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Texas's Top Ten Bookish Destinations 2016

  • 10  WACO   >>

    From William Cowper Brann to Word Records and books, to Wordfest, Waco today is a book lover's paradise on the Brazos.  >>MORE

  • 9  DENTON    >>

    Denton’s reputation as a destination for indie music and film also extends to its appeal for book lovers of all ages.  >>MORE

  • 8  EL PASO     >>

    Far West Texas is a bilingual, bicultural literary mecca, home to Benjamin Alire Sáenz and dozens of other working writers, the Cormac McCarthy legend, award-winning Cinco Puntos Press.  >>MORE

  • 7  FORT WORTH    >>

    It’s where the West begins, and where your search for great libraries, bookstores, and events ends. While you're visiting the Stockyards, spend a little time reading up, too. >>MORE

  • 6  SAN ANTONIO     >>

    The Alamo City hosts the state’s largest spring book festival, celebrates 40 years of pioneer Wings Press, and welcomes readers to the Twig’s new digs in the rehabbed Pearl Brewery complex. >>MORE

  • 5  PERMIAN BASIN     >>

    Midland and Odessa may seem far from the big-city lights of Dallas, Houston, and Austin, but both cities celebrate the literary arts in unique ways.  >>MORE

  • 4  ABILENE     >>

    Prettiest town we've ever seen — and one of the most literary, now that it's been proclaimed the Storybook Capital of Texas.  >>MORE

  • 3  DALLAS     >>

    From the notorious Texas School Book Depository —now a world-class museum — to the Wild Detectives and the Deep Vellum Bookstore, there's lots of literary life in the Big D.   >>MORE

  • 2  HOUSTON    >>

    The city named for the first president of the Texas Republic has lots more to offer than big oil and big money. Check out its bookstores, museums, and events!   >>MORE

  • 1  AUSTIN    >>

    O. Henry knew it in the 1800s; the Texas Book Festival knew it when it celebrated 20 years in Austin: the state's capital is once again the undisputed center of Texas literary life.   >>MORE









    Read more about Laredo, McAllen, Brownsville, and the Rio Grande Valley.  >>MORE

  • LUBBOCK    >>

    Read more about Lubbock  >>MORE

  • BIG BEND    >>

    Read more about Alpine, Marfa, Fort Davis, and the Big Bend area. >>MORE

What makes a place a
Top Texas Bookish Destination?


Most of the readers and writers we know, far from being the sort to only haunt the recesses of their town's library or curl up on the couch when the sun's shining, like to get out and visit the places they've read about. Or the places that inspire them.


We polled our staff—in a most informal but serious way—about the places in Texas that fueled their bookish imaginations. What literary  destinations called to them, to get out the map, get in the car, and go? Was it a whim to attend a festival, a desire to follow in a favorite author's footsteps, an urge to browse the shelves of an unusual bookshop, a hunt for a novel's real-life inspiration?


It didn't take long for our list to grow. In fact, things got a bit heated as we tried to decide which destination might trump another — especially as we applied our own growing knowledge of attractions new and old to updating our 2015 list. You’ll see a few new entries this year, as new events, updated libraries, and big new books play a huge part in our determinations. We noted alluring locales from the pineywoods to the prairies, in big cities and small, from the coast to the mountains. We ranked and researched and ranked some more.


Our writeups and rankings are highly subjective, we grant you. The book scene is ever-changing, and we have to own up to not always being able to mention every recent development, or to acknowledge every worthy author, publisher, or bookstore in our pages. Though we concentrated primarily on those aspects of literary life that make a place "visitable," we are striving to capture the bookish flavor and fabric of each place that depend on the ongoing products of its writers behind closed doors, or the experiences shared by locals that visitors can only occasionally tap into. We promise to work harder to discover and share more!


All we can hope is that Lone Star Literary Life readers will find something here they didn't know before—and even if they have to just toss all ten names in a hat and take turns choosing the next goal for a road trip, they'll enjoy what they find when they get there.


Read on, share this issue with a friend, and send us your own thoughts when you're done:

——­——— A D V E R T I S I N G —————



These days, Waco makes our list of Top Bookish Destinations not only for its university and public libraries and its publishing history, but for its ample roster of bookstores, including Barnes & Noble; Hastings; Mardel's, Golden Books, and Bankston's Used Books. It’s home to chapter of the Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Waco Poetry Society. And it hosts Wordfest, one of the state’s top storytelling festivals, held the last weekend of September at the city’s Waco Convention Center, a riverfront facility within walking distance of the historic Brazos River Bridge and many downtown attractions. >>READ MORE



Due in equal parts to the city’s creative class and the University of North Texas’s prestigious creative writing program, which yearly brings in around eight well-renowned writers as part of its Visiting Writers Series (past writers have included Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Claire Vaye Watkins (Gold, Fame, Citrus), and Li-Young Li (The City in Which I Love You), the Ploughshares journal included Denton in its list of “Literary Boroughs” a few years back.


This walkable, friendly city, with its historic downtown as a magnet for community gatherings, has earned its place this year in our Top Ten list. >>READ MORE


El Paso

Perched on the spur of Texas’s boot heel between the Rio Grande border with Mexico and the Franklin Mountains, through which the pass gave the city its Spanish name, El Paso is a cultural and literary melting pot of the highest order. Every flavor and genre of writing is richly intermingled here, predominantly, but not only, in English and Spanish. And no author better exemplifies the range of accomplishment here than Benjamín Alire Sáenz, the first Latino writer ever to win the PEN/Faulkner award. >>READ MORE

Above: El Paso, Texas, destinations (photos courtesy xxxx)


Fort Worth

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram came of age in the early twentieth century when larger than life men such as Amon G. Carter, William Randolph Hearst, and Joseph Pulitzer acquired newspapers and newspaper readers through aggressive beat reporting instead of hostile takeovers by shareholders agitating for better portfolio performance.

      The Fort Worth journalism scene has proven fertile ground for authors such as Gary Cartwright, Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake, Molly Ivins, Sandra Brown, Jeff Guinn, and Julia Heaberlin. These authors have generated best sellers on the national scene over recent decades.. >>READ MORE


San Antonio

A great deal of what makes any place a bookish destination is the presence of a resident literary sage who’s readily accessible to likeminded seekers. For San Antonio, that spirit is Bryce Milligan, publisher, writer, and all-around man of letters whose pathbreaking Wings Press celebrated its fortieth anniversary in November 2015.

      The San Antonio Current, looking back at Wings’s history and Milligan’s two decades at its helm, described him as “a literary godfather in this community.” >>READ MORE


Left: San Antonio Central Library. Below: Wings Press logo


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