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Don’t Mess With Texas: 9 Books That Take Place in the Lone Star State

Hannah Schaffer is the Senior Digital Content Manager for Off the Shelf & Book Club Favorites. When she’s not watching melodramatic television or reading magical realism, she’s reading memoir, watching The Great British Bake Off, or eating her way around New York.

Ah, Texas, the big, beautiful Southwestern state that fills much of its populace with pride. With its history and culture, it’s no wonder it has inspired so much wonderful literature. They say everything is bigger in Texas—and I’m bound to believe the list of books that are set in Texas is, too. From football and westerns to military bases and modern society, there’s a lot of ground to cover, so for the sake of focusing our energy, we picked out our favorites: Here are the 9 top books (in our opinion) that take place in the Lone Star State.


That Old Ace in the Hole
by Annie Proulx

Winner of a National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner Award, Annie Proulx is a literary master who has penned eight incredible books (including CLOSE RANGE, which features the short story you’re probably familiar with—“Brokeback Mountain”) spanning American time and space. Through the young and aimless character Bob Dollar, who moves to the two-bit Texas town Woolybucket, THAT OLD ACE IN THE HOLE explores the beauty of Texas ranchland and the changes the American West has experienced in the last century. With descriptions of full landscapes, love, history, and a few bawdy moments, it’s a completely addictive read through and through.

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That Old Ace in the Hole
Annie Proulx

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MENTIONED IN:

Don’t Mess With Texas: 9 Books That Take Place in the Lone Star State

By Hannah Schaffer | October 18, 2019

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News of the World
by Paulette Jiles

We’re really excited to see the forthcoming adaptation, starring Tom Hanks, of this National Book Award for fiction finalist, which takes place in the aftermath of the Civil War. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, traveling through north Texas, agrees to take an orphan girl 400 miles to relatives in San Antonio. But their journey leads to bonding, and their arrival leaves him with a difficult decision. With appropriate excitement and intensity for a novel set in nineteenth-century Texas, it’s also full of heart and easy-to-love characters.

Read the full review of NEWS OF THE WORLD.

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News of the World
Paulette Jiles

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MENTIONED IN:

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You Know When the Men Are Gone
by Siobhan Fallon

This exceptional book is really a collection of short stories about the people living and working at the American army base in Fort Hood. From women whose husbands are away at war to teenagers who disappear and officers facing struggles at home, author Siobhan Fallon gives a realistic and emotional look at the lives of soldiers and their families.

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You Know When the Men Are Gone
Siobhan Fallon

The sounds of men marching in formation reverberate throughout Fort Hood, Texas. But without the men, there is a sense of silence, a muted sense of life. This unforgettable collection of interconnected stories takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, and into the marriages of the women waiting for their men to return to Fort Hood—intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians speeches.

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Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurtry

Adventure tale, love story, and frontier epic, LONESOME DOVE is the Pulitzer Prize–winning classic about the Texas town Lonesome Dove in the nineteenth century. With a cast of characters including cowboys, settlers, Native Americans, outlaws, brothel workers, and beautiful ladies, it’s a deeply atmospheric and exciting tale, and possibly one of the best stories about the wild American west.

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Lonesome Dove
Larry McMurtry

A love story, an adventure, and an epic of the frontier, this Pulitzer Prize— winning classic is the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America. Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers. Richly authentic, beautifully written, always dramatic this is a book to that will make you laugh, weep, and dream.

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Rainwater
by Sandra Brown

This romantic historical novel takes place during the Depression and follows two main characters, David Rainwater and Ella Baron. Ella is a mother and runs a boardinghouse. David is a dying stranger who becomes a lodger in her home. While she is initially very suspicious of him, a romance begins to kindle. Ella’s whole life is about to change, and not just because of David—there’s an economic crisis threatening to tear up the town. It’s a heartwarming story about circumstances and the choices we make.

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Rainwater
Sandra Brown

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MENTIONED IN:

Don’t Mess With Texas: 9 Books That Take Place in the Lone Star State

By Hannah Schaffer | October 18, 2019

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All the Pretty Horses
by Cormac McCarthy

We could not put together a list of books set in Texas without Cormac McCarthy, who has written a number of books set in the American South and West. ALL THE PRETTY HORSES is the first in the Border Trilogy and the recipient of a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. McCarthy takes a distinctly different tone from his other writing in this novel and weaves a hauntingly beautiful, detailed, and comic coming-of-age story about a young man’s journey into the unknown world of the border between Texas and Mexico in the 1940s. If you are new to Cormac McCarthy, this is a good place to start, but you can also dive into a number of his other works set in Texas, like BLOOD MERIDIAN, which is a classic piece of literature in the American canon.

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All the Pretty Horses
Cormac McCarthy

Amarillo, TX: This winner of the National Book Award for Fiction tells the story of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers. He sets off from Texas to Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Presidio
by Randy Kennedy

Randy Kennedy’s debut novel is set in the 1970s Texas Panhandle and follows a car thief and his brother who accidentally kidnap a Mennonite girl named Martha. However, Martha does not want to be returned home, where she would live with her vindictive father. So all three set out for the Mexican border, and their journey takes them through the arid landscape of western Texas. With some humor, suspense, and characters that feel extremely real, this story delivers everything you’d want from a Southwestern noir novel about people often on the outskirts of society.

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Presidio
Randy Kennedy

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MENTIONED IN:

Don’t Mess With Texas: 9 Books That Take Place in the Lone Star State

By Hannah Schaffer | October 18, 2019

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An Ocean of Minutes
by Thea Lim

When a deadly flu pandemic hits the US, and Polly’s partner, Frank, becomes sick, she has to travel to the future as a bonded laborer to get her company to pay for Frank’s treatment. They agree to meet in Galveston 12 years from the original time, but Polly is accidentally sent forward an additional five years, and she has to find out if Frank, and their love, is still alive. This mysterious and imaginative story is an exploration into the endurance and complexities of human relationships and does so with beautiful language.

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An Ocean of Minutes
Thea Lim

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How to Walk Away
by Katherine Center

Margaret Jacobsen has just gotten her dream job in Austin when she boards a flight with her fiancé, Chip, and it crashes, resulting in a spinal cord injury that could render her incapable of walking ever again. When Chip walks away from her, and her job offer is rescinded, Margaret can turn only to her family—which is full of characters—and a seemingly misanthropic physical therapist. Tragic, yet funny, this story takes a witty, honest look at survival and finding solace in unexpected places in the face of unexpected challenges.

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How to Walk Away
Katherine Center

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MENTIONED IN:

Don’t Mess With Texas: 9 Books That Take Place in the Lone Star State

By Hannah Schaffer | October 18, 2019

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