In celebration of the first day of Texas Writers Month,
let’s hear it for Texas, for books and for those that write them.
As the kick-off to our month-long series highlighting the Lone Star State’s literary riches, we asked Clay Smith, Literary Director of the San Antonio Book Festival, for his thoughts on reading, and what to read, during the pandemic.
“A pandemic that requires isolation can be a reader’s dream: so much time, so many books! But what to do with all the anxiety coursing through our culture? Some readers are diving head-on into our new lives, tackling books that cover pandemics (witness the recent uptick in sales for Albert Camus’ The Plague). And some, understandably, are craving stories that are about anything but global viruses.
I’ve found myself in the past few weeks reading in all kinds of ways: physical books, and using my Kindle more than before, moving from pandemic books to the exact opposites.
“Here are a few books I’ve enjoyed:
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore: Fiction about West Texas tends to be male-driven; this debut novel is invested only in women and how they react to the rape of a 14-year-old Latina in 1976 by an oil worker. The characters feel real and hard to forget.
Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke: The second in her Highway 59 series of mysteries set in East Texas, this suspenseful novel delves deeply into volatile issues of race and involves the disappearance of the nine-year-old son of a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.
Cold Storage by David Koepp: This deftly plotted thriller stars a killer, otherworldly fungus that’s eager to overtake humanity. It’s far more dangerous than COVID-19 and a reminder that things could be worse.
The Rumi Prescription by Melody Moezzi: A perfect coronavirus read, this memoir traces the author’s attraction to Rumi, the 13th-century mystic, whose verse has the ability to calm all kinds of anxieties.
Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles: The National Book Award finalist’s evocative new novel is also set in post-Civil War Texas and features a reluctant musician desperate to find the love of his life in Texas’ vivid, ravaged frontier landscape.
Trust Me by Richard Z. Santos: The debut thriller by an Austin writer, this atmospheric novel has an unprincipled developer, a skeleton found by a construction crew, and plenty of shady backroom dealings.
Cover: Clay Smith (left) with Texas Literary Hall of Famer Stephen Harrigan. Photo courtesy the San Antonio Book Festival