NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 16, 1972: Quarterback Roger Staubach #12 and head coach Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys stand on the sideline in a crowd of photographers after winning Super Bowl VI on January 16, 1972 against the Miami Dolphins at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Cowboys beat the Dolphins, 24-3 to win the professional football World Championship.19720116-FR-1972 Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images

We’re kicking off a new series called Reading Austin, which will highlight great books written by local authors. Home of UT’s prestigious Michener Center for Writers, Texas Monthly magazine, and the Texas Book Festival, Austin has long been a literary town. And there are many novelists, historians, journalists, poets, and playwrights who call it home. As part of our mission to focus on your overall wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re recommending some of our favorite books by authors you may have unknowingly sat next to at a restaurant or walked by on South Congress.

First up, is a big one: Big Wonderful Thing: A History of Texas from the New York Times bestselling author, Stephen Harrigan. The author is a devoted Austinite who has spent much of his life to exploring and explaining Texas, ever since his family crossed the Red River from Oklahoma in 1953. He is the author of numerous works of nonfiction and fiction, including the critically acclaimed novels A Friend of Mr. Lincoln, Remember Ben Clayton, and The Gates of the Alamo.

Clocking in at over 800 pages and published by the University of Texas Press, this one may look a little intimidating. However, as a longtime writer of novels and magazine stories, Harrigan tells the story of Texas in an engaging and accessible way.

The book is a staff pick at Austin’s beloved BookPeople, here’s what Joe had to say: “When was the last time you studied Texas history? If you’re a native Texan, it probably was 7th grade (which for me was 30 long years ago) and if you’re from out of state it’s nothing but maybe watching John Wayne in The Alamo or singing along to to Pee-Wee Herman’s version of “Deep In The Heart of Texas.” Well, acclaimed novelist Stephen Harrigan is here to change that with the first overarching history of Texas since T. R. Fehrenbach delivered one back in 1968. Big Wonderful Thing, as both its title and subject matter attests, is a sweeping history of the Lone Star State that covers everything that is to be known, should be known, or hasn’t previously been known. It’s not just Davy Crockett and LBJ, but also Emma Teayuca and Heman Sweatt. It’s a history of Texas for ALL Texans and one of my favorite books of the year.”

Legendary news anchor and Texan, Dan Rather, had this to say about the book: “It’s rare to find a book that so compellingly weds such deep research with brilliant storytelling. A masterwork and a Texas history for the ages, destined to become a classic.”

If you emerge from sheltering in place with this read under your belt, you’ll feel like a certified Texan and generally just accomplished in life. Support our local book scene and get it online at BookPeople.

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