Seven Great Novels Set In North Texas.

Don't let that bad high school experience with The Scarlet Letter or Lord of the Flies be a deterrent. Reading doesn't have to be a drag.

In fact, it's scientifically proven: Being well-read not only makes you smarter, but it makes you a better conversationalist, too.

So listen up, party animal: When you aren't attending all of those concerts and hopping about the city's many entertaining bar strips, sit your hind parts down on a couch and indulge in some good ol' fashioned reading. It's good for you.

To make things easier on you — and since we like to rep this North Texas area to the fullest here at Central Track — here's a list of seven awesome novels set in North Texas to get you started and keep your mind on all things local.

Libra by Don DeLillo (1985).
Who shot J.F.K? The Warren Commision said it was Lee Harvey Oswald, sure. But Don DeLillo's Libra explores the possibility of a group of CIA members aiding him. This conspiracy theory-themed novel is bound to entertain; it comes from the mind of one of contemporary fictions most acclaimed writers. DeLillo's been nominated for two Pulitzer prizes for his novels Underworld and Mao II, and he even received a National Book Award for his 1985 novel, White Noise. Do us all a favor after reading Libra, though: Don't go full out conspiracy theorist and pass out pamphlets on Dealey Plaza. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (2012).
The Dallas Cowboys don't play their home games in within Dallas city limits, and, yes, that's pretty weak. But, before the Cowboys made the move to Arlington they were closer to the city for which they're named, playing all their home games in Irving. That's where North Texas scribe Ben Fountain sets this novel, which focuses on a fictitious Texas native and Iraq war veteran name Billy Lynn, who's asked to be honored at the halftime show for a Thanksgiving day game as part of the story here. There's more to the story, of course — Destiny's Child performs as part of the festivities, and the Cowboys themselves have a game to play against the Chicago Bears — and all that adds up to something pretty special. As such, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk earned Fountain quite a bit of acclaim, with this debut novel being described as a satire of Americana during the Bush years. More proof that this book is a solid one? It was nominated for a 2012 National Book Award.

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry (1966).
McMurty spent his formative years on a ranch outside of Archer City; he's a Texan through and through, the type that God might have created. He received his undergraduate degree at The University of North Texas then went south to Rice University for his masters. The Last Picture Show is set in the fictional town Thalia, Texas, which is a painstakingly similar place to Archer City. The story, meanwhile, is a poignant coming-of-age tale full of the exploration of youth and small town blues. McMurtry's accolades are reason enough to familiarize yourself with his works. He's got a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award to his name, and he supposedly inspired Quentin Tarantino to become a writer with his 1972 novel, All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers. In other words: If it weren't for McMurtry, we might not have Pulp Fiction or Django Unchained.

Quakertown by Lee Martin (2001).
Speaking of Denton, here's a history lesson for you during Black History Month: There was once an area in Denton called Quakertown that had a concentrated amount of black families living there from the 1880s to the 1920s. Then the Denton City Commission bought the land to make way for a park. In the process, they essentially evicted the city's black residents. This novel is about those old days of prejudice, and there's even some interracial romance in there, too. Lee Martin's pretty legit in his own right, too: He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist four times. He never won, though. But neither did the Texas Rangers after making it to the World Series in 2010 and 2011 and everyone still seems to love them.

The Dallas Women's Guide to Gold Digging with Pride by J.C. Conklin (2007).
I ain't saying she's a gold digger. Actually, I am. She's absolutely a gold digger. This novel's protagonist, Jenny Barton, is a journalist from New York who finds herself in Dallas with a rich set of friends who coach her into finding a southern gentleman with a large bank account. The author here was interestingly once a reporter at The Wall Street Journal and The Dallas Morning News. On the surface, the novel is seemingly chick-lit, which should turn away a large number of dudes and an even larger number of pretentious folks who leave David Foster Wallace novels on their coffee table to impress friends. But our heroine having to endure her friends telling her to hide her Jewish heritage in order to successfully find a suitor has literary realism written all over it. The fish-out-of-water New Yorker in Texas? Conklin gracefully juxtaposes the culture of two economic hotbeds here in a single read. None of these things are heavy handed either. Conklin brings jokes to the table for a fun read.

November 22, 1963: A Novel by Adam Braver (2008).
It's difficult to escape the devastating day that Dallas is probably most famous for. Like Libra, what makes this novel interesting is its unique way of telling the same tired old story. Rather than focusing on John F. Kennedy or Lee Harvey Oswald, Braver follows Jackie Kennedy from her Fort Worth hotel on the morning of the assassination to her arrival back to the White House at 4 a.m. the following day. Along the way, Braver introduces characters to reveal how the traumatic event affect a mortician, a motorcycle policeman and a couple of White House aides. Braver is an author of historical fiction by trade; his most recent novel, Misfit, focuses on Marilyn Monroe's last weekend alive. Clearly, he loves the women in JFK's life.

Strange Peaches by Bud Shrake (1972).
Our hero here is a man named John Lee Wallace, a Dallas native who made a career for himself as a western TV star in Hollywood in the early '60s. In this tale, he heads back to his hometown to shoot a documentary that he hopes will reveal his city's true character. Wallace is a wild boy; he drinks, he smokes, and there's some druggie stuff in this novel, too. The author, Bud Shrake, was born in Fort Worth and got his undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University. As a journalist, he's racked up bylines at Sports Illustrated, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Morning News and the late Dallas Times-Herald. Widely regarded as the unsung hero of the Texas literary scene, Shrake packs a big punch with this book. It's a must-read for anyone trying to get a handle on Dallas life in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination.

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