest with a fortune of diamonds and pearls in her coffin.
41. Brownsville: Stories by Oscar Cásares, 2003
At the country’s edge, on the Mexican border, Brownsville, Texas, is a town like many others. It is a place where people work hard to create better lives for their children, where people bear grudges against their neighbors, where love blossoms only to fade, and where the only real certainty is that life holds surprises. In his sparkling debut, Oscar Casares creates a cast of unforgettable characters confronting everyday possibilities and contradictions.
42. Daisy’s Back in Town (Lovett, Texas #1) by Rachel Gibson, 2004
When Daisy Monroe walked out of Lovett, Texas fifteen years ago, she thought she’d left troublemaker Jackson Lamott Parrish behind her. But some things you can’t just leave in the past. Now she’s back and she needs to clear the air by confessing to Jackson the reason she left him all those years ago. But Jackson doesn’t want to know. When she walked out on him, he vowed he’d never let a woman get close enough to hurt him again. As Daisy tries to pursue Jackson to tell him the truth, he tries just as hard to stay out of her way.
43. Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, Lynn Vincent, 2005
A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery. An upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel. A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it. It begins outside a burning plantation hut in Louisiana and an East Texas honky-tonk and, without a doubt, inside the heart of God. It unfolds at a Hollywood hacienda, an upscale New York gallery, a downtown dumpster, a Texas ranch. Gritty with betrayal, pain, and brutality, it also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love.
44. Waterloo by Karen Olsson, 2005
Nick Lasseter is in a slump – as a reporter for the Waterloo Weekly, and in every other part of his life as well. When he grudgingly agrees to write a piece about a rising female Republican legislator, he stumbles onto a political fight in which the good guys and bad guys start to seem interchangeable. And not even the deceased can be relied upon to stick to their stories when Nick gets involved with a political insider. As they search the dim depths of a civic past that’s anything but dead and buried, they find that some things never change – things like the moral ambiguity of practical politics and the sad, hilarious cluelessness of young men in love.
45. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, 2005
In his blistering new novel, Cormac McCarthy returns to the Texas-Mexico border, the setting of his famed Border Trilogy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones. One day, Llewellyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a bodyguard of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law – in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell – can contain.
46. Blue-Eyed Devil (Travises #2) by Lisa Kleypas, 2008
Meet the blue-eyed-devil – his name is Hardy Cates. He’s a self-made millionaire who comes from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s made enemies in the rough-and-tumble ride to the top of Houston’s oil industry. He’s got hot blood in his veins. And vengeance on his mind. Meet the heiress – she’s Haven Travis. Despite her family’s money, she refuses to set out on the path they’ve chosen for her. But when Haven marries a man her family disapproves of, her life is set on a new and dangerous course.
47. Rainwater by Sandra Brown, 2009
Ella Baron runs her Texas boarding house with the efficiency of a ship’s captain and the grace of a gentlewoman. She cooks, cleans, launders, and cares for her ten-year-old son, Solly, a sweet but challenging child whose busy behavior and failure to speak elicits undesired advice from others in town. Ella’s plate is full from sunup to sundown. When a room in her boarding house opens up, the respected town doctor brings Ella a new boarder – the handsome and gallant Mr. David Rainwater – but Ella is immediately resistant to opening up her home to this mysterious stranger.
48. Borderline (Anna Pigeon #15) by Nevada Barr, 2009
The killings on Isle Royale have left Anna drained and haunted, her memories of her time with the wolf study group forever marred by the carnage on the island. Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, she is on administrative leave, per her superintendent’s urging. Anna wonders if the leave might not be permanent, either by her own choice or that of the National Park Service. The one bright spot in Anna’s life is Paul, her husband of less than a year. Hoping the warmth and the adventure of a raft trip in Big Bend National Park will lift her spirits, Paul takes Anna to southwest Texas, where the sun is hot and the Rio Grande is running high.
49. Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto, 2010
A dark and visceral debut set along the seedy wastelands of Galveston by a young writer with a hard edge to his potent literary style. On the same day that Roy Cady is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he senses that his boss, a dangerous loan-sharking bar-owner, wants him dead. Known “without affection” to members of the boss’s crew as “Big Country” on account of his long hair, beard, and cowboy boots, Roy is alert to the possibility that a routine assignment could be a deathtrap. Which it is.
50. Roses by Leila Meacham, 2010
Spanning the 20th century, the story of Roses takes place in a small East Texas town against the backdrop of the powerful timber and cotton industries, industries controlled by the scions of the town’s founding families. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick should have married but unwisely did not, and now must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies of their choice and the loss of what might have been – not just for themselves but for their children, and children’s children.
51. 11/22/63 by Stephen King, 2011
Life can turn on a dime – or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away, but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession – to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
Note: this is partly set in Texas.
52. You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon, 2011
An unforgettable collection of interconnected short stories. In Fort Hood housing, like all army housing, you get used to hearing through the walls, you learn too much. And you learn to move quietly through your own small domain. You also know when the men are gone. No more boots stomping above, no more football games turned up too high, and, best of all, no more front doors slamming before dawn as they trudge out for their early formation, sneakers on metal stairs, cars starting, shouts to the windows above to throw them down their gloves on cold desert mornings.
53. The Son by Philipp Meyer, 2012
The Son is an utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American West through the lives of the McCulloughs, an ambitious family as resilient and dangerous as the land they claim. Spring, 1849. The first male child born in the newly established Republic of Texas, Eli McCullough is thirteen years old when a marauding band of Comanche storm his homestead and brutally murder his mother and sister, taking him captive. Brave and clever, Eli quickly adapts to Comanche life, learning their ways and language, answering to a new name, carving a place as the chief’s adopted son, and waging war against their enemies, including white men – complicating his sense of loyalty and understanding of who he is.
54. Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir by Kambri Crews, 2012
In this powerful, affecting, and unflinching memoir, a daughter looks back on her unconventional childhood with deaf parents in rural Texas while trying to reconcile her present life – in which her father is serving a twenty-year sentence in a maximum-security prison. As a child, Kambri Crews wished that she’d been born deaf so she, too, could fully belong to the tight-knit Deaf community that embraced her parents. Her beautiful mother was a saint who would swiftly correct anyone’s notion that deaf equaled dumb. Her handsome father, on the other hand, was more likely to be found hanging out with the sinners.
55. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, 2012
Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk is a razor-sharp satire set in Texas during America’s war in Iraq. It explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad.
Ben Fountain’s remarkable debut novel follows the surviving members of the heroic Bravo Squad through one exhausting stop in their media-intensive “Victory Tour” at Texas Stadium, football mecca of the Dallas Cowboys, their fans, promoters, and cheerleaders.
56. Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, 2014
An urgent, intensely visceral debut novel about a young waitress whose downward spiral is narrated in electric prose. Marie, a young single mother, lands a job at an upscale Dallas steakhouse. She is preternaturally attuned to the appetites of her patrons, but quickly learns to hide her private struggle behind an easy smile and a crisp white apron. In a world of long hours and late nights, where everything runs on a currency of favors, cash and cachet, Marie gives in to brutally self-destructive impulses.
57. Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas #1) by Charlaine Harris, 2014
Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).
58. Send More Idiots by Tony Perez-Giese, 2014
Juarez, Mexico, is murder city, so it’s not surprising when an American real estate broker vanishes there without a trace. The only person who shows any interest in his disappearance is his brother, Jon. Oddly, Jon seems more intent on trying to go missing himself than he is in actually figuring out what happened to his sibling. Within a matter of days, Jon is sucked into the violent and darkly humorous web of cartel warlords and free-trade profiteers in which his brother was tangled up. As he dodges threats in El Paso and across the river in Juarez, Jon is aided by an alcoholic Iraq War veteran, a disgraced narcotics detective and a local tejana.
59. Friendswood by Rene Steinke, 2014
Friendswood, Texas, is a small Gulf Coast town of church suppers, oil rigs on the horizon, hurricane weather, and high school football games. When tragedy rears its head with an industrial leak that kills and sickens residents, it pulls on the common thread that runs through the community, intensifying everything. From a confused sixteen-year-old girl beset by visions, to a high school football star tormented by his actions, to a mother galvanized by the death of her teen daughter, to a morally bankrupt father trying to survive his mistakes, René Steinke explores what happens when families are trapped in the ambiguity of history’s missteps – when the actions of a few change the lives and well-being of many.
60. Ruby by Cynthia Bond, 2014
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby Bell, “the kind of pretty it hurt to look at,” has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city – the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village – all the while hoping for a glimpse of the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When a telegram from her cousin forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby finds herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood.
61. Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin, 2015
As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.
62. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel by Zachary Thomas Dodson, 2015
In 1843 Chicago, fragile naturalist Zadock Thomas falls in love with the high society daughter of Joseph Gray, a prominent ornithologist. Mr. Gray sets an impossible condition for their marriage – Zadock must deliver a sealed and highly secretive letter to General Irion, fighting one thousand miles southwest, deep within the embattled and newly independent Republic of Texas. The fate of the Union lies within the mysterious contents of that sealed letter, but that is only the beginning. Three hundred years later, in the dystopian city-state of the Texas Republic, Zeke Thomas has just received news of the death of his grandfather, an esteemed Chicago senator.
63. News of the World by Paulette Jiles, 2016
In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust. In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world.
64. The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth, 2016
In the late 1800s, the city of Austin, Texas was on the cusp of emerging from an isolated western outpost into a truly cosmopolitan metropolis. But beginning in December 1884, Austin was terrorized by someone equally as vicious and, in some ways, far more diabolical than London’s infamous Jack the Ripper. For almost exactly one year, the Midnight Assassin crisscrossed the entire city, striking on moonlit nights, using axes, knives, and long steel rods to rip apart women from every race and class.
65. The After Party by Anton DiSclafani, 2016
Fortier is the epitome of Texas glamour and the center of the 1950s Houston social scene. Tall, blonde, beautiful, and strong, she dominates the room and the gossip columns. Every man who sees her seems to want her; every woman just wants to be her. But this is a highly ordered world of garden clubs and debutante balls. The money may flow as freely as the oil, but the freedom and power all belong to the men. What happens when a woman of indecorous appetites and desires like Joan wants more? What does it do to her best friend?
66. The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge, 2017
The Potlikker Papers tells the story of food and politics in the South over the last half century. Beginning with the pivotal role of cooks in the Civil Rights movement, noted authority John T. Edge narrates the South’s journey from racist backwater to a hotbed of American immigration. In so doing, he traces how the food of the poorest Southerners has become the signature trend of modern American haute cuisine. This is a people’s history of the modern South told through the lens of food.
67. Bluebird, Bluebird (Highway 59 #1) by Attica Locke, 2017
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders – a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman – have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment.
68. Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge, 2017
Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop. The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again.
69. The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt, 2017
The tale of a young woman in search of her past, and the mother who will do anything to keep it hidden. What if you were the worst crime your mother ever committed? Dahlia Waller’s childhood memories consist of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and a rootless existence traveling the country with her eccentric mother. Now grown, she desperately wants to distance herself from that life. Yet one thing is stopping her from moving forward: she has questions.
70. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center, 2018
Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment. In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.
71. God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright, 2018
God Save Texas is a journey through the most controversial state in America. It is a red state in the heart of Trumpland that hasn’t elected a Democrat to a statewide office in more than twenty years; but it is also a state in which minorities already form a majority (including the largest number of Muslims). The cities are blue and among the most diverse in the nation. Oil is still king but Texas now leads California in technology exports. The Texas economic model of low taxes and minimal regulation has produced extraordinary growth but also striking income disparities.
72. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim, 2018
America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan – time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded labourer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.
73. Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester, 2018
The first time Isabel meets her father-in-law, Omar, he’s already dead – an apparition appearing uninvited on her wedding day. Her husband, Martin, still unforgiving for having been abandoned by his father years ago, confesses that he never knew the old man had died. So Omar asks Isabel for the impossible: persuade Omar’s family – especially his wife, Elda – to let him redeem himself. Isabel and Martin settle into married life in a Texas border town, and Omar returns each year on the celebratory Day of the Dead.
74. Daughter Of A Daughter Of A Queen by Sarah Bird, 2018
Though born into bondage on a “miserable tobacco farm” in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive, bound by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her means of deliverance is Union general Phillip Henry “Smash ‘em Up” Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war’s end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army’s legendary Buffalo Soldiers. Note: this is partly set in Texas.
75. The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook, 2018
Early one morning in the remote hill country of Texas, a panther savagely attacks a family of homesteaders, mauling a young girl named Samantha and killing her mother, whose final act is to save her daughter’s life. Samantha and her half brother, Benjamin, survive, but she is left traumatized, her face horribly scarred. Narrated in Benjamin’s beguilingly plainspoken voice, The Which Way Tree is the story of Samantha’s unshakeable resolve to stalk and kill the infamous panther, rumored across the Rio Grande to be a demon, and avenge her mother’s death.
76. Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington, 2019
In the city of Houston – a sprawling, diverse microcosm of America – the son of a black mother and a Latino father is coming of age. He’s working at his family’s restaurant, weathering his brother’s blows, resenting his older sister’s absence. And discovering he likes boys. Around him, others live and thrive and die in Houston’s myriad neighborhoods: a young woman whose affair detonates across an apartment complex, a ragtag baseball team, a group of young hustlers, hurricane survivors, a local drug dealer who takes a Guatemalan teen under his wing, a reluctant chupacabra.
77. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino, 2019
Trick Mirror is an enlightening, unforgettable trip through the river of self-delusion that surges just beneath the surface of our lives. This is a book about the incentives that shape us, and about how hard it is to see ourselves clearly in a culture that revolves around the self. In each essay, Jia writes about the cultural prisms that have shaped her: the rise of the nightmare social internet; the American scammer as millennial hero; the literary heroine’s journey from brave to blank to bitter; the mandate that everything, including our bodies, should always be getting more efficient and beautiful until we die.
78. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, 2019
In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed – or untoyed with – by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley.
Note: the setting isn’t named, but it’s been suggested as Houston.
79. Heaven, My Home (Highway 59 #2) by Attica Locke, 2019
9-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; now he’s alone in the darkness of vast Caddo Lake, in a boat whose motor just died. A sudden noise distracts him – and all goes dark.
Darren Matthews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; after the events of his previous investigation, his marriage is in a precarious state of re-building, and his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who’s never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she’s not above a little maternal blackmail to press her advantage.
80. Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares, 2019
A stunning and timely novel about a Mexican-American family in Brownsville, Texas, that reluctantly becomes involved in smuggling immigrants into the United States. From a distance, the towns along the U.S.-Mexican border have dangerous reputations – on one side, drug cartels; on the other, zealous border patrol agents – and Brownsville is no different. But to twelve-year-old Orly, it’s simply where his godmother Nina lives – and where he is being forced to stay the summer after his mother’s sudden death.
What do you think of these books set in Texas?
Do you call Texas home? Have you visited before? Have you read many books set in Texas? Know some local bookshops? Have any local tips you can share? I’d love to hear more about your travel tips and books set in Texas below!
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