When most people picture Texas, they think big: sweeping vistas, larger-than-life characters, dramatic events. It’s only fitting, then, that a Texas press has embarked on an exceptionally ambitious project to capture the enormous scope of Texas history and myth.
Last week, University of Texas Press announced its Texas Bookshelf initiative, a five-year, 16-book effort enlisting some of the state’s most esteemed writers to tell the state’s story.
“Texas deserves a comprehensive series of books that explores its history and culture,” UT President Bill Powers said in a statement. “A collaboration between our esteemed faculty and UT Press is the ideal way to produce The Texas Bookshelf and to share the rich resources of this campus with the rest of the world.” The effort will be funded partly through the president’s discretionary fund, and partly through ongoing fundraising.
The project’s keystone will be a comprehensive, full-length history of the state to be written by Stephen Harrigan, the award-winning New York Times bestselling author and faculty member at UT’s Mitchener Center for Writers. Harrigan’s book is scheduled to publish in 2017.
Harrigan has already written a number of highly regarded works about Texas, including The Gates of the Alamo, a sweeping historical novel that dramatizes one of Texas’ most famous events, and Remember Ben Clayton, which explores art, family life and violence in the first decade of 20th-century Texas.
“My goal is to make the events of the modern history of Texas—the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, the collapse of Enron—as compelling to read about as the siege of the Alamo or the Comanche wars,” Harrigan said in a statement.
The authors contracted to write the 15 remaining books of the Bookshelf series are similarly accomplished. Cecilia Ballí, a professor at UT’s Department of Anthropology and a contributor to Harper’s and Texas Monthly, will write about the Texas borderlands. Shirley Thompson, associate director of UT’s John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, will write about the African-American experience in Texas. UT journalism professor (and Observer columnist) Bill Minutaglio will pen a book about Texas politics and business.
Additional books on the Tejana and Tejano experiences in Texas, sports, art, photography, architecture, food and other cultural topics will be written by distinguished UT faculty. The project will also eventually include an interactive website featuring author interviews and supplementary materials, as well as public events presented in conjunction with the Blanton Museum, the Harry Ransom Center and the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.