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There’s a certain pride in reading a book that’s set in your town. There’s that little spark of inner joy when you know the exact street, building, or types of people the author is referring to. When an author is able to capture the essence of a city, especially one like Austin, it’s almost magical. And Austin himself is a character in his own right, in and out of text. We’ve put together a diverse list of books set in Austin that tell great stories set in the city we all love.
Jane of Austin: A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility by Hillary Manton Lodge | Fiction, Romance
The last thing Jane wants is to leave her beloved teahouse in San Francisco and move to Austin, Texas for a fresh start. But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is difficult, and unspoken words begin to sour between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls in love with up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm widens.
If you’re a Jane Austen fan, this clever tale of Sense and sensitivity set in Austin is a must read.
small steps by Louis Sachar | Fiction, Young adult
This novel is Sachar’s sequel to the award-winning novel-turned-film, Holes. It takes place two years after the character Armpit was released from Camp Green Lake. He returns home to Austin where he tries to turn his life around, one small step at a time.
The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer by Skip Hollandsworth | Fiction, Mystery, True crime
In 19th century Austin, Texas, a ruthless murderer terrorized the city in what would soon become a story more shocking than any fiction. For more than a decade, Texas monthly journalist Skip Hollandsworth has researched this gripping tale of murder and madness that unfolds like a well-crafted thriller. With gripping historical detail and a novelistic touch, Hollandsworth brings this terrifying saga to life.
my beautiful city – Austin by David Heymann | Literature, Architecture
In my beautiful city Austin David Heymann crafts seven masterful stories of a young architect who fails again and again to talk his clients out of their bad decisions. Thus, the homes he designs aid and encourage the continued erasure of Austin’s ambrosial charm.
dreams and shadows by C. Robert Cargill | Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Once daring explorers and young inhabitants of this magical kingdom, Ewan is now an Austin musician who has just met the girl of his dreams. Colby, meanwhile, cannot escape the consequences of an innocent wish. In a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-drinking geniuses argue metaphysics with crass wizards, and monsters in the shadows feed on fear, you can never outrun your destiny. This is a stunning debut novel by acclaimed film critic and screenwriter C. Robert Cargill.
Infinite Space Kings by James Hynes King | Fiction, Horror
Paul Trilby is having a bad day, week, month, life. Working as a temporary writer for the Texas Department of General Services, he tries to escape his cursed life when mysterious and disturbing things keep happening. Infinite Space Kings is a hilarious and horrifying parody of our daily lives and gives real voice to the old adage “Work is hell”.
The end of summer and what’s left is right by Irving Munro | Fiction, Mystery
The series follows father and son detectives Bill and Tommy Ross who work for the Travis County Police Cold Case Unit. Each book follows a different gripping murder case. Author Irving Munro really knows his stuff. He is a retired Scottish police detective who now lives in Austin.
A map of the house by Randa Jarrar | Fiction, LGBT
Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and Palestinian father, tells the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Egypt, and her family’s final flight to Austin, Texas. Nidali mixes humor with a sharp, loving portrayal of an eccentric middle-class family, and that perspective keeps her energized through the hardships she encounters. This critically acclaimed debut novel is destined to win the hearts of anyone who’s ever wondered what their very own map of home might look like.
The gay place by Billy Lee Brammer | Fiction, Politics
The Gay Place consists of three interlocking novels, each with a different protagonist – a member of the state legislature, the junior state senator, and the governor’s press secretary. The governor himself, Arthur Fenstemaker, a master politician, infinitely cunning and seductive, remains the dominant figure throughout. Billy Lee Brammer began writing these three novels while working for Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. Unfortunately, he died of an overdose before he could finish them.
Waterloo: a novel by Karen Olsson | fiction
Bittersweet and biting, elegiac and finely observed, Waterloo is a portrait of a generation in search of themselves – and a love letter to the slackers, rockers, hustlers, hacks and addicts who populate Austin.
That’s it! Our top 10 fiction books set in Austin.
We hope one or all of them will pique your interest. If so, please buy them at your local bookstore. When you spend your money locally, you are spending money for your city, your personal passion and the people who support it. A local bookstore like Book People carries all of these titles and we’ve included links to them in the article.
Featured photo courtesy of Book People
Looking for more Austin connections? Check out this article on Where All of Austin’s Best Movies Were Filmed.