Texas Authors You Should Be Reading: Top Picks for 2023

Sep 14, 2023 | General

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Texas has long been a breeding ground for talented authors, boasting a multitude of writers who have left their mark on the literary landscape. With a rich history and cultural diversity, the Lone Star State has inspired generations of authors to spin tales that capture the unique spirit of Texas. From established names to up-and-coming talent, the variety of voices emerging from the state is truly commendable.

During Texas Writers Month, celebrated every May since 1994, book lovers are introduced to the works of Texas-based authors through various events, readings, and signings. This annual celebration helps to showcase the depth and breadth of talent stemming from the state, highlighting authors from different genres and styles.

In this article, we will delve into some of the must-read Texan authors whose works continue to enchant readers beyond state boundaries. We will explore their literary achievements, their connections to Texas, and how their distinct voices contribute to the vibrant literary scene in the Lone Star State.

Texas Literature Overview

Texas literature is an essential aspect of the Lone Star State’s rich cultural history. From novels to memoirs, Texas authors have contributed significantly to American literature and brought the vivid landscapes, unique stories, and regional heritage to readers across the globe.

One notable feature of Texas literature is its ability to capture the state’s diverse landscapes and populations. The wide-open spaces, untamed frontier, and rich history serve as sources of inspiration for multiple authors. Writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry often explore themes of life in rural Texas and its stark beauty, as well as the complex stories that unfold within the state’s vast landscape.

In Texas literature, authors often present the distinct character of the state not only through their narratives but also through the development of unforgettable, multifaceted characters. For example, Katherine Anne Porter’s characters are deeply rooted in the region, offering readers a glimpse into the lives of people living in the Lone Star State. Similarly, Domingo Martinez’s memoir “The Boy Kings of Texas” highlights his experience growing up in Brownsville, a border town in Texas.

Besides covering rural spaces, Texas literature also features works set in urban areas like Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. These stories often delve into the cultural, social, and political aspects of urban living in Texas. Marcus J. Guillory’s novel “Red Now and Laters,” for instance, presents a coming-of-age story set in Houston. This Pulitzer Prize-nominated work delves into the history, folklore, and complexities of life in the region.

Lastly, Texas literature encompasses a wide range of literary genres, including historical fiction, mystery, thriller, and romance. As a result, the storytelling traditions of the state cater to a diverse audience. The state also boasts several literary landmarks and boasts popular book festivals where book lovers can gather and celebrate the works of Texas authors.

Texas literature is a rich and diverse field that offers readers a plethora of engaging works that authentically represent the spirit and culture of the Lone Star State. The captivating storytelling and memorable characters found in these novels and memoirs provide valuable insights, not only into the lives of Texans but also into the broader American experience.

Pioneering Authors

Larry McMurtry’s Impact

Larry McMurtry, known for his iconic works such as Lonesome Dove and Terms of Endearment, greatly influenced American literature with his vivid accounts of life in the rural South. His talent for storytelling and attention to detail showcased the daily life in Texas and the American West, capturing the hearts of readers across generations. McMurtry’s distinct voice and richly drawn characters earned him awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and an Academy Award for adapting his novel The Last Picture Show.

Katherine Anne Porter’s Influence

Katherine Anne Porter, a prominent figure in Texas literary history, was known for her mastery of the short story format. She authored renowned works such as Ship of Fools and Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Porter’s stories often reflected her Texas roots, as well as her experiences traveling and working as a journalist. Her unique style and insights into the human condition have left a lasting impact on American literature, earning her numerous accolades and inspiring a new generation of writers.

Cormac McCarthy’s Contributions

Cormac McCarthy, author of powerful novels such as Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men, and The Road, has contributed significantly to both the literary landscape of Texas and American fiction. Known for his uncompromising vision of human nature, McCarthy’s darker themes resonate with a wide audience. His sparse, yet poignant prose often explores the harsh realities of life in the Southwest, providing readers with a vivid and unforgettable view of the region.

J. Frank Dobie’s Legacy

J. Frank Dobie, a notable folklorist and author, helped shape the literary scene in Texas during the early 20th century. His works, encompassing folklore, history, and personal experiences, captured the essence of Texas culture and its people. Among his notable books are The Longhorns and The Voice of the Coyote. Dobie’s commitment to preserving Texan culture and traditions can be seen in his influence as a teacher and mentor, as well as in his work in promoting Texas literature.

