Welcome to Texas—where wide-open spaces and untamed frontier have inspired fantastic works of fiction for centuries. Texas is home to legendary authors, history-filled literary landmarks, and popular book festivals. Book lovers gather ‘round! Whether you you’re visiting the state or are a born-and-raised Texas literature lover, these are the authors, events, and places you should know about.
Novelist and journalist Elmer Kelton was born in Andrews County, Texas in 1926. Kelton grew up in Crane, TX on the McElroy Ranch. He attended the University of Texas at Austin where he earned a degree in Journalism and went on to become a writer and editor for the San Angelo Standard-Times, Sheep and Goat Raiser Magazine, and Livestock Weekly over the next 40 years. He is best known for his Western novels including The Time It Never Rained, The Man Who Rode at Midnight, and The Good Old Boys. He wrote over 40 novels and received several awards including eight Spur Awards and four Western Heritage Awards.
Catherine Anne Porter
Catherine Anne Porter was an American novelist, journalist, and short story writer born in Indian Creek, Texas in 1890. Before Catherine was a writer, she worked as an actress, singer, and secretary. In need of money after falling ill, she began to write for magazines in her late 20s including the Fort Worth Critic and Century Magazine. In 1930, she published her first collection of short stories, Flowering Judas. She later went on to publish several other short story collections and her only novel Ship of Fools. Her works were often laced with dark themes and she was an active critic of politics and society of her time.
Larry McMurtry is an author and screenwriter born in Archer City, Texas in 1936. Some of his best-known novels include The Last Picture Show, Horseman, and Terms of Endearment. His novel Lonesome Dove won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 and was adapted into an Emmy-winning television miniseries. Several other novels by McMurtry were adapted into films that earned him over 25 Academy Award nominations. In 2006, he won an Academy Award for the Best Adapted Screenplay for the film Brokeback Mountain based on the novel by Annie Proulx. McMurtry has published 29 novels, three memoirs, and several essays. He currently resides in Archer City.
Before he was the famed short story writer O. Henry, William Sydney Porter lived in Austin and worked as a bank teller. The Queen Anne-style home he lived in with his wife is now a museum preserving historical artifacts and materials from his life and work. He is well-known for his short stories The Gift of the Magi, The Duplicity of Hargraves, and The Ransom of Red Chief. The museum is free to the public and open Wednesday through Sunday. The museum also hosts the annual O. Henry Museum Pun-Off World Championships, inspired by O. Henry’s clever wordplay.
This unique library is worth the trip down to Texas’ southern border. Once an abandoned Wal-Mart, this renovated building is now the largest single-story library in the US. The sprawling open design features high ceilings, cozy reading nooks, colorful décor, a café, private meeting rooms, and activities to get the kids involved. In 2012, the McAllen Public Library was honored by the International Interior Design Association. The library puts on regular events to draw in the community including books clubs, summer reading programs, readings, and movie nights. This library is proof that everything is bigger in Texas.
Located on the University of Texas’ campus, the Harry Ransom Center is a research library offering the public insight into the creative process of some of the world’s greatest artists, writers, and filmmakers. The center hosts permanent and traveling exhibitions of manuscripts, journals, notes, and more from literary icons of centuries past. On permanent display in the lobby is an original Gutenberg Bible dated back to 1450. Past exhibits include ‘Becoming Tennessee Williams’, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, ‘The Making of Gone with the Wind’ featuring rare manuscripts, photos, and first-editions. The galleries are free and open to the public seven days a week.
Texas Book Festival is an annual event held every fall in Austin, Texas, in and around the Texas Capitol building. The event connects the community with over 250 nationally-acclaimed writers who participate in signings, panels, meet-and-greets, and readings. Past visiting authors include Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, Louis Sachar, and Lemony Snicket. Attendees can also visit dozens of vendor booths including local bookstores and independent publishers. Live music, food trucks, and kid-friendly activities keep the fun going all weekend long. The event is free and open to the public.
Texas Teen Book Festival is an annual event with the aim of getting young book lovers and budding authors involved in the literary community. The festival brings dozens of young adult fiction writers to Austin for panels and signings. Past authors include James Dashner, Lauren Oliver, Marie Lu, Scott Westerfeld, and Gyle Foreman. The festival also recognizes talented young writers through the Texas Book Festival Fiction Writing Contest. Texas residents between the ages of 11-18 years old compete for a cash prize and a full editorial review by an editor of Delacorte Press. This event is great for the young and young-at-heart. By Barbi Barbee