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Best of the Book Fest: Eight Observer Picks


More than 250 authors and some 40,000 bibliophiles will descend on the Texas Capitol grounds next weekend for the 21st-annual Texas Book Festival. With a dizzying array of events and genres to choose from, a book-lover could be forgiven for feeling a tad overwhelmed. Fear not: We’ve hand-picked a selection of readings and panels just for Observer readers.

Criminal Justice

At 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 5, Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape author Jessica Luther joins journalist Dan Solomon and Rick Gipprich and Rose Luna of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault for a frank discussion of how academia and the college sports industry have failed survivors of sexual assault.

This year saw the publication of two unsolved true-crime stories set in Austin: Skip Hollandsworth’s The Midnight Assassin and Beverly Lowry’s Who Killed These Girls?. Although the crimes in question took place a century apart, both books touch on the perils of police corruption and the objectification of young female victims. Texas Monthly senior editor Mike Hall moderates the discussion at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday.

Tejanos y Tejanas

Texas is now 39 percent Hispanic, yet in the Lone Star State as well as nationwide, Chicanos continue to lag behind in educational achievement and voter turnout. Authors Richard Gonzales (Raza Rising) and Gregg Barrios (I-DJ) join UT School of Journalism professor Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6 to talk about the barriers Chicanos still face and how to combat them.

Tejana artists and writers have long been overlooked by the rest of the state — a disparity that Entre Guadalupe y Malinche strives to correct. The book is the first to compile both literature and artwork that explore what it means to be a Texas-Mexican woman. Editors Inés Hernández-Ávila and Norma Elia Cantú and contributors Rosemary Catacalos and Carmen Tafolla lead the bilingual event at 12 p.m. on Sunday.


Texas Landscape Project authors David Todd and Jonathan Ogren discuss the role of maps in understanding Texas natural history at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. Andy Sansom, executive director at the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, will moderate.

Actress Jane Alexander (Wild Things, Wild Places) and Miriam Horn (Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman) argue that the future of the planet will require looking beyond the stereotypically affluent, Prius-driving environmentalist to enlist a new, more diverse army of conservationists. Science writer Juli Berwald moderates at 2 p.m. on Sunday.


On Sunday at 11:00 a.m., road-trippers and history buffs should head to “Miles and Miles of Texas,” in which Carol Dawson and Roger Polson will discuss their eponymous new release. Their history of the Texas Highway Department (now TxDOT) is a surprisingly lively account of roadside life in Texas, from stylish photos of gleaming midcentury rest stops to tales of corruption, segregation and drug smuggling along the state’s major arteries. TxDOT executive director James Bass moderates.

Photographer Jack Knox’s new book, Ghost Towns, Gas Stations, and a 20-Foot Cowboy, gives new life to abandoned places across the state by imbuing them with hyper-saturated colors and fresh perspectives. He’ll tell the stories behind the images on Saturday at 4 p.m.

Browse the full Texas Book Festival schedule here.

Featured photo by abee5/Flickr/Creative Commons