Elmer Kelton’s Significance

Elmer Kelton, an esteemed Texan author, is best known for his Western novels set in the Lone Star State. Throughout his career, Kelton penned more than 40 novels, including popular titles such as The Time It Never Rained and The Good Old Boys. Kelton’s works provided a realistic and honest portrayal of the Texas ranching life, a world he was intimately familiar with. His commitment to accuracy and authenticity, as well as his engaging writing style, made him an influential figure in the development of Texan literature and Western genre fiction.

Contemporary Texas Authors

Joe R. Lansdale’s Work

Joe R. Lansdale, a prolific author hailing from Texas, is best known for his unique blend of genres such as mystery, crime, and horror. His most famous works include the Hap and Leonard series which delves into the lives of a pair of unconventional private investigators. Lansdale’s writing is rich with East Texas landscapes and colloquial dialogues, providing an authentic Texan flavor to his stories.

Attica Locke’s Novels

Attica Locke is another Texan author who has made her mark in the literary world with her compelling crime novels that explore racial tensions and socio-economic disparities in modern-day Texas. Her books, such as Bluebird, Bluebird and The Cutting Season, highlight the complex intertwining of culture, history, and race in the state of Texas, all through the lens of mystery and suspense.

Bryan Washington’s Perspective

Bryan Washington, a Houston-based writer, has garnered attention for his work that centers around diverse urban communities in Texas. His debut collection of short stories, Lot, and his novel, Memorial, capture the spirit and struggles of young, marginalized characters navigating life in the Lone Star State. His fresh and engaging prose offers a refreshing look at contemporary Texas through the eyes of its often overlooked residents.

Elizabeth Wetmore’s Writing

Elizabeth Wetmore’s writing adds to the Texan literary landscape with her debut novel, Valentine, set in a small West Texas town. This powerful work explores the lives of women from varying backgrounds in rural Texas and delves into themes of violence, resilience, and community. Wetmore’s intricate storytelling showcases a deep understanding of small-town dynamics, illustrating the intricacies of Texas life beyond the urban centers.

Katherine Center’s Stories

Katherine Center is a Houston-based author whose compelling novels are often set in Texas and revolve around strong, flawed female characters. Her stories, like How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire, merge themes of personal growth, romance, and self-discovery. Center’s engaging writing style and genuine portrayal of relationships make her a must-read Texas author.

Mark Haber’s Books

Mark Haber is a Texas-based writer whose novel, Reinhardt’s Garden, has garnered much acclaim. The book, a philosophical exploration set in 19th-century South America, showcases Haber’s ability to incorporate diverse settings and ideas into his work. Although not directly set in Texas, his writing demonstrates the vast scope of literary talents and interests that the state has to offer.

The Influence of Texas Literature

Texas literature has played a significant role in shaping and reflecting the unique history, culture, and experiences of the Lone Star State. From the early writings focusing on the vast landscapes and frontier life, to contemporary works exploring diverse cultures and current issues, Texas authors have made lasting contributions to American literature.

One noteworthy publication is J. Frank Dobie’s “Life and Literature of the Southwest”, an influential collection of essays that examine the prominence of distinctive Texan narratives in American literary tradition. Dobie’s work has inspired generations of Texas authors to explore the rich heritage and distinctiveness of their home state.

James Michener, a well-known author with a profound influence on Texas literature, wrote “Texas”, an epic historical fiction novel that spans hundreds of years of the state’s history. Michener’s research and storytelling style captures the essence of Texas, offering readers a comprehensive account of its past and present.

Another prominent Texas author is Stephen Harrigan, whose novel “The Gates of the Alamo” provides an intimate portrayal of the famous battle while delving into the lives of the characters. Harrigan’s work has received critical acclaim for its detailed research, historical accuracy, and compelling storytelling.

The influence of Texas literature has also been acknowledged by respected publications such as The New York Times. In an article discussing the essential books about Texas, The New York Times highlighted works by renowned Texan authors, reinforcing the significance of the state’s literary tradition in American culture.

As a testament to this impact, Texas hosts various literary events and festivals dedicated to showcasing the works and talents of its authors. These events contribute to the ongoing appreciation and celebration of Texas literature, which continues to evolve and thrive in the hands of skilled auteurs.

In conclusion, the influence of Texas literature extends beyond the state’s borders, reflecting its rich history, diverse culture, and unique experiences. Through renowned authors like James Michener and Stephen Harrigan, the literary legacy of Texas continues to make an indelible mark on American literature.

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