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Editor's Note

TBR Fall 2023 Cover

Editor’s Note

Gifts That Keep On Giving

William Jensen

What was the best book someone ever gave you? Take your time. Think about it. When I say, “gave you,” I mean as a gift. What was the best book you received for your birthday or a holiday? Those books inscribed by the giver with a date and an occasion. Maybe it wasn’t a book you had heard of. Maybe it was even a book you had no interest in at the time. Was it a novel? A biography? Self help?

   Growing up, my parents always gave me books for Christmas. Okay, books and socks. I was the envy of all the other children with their skateboards, action figures, and jungle gyms. But most of the books I received were pretty incredible. As a young boy, I sat under the Christmas tree unwrapping a beautiful hardcover copy of Ghosts: A Classic Collection with illustrations by Walt Sturrock. This book mesmerized me. It introduced me to Washington Irving and Henry James. Of course, I probably stared at the beautiful illustrations more than I focused on the prose, which was a bit advanced for me, but I adored the book the way my friends valued their baseball cards. When I was thirteen my parents gave me As I Lay Dying and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Admittingly, I was probably more excited to read Kerouac at that age, but I took it upon me to read the novels, which changed my world view as well as my life. Other fond gifts over the years have been a signed copy of Rabbit, Run, a biography of Winston Churchill, The Complete Sonnets of Shakespeare, The Letters of Shirley Jackson, and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymor: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger. On the other side of gift giving, I know I have given many nieces and nephews copies of Little Women, I am Legend, and Our Town, and I have gifted loved ones Travels with Charley, The Importance of Being Earnest, and From Here to Eternity. Some family members prefer to read on their kindles, but there is something about giving and receiving a pristine hardcover with a handwritten note on the title page.

   The holiday season is almost here. Will you give books this year? I hope you do. Remember what Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.” But what books? History? Novels? Cookbooks are a big win in my family. What books will you ask for?

   This issue of Texas Books in Review is jam-packed. One of our biggest issues in years. I want to pause to thank our editorial fellow, Cheyanne Claggett, who helped us put it all together. She has a review of Joe R. Lansdale’s newest comedic thriller, The Donut Legion, in this issue, and I recommend you read it. We also have reviews of other novels ranging from The Shadows of Pecan Hollow to The Legend of Charlie Fish. We also review poet Steve Wilson’s latest collection, Complicity, and we cover nonfiction with Lawrence Vs. Texas and More City Than Water and the revised edition of Mammals of Trans-Pecos Texas

   It has been a busy fall semester for the Center for the Study of the Southwest. Our director arranged a plethora of events including lectures and panels. Most recently Dr. Sherri Sheu discussed the reshaping of the National Parks System in the 1970s. We also held a reading of Lyin’ Ass, a play by Eugene Lee. Our biggest event was our Fandango: A Texas State Interdisciplinary Dialogue on the Southwest, which ran all day and featured numerous scholars, historians, and writers. If you’re in San Marcos, Texas, you should come by and see what we do next.

   I hope you find something good to read in this issue of Texas Books in Review. I hope someone you love gives you a great book to read, and I hope you return the favor.