Five Texas Books to Give for the Holidays
Our guide to some idiosyncratic books with local connections for every personality on your gift list.
As any book-loving Texan can tell you, the volumes most often given during the holiday season fall largely into three familiar categories: kitsch like Stupid Texas: Idiots in the Lone Star State (2010), coffee-table books featuring wildflowers or West Texas vistas, and the latest takes on the Kennedy assassination. But if you’re aiming for something a little more original, here is a selection of recently published Texas-flavored books to satisfy even the most idiosyncratic personality on your shopping list.
For the pop culture fan:
THE WES ANDERSON COLLECTION, by Matt Zoller Seitz (Abrams)
There have been countless book-length studies devoted to film directors, but never one quite like this mammoth effort celebrating Anderson, the Houston-born writer-director of Rushmore and Moonrise Kingdom, among others. Seitz—a onetime staff writer for the Dallas Observer, now the television critic for New York magazine—juxtaposes critical essays about seven of Anderson’s features alongside extensive interviews with him. The volume is full of illustrations, storyboards, and behind-the-scenes photographs. The result is a critical study that seems like an extension of Anderson’s canon: inventively designed, obsessively detailed, and unabashedly quirky.
For the sports enthusiast:
REMEMBERING BULLDOG TURNER: Unsung Monster of the Midway,
by Michael Barr (Texas Tech University Press)
Is the football fan on your gift list feeling jaded about the current state of the game, with its fame-hungry players and their million-dollar endorsement deals? Then consider giving this biography of the leather-helmet-era star Clyde Turner, known as Bulldog, who played for Newman High School in Sweetwater and Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene before enjoying a twelve-year career with the Chicago Bears, beginning in 1940. Barr’s book, illustrated with more than a dozen photographs, neatly evokes an era when football could barely compete with baseball or boxing in the American consciousness—but scrappy, underpaid players like Turner kept barreling forward.
For the cocktail aficionado:
TIPSY TEXAN: Spirits and Cocktails From the Lone Star State, by David Alan (Andrews McMeel)
Alan, a longtime bartender based in Austin, acknowledges in the introduction to this volume that—unlike Kentucky—Texas does not “have an indigenous spirit that defines us.” (He also notes that “our favorite cocktail, the margarita, most likely wasn’t invented here.”) But Tipsy Texan nonetheless makes a strong claim for the Lone Star State as a craft cocktail hotbed, with more than one hundred drink recipes, including one for an Old Fredericksburg Julep (like a mint julep, made with peach syrup). Alan also puts forth some especially good ideas for using such Texas favorites as native persimmons, tequila, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.
For the history buff:
THE OTHER GREAT MIGRATION, by Bernadette Pruitt (Texas A&M University Press)
Fans of recent Texas history might gravitate more readily to two recent, much-buzzed-about efforts: Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House (Random House), Peter Baker’s study of the contentious relationship between our most recent former president and his vice president, and The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters (Portfolio/Penguin), Gregory Zuckerman’s nonfiction account of the oil and natural gas boom in Texas and elsewhere. A less expected choice, though, might be Pruitt’s book, which recounts the story of the more than 30,000 African Americans who moved from rural communities to Houston between 1900 and 1941.
For the fiction reader:
CALLING ME HOME, by Julie Kibler (St. Martin’s Press)
The most widely praised recent fiction by Texas-based authors has been mostly testosterone-powered: The Son, by Philipp Meyer (Ecco), a violent, sprawling Texas family epic; the Iraq war satire Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain (Ecco), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Cinco Puntos Press), a story collection that won this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award. But if there’s a fiction reader on your list searching for a more female-centered story, consider this affecting first novel. Kibler, who lives in Arlington and whose novel is partly set there, spins an absorbing tale of an interracial romance in 1930’s Kentucky.
For the art lover:
READING MAGNUM: A Visual Archive of the Modern World, edited by Steven Hoelscher (Harry Ransom Center/University of Texas Press)
In 2009, a group of philanthropists including Michael Dell bought the Magnum Photos collection—an archive of nearly 200,000 images from the famed cooperative photo agency—and housed them at the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center. In September, the philanthropists officially donated the images to the center, and the University of Texas Press published this volume of photos from the archive, accompanied by essays from a number of academics and museum curators. It’s the sort of thick, decades-spanning volume that is especially well-suited to a long, lazy afternoon of perusal, once all the other gifts have been unwrapped.