Good books about Houston/the Houston area?
August 24, 2012 6:30 PM   Subscribe

What are some good non-fiction books about Houston, TX and environs?

Histories of the city, memoirs and biographies of notable Houstonians, studies of neighborhoods, the region's ecology, economic history, subcultures, indigenous cultures, whatever you got. Popular books and academic monographs are equally welcome. If you once read an amazing book about Houston, what was it? If you have expert knowledge of some aspect of the region's history or culture, what are the best books, or your most quirkily treasured books, on the subject?
posted by DaDaDaDave to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry that my answer is not Houston-specific for you, but what really touched me when I moved to Texas after always seeing it as some vague far away land like Brazil or Japan was James Michener's 'Texas'. This suggestion I suppose fails on two counts, both fictional and Houstonian, but regardless the spirit of the work I think is very relevant.
posted by BurnMage at 7:02 PM on August 24, 2012

I enjoyed Issac's Storm, which is about how hurricane Issac destroyed Galveston, originally the more or equally successful port city, leading to the rise of Houston.
posted by asphericalcow at 7:35 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe not amazing but the only places I've seen some stuff: Historic Houston Streets: The Stories Behind the Names and Stepping back in time: History of West University Place.
posted by Ery at 7:37 PM on August 24, 2012

I have a fairly well-stocked 'Houston' bookshelf--there are tons and tons of history/sociology/architecture/urbanism books about the city. But these are my favorites:

Mockingbird by Sean Stewart -- an awesome magical realist / fantasy novel set in Houston, written by an author who lived there for a while (and it shows).

City on Fire by Bill Minutaglio -- fairly gripping account of the nearby Texas City explosion.

Houston Freeways: A Historical and Visual Journey by Erik Slotboom -- a wonderfully obsessive and detailed amateur account of Houston's most noticeable features. See the related

Boomtown DA by Carol Vance -- excellent memoir by a long-time Harris County DA.

Ephemeral City by the editors of Cite magazine -- 'best of' collection from an architecture / urban design magazine produced in Houston.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 7:37 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

There are several excellent books about Enron - definitely a major part of the economic history of Houston. To name three I've read:
The Smartest Guys In The Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
Power Failure: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron
Anatomy of Greed: The Unshredded Truth from an Enron Insider
posted by SisterHavana at 8:07 PM on August 24, 2012

I grew up watching Ray Miller's The Eyes of Texas, and when I was old enough to appreciate the man on the level at which he was working, his 1982 book, Ray Miller's Houston, did not disappoint.
posted by Mothra Pisces at 8:09 PM on August 24, 2012

Response by poster: Great suggestions! Thanks, everyone!
posted by DaDaDaDave at 12:10 AM on August 25, 2012

There is a pretty cool crowd-sourced book containing essays and photographs of Houston, Houston: It's Worth It (self-esteem issues, much, Houston?), that started as a website, grew into an art exhibition, and culminated in a book exploring what it is like to live here, beyond the agency stock photos of cowboys and NASA and oil. There was a follow-up in a similar vein that covered the city's experience of Hurricane Ike.
posted by *s at 7:19 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The story of Houston is largely the story of the oil and gas industry. The story of the oil and gas industry is The Prize by Daniel Yergin. There is a lot more than Houston in that book, but it is a very good book and it is the first one I would read.
posted by bukvich at 8:03 AM on August 25, 2012

It's very much of a certain time—late '50s or early '60s—but Larry McMurtry's Moving On is in no small part set in Houston and really changed how I look at Texas in general and Houston in particular. Not to mention that it's Larry McMurtry, who's just a fantastic writer in general.
posted by The Michael The at 11:00 AM on August 25, 2012

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