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Top Books by State Series: Texas

By Adrienne Rivera. Mar 7, 2023. 10:07 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, American Literature

The next stop on our literary road trip throughout the United States is Texas. Texas is America’s second-largest state and is accordingly full of a variety of cultures, foods, and histories. Today’s books focus on people living in Texas during different but equally tumultuous times. Join us in the next edition of our Top Books by State series by taking a look at these books inspired by different times and people throughout Texas’ rich history:

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Like_Water_for_Chocolate_(Book_Cover)Laura Esquivel’s 1989 novel, Like Water for Chocolate, also known as Como Agua Por Chocolate, was a massive hit in both Mexico and the United States, spending nearly two years atop best sellers lists. The novel tells the story of the de le Garza family living on the US-Mexico border and the tragedies that stem from a family tradition stating all youngest daughters must remain unmarried and care for their mothers until their deaths. Taking place in both Mexico and San Antonio, Texas, the book features magical realism as well as the recipes important to main character Tita. It was adapted into a hit film in 1992.

Those huge stars have lasted for millions of years by taking care never to absorb any of the fiery rays lovers all over the world send up at them night after night. To avoid that, the star generates so much heat inside itself that it shatters the rays into a thousand pieces. Any look it receives is immediately repulsed, reflected back onto the earth, like a trick done with mirrors. That is the reason the stars shine so brightly at night.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah’s 2021 novel, The Four Winds, follows Elsa Martinelli and her family during their experience living in Texas during the Great Depression. When drought destroys their farm and her husband abandons the family, Elsa makes the difficult decision to travel across Texas to California, hoping like many other famers, to find a better life further west.

It was so hot that every now and then a bird fell from the sky, landing with a little thump on the hard-packed dirt. The chickens sat in dusty heaps on the ground, their heads lolled forward, and the last two cows stood together, too hot and tired to move. A listless breeze moved through the farm, plucking at the empty clothesline.


After ten hours of hard labor beneath a hot sun, Elsa climbed down from the truck. She had her work chit in one gloved hand. It wasn’t worth much, but it was something. The company store charged the camp residents ten percent to convert the chit to credit, but they couldn’t cash it anywhere else; if they wanted cash instead of credit, they had to pay interest. So, in point of fact, as little as they were paid, it was really even ten percent less.


Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 western, Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West, is one of the famed author’s most beloved works. The novel follows a character known as “the kid” aCormacMcCarthy_BloodMeridians he makes his way to Texas and joins up with a gang of outlaws, eventually making an enemy of a man of almost mythical quality, Judge Holden. The novel, a treatise on violence, evil, and religion, contains striking passages describing the stark landscape of west Texas.

The jagged mountains were pure blue in the dawn and everywhere birds twittered and the sun when it rose caught the moon in the west so that they lay opposed to each other across the earth, the sun whitehot and the moon a pale replica, as if they were the ends of a common bore beyond whose terminals burned worlds past all reckoning.


They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them.

Adrienne Rivera
Adrienne Rivera received her MFA in fiction from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She currently lives in southern Indiana.


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