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Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
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Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  5,547 ratings  ·  816 reviews
Award-winning journalist Sam Anderson’s long-awaited debut is a brilliant, kaleidoscopic narrative of Oklahoma City--a great American story of civics, basketball, and destiny.

Oklahoma City was born from chaos. It was founded in a bizarre but momentous "Land Run" in 1889, when thousands of people lined up along the borders of Oklahoma Territory and rushed in at noon to stak
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published August 21st 2018 by Crown
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Start your review of Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
As the summer approaches it’s apex I am drawn to books about the south and west, climates where residents have a penchant for front porch story telling. If not a southern verdant, then I find myself moved by tales of the old west, cowboys, Indians, and America’s manifest destiny to overtake an entire continent. Oklahoma is in America’s fly over country en route to either coast and is best known for foisting Indian territory from the native Americans and for its inferiority complex and rivalry wi ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
If Sam Anderson can emotionally invest born and raised Okie-me in the politics and interpersonal relationships of the Thunder, a basketball team I've never watched play a single game (not even on a television screen), then I promise you that he can effortlessly breathe life into my hometown's unique and bizarre history for even the most removed reader. He's just that good...and OKC is just that weird. I would recommend this to anyone, without qualifiers. ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: basketball
The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City by Sam Anderson

In 1880, Oklahoma still did not exist. This was light-years into the American experiment, more than a century after the Declaration of Independence, fifteen years after the end of the Civil War. By then, all the states around it existed

I enjoyed this bestselling book about OKC’s history. The pacing was perfect. I wish histories of this quality were written about every American city. To be sure, this is not a comprehensive history of the town.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis is quite the title for a book, yet also a fitting summary of what’s covered here by journalist Sam Anderson.

Boom Town chronicles the history of Oklahoma City (OKC) — a, dare I say it, “small” city — that seems to have perpetually ridden the rollercoaster of boom and bust. Anderson details OKC’s founding in 1889 and man
Hank Stuever
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's a surreal experience to read the deepest dive any writer (and big-time publisher) will ever undertake about your hometown, which, as "Boom Town's" mostly East Coast reviewers have noted, is one of those places that almost nobody thinks about.

I was born and raised in Oklahoma City and left to go to college when I was 18 (in 1986), returning less and less as the years passed and family died (or moved). Now it's mostly a trip back for a high school reunion every five or 10 years. Enough about
L.A. Starks
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Anderson came to OKC from New York to report on the Thunder, Oklahoma City's basketball team, but he writes a fine history of Oklahoma City itself, interspersed with the Thunder's on-court drama. Anderson starts with the land run, writes about the growth by annexation, desegregation, the unfortunate clearing of downtown--an idea generated by I.M. Pei and adopted by the city fathers--the Murrah bombing, and tornadoes. He writes some about oil and gas but is less specific than he could be that poo ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Boom Town is one of those books that I refer to as "It's all right there in the title, folks."

Anderson - with a a lot of well-placed humor and extensive research - examines the origin of the relatively young metropolis, that is firmly entrenched in what is called America's 'flyover country,' starting with the chaotic Land Run of 1889 (where the settlers physically raced in to the then-territory to claim real estate -- probably best known from its depiction in the Tom Cruise / Nicole Kid
Ron S
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oklahoma, history
Who needs a synopsis with a sub-title like that? A fun, fast-paced read for people that enjoy unusual histories with a generous helping of weird.
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-history
The motif of “boom” underlies the improbable story of Oklahoma City. Author, Sam Anderson, weaves back and forth in time often returning to the Thunder basketball team as a barometer of the city's present. Through unique and engaging prose, he gets to the essence of people and events.

While most cities grow organically, Oklahoma City was “boomed” on April 22, 1882, the day of the “Land Run”. People came from all over the US and elsewhere to claim “unassigned land” at the sound of a gun. This lan
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There a few versions of Oklahoma City. There's the "bombing" OKC. There's the "flyover state" OKC. Then there's the Thunder version.

Sam Anderson has taken Oklahoma City, the OKC Thunder and, really, the state of Oklahoma and combined it into a fantastic story. Shooing back and forth through time, Anderson captures what makes Oklahoma and the Thunder so great. This is the story of a great state, a state that popped up over night, a state that had a college before it was officially recognized as
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
This came as a nice surprise for me. Meet someone and tell them you read and they tell you about a book written by their friend and you go out and get a copy because that's just the kind of guy you are.

So but you know how we're all working through this list of novels we call Großstadtromane? It's here ::
Well, Boom Town is kind of like that. Except it's nonfiction. And it's about a Town that only wants to be groß, that thinks itself to be groß, that wills
Uriel Perez
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a stunningly good piece of civic history here. Sam Anderson does the impossible and makes the arid, droll landscape of Oklahoma City explode with intrigue. ‘Boom Town’ is a wonderful mix of basketball reportage, frontier history and expose of a city in flyover country that really deserves a second look.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
How is this book not on every "best of 2018" list for non-fiction? So fun, so well-written, so fascinating (I listened to it on audiobook--great listen as well). The majority of my family is from Oklahoma, and that's what compelled me to pick up the book but I would've loved this anyway, regardless of any connection. I love sports but hate the NBA but the Thunder storyline is so fantastically woven into the overall narrative I was completely hooked. The author tackles the founding of the city, t ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have a connection to Oklahoma City-- my parents are from there and I lived there for part of my childhood. I might have passed this by (and the author, in the into suggests that this book might not be for you) but thought I'd give it a shot via audio and if I didn't like it, I could abandon it.

I'm glad I kept on. There was a lot I was familiar with (the celebration of the land grab on April 22, when I was a kid, downtown? what downtown?, Enterprise Square USA) and a fair amount I wasn't (I'm n
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall a really amusing book... Definitely can recommend as an audiobook (narrated by the author). It's part history, sports recap, and anecdotal life in Oklahoma City. Anderson tells readers of OKC's land run days, its eagerness to grow as a metropolis (good luck with that), its civil rights movement, the Oklahoma City bombing, disastrous tornadoes and the weathermen who follow them, and of course: Thunder basketball. He focuses on the humor and irony and weirdness of Oklahoma City, so you wil ...more
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 5-star rating may be a little biased considering I’m a lifelong Oklahoma resident, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The author covers all the big events/themes in OKC history - the Land Run, the oil booms & busts, Clara Luper & the civil rights movement, the OKC bombing, the Thunder, the tornado tragedies - and also touches on really interesting small details. I found myself both laughing out loud and crying at different points, and I found it really interesting to see decades of chaotic ...more
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I initially picked up this book to ease my nagging nostalgia for my time in OKC, expecting to be mildly bored by the chapters dedicated to the Thunder, but instead, I got a witty, touching, and informative look into middle America, perfectly blending past and present with foreshadowing to the future. Anderson skillfully captures the absurdity of this weird little city with a nod to its inexplicable charm. This book is definitely for you if you are interested in the NBA, the Flaming Lips, urban p ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was utterly bananas. I'm not a sports person, but I was completely engrossed in the way Anderson wove together all of his narrative threads; he made civics, history, basketball, and the weather into a story I could not put down.

His writing is simultaneously funny and poignant; in one chapter, he describes the reverence of opening a time capsule, or the way survivors of a tornado thanked their local weatherman, and follows it up with a description of a basketball game that includes the
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Oklahoma City has a crazy history. Crazier than most cities. From its birth during the Oklahoma Land Run through its lawless Wild West days continuing through booms and busts and failed urban renewal to the Murrah building bombing and the area’s insane tornado weather, it’s been one crazy rollercoaster ride. If this were the backstory of a sci-fi book no one would buy into it because it’s so completely absurd.

For instance, the bit about the “purloined basketball team” refers to the OKC Thunder,
Jon Barr
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Brilliant look at the city I get to live in, the basketball team I get to watch and the people and places surrounding them.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: oklahoma
What a fucking trip. Living in Oklahoma City definitely fertilizes the soil here, but I think I might've loved this book even if I didn't. Sam Anderson's writing is bright, conspiratorial, and funny; it's snarky but not mean, personal but not self-centered. He tells the story of Oklahoma City, from its bizarre artificially inseminated birth to its sleek new basketball franchise. The Thunder, in fact, consume about half the book; perhaps it's more accurate to say that this book intertwines the hi ...more
Cat Duffy
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Boom Town is a narrative non-fiction book about the history of Oklahoma City and its NBA team, the Oklahoma Thunder (or Zombie Sonics if you’re from Seattle). It is an incredibly engaging book that does a really good job of interweaving the history of Oklahoma City with the rise and fall of its professional basketball team -- both of which are truly wild sagas. There are so many things I learned that shocked the hell out of me, ranging from OKC’s experiment with sonic flight (what an insane colo ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, audiobook
A totally compelling look at a relatively young boom-or-bust American city. Brilliantly written and structured. I'm really in awe of this book. ...more
Jake Spencer
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my absolute favorite books ever. I’ve lived in Oklahoma and I learned a lot about the state and OKC! This is an honest look at what’s great (and what’s not) about “The City”.
Dana Stabenow
Jun 02, 2020 rated it liked it
I finished this book a couple of days ago but I've put off reviewing it because I don't know quite what to make of it. It's the story of Oklahoma City, a place unique even in the history of the United States. It's also the story of the Thunder, OKC's pro basketball team. The two stories are told in parallel, although OKC came into being a century before the team did.

Taken at the level of craft, this is a great read. You can always count on a sports writer for imaginative metaphors and a vigorous
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved it. It’s complicated.
To read such a thorough, well-researched, masterfully written account of your home is a unique treasure. Sam Anderson’s book is just that. But history is messy, ugly, and often face-palm invoking, and Oklahoma’s is all of that.
I learned so much as I read, having been either oblivious to or simply uninterested in these stories before. Growing up an Okie, I’ve re-enacted many a Land Run in my day, and I’m Sooner born and Sooner bred; but these things take on a differ
Y'all, this was so fun.

So, so fun. Anderson takes as his starting point the entirely reasonable view that US history is little pockets of weirdness driven by racism, guns and money, and we go from there.

Even by the standards of 19th century US history the founding of Oklahoma takes the weirdness cake. After conveniently driving off the indigenous people who lived there and/or had been driven there at bayonet-point, massive amounts of settlers lined up at the edges of the state until seven diff
Just as sprawly and eccentric as the subtitle implies. The author hops back and forth between basketball, history, civil rights, economics, weather, urban planning, fracking, and many other topics.

Wayne Coyne is a beautiful genius.

The author describes the Oklahoma City bombing sensitively.

I think my favorite part was the description of the 12-hour-long live televised weather forecast during a tornado outbreak. The meteorologist, a 20-year veteran of the station at the time, gave instructions to
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
You guys, this book is really good. That statement probably seems suspect since it took me over a year to read it, but I’m being honest. The chapters are (mostly) quite short, so I kept it by my bedside to read one or two chapters between my endless book club reading.

I knew almost nothing about OKC, and now I know quite a lot about it, and the place is fascinating. And yet, it sounds super boring. Anderson weaves the narrative back and forth from the Land Run to the Thunder to Timothy McVeigh t
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well written and well researched-an author like this who knows how to get at what ‘place’ is and how humans interact with that place and space is an instant friend of mine. Cool also to read about city management and city planning, and think about how future practitioners can learn from past mistakes (because of course there have been plenty) to become more centered around the people at a human level. And finally, also 🏀 basketball 🏀.
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Sam Anderson is an American book reviewer and author. He is the critic at large for The New York Times Magazine. Prior to joining The New York Times Magazine, he was a book critic at New York Magazine. In 2007 he received the Balakian Award for Excellence in Criticism from the National Book Critics Circle.

He holds a masters degree from Louisiana State University.

News & Interviews

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
15 likes · 5 comments
“The Land Run should be called something like “Chaos Explosion Apocalypse Town” or “Reckoning of the DoomSettlers: Clusterfuck on the Prairie.” 4 likes
“It was a war zone, the very definition of a triage situation, and some victims were so badly hurt they had to be allowed to die.” 1 likes
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