With COVID-19 being the headlining blip on everyone’s radar and social distancing becoming the new normal, people are most likely going to be hanging around the house quite a bit. Between school closures, business closures and all cultural institutions on lockdown, day-to-day life may get pretty boring. The bad news is that the world is in the middle of a pandemic, and the silver lining (well, our only consolation) is that over the next couple of weeks, most people are going to have a lot more of that precious commodity called time, and in particular more time to read books. From the established guard to the new, obscure and socially conscious, here are seven Texas authors to read while living life as a shut-in.
1. The Last Picture Show, Larry McMurtry (1966)
The Last Picture Show, best known for its 1971 Hollywood adaptation staring a very young Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd, is an even better book. The story deals with two young men thought to be best friends navigating their way through the class system of a mid-century, small Texas town. The novel is a quick read and resonates well with readers. It’s the kind of story that gets in the reader's head for years to come as the characters are both flawed and perfectly human. Considered one of the most important writers of his time, and best known for his Lonesome Dove series, Larry McMurtry is a Texas literary legend. Read the book first and then follow it up with the movie.
2. The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
The heartbreaking story of a nomadic father and son traveling together years after an apocalyptic event turned the remainder of society into cannibals, The Road deals with the basic human will to live and the sacrifice a parent will make for a child in the most unimaginable of times. The book is gripping, twisted and a fantastical tale of both love and desperation. Published in 2006, it netted McCarthy the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Although not originally from Texas, McCarthy moved to El Paso in the 1970s and has considered Texas his home for nearly 20 years. No Country For Old Men is his best known work.
3. On a Sunbeam, Tillie Walden (2018)
The science fiction webcomic turned graphic novel is set in space, as a group of working travelers are tasked with rebuilding structures to understand the past. The main character is both finding herself and trying to find love in the process. On a Sunbeam won the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. As a young published writer from Austin, Tillie Walden’s future burns bright.
4. The Injustice Never Leaves You, Monica Munoz Martinez (2018)
This is the book every Texan should read before casting their votes on border issues. It's a sad, deeply disturbing account of the terrible atrocities and violence committed by Texas Rangers, law enforcement and vigilantes against Tejanos and Mexicans in parts of rural Texas a little more than 100 years ago. This book should be standard curriculum in public schools and is a testament to the untold stories of so many who died and endured hardships and anti-Mexican violence at the hands of the government.
5. Winter Investments, Daryl Scroggins (2003)
This collection of short stories published nearly 20 years ago has a vein of comedy that twists and turns like a snaking river. The Marfa-based writer and former University of North Texas and University of Texas at Dallas writing professor’s offering of 15 short stories gives a glimpse of the absurd, the down and out and the sometimes indigent, making their way in the world as best they can, while also keeping their wit and desperately maintaining composure. In Scroggins’ eight-page short story, “A Gradual Appearance,” a writing student knocks his professor over the head after he criticizes his work. As the professor lies on the ground, the student grades a paper slipped under the professor's desk. The professor wakes to the student creating a ruckus, claiming a giant bust of Tolstoy fell off the shelf delivering the nasty blow. The professor goes on to teach the class and the student reads his paper out loud without consequence. Simply absurd!
6. Cosmology of Monsters, Shaun Hamill (2019)
2019 was a good year for Arlington-based author Shaun Hamill. Hamill’s first offering, A Cosmology of Monsters, was even endorsed by the master of horror himself, Stephen King. The book centers around Noah Turner, the youngest in a family plagued by personal tragedy as they operate the family business, a haunted house. As Noah grows up, he kindles a secret relationship with an out-of-this-world being and sees the darker side of the things he had always taken for granted. For fans of horror and sci-fi, Cosmology of Monsters is a must read.
7. Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Anne Porter (1939)
Known primarily for her short stories, Katherine Anne Porter was a Texas-born writer who became a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1965. Pale Horse, Pale Rider consists of three different stories, including “Noon Wine,” “Old Mortality” and the book’s title name, “Pale Horse, Pale Rider.” The title story takes place during the influenza pandemic of 1918 and centers on the relationship between a newspaper woman and a soldier. As most pandemic books, the story ends tragically but questions themes of sacrifice and love in times of global suffering. Porter wrote from personal experience as she almost lost her life in the flu pandemic while living in Denver. After being discharged following a lengthy stay at the hospital, it was said that, at 28 years old her hair was permanently white. She went on to be a central figure in literary and political activism.
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