Online Book Club

The Texas PBS Online Book Club gives readers a chance to ask questions of notable experts. Stay tuned for the next book in our series by checking out our blog.

The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock

September 2015
rise of redneck rock

Musical magic hit Austin, Texas, in the early 1970s. At now-legendary venues such as Threadgill’s, Vulcan Gas Company, and the Armadillo World Headquarters, a host of country, rock-and-roll, blues, and folk musicians came together and created a sound and a scene that Jan Reid vividly detailed in his 1974 book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock.

In this new edition, Jan Reid revitalizes his classic look at the Austin music scene. He has substantially reworked the early chapters to include musicians and musical currents from other parts of Texas that significantly contributed to the delightful convergence of popular cultures in Austin. Four new chapters and an epilogue show how the creative burst of the seventies directly spawned a new generation of talents who have carried on the tradition—Lyle Lovett, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Jimmy LaFave, Kelly Willis, Joe Ely, Bruce and Charlie Robison, and The Dixie Chicks.

Read the book that inspired the nationally popular and long-running PBS series Austin City Limits, which focused attention on the trends that fed the music scene—progressive country, country rock, western swing, blues, and bluegrass among them.

The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez: Su Voto es Su Voz

May 2015

Former Rhodes Scholar and Velásquez protégé Juan A. Sepúlveda, Jr.’s biography of the man provides a first, definitive glimpse into his life and times. Based on Sepúlveda’s close personal relationship and exchanges with Velásquez during the SVREP founder’s final years, and over a dozen years of research and writing, the book chronicles Velásquez’s influences, his landmark contributions to American civic culture, and his enduring legacy.

William C. “Willie” Velásquez founded the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP) and was an influential participant in other leading Latino rights and justice groups, including the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) and the Mexican American Unity Council (MAUC). From the late 1960s until his untimely death in 1988, Velásquez helped Mexican Americans and other Hispanics become active participants in American political life.  Though still insufficiently appreciated, Velásquez holds a unique status in the pantheon of modern American civil rights figures.

Click here to see the archived chat for The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez: Su Voto es Su Voz

Live Blog The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez

Texas Ranger Tales: Stories That Need Telling

April 2015
Live Blog Texas Ranger Tales: Stories That Need Telling

The Texas Rangers are legends in our state’s history. From the first rangers appointed by Stephen F. Austin in the early days of Anglo settlement to the Mexican War in 1846 when the rangers achieved worldwide fame as a fighting force, the stories of these remarkable lawmen are plentiful and wide-ranging. In Texas Ranger Tales: Stories That Need Telling, Mike Cox relates 27 stories that explore the Rangers and the events they encountered. Even people who think they know about the Texas Rangers will find surprises and new details. Cox explains in the introduction: “For this book, I’ve aimed my literary Winchester at two types of stories: First, they had to be interesting. Second, I wanted to concentrate on lesser-known Ranger tales.” Each story is freestanding, so readers can read the book cover to cover or skip around.

Click here to see the archived chat for Texas Ranger Tales: Stories that Need Telling

Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist

March 2015
Live Blog Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist
 Oveta Culp Hobby wore many hats during her long and eventful life: director of the Women’s Army Corps and the first Army woman to earn the rank of colonel; first secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; chairman of the board of the Houston Post; and leadership in the city of Houston that included advocating for civil rights and working with the Houston Symphony and the Museum of Fine Arts.

Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, and Philanthropist, by Debra L. Winegarten is the first biography of this remarkable woman, whose life spanned most of the 20th century – 1905 to 1995.

Click here to see the archived chat for Oveta Culp Hobby: Colonel, Cabinet Member, Philanthropist

Around the World with LBJ: My Wild Ride as Air Force One Pilot, White House Aide, and Personal Confidant

December 2014

When Lyndon Baines Johnson wanted to go somewhere, there was no stopping him. This dynamic president called for Air Force One as others summon a taxi—at a moment’s notice, whatever the hour or the weather. And the man who made sure that LBJ got his ride was General James U. Cross, the president’s hand-picked pilot, top military assistant, and personal confidante. One of the few Air Force One pilots to have a position, simultaneously, in the White House, General Cross is also the only member of LBJ’s inner circle who has not publicly offered his recollections of the president. In this book, he goes on the record, creating a fascinating, behind-the-scenes portrait of America’s complex, often contradictory, always larger-than-life thirty-sixth president.

Click here to see the archived chat for Around the World With LBJ

Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas

November 2014 

The founding of Austin sparked one of the Republic’s first great political battles, pitting against each other two Texas titans: Mirabeau B. Lamar, who in less than a year had risen to vice president from army private, and Sam Houston, the hero of San Jacinto and a man both loved and hated throughout the republic.

Click here to see the archived chat for Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas

Texas Women on the Cattle Trails

September 2014 
Live Blog Texas Women on the Cattle Trails

Texas Women on the Cattle Trails tells the stories of sixteen women who drove cattle up the trail from Texas during the last half of the nineteenth century. Some were young; some were old (over thirty). Some took to the trails by choice; others, out of necessity. Some went along to look at the stars; others, to work the cattle. Some made money and built ranching empires, but others went broke and lived hard, even desperate lives.

Like the cowboys on cattle drives, they faced dust and heat, thirst and exhaustion, rustlers and Indians, stampedes and prairie fires. Drawing heavily on the accounts of the women themselves, the authors of these chapters vividly illustrate the complexity and diversity of women’s experiences on the cattle trails. Their stories of cattle drives and moving cattle to distant pastures add an important chapter to the story of life in the real Old West.

Click here to see the archived chat for Texas Women on the Cattle Trails

In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957

June 2014

In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957 by Merline Pitre examines the life of this civil rights champion, beginning with her birth in Elmo, Texas, in 1900, her marriage to Houston businessman and activist Julius White and her graduation from Prairie View College.

Click here to see the archived chat for In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957

The Pecan: A History of America’s Native Nut

May 2014 

We Texans tend to take pecans for granted. They’re in our pantries and in our grocery stores; in our pies and in our pralines. Pecan trees grace our yards and our parks. But how much do we really know about this ubiquitous nut? Dr. James McWilliams wondered the same thing. Prompted by curiosity about the pecan tree growing through the back deck of his home, the writer and history professor set out to learn more. The result is The Pecan: A History of America’s Native Nut.

Click here to see the archived chat for The Pecan: A History of America’s Native Nut

Talking about the Civil War and Emancipation

February/March 2014

The book group started 2014 reading America’s War: Talking about The Civil War and Emancipation, an anthology of primary and secondary sources about the division and aftermath of the Civil War. The program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. We followed America’s War by focusing on Texas, with Dr. Charles Grear’s Why Texans Fought in the Civil War.

Learn More about the Civil War and Emancipation

Click here to see the archived chat for America’s War

Click here to see the archived chat for Why Texans Fought in the Civil War

Assassination and Commemoration:  JFK, Dallas, and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

December 2013

In December, author Stephen Fagin, joined us for an exciting look into his work Assassination and Commemoration:  JFK, Dallas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.  Fagin’s book gave our readers a unique way to look at the assassination of the revered president, the political and social climate of Dallas, Texas in the 1960s, and informed us about the effort to preserve the Texas Book Depository and create a museum commemorating one of the most tragic events in American history.

Click here to see the archived chat with Stephen Fagin

“JFK:  One PM Central Standard Time”

November 2013

In November we had a special OVEE screening of the Secrets of the Dead episode about the Kennedy Assassination.  “JFK: One PM Central Standard Time” takes a look at the role of notable press powerhouse, Walter Cronkite, as well as other members of the press tasked with breaking the news of the tragedy to American People.

Click here to learn more about this OVEE

My Boys and Girls Are in There:  The 1937 New London School Explosion 

October 2013

In October 2013, author Ron Rozelle discussed his book My Boys and Girls are in There about the 1937 New London School Explosion.

Click here to see the archived web chat with Ron Rozelle

Women and the Texas Revolution

July 2013

Journey with us through the eyes of Texas women. In July, Dr. Mary Scheer joined us for a discussion about Women and the Texas Revolution, published by University of North Texas Press.

Click here to see the archived chat with Dr. Mary Scheer

Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards

May 2013

Learn more about what inspired Author Jan Reid to write about his friend, Ann Richards. He was the first author to chat with our book club in May 2013. Reid’s highly-acclaimed book was published by the University of Texas Press.

Click here to see the archived chat with Jan Reid