Geoff Winningham’s vision of Houston was shaped on his first visit to the city 26 years ago, when he walked down Main Street on an August evening and saw the Shamrock Hotel glowing through the thick foliage of the Rice University campus. The expansive promise of Giant and Glenn McCarthy came to him, and Houston seemed rich with possibilities. “The blend of lingering myth and vibrant energy charged Houston with an exotic and compelling mystique for me,” he writes in the foreword to his new book, A Place of Dreams: Houston, an American City, to be published this month by Rice University Press. “I felt that Houston was my place. I was comfortable yet challenged here, secure yet inspired.” Winningham has taken the elements that typify Houston and made them both exotic and familiar. Lovers embrace in a secret, primeval bayou, abandoning the gleaming towers of downtown; shotgun estates sprout on the prairie; a wall of graffiti becomes a sleeping transient’s dreams of the future. We know Houston, yet we don’t—proof of its infinite capacity to surprise.