Texas Standard: December 23, 2020

Read any good books lately? We sure have. As we fast approach the end of the year, and a certain holiday known for gift giving we hit the stacks. They served on the front lines of a revolution in Mexico that revolutionized Texas, too. A new book reclaims the often overlooked stories of revolutionary women. Also, living the dream: the Texas author who’s writing the books she wished she’d been able to read as a kid. And a how-to book with a Texas twist you won’t find stashed away in the tool shed: how to be an astronaut and much more as we chat with authors about some memorable books of 2020 on todays Texas Standard:

Higher Ed: Good Reading In And Out Of School

In school, our reading choices are mostly dictated by what is assigned for classes or from reading lists. But once we are out of school, the decisions are up to us.  In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the joys and impacts of lifelong reading.

Ed believes that there are a couple of  keys to staying well read beyond our school years.

One: expand the canon of what is considered “must reads” in school and beyond.

“Those canons traditionally are Western, usually written by white dead men,” says Ed.  “What about the voices of individuals who are out there, in history and beyond, who were creative beings, or even not, but just having their story told….And so now, the question is, how do we find a balance where we can get a diversity of voices and perspectives?”

Two: read books that will push us in reading and in other arenas.

“Reading can transport you to a world where you might not be comfortable but you can actually find your way,” Ed believes. “That’s really the exciting world of ideas which can be reflected through reading.” Ed says exploring new ideas in our reading can lead us to exploring new ideas in other aspects of our lives.

What are on Ed’s and Jennifer’s bookshelves? Ed says he prefers non-fiction and likes reading about the art of comedy. But he also was completely mesmerized by the “Harry Potter”series. Jennifer also favors non-fiction but cites “The Thorn Birds” and “The World According to Garp” as favorite reads from the past.

What is the one classic series that Jennifer has never touched? And what is the one book that Ed suggests everyone read?

Listen to the full episode to find out, and to get the answers to the riddles about veggies and witches!

This episode was recorded on Oct. 30, 2018.

Texas Standard: June 20, 2018

How much longer? If there’s growing bipartisan opposition to the policy of separating families at the border, why isn’t congress stepping in? Today on the Standard, Democratic Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of McCallen joins us to talk about gridlock in Washington and heartbreak on the border. Also, fears of an all out trade war with China rising. How it might play out in our own backyard. And how do you spell dynasty? T-E-X-A-S. A Lone Star sweep of the national spelling championships gets people wondering what’s in the water? We’ll find out. And 50 years after the landmark documentary Hunger in America turned a spotlight on San Antonio, we’ll explore its lasting impact. All of that and so much more today on the Texas Standard:

Here’s Your Texas-Themed Reading List for 2017

I’m not an expert on many things, but when it comes to judging the quality of Texas literature, or Texana as it is called, I am as confident as a bronc rider still upright at seven seconds. That last second of the eight is reserved for humility. Chance needs scant time to have one spittin’ up dirt.

So I decided I would take my chances and prepare a list of good Texas books you might want to tackle in the coming year. Each book is tied to the month that will perhaps enhance your reading of it.

January – “The Tacos of Texas”
This has been a best-seller in Texas (and beyond) this past year. By January 3 your New Year’s resolutions will be somewhat less resolute. When that time comes, you will want tacos. And the tacos will give you strength for a fine year of reading ahead.

February – “The Son”
To my mind, this is the best Texas novel since Lonesome Dove. It was first runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 and the miniseries will air on AMC in 2017 – starring Pierce Brosnan. So binge read it first so you can binge watch it later. And you will have the advantage of saying, somewhat snobbishly, “I read the book and the book is way better.”

March – “Miles and Miles of Texas”
Just in time for your Spring Break trip is this magnificent book on the history of Texas roads and how they got built. The original mission of the Texas Highway Department was to “get the farmer out of the mud.” Obviously, they went far beyond that goal to succeed in building a state of superhighways. Let’s not talk about I-35.

April – “Lonesome Dove”
Cattle drives in Texas typically began in the spring. So this is a good time to read or re-read Lonesome Dove. This is the Iliad of Texas. If you haven’t read this Pulitzer Prize winning literary treasure, it’s time. Gus and Call are waiting for you. Let’s “head ‘em up and move ‘em out.”

May – “Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde”
He killed them in May actually. Hollywood made Hamer out to be the bad guy, but as is often the case, they were seduced by myth and got it wrong. I like what the Dallas Morning News says about this book: “Frank Hamer’s is perhaps the last great story of the American West to be told… Well, Hollywood? Now you have the book, so go make the movie.”

June -“Issac’s Storm”
For the start of Hurricane season, read Isaac’s Storm, the best-selling history of the killer hurricane that devastated Galveston in 1906. The Washington Post says that Erik Larson’s book is, “Gripping … the Jaws of hurricane yarns.”

July – “Empire of the Summer Moon”
This book tells the story of the last years of the Comanche Nation and how Quanah Parker and his warriors were never militarily defeated. The New York Times says it “will leave blood and dust on your jeans.”

August – “The Time it Never Rained”
The story of the West Texas rancher, Charlie Flagg, who survived the greatest drought in modern Texas history.

September – “Friday Night Lights”
For the beginning of football season, read the book that launched the popular series. And if you have read it already, go for “The Last Picture Show” instead, which is also anchored in Texas football culture.

October – “All the Pretty Horses”
Once you’re in, go ahead and read the whole border trilogy.

November – “Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans”
As the days shorten and the nights lengthen, sit by the fire and read T.R. Fehrenbach’s take on Texas history.

December – “The Big Rich”
As you begin worrying about presents and money, it is an ideal time to read the rags to riches stories of Texas oil men like H.L. Hunt and Roy Cullen. These were men who were, for their time, among the absolute richest in the world. They knew how to spend money and to play on a scale few have ever known. It will inspire your Christmas shopping, make you want to play poker for oil leases, buy sprawling ranches, and purchase your own Texas island.

There’s not a lot of romance in these books. There is a lot of tough love, though. And that’s good. If you don’t get tough love early in life it’s hard to find lasting love later.

So there you go. Print this out and put it on the fridge. Happy reading.

W.F. Strong is a Fulbright Scholar and professor of Culture and Communication at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. At Public Radio 88 FM in Harlingen, Texas, he’s the resident expert on Texas literature, Texas legends, Blue Bell ice cream, Whataburger (with cheese) and mesquite smoked brisket.