At most great hotels, elegant lobbies and swanky bars get all the glory. These are the gathering spots, the places to see and be seen, to catch up with old friends or engage with intriguing travelers. Some properties, though, offer another option for guests—a quiet space better suited for contemplation and escaping the rumpus outside. We are of course talking about the business center. Gotcha! No, it’s the gym, silly. Gotcha again! No, we are referring to a rare and beautiful thing: a hotel library. Sure, nooks populated with dog-eared loaners are often found in the public areas of hotels, but a space dedicated solely to celebrating the written word is unusual indeed. Here is a trio of literary spaces worth checking out when you check in. 

San Antonio

Hotel Emma

The anchor of the River City’s historic Pearl complex, Hotel Emma rose marvelously from the ruins of the nineteenth-century brewhouse in 2015. In the grand foyer, the brick-and-steel remnants of industrial-brewing infrastructure get the South Texas ranch house treatment. Think Persian rugs, overstuffed leather sofas, and, on cooler days, a hint of wafting woodsmoke from both the indoor and outdoor fireplaces—it’s all very Ralph Lauren meets steampunk. Just off the lobby are large metal-framed glass doors—accessible only with a room key—leading to a splendid, softly lit two-story library complete with a sweeping staircase and comfy club chairs. The vast majority of the books lining the walls come from the 3,700-volume personal collection of San Antonio historian, novelist, and urban planner Sherry Kafka Wagner (she wrote Texas Monthly’s first cover story, in February 1973, on football star Don Meredith). Her books are organized into categories that include birds, children, design/architecture, folk art, Texas, and women’s studies. The top shelves on both floors are reserved for hundreds of titles from the original Pearl Brewery library, including the intriguing Viscosity and Flow Measurement: A Laboratory Handbook of Rheology

Guests are welcome to sign out books and enjoy them in the comfort of their rooms, or they can while away the hours in the quiet space. In the morning, newspapers, coffee, and house-made muffins are on hand, and starting in the afternoon, cocktails are served from the bar cart. 


Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa

This sprawling 405-acre property, on the banks of the Colorado River about 25 miles east of Austin, boasts a water park, an eighteen-hole golf course, miles of nature trails, and horses on which to ride them. Just off the lobby, the Scribes Club offers an adults-only respite at this extremely kid-friendly (see: lazy river) resort. The handsome, high-ceilinged bar, which features a limited food menu, is an ode to artists whose work fills libraries, particularly those who hail from the Lone Star State. At the entrance, a framed “honor roll” hundreds of designees long is accompanied by a slightly revised quote by famed Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, taken from his tribute to writer and illustrator John W. Thomason: “In the name of people who, because of what you have created, are richer inside themselves and live more abundantly on the soil they belong to, we salute you.” 

There’s a glass-cased assortment of collectible books and writerly accoutrements, and on the walls are numerous photographs of well-known homegrown authors, including a few Texas Monthly scribes past and present, paired with plaques containing informative biographies. Look for Sarah Bird, Dagoberto Gilb, Stephen Harrigan, Larry L. King, Larry McMurtry, Katherine Anne Porter, and Walter Prescott Webb, among other notables. Order a rare tequila, a smoky mezcal, or a cocktail such as the Writer’s Block (gin, dry vermouth, Salers, and grapefruit), and raise a glass to these literary luminaries. 


The Post Oak Hotel

With its Calacatta marble floors, hand-tufted silk rugs, original Frank Stella paintings, and an enormous $1 million Czech-made custom chandelier featuring thousands of crystals, the opulent three-story lobby of billionaire Tilman Fertitta’s überposh Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston is something to behold. Visitors can also gasp and gawk at the showroom of the on-site Bentley, Bugatti, and Rolls-Royce dealership and the fancy restaurants. But beyond those swanky trappings, tucked away on the third floor behind locked glass doors, is the hotel’s “cultural and intellectual hideaway”—for guests only.

This chic space, itself plenty lavish, is stocked exclusively with volumes devoted to art, design, drink, fashion, food, and travel from high-end Parisian publisher and luxury brand Assouline. Find captivating tomes from its hand-bound Ultimate Collection, including Yvonne Hackenbroch’s seminal Jewels of the Renaissance and Hunting: Legendary Rifles, by Eric Joly. The room, which also features a large painting by abstract expressionist (and Texan) Joseph Glasco, is cozy but not cramped: floor-to-ceiling windows look out over the cabana-lined pool deck.

This article originally appeared in the August 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Where to Read the Room.” Subscribe today.