Books

Can’t Find a Texas Novel to Read This Summer? Here’s a Guide for You.

If, as the saying goes, Texas is a country unto itself, it’s only fitting that we have what amounts to a national literature—a vast catalog of books that includes every genre and covers virtually every possible subject contained within our borders. There are historical novels, dystopian novels, mysteries, thrillers, revisionist westerns, non-revisionist westerns, domestic dramas, bildungsromans, romans à clef, tales of roamin’, tales of settlin’, and tales of fightin’, written by newcomers, old -timers city folk, country folk, and suburban folk alike. This excess of riches has turned especially excessive during the state’s recent boom years—so much so that figuring out where to start can seem daunting. Fortunately, we’ve got a guide for you to find your perfect summer read.


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For the Texas Crime Fiction Aficionado

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

A Black Texas Ranger goes to an East Texas town where he must solve two murders that intersect with the town’s racial fault lines.

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

A woman returns home eight years after she was kidnapped as a child. Her family is at first overjoyed, but then they begin to doubt that the woman is their long-lost relative.

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

A brutal rape in 1970s Odessa pits a group of women against the town’s culture of misogyny and racism.


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For the Family Drama Fan

Where We Come From by Oscar Casares

A Mexican American family in a Texas border town reluctantly becomes involved in smuggling immigrants into the United States.

Nights When Nothing Happened by Simon Han

An immigrant family from Tianjin, China, living in Plano in 2003 struggles to adapt to its new home country, which becomes all the more difficult after the family’s patriarch is falsely accused of a crime.

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann

Greek gods such as Apollo, Zeus, and Hera, who never lacked for family conflict, are reimagined as Texans in a small town near Houston.

God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney

The daughters of a North Texas evangelical preacher flee to a ranch after their father reveals a horrible truth. There, they discover more secrets and struggle to form a new bond with themselves and their family.

The Son by Philipp Meyer

A sprawling, two-hundred-year epic that follows the rise, decline, and fall of a Texas family.


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For the Cross-Texas Adventure Seeker

Presidio by Randy Kennedy

A car thief and his brother in the 1970s Panhandle inadvertently kidnap a girl and make a dash for the border.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

A news reader and Civil War veteran escorts a girl back home after she has spent years as the captive of a Native American tribe.

The Devil’s Backbone by Bill Wittliff

A boy sets out on a quest in 1880s Texas to find his missing mother.

The Ways of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake

A man escapes prison after serving for twenty years and evades authorities along the Rio Grande as he searches for his daughter.


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For the Supernatural Freak

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

A seventeen-year-old Lipan Apache girl who can summon and train the ghosts of animals sets out to solve the mystery of her cousin’s death.

Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester

A woman in a Texas border town communicates with the ghost of her father-in-law, who tries to earn her husband’s forgiveness for abandoning him when he was a child.


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For the Romance Lover

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

A big girl in a small Texas town becomes unexpectedly self-conscious about her body when she starts a relationship with a cute boy. So she enters the local beauty pageantand hilarity ensues.

Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi

A college-aged man and woman in Austin are too socially awkward to start a relationship IRL (in real life), so they start through texting each other—and in the process discover what it means to form a real connection.

Memorial by Bryan Washington

A Black man and his Japanese boyfriend test the limits of love while confronting their respective childhood pain.


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For the History Buff

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

A satirical novel along the lines of Catch-22the story follows a group of soldiers serving in the Iraq War who return to Texas for a “Victory Tour.”

Things You Would Know If You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinan

A Hill Country teenager fights for survival during the catastrophic 2015 Memorial Day floods as she searches for her boyfriend while her divorced parents reconnect in their search for her.

Monday, Monday by Elizabeth Crook

A group of friends who survive the August 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin grapple with the fallout over the next four decades.


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For the Dark and Dystopian Devotee

Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce

A neglectful, drug-abusing single mother in Dallas who works in a high-end restaurant struggles to value herself and love her daughter.

Tears of the Trufflepig by Fernando A. Flores

A journalist and a repo man navigate the near-future Texas borderlandswhere drugs are legalized, a paramilitary unit patrols the walls separating the US from Mexico, and there exist thriving black markets for illegally bioengineered exotic animals and the shrunken heads of Indigenous people.

Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown

A Houston lawyer in a future America that’s becoming a fascist dictatorship while buckling under environmental disasters fights for a client who witnesses the death of a political dissident.


A version of this article originally appeared in the August 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “If You’re Looking to Read a 21st-Century Texas Novel This Summer, We’ve Got Something for Everyone.” Subscribe today.

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