Over its three illustrious centuries, San Antonio’s allure has captured the imagination of literary luminaries from Robert Frost to Sandra Cisneros. Those with an appreciation for the written word will find there is much to discover in the Alamo City.
With events for budding writers and devoted readers, beloved bookstores, unique libraries and more, book lovers can immerse themselves in the city as they would the pages of a brilliant novel.
The San Antonio Book Festival attracts bibliophiles from far and wide for a day-long celebration of reading, writing and imagination. Held at the San Antonio Central Library and nearby Southwest School of Art, this free event brings books to life through author presentations, cooking demonstrations, innovative panel discussions and book sales and signings. A great event for families, attendees will find children’s theater performances, a technology area, interactive art and play stations and a selection of San Antonio cuisine from some of the city’s best food trucks.
For budding writers, San Antonio’s leading literary nonprofit Gemini Ink offers creative writing workshops led by published writers, in addition to free public readings by nationally and internationally-recognized authors and open-mic nights throughout the year. The annual Gemini Ink Writers Conference offers a full schedule of workshops, readings, panel presentations and a small press book fair. (This year’s event takes place July 20 – 22 at the El Tropicano Hotel on the historic San Antonio Riverwalk.)
The 240,000 square-foot San Antonio Central Library was designed by renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta and opened in 1995. The brightly colored downtown building is a bold departure from traditional library design and is easily spotted thanks to its signature “enchilada red” exterior. In addition to an expansive art gallery, the Central Library is home to the recently expanded Latino Collection and Resource Center, the Texana/Genealogy Department and the BookCellar, a used book store operated by the Friends of the San Antonio Public Library.
Located in the charming Monte Vista historic neighborhood, the Landa Library originally served as the private residence of Harry and Hannah Landa. Built in 1929, the gorgeous Italian-style stucco home features ornate ironwork and mosaic tiles throughout. Following Hannah’s passing in 1942, Harry bequeathed the home and the surrounding five acres to the City of San Antonio for a public library and playground. The library celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2017 with a major interior and exterior renovation and continues to serve as a dreamy escape for readers of all ages.
Since 1972, The Twig has been a destination for book lovers in San Antonio with a vast collection for children and adults ranging from newly released bestsellers to award-winning classics. Located in the popular Pearl district, The Twig frequently hosts regionally and nationally-acclaimed authors for readings and book signings, as well as a weekly story time for kids. The shop’s extensive Texana section is a must-see for history buffs. (The Twig is also a great place to find books published by San Antonio-based Trinity University Press.)
Cheever Books is the place for those seeking rare and unusual finds. This cozy shop along the Broadway Cultural Corridor is stacked from floor to ceiling with first editions, leather bound classics and captivating novels. Get lost in their sprawling stacks or ask a knowledgeable staff member for help finding a one-of-a-kind treasure.
The University of Texas at San Antonio’s John Peace Library is home to an extensive collection of research materials documenting the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas. Its nationally-recognized collection of more than 1,500 Mexican cookbook titles includes a selection of handwritten cookbooks, as well as a copy of the first cookbook printed in Mexico, giving an intimate view of Mexican culinary culture. Visit the website for information on public viewing of the collection.
Young bookworms can see some of their favorite stories come to life with whimsical performances by this professional troupe, which produces live stage versions of children’s classics and contemporary literature in the historic Beethoven Hall at Hemisfair Park. This season, look for performances of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical,” a dual language version of Disney’s “Aladdin,” “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure.” The Magik Theatre also offers an introduction to theatre for children ages zero to five with its Theatre for the Very Young series and smaller, sensory-friendly performances for patrons on the autism spectrum.
Designated a Literary Landmark by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, the Menger Hotel has hosted a number of literary legends since it opened in 1859 including “The Picture of Dorian Gray” author Oscar Wilde, “The Gift of the Magi” author O. Henry, Confederate soldier and poet Sidney Lanier and “Dinner at Antoine’s” author Frances Parkinson Keyes. It is even said that Robert Frost contemplated his famous poem “The Road Not Taken” during several stays at The Menger. Today, the storied hotel effortlessly blends its historic grandeur with modern day luxuries suitable for even the most sybaritic of travelers.
Housed in a former brewery built in the 1800’s, the Hotel Emma is infused with rich detail, but of all the splendid touches, none is sure to delight readers as much as the property’s dazzling library. A respite from today’s technology-driven world, the library houses a selection of historic brewing books from the Pearl Brewery collection and a diverse 3,700-piece collection acquired from novelist and cultural anthropologist Sherry Kafka Wagner.
Cover photo courtesy San Antonio Book Festival