Texas literature in 2018 has run the gamut from Monica Muñoz Martinez’s examination of a legacy of violence in the state to Joe Holley’s celebration of the 2017 World Series Championship Astros team. As the year comes to a close, we asked eleven Texas authors who published a book in 2018 to recommend another book they loved reading this year. (Some of their recommendations are by Texans, some are not—after all, it can’t hurt to branch out past the confines of our state once in a while.) Whether you’re looking for holiday gifts for your favorite Lone Star bibliophile or a New Year’s read for yourself, enjoy the recommendations below.

 Wild Milk

by Sabrina Orah Mark

“Mark’s beautiful and strange collection of short stories Wild Milk is a little miracle. Her imagination is one of the most jaw-dropping I’ve ever met; she looks at the world with such a new, profound, funny, alarming, exhilarating and heartbreaking way. Her writing resets the brain. There is nothing quite like it: so genuine is it in its mysteriousness that the world feels freshly cracked open. These are tales to wake you up at last.”

Recommended by Edward Carey, author of Little: A Novel


Fisherman’s Blues: A West African Community at Sea

by Anna Badkhen

“This book is a flat-out masterpiece. Anna Badkhen, who has longstanding ties to Texas, immersed herself in the life, lore, and work of a Senegalese fishing village and out of that experience has delivered a profound and deeply moving narrative of human experience and the natural world. This is not only the best book I read in 2018 but one of the best books I’ve ever read, period.”

Recommended by Ben Fountain, author of Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution

Our House

by Louise Candlish

“In the year of the much-hyped Bill Clinton/James Patterson duet, Our House was the sophisticated thriller that outclassed them all. Bestselling British author Louise Candlish says old noir movies like Double Indemnity helped inspire this twisty, modern tale about the insidious path of betrayal and our culture’s obsession with owning high-end property. It begins with Fiona arriving home to find her belongings and husband gone and another family moving in to the much-cherished London house that defines her. It ends with you staring at your own walls, thinking twice about the price of what you covet. Deftly paced, you won’t find clichés in here like ‘my heart raced’ (although my heart did).”

Recommended by Julia Heaberlin, author of Paper Ghosts: A Novel of Suspense


by Zora Neale Hurston

Barracoon is, in my mind, the most important book published in 2018, even though it was finished way back in 1931. Zora Neale Hurston captures the story of Cudjo Lewis, at the time the only living survivor of the transatlantic slave trade, with a level of integrity and artistry that sets the standard for us all and provides fresh insight into the central issues facing the nation. Even more, she refused to compromise that integrity to meet the demands of her publisher, which is why, years after she died, penniless, we are finally receiving her vital gift. Every American, and every artist, should read this.”

Recommended by Casey Gerald, author of There Will Be No Miracles Here: A Memoir

The Brilliant Death

by Amy Rose Capetta

“I love quirky magical abilities, and Teodora DiSangro, the young protagonist of The Brilliant Death, has one of my all-time favorites: the ability to turn her family’s foes into decorative objects such as music boxes, mirrors, or practical shoehorns. And since her father is a mafia don, her family has its fair share of enemies. Combine that with a captivating love interest—Cielo, who has the ability to effortlessly transform from boy to girl to hawk—and stealthy political power grabs, and I couldn’t put this book down.”

Recommended by Nicky Drayden, author of Temper: A Novel


A Song for the River

by Philip Connors

Author Philip Connors is a fire lookout who has spent more than a decade of summers keeping watch over New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness. It’s the perfect place to hide and write a book and Connors did so brilliantly with A Song for the River. In it, he masterfully weaves together unyielding wildfires and death, including the loss of friends and colleagues in and around the Gila wilderness. He merges the story of a tough landscape through stories of unforgettable people. His prose is simple, yet eloquent and elegant, and reminds you, amid talk of walls, of the powerful forces of nature.

Recommended by Alfredo Corchado, author of Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration


by Kiese Laymon

In Heavy, Kiese Laymon asks how to survive in a body despite the many violences that are inflicted upon it: the violence of racism and history that happens right out in the open and the interpersonal violence of domestic abuse and predatory sex that happens behind closed doors. But more than this, Laymon grapples with the weight of breaking the long-held silence each of these violences has imposed. Heavy is a brilliant, nuanced, and complicated memoir—permeated as much with sorrow and fear as with love, humor, and abundance. This book broke my heart even as it opened it.”

Recommended by Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings

God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State

by Lawrence Wright

“Add to my list of favorite Texas memoirs Lawrence Wright’s God Save Texas. It’s right up there with Larry McMurtry’s In a Narrow Grave and Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club in the way it manages to explain the complexities and contradictions of our home state without resorting to stereotypes or condescension. Instead, Wright writes with great humor, intelligence, and affection about everything from the vicissitudes of the oil business to the hypocrisy of the Texas Legislature.”

Recommended by Mimi Swartz, author of Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart

Read an excerpt of Ticker: The Quest to Create an Artificial Heart here.

News of the World

by Paulette Jiles

News of the World follows Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, who travels through Texas holding live readings from newspapers for folks who have little way of knowing of the events of the day. His journey gets complicated when he agrees to take a young girl, captured by the Kiowa tribe years ago, with him and deliver her to relatives in San Antonio. For anyone who loves Texas, this beautifully written novella will transport you to another time and yet remind you how much small town and rural Texas has not changed.

Recommended by Cecile Richards, author of Make Trouble

Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God

by Tony Hoagland

Tony died in October. I’ve been reading his body of work lately and feel so strongly that anyone with an interest or attraction to poetry should read him. He was a true talent, a lover of poetry, a native to language. He was funny, irreverent, and provocative. Tony was alive and awake in the world, and I hope people continue to discover him and love him.”

Recommended by Carrie Fountain, author of I’m Not Missing: A Novel

Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration

by Alfredo Corchado

I think Homelands is the most important book published this year. Corchado’s brilliant voice and knack for connecting the personal to the geopolitical helps remind us that not only are we a nation of immigrants but that immigrants (and their children) might also be the key to saving America from herself. Spanning nearly four decades and conveyed through the friendship of four friends, Corchado’s narrative ruminates on bicultural identity, waves of Mexican migration, and the complications (and perils) of deciding that one doesn’t necessarily need to choose between being Mexican or American. Corchado is the real deal, and his insights and radical honesty make him a (bi)national treasure.

Recommended by Daniel Peña, author of Bang: A Novel

Read a review of Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration here.