God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright
Published in April of 2018
Eleven hours and 2 minutes is the time that it takes to listen to the audiobook version of God Save Texas. Those hours will be amongst the most enjoyable 11 hours you will spend this year.
Of course, if you read God Save Texas with your eyes, then you will limit your enjoyment. The book will still be a great read. You will just read it too fast to savor.
What makes God Save Texas so good?
Starting with the audiobook, and the reason that I recommend that if you read one audiobook this year it is this book, is Wright’s narration. Often time the worst person to read an audiobook is the author. In the case of God Save Texas, Wright is the only one you should read the book. Wright’s gentle (North?) Texas accent infuses his tales of the Lone Star State with humor and depth. Through his voice you are transported to Wright’s Dallas childhood, his visits to Houston after Hurricane Harvey, and his life in Austin.
God Save Texas is part political analysis, part social commentary, and part travel writing. It is also a story of how Wright as a writer found his voice - and some measure of fame - from an unknown academic and journalist to the celebrated author that he is today.
Texas is a state that we all need to understand. By 2050 Texas is project to double in population, to over 50 million. By most estimates, Texas will surpass California as the largest state by population. Each day, more than 1,000 people either move to, or are born in, Texas.
The reasons that Texas is growing so quickly are clear. The state has seen enormous job growth, while maintaining a relatively low cost of living. Houses are affordable and jobs are plentiful.
Wright clearly loves Texas. He loves the culture and the scale. He is also ambivalent about his home state. He laments the low level of spending on public services and education. He is heartsick about the hard turn to the right that Texas has experienced in his lifetime.
Much of God Save Texas is a description of the small town political culture of Austin. In Austin, everyone seems to know everybody.
The Wright’s got to know George and Laura Bush as both families kids attended the same school. Bush comes off very well in God Save Texas, as while Wright is a liberal, he thought that George W. was an effective governor and a decent human being. How things would have been different for the 43rd president if he had not made the decision to invade Iraq after 9/11 is a question that Wright muses on at length.
You don’t need to have a burning curiosity about all things Texas to love this book. I happen to be curious, as so much of the future of the U.S. seems to be already taking shape in Texas. The reason to put God Save Texas on your reading list is the skill that Wright brings to writing. He is just such a good writer. Wise, funny, self-deprecating, and knowledgeable. God Save Texas is one of those books that you read and just marvel at how well the thing is constructed.
Would I ever want to live in Texas after reading this book? Maybe. Especially if I could hang out with Lawrence Wright.
What other books about states that you can recommend?
Can you share some of your favorite political / historical / social / travel memoirs?
What are you reading?