“Weird” gets a bad rep. That’s why we love Austin. There, it’s maintained with rigorous vigilance and is synonymous with all that’s wondrous, delightful, albeit a little odd. Expectedly, our literary list is a tad weird—but only in the best way possible.
The Best Short Stories of O. Henry by O. Henry
Enjoy wit, clever wordplay, and twist endings? Meet O. Henry—the pseudonym of William Sydney Porter and also an annual, illustrious short fiction prize. He lived in Austin from 1882-1895. Today, he even has a museum.
“Our Toad to Ruin” in Texas Monthly
One out of seven Texas adults reads this Austin-based magazine. (Really, it’s true.) The stats are out for critters, but the horned lizard or “horny toad”—Texas’s state reptile and many a school mascot—probably would if it could, and weren’t sadly disappearing.
James Hynes’s Next
Told in a time span of only 8 hours, 50-year-old protagonist Kevin Quinn takes the day off from his day job in Ann Arbor for a job interview in Austin.
Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses
The story of Texas ranchers takes place in San Angelo, TX. 204 miles from Austin, it’s 3.5 hours by car, lots more hours by foot, and we’re guessing somewhere in-between by horseback.
Mary Karr’s The Liars Club
Taking its name from “the motley collection of men with whom her father, an oilman, used to drink and tell tales,” Karr’s memoir dredges up her childhood in an east Texas oil town.
Karen Olsson’s Waterloo
Nick Lasseter is humdrum reporter and ex-rocker in Waterloo, the fictional capital of Texas that resembles the real-life Austin where Olsson lives and previously wrote for Texas Monthly.
Stephen Harrigan’s Gates of The Alamo
Scared of large crowds and tour groups? Perhaps don’t vist the Alamo; it attracts 2.5 million people annually. Instead, imaginatively witness the structure and events from both Mexican and Texan POVs in this historical novel.
Larry McMurtry’s Horseman, Pass By
Its title is cribbed from the final line of “Under Ben Bulben,” a poem by William Butler Yeats, and the story depicts life on a cattle ranch in post World War II Texas